This excellent performer from Chillblast uses Intel's Core i7 920 processor to great effect, scoring a chart-leading 139 points in our WorldBench real-world speed test. The Chillblast Fusion Thunder a fairly standard-looking system but it's packed with goodies, including the latest graphics technology and a huge amount of storage space.

The Chillblast Fusion Thunder bears more than a passing resemblance to Arbico's entries in recent months: it uses the familiar Cooler Master Elite 331 system case, paired with a trio of 500GB hard drives.

Although the Chillblast Fusion Thunder and Arbico Elite i7 RSX Pro each have three 500GB hard drives, they are set up differently. This PC uses Raid 0 ‘striping' for two of its hard drives to boost raw speed. But, because Raid 0 is less secure than setups that ‘mirror' data on multiple drives, the Chillblast's last drive is left for backups.

The GeForce GTX 275 graphics card delivers excellent performance at a decent price. It's a direct challenger to the Radeon HD 4890, and there's little to split the two. Indeed, the Chillblast Fusion Thunder scored 28fps in our most challenging games test, matching the 4890-equipped Eclipse Titan. If you want better gaming performance than this, you'll have to pay considerably more.

TheChillblast Fusion Thunder also comes supplied with a height-adjustable monitor with pivot function and a pair of optical drives, one of which supports Blu-ray playback. Despite costing £20 less than the Recommended Arbico Elite, it comes with twice the allocation of RAM: a full 6GB.

A 460W power supply is rather underspecified, however, and leaves little headroom for future upgrades. On the plus side, the Chillblast Fusion Thunder's two-year collect-and-return warranty is excellent.

Chart ranking: Power PCs (August issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Thunder
  2. Arbico Elite i7 RSX Pro
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy
  4. Eclipse Titan X58 i7A489
  5. Chillblast Fusion Hercules


>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Buying advice: Power PCs (August issue)

Processor: Intel's quad-core Core i7 CPUs offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, although they require far more expensive motherboards and memory than previous-generation chips. The dual-core E8600 is still a very fast processor and delivers excellent value.

Memory: If you're spending more than £1,000 on a Core i7 PC, it should come with a minimum 3GB of RAM and preferably 6GB. For dual-core machines, look for 4GB in two modules to allow room for expansion.

Core i7 PCs require you to buy your chips in threes, in order to take advantage of the triple-channel architecture. You'll also need to splash out on DDR3 RAM.

A 64bit operating system can take full advantage of this memory, particularly if you're running a dual-graphics setup.

Storage: Expect 750GB. Look for a pair of drives rather than a single unit; it will boost performance and prevent the risk of total data loss. Raid setups are an option. Consider mirroring for added security. SSDs can provide speed boosts, but offer limited capacity and are expensive.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB on a disc) are useful. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or above. You should also be able to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on DVD speeds. Alternatively, buy a second DVD burner for backup.

Display: We're seeing increasing numbers of 24in displays in our PC charts. This used to be the magic size at which 1,080p (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 - and with a considerable saving, making them excellent value for money.

Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality.

Graphics card: For a thrilling gaming experience, choose between nVidia's GeForce GTX 285 or GTX 295 and an ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. The latest GeForce GTX 275 and Radeon HD 4890 cards also offer great performance and very good value for money.

Also look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, which can deliver excellent value for money and are approved by chip manufacturers.

Buying a single-card setup keeps your options open for adding a second card later. It also leaves more space in your PC for sound cards or TV tuners.

Motherboard: If you're considering any upgrades, check that the motherboard offers enough memory slots to support additional chips. SLI or CrossfireX support will enable to you add extra graphics cards to boost your gaming 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 and respected brand, and consider from 750W upwards if you have any thoughts of moving up to a dual-card setup later. Any form of overclocking will demand a powerful PSU.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound is still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to get a Creative Audigy or X-Fi card at this price. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they're high-quality models.

Chillblast Fusion Thunder: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 3 x 500GB SATA (2 in Raid 0)
  • Asus P6T SE motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 460W Cooler Master PSU
  • 24in Edge 10 T243H flat-panel monitor (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 896MB PCI Express Zotac/Palit nVidia GeForce GTX 275 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 80/28fps
  • Fear = 251fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1 sound card
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 139
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 3 x 500GB SATA (2 in Raid 0)
  • Asus P6T SE motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 460W Cooler Master PSU
  • 24in Edge 10 T243H flat-panel monitor (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 896MB PCI Express Zotac/Palit nVidia GeForce GTX 275 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 80/28fps
  • Fear = 251fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1 sound card
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 139

OUR VERDICT

With excellent Windows and gaming performance, superb storage and support for Blu-ray playback, the Chillblast Fusion Thunder is well deserving of its Best Buy award. A two-year collect-and-return warranty is the icing on the cake.

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