Chillblast's Fusion Reactor power desktop PC offers some unique and desirable features, with support for 6GBps SATA and USB 3.0.

Chillblast's Fusion Reactor power desktop PC offers some unique and desirable features. It's built around the Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard, which provides support for 6GB per second (GBps) SATA and USB 3.0. Together, these technologies dramatically increase performance for compatible hard drives.

A 2.8GHz quad-core Intel i7 860 CPU provides superb performance in everyday computing tasks. The Chillblast Fusion Reactor power desktop PC's 139-point tally in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test beat all the other machines reviewed here.

A standard 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a single terabyte (1TB) hard drive is supplied. The Chillblast Fusion Reactor power desktop PC's Samsung Spinpoint F3 supports only 3GBps SATA, but it's one of the fastest hard drives currently available and operates extremely quietly.

In common with three of the four other PCs here, gaming performance is powered by an ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card. Results from our gruelling Crysis test were similar for these systems, but the Chillblast Fusion Reactor power desktop PC achieved 290fps in the four-year-old game Fear, marginally beaten only by the older of our two Arbico machines.

While the Chillblast Fusion Reactor power desktop PC's 23in Digimate display isn't the best model in this round-up, offering neither the style of the smaller LG nor the extra screen space of the 24in Acer, it offers dual analogue and digital inputs.

The Chillblast Fusion Reactor power desktop PC is alone in supplying a full set of 5.1-channel surround speakers, although it lacks a Blu-ray drive.

Its smart Xigmatek Asgard system case comes with a matt-black paint job and offers cable management to keep things tidy. The motherboard allows further upgrades, although a single PCI Express x16 slot means the Chillblast Fusion Reactor power desktop PC accepts no more than one graphics card.

Chart ranking (July 2010 issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Reactor
  2. Eclipse Evolution i786R587
  3. Arbico i5 HD6650 XL
  4. Arbico i7 HD8650 Pro
  5. Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Chillblast’s Fusion Reactor power desktop PC offers some unique and desirable features, with support for 6GBps SATA and USB 3.0.

Buying advice

Processor: Intel's Core i7 chip is taking this price bracket by storm. It's a match for the best dual-core systems and will outpace any previous-generation quad-core machine. However, some Core i7 chips require more expensive DDR3 memory and a new motherboard design, so expect to make sacrifices elsewhere.

The latest Core i7 800-series processors use lower-cost motherboards but can still compete with the lower end of the Core i7 900-series on performance.

Intel's dual-core Core i5 CPUs are also worth considering, offering higher clock speeds for your money.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, expect 3GB or 6GB of RAM (such machines install memory chips in threes). The Core i7 800-series and Core i5 chips install memory sticks in twos, however, making them excellent value for money.

A 64bit OS will take full advantage of your RAM, but check that your software and drivers will be supported. If you opt for more than 4GB, a 64bit OS is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 500GB is considered small. With prices falling, it's more typical to find 1TB at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to a dual-layer format if you want to store 8.5GB on a single disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL. Try to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

At this price you may also find a drive that reads Blu-ray discs - note that it won't burn to Blu-ray, and DVD burning speeds will be slower. Keep an eye out for new motherboards with USB 3.0 and 6GBps SATA support too.

Display: 22in or 24in flat-panels are the standard here. Many vendors supply cheap screens in order to leave more room in the budget for other components, but it's worth spending a little more if you intend to work primarily with digital photos or video.

A screen with a response time of 8ms or less will minimise blur on fast-moving images. For image editing, contrast ratio and colour fidelity are more important.

A digital input can preserve picture quality, so think twice about displays that provide analogue inputs only.

If you're a movie fan, look for one of the new 16:9-format 22in-plus displays that offer full-HD playback. You may even be able to find a 24in model.

Graphics card: At this price point, the ATI Radeon HD 5850 is an almost unbeatable choice for gamers. It offers multiscreen support and supports DirectX 11.0.

You'll also find good deals on nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 (or even GTX 280). Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory. nVidia cards offer some unique features, including support for 3D gaming with compatible monitors and glasses.

The GTX 260 and HD 5850 can be used in dual-card setups later but, to take advantage of this, your motherboard and power supply must be compatible. Ready-made dual-card setups are available but can be more expensive.

Power supply: The level of power you require will depend largely on the type of graphics card you expect to use. Look for at least a 500W unit at this price point or 750W upwards if you plan to add another card. A known brand is also likely to give better stability. Overclocking also demands a high-quality power supply.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound is no match for a sound card. Consider Creative's Audigy 4 or X-Fi range.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Reactor: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 23in Digimate L2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Asus ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 71/36fps
  • Fear = 290fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-RD DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 139
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 23in Digimate L2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Asus ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 71/36fps
  • Fear = 290fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-RD DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 139

OUR VERDICT

The Chillblast Fusion Reactor power desktop PC earns its Best Buy award with the fastest performance here, a full set of 5.1-channel surround speakers and some forward-looking components.

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