Also featuring Intel’s brand-new Core 2 Duo E8600 processor, Chillblast's Fusion Ninja achieved an impressive score of 126 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed benchmark.

But whereas the Chillblast Fusion Ninja is inferior when it comes to raw processing power, its graphics grunt more than makes up for it. Indeed, the Ninja’s 512MB 9800 GTX+ offers a significant boost in graphics performance. Despite its 9xxx nomenclature, the nVidia GeForce GTX+ is a brand-new, mid-range card that has been specifically designed to rival the ATI Radeon 4850.

In our tests, this often proved a little faster than the Radeon. However, unlike the HD 4850, it’s a double-thickness card, meaning it takes up more space inside the PC and leaves less room for other cards.

Chillblast has nevertheless managed to squeeze in a Creative Soundblaster Audigy SE 7.1 sound card to the Fusion Ninja. Unfortunately, none of the PCs in this price category come with anything better than a set of 2.1-channel speakers (two speakers and a subwoofer).

The Chillblast Fusion Ninja’s Coolermaster Elite 330 case combines decent build quality, plenty of room for expansion and understated good looks. Although the 750GB hard drive supplied by Chillblast is the largest here, there remains room to increase this capacity – four external 3.5in bays provide ample capacity for upgrades. Also provided is a memory-card reader, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and analogue audio connectors.

The Chillblast Fusion Ninja's Asus motherboard leaves room for an additional two sticks of RAM, in case you need more than 4GB. Note, however, that this board doesn’t support scalable link interface (SLI), so you won’t be able to add a second graphics card later on.

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Buying advice

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price. The 3.33GHz E8600 now supersedes the E8500 as the CPU of choice, appearing in the vast majority of desktop PCs that we review.

Alternatively, go for one of Intel's latest quad-core chips - such as the Q9300. We're starting to see some decent results where these processors are used with newer applications and games. Older Q6600 chips may be available and offer good performance with multithreaded apps, but only go for them if the price is right.

Memory: If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB. Memory will only ever become more important.

Storage: Digital media files such as video and music will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can afford. A 400GB-500GB drive will make a good investment. If you've got space, consider a pair of smaller drives - a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

Your DVD drive should write to the -R/+R formats at 18-speed or better. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for fast DVD-/+R dual-layer drives. Drives that also read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but you're unlikely to find one included at this price point.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep the price down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience - try it out first.

At this price point you could be offered a 19in, 20in or 22in model. Be aware that 19in displays offer lower resolution; 20in and 22in displays offer the same number of pixels. This means 22in monitors will display larger text and icons.

Consider whether you need built-in speakers. A DVI input will provide considerably better image quality than a VGA port, so look for a display supporting the digital connector. If you want to connect additional devices to the display you'll need at least two inputs. Finally, look for a good response rate - 8ms or below should be fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: Hardcore gamers are unlikely to be happy with a sub-£750 PC - after all, the top graphics cards alone can cost £400. But you should be able to find a decent graphics card at this price.

Although 50fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category. Look for a system that can manage 80-100fps on a number of titles. Just don't expect to be able to run the latest cutting-edge titles at the very highest-quality settings.

ATI's Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards deliver excellent performance and value for money at this price point, making even the most demanding games playable if you're prepared to drop the resolution and quality settings a notch or two.

Sound card and speakers: You may find a budget sound card at this price point, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound.

To get surround sound you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). You may have to settle for a 2.1-channel stereo system, which will be good enough for most users.

Chillblast Fusion Ninja: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Asus P5K SE/EPU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Chimei CMV 223D (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Leadtek nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX+ (games scores: Crysis = 63fps
  • Fear = 166fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Asus P5K SE/EPU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Chimei CMV 223D (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Leadtek nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX+ (games scores: Crysis = 63fps
  • Fear = 166fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126

OUR VERDICT

It’s a close match between the Chillblast Fusion Ninja and the Arbico Elite 8685 RDX, but the dearer Ninja gives 50 percent more hard-drive space and performed a little better in our gaming tests.

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