Chillblast’s Fusion Warrior is one of the first Windows 7 PCs we’ve seen to use Intel’s brand-new Core i7 860 processor.

Chillblast's Fusion Warrior is one of the first PCs we've seen to use Intel's brand-new Core i7 860 processor. Whereas 900-series Core i7 CPUs use the LGA 1366 socket, the 860 CPU uses the same LGA 1156 socket as the lower-cost Core i5 processors. This means dual- rather than triple-channel motherboards can be used, which are available at a lower cost and require fewer memory chips to be installed.

The Chillblast Fusion Warrior thus comes with only 4GB of RAM, with two slots remaining for expansion. The 2.8GHz CPU performs well in this configuration, powering the Chillblast to a WorldBench score of 136 points.

With an ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card under the bonnet, the Warrior may be capable of impressive gaming performance in DirectX 11.0 games titles. But if you hunger for more power still, the Chillblast Fusion Warrior's CrossFireX support lets you add a second card.

The Fusion Warrior's Gigabyte GX-7 system case has a smart matt-black finish with subtle red details, complementing the red PSU and graphics card inside. A high-quality 22in monitor offers dual inputs, but it doesn't support a full-HD resolution. This is a shame, given that Chillblast has managed to squeeze in a Blu-ray drive. It's also the only company to offer external speakers.

Chart ranking (issue 174)

  1. Mesh Ice 7 DX11
  2. Eclipse Fusion Crossfire i792R585
  3. Chillblast Fusion Warrior
  4. Arbico HD8658 XL
  5. Chillblast Fusion Apex

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

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, 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 and can compete with the lower end of the Core i7 900-series on performance.

Dual-core CPUs are still available, but the time has come to switch to the quad-core architectures.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, however, 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 now considered a small amount of storage space. Many users will get by with 320GB but, with prices falling, it isn't impossible to find a terabyte 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.

Display: 22in or 24in flat-panels are the standard here. Many vendors supply budget 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 solutions 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, but consider 750W upwards if you have any thoughts of moving up to a dual card solution later. Overclocking will also demand 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 Warrior: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA II
  • Asus P7P55D LE motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 22in Acer V223WBBD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1680x1050)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 76/35fps
  • Fear = 309fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • Lite-On BD-ROM
  • Sony 24x/24x (DVD-R/+RW)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 136
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA II
  • Asus P7P55D LE motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 22in Acer V223WBBD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1680x1050)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 76/35fps
  • Fear = 309fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • Lite-On BD-ROM
  • Sony 24x/24x (DVD-R/+RW)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 136

OUR VERDICT

The Chillblast Fusion Warrior is a great all-round system let down only by its lack of a full-HD monitor.

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