Chillblast’s Fusion Solar costs considerably less than most of the computers in this group, but its multiplier-unlocked Core i7-2600K processor ensures stellar performance.

Chillblast’s Fusion Solar costs considerably less than most of the computers in this group, but its multiplier-unlocked Core i7-2600K processor ensures stellar performance.

This chip is designed for overclocking, so Chillblast has also installed an Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro cooler to prevent overheating. Even in its non-overclocked state, as reviewed here, you’ll find the Chillblast Fusion Solar noticeably quieter than the Dino PC, which uses a standard Intel cooler.

The Chillblast Fusion Solar's Asus P8P67 motherboard provides two PCI Express X16 slots, Bluetooth and USB 3.0. The ‘Pro’ version of this board, seen elsewhere in the chart, adds a third PCI Express slot, eSATA ports and nVidia’s scalable link interface (SLI) technology.

You won’t find fancy extras such as soundproofing and SATA docking ports on the Chillblast Fusion Solar's Cooler Master Elite 430 PC case, but plenty of fan-mounting points are available. There’s also a see-through side panel and an illuminated fan at the front.

Chillblast provides a large two-terabyte (2TB) hard drive, which it supplements with a 60GB Corsair solid-state disk (SSD). Its a specification that led the Fusion Solar to an impressive 181-point score in WorldBench 6. This is 10 points clear of last issue’s chart leader, but beaten by the Palicomp’s RAM-packed Phoenix PC.

It isn’t as fast – nor as expensive – as the Mesh’s GTX 580, but the Chillblast Fusion Solar's nVidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics card will play most games very well at the 25in display’s maximum 1920x1080-pixel resolution. This screen is the largest, but not the best, in the chart, and is complemented by a Blu-ray drive and a set of five speakers and a subwoofer.

Power desktop PCs: chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Solar
  2. Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth
  3. Mesh Evolution 2600K PCA
  4. Arbico i7-2656 Stealth Gamer
  5. Dino PC Maxosaur 2600

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NEXT PAGE: Budget PCs buying advice

Chillblast’s Fusion Solar costs considerably less than most of the computers in this group, but its multiplier-unlocked Core i7-2600K processor ensures stellar performance.

Power desktop PCs: buying advice

Processor: Intel’s ‘Sandy Bridge’ 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7-2600K offers fantastic performance, hyperthreading, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz and easy overclocking.

You can make a small saving by opting for the non-’K’ version, which does without the overclocking feature. Alternatively, the Core i5-2500 offers a reduced cache, no hyperthreading and a 3.3GHz clock speed, but will still outpace many Core i7 chips. It’s also available in a ‘K’ version.

If you intend to overclock the CPU, upgrade the standard Intel cooler first.

Core i7-950 and -870 CPUs cost less, but use a different type of motherboard.

Memory: A £1,001-plus Sandy Bridge Core i7 PC should come with at least 8GB of RAM. The triple-channel architecture of Core i7-900-based PCs requires you to install chips in threes. Core i7-800- and -2000-series CPUs use a two-channel system. A 64bit OS is essential to take full advantage of this memory, particularly if you’re running a dual-graphics setup.

Storage: Expect 1TB. Look for a pair or trio of drives to reduce the risk of total data loss, although noise levels will increase. Raid 0 setups boost speed at the expense of reliability. 2TB drives are also available, but remember to back up regularly. Consider mirroring for added security.

SSDs provide a significant and very noticeable speed boost, from reduced startup times to improved system responsiveness. They’re now priced at a level where you should expect to see one in any PC costing more than £1,000. Go for an SSD with a capacity of at least 60GB if you’re running Windows 7.

Dual-layer DVD+/-R capabilities are useful, preferably at eight-speed or above. Also look for eight-speed DVD+RW. If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on DVD speeds.

Display: PCs at this price are nearly always offered with a 24 or 25in display. This used to be the magic size at which 1080p (full-HD) playback became available, making these ideal partners for Blu-ray drives. However, some of the newest 22in (16:9) monitors can also display full-HD – for less money.

Model’s with LED backlighting aren’t necessarily better, but can offer improved contrast, lower power consumption and a thinner, more desirable design.

Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality, while HDMI is great for hooking up additional devices.

Graphics card: For a top-level gaming experience, go for nVidia’s GeForce GTX 580. If you don’t need ultimate performance, the cheaper GTX 570 and AMD Radeon HD 6970 are a great match for a 24in monitor.

Both brands support stereoscopic 3D when used with the correct display hardware and glasses. Recent ATI cards can also be connected to multiple displays.

Look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, as well as those that come with custom cooling solutions.

A single-card setup leaves more space for sound cards or TV tuners.

Motherboard: If you’re considering a RAM upgrade, check there are free slots.
 
SLI or CrossFireX support lets you add extra graphics cards. Sandy Bridge motherboards support this mode of operation, but those currently available aren’t able to deliver the full bandwidth required for peak performance.

Power supply: The level of power you require will largely depend on the type of graphics card you expect to use. Look for a known brand, and consider from 750W upwards if you plan to add a second graphics card. Any form of overclocking will also demand a powerful PSU.


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NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Solar: Specs

  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2TB SATA
  • 60GB SSD
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 motherboard
  • 600W Corsair PSU
  • 25in Hanns-G HH251DPB (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1.28GB Asus nVidia GeForce GTX 570 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 106/49fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 208/117fps)
  • onboard
  • 5 x Chillblast speakers and subwoofer
  • 10x BD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 181
  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2TB SATA
  • 60GB SSD
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 motherboard
  • 600W Corsair PSU
  • 25in Hanns-G HH251DPB (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1.28GB Asus nVidia GeForce GTX 570 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 106/49fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 208/117fps)
  • onboard
  • 5 x Chillblast speakers and subwoofer
  • 10x BD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 181

OUR VERDICT

At £1,299, Chillblast’s Fusion Solar offers excellent value. Performance is very good, and the overclockable CPU means this PC has the potential to run even faster.

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