Clocking in at a full £100 less than the Arbico Elite 4850, Chillblast’s Fusion Sledgehammer is another excellent, good-value performer.

Raw power isn’t a problem. With a WorldBench 6 real-world speed score of 123, the Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer is right up there with the best of what’s available in this price range.

The Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer may come with a smaller hard drive and a less impressive monitor than the Best Buy, but 500GB will be ample for most users, and we don’t all demand luxury when it comes to PC monitors.

Fitted with a 512MB nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX, the Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer delivers some highly impressive gaming scores, coming in fastest overall in our Crysis test by 12 frames per second (fps).

The Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer's gaming power is complemented by a Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme HD sound card and 5.1-channel Creative Inspire T6100 speakers. This is the best-sounding PC in the category.

As mentioned previously, the Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer's 22in Digimate display isn’t as impressive as some 22in models we’ve seen, but it does a good job. And the resolution is a good match for the capabilities of the graphics card.

As for DVD burning duties, the Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer's Samsung SH-S223F writer is capable of class-leading 22-speed operation. But unlike the Arbico Elite 4850, it lacks Blu-ray and HD DVD support.

The Antec Three Hundred case is stylish, spacious and well-cooled, while Asus’s P5K motherboard has a spare 16x PCI-Express slot. Unfortunately, this is for Crossfire support rather than scaleable link interface (SLI), which would benefit the nVidia card installed in the Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer. If you’re thinking of upgrading to a dual-card system, consider Eclipse's Matrix SLI i85n98GTX.

Power desktop PCs chart ranking (September issue)


  1. Arbico Elite 4850
  2. Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer
  3. Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX
  4. CyberPower Infinity Crossfire HD
  5. Arbico CD9800 PRO

>> NEXT PAGE: POWER DESKTOP PCs BUYING ADVICE

Power desktop PCs buying advice (September issue)

Processor: All of the systems here use dual-core processors. In fact, it’s a clean sweep for Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8500, which continues to dominate our charts. Even in the age of quad-core computing, you should still get plenty of performance from the top dual-core chips.

If you want a PC that’ll fly through next year’s software library, however, a quad-core system may be a wise choice. You’ll have to sacrifice a small amount of speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the benefits are likely to be worth it. AMD’s Phenom X4 9850 offers good value for money, as do the later revisions of Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q6600.

Memory: At this price point, 4GB should be considered a minimum, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. All of the PCs here come with this amount.

Get a 64bit operating system to take full advantage of your RAM. But check beforehand that all your software and drivers are supported.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space – this month’s manufacturers have all opted for at least 500GB. Many users can get by comfortably with 320GB, but those intending to store lots of video, games and audio files should stock up.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to dual-layer formats if you want to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL; DVD-R DL is nice but not essential. Also try to get eight-speed DVD+RW. At this price you should be able to find a drive that reads Blu-ray Discs, but it won’t burn them, and DVD burning speeds will generally be slower.

Display: In this category, 22in flat-panels are the standard. Many PC manufacturers supply budget screens, but it’s worth spending a little more if you intend to work with digital photos or video – you’ll probably have to stare at the monitor
for long periods. Give the display a try to ensure you can put up with the quality.

A screen with a response time of 8ms or less will minimise blur on fast-moving images such as games. For image editing, contrast ratio and colour fidelity are more important. A digital input can preserve picture quality, so avoid displays that provide analogue inputs only.

Graphics card: The new GeForce 9800 GTX offers better performance than the 8800 GTS, although it’s based on almost identical technology. The extra power may not always justify the higher price. Both support DirectX 10.0, which means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games in the future.

The 8800 GT isn’t far behind. It’s cheaper and you may be able to get two of them in scaleable link interface (SLI) mode – this will produce outstanding results. The 9600 GT is a still cheaper option that can also be used in SLI mode.

AMD’s Radeon HD 3820 X2 is another blisteringly fast card. Containing two graphics processors, it gives you bags of performance without requiring a specially designed motherboard. ATI’s new HD 4850 card is also worth looking at, but make sure you have the latest drivers.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound has improved, but it’s still no match for a decent sound card. Consider Creative’s Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want a 2.1-channel setup (two speakers and a subwoofer), make sure they’re high-quality models. Most firms are bundling 5.1 speakers.

Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (or XP)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P5K SE/EPU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Digimate L-2231WD (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express PNY nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX (gaming scores: Crysis 66fps
  • Fear 158fps)
  • Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme HD Audio
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Ahead Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (or XP)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P5K SE/EPU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Digimate L-2231WD (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express PNY nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX (gaming scores: Crysis 66fps
  • Fear 158fps)
  • Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme HD Audio
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Ahead Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123

OUR VERDICT

The Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer is a great-value system that should satisfy workaholics and power-hungry gamers alike.

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