With its tiny footprint and ultra-compact housing, Chillblast’s Fusion Vacuum Mini is undeniably cute. Its cuboid shape won’t sit well with standard wide-format AV equipment, but it’s small enough to sit by itself on a bookcase or shelf. It also looks good, thanks to the black brushed aluminium construction of the Streacom FC8 case into which it is built. See also Group test: What's the mid-range desktop PC?

Unlike many less impressive system cases, the FC8’s use of aluminium is more than merely cosmetic, with the entire case being constructed from the material, heat can be diverted away from the internal components via passive heatpipes rather than fans, allowing the PC to operate entirely without noise, save for when the built in Blu-ray combo drive is in use. Disks are loaded through a slot in the front facia so no ugly PC components are visible. A pair of USB 2.0 ports is also provided at the front along with an SD card reader. The system uses an external power brick which can be tucked out of the way conveniently.

A case this small requires the use of a Mini ITX motherboard, and Chillblast has selected the Asus P8H77-I, into which a low-power 3.1GHz Intel Core i5-3450S quad core processor has been installed. This is one of the latest ‘Ivy Bridge’ processors which combines excellent performance with low power consumption ideal for media centre use. Application performance is very good and the processor’s built in graphics processor is more than ample for multimedia use, meaning the Fusion Vacuum Mini will turn its hand to most tasks except high-level gaming.

Storage is provided by a large 240GB Mushkin SSD which will allow some local TV recording, but you’ll still need to provide external storage if you have even an average-sized media collection.

A Black Gold dual TV tuner is installed internally which allows for watching one programme while recording another and also supports HD broadcasts via Freeview HD.

No media centre remote control is included. Instead, Chillblast has supplied the diminutive Xebec HTPC keyboard. This wireless device, shaped like an oversized kidney bean and about the size of a small game console controller, incorporates a full set of tiny keys and a little touchpad so you can use the full Windows interface comfortable from a chair. We’d recommend buying a full-size keyboard though if you envisage then need for any more than the minimum of typed input.

Chillblast Fusion Vacuum Mini: Specs

  • Model name: Fusion Vacuum Mini
  • Processor: 3.1GHz Intel Core i5-3450S (Quad core)
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3
  • Storage: 240GB Mushkin SSD
  • Power supply: External 150W Pico (fanless)
  • Motherboard: Asus P8H77-I
  • CPU cooler: "passive cooler"
  • USB: 8x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0
  • TV tuner: Black Gold BGT3620 Dual HD Tuner (dual DVB-T2)
  • Graphics card: Integrated Intel HD 4000
  • Media-centre software: WMC
  • Sound: onboard
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11n via USB Adaptor, Gigabit Ethernet
  • Optical drive: Sony Blu-ray reader / DVD re-writer
  • Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • Ports: S/PDIF, HDMI, VGA
  • Case: Streacom FC8 Black fanless case
  • Keyboard and mouse: Xebec HTPC keyboard with touchpad
  • Extra features: Remote control
  • WorldBench 6 score: 169
  • Gaming performance (fps): 40.2 / 19.3
  • MediaEspresso time: 1min 57sec
  • Power consumption (Idle/Max): 26W / 73W
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 240x250x100mm
  • Warranty: 2-year collect and return
  • Model name: Fusion Vacuum Mini
  • Processor: 3.1GHz Intel Core i5-3450S (Quad core)
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3
  • Storage: 240GB Mushkin SSD
  • Power supply: External 150W Pico (fanless)
  • Motherboard: Asus P8H77-I
  • CPU cooler: "passive cooler"
  • USB: 8x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0
  • TV tuner: Black Gold BGT3620 Dual HD Tuner (dual DVB-T2)
  • Graphics card: Integrated Intel HD 4000
  • Media-centre software: WMC
  • Sound: onboard
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11n via USB Adaptor, Gigabit Ethernet
  • Optical drive: Sony Blu-ray reader / DVD re-writer
  • Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • Ports: S/PDIF, HDMI, VGA
  • Case: Streacom FC8 Black fanless case
  • Keyboard and mouse: Xebec HTPC keyboard with touchpad
  • Extra features: Remote control
  • WorldBench 6 score: 169
  • Gaming performance (fps): 40.2 / 19.3
  • MediaEspresso time: 1min 57sec
  • Power consumption (Idle/Max): 26W / 73W
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 240x250x100mm
  • Warranty: 2-year collect and return

OUR VERDICT

This is a proper media-centre PC with expensive looks, superb build-quality, great performance and totally silent operation. It incorporates the latest and greatest Intel processor technology and, unlike many competitors, supports Freeview HD straight out of the box. It’s 240GB SSD is the largest of any on offer, but you’ll still probably need some external storage for all your media.

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