Like many recent Chillblast PCs, the Apollo is strong in several areas. Its baseline Windows speed is excellent, with its WorldBench score of 120 almost matching the blisteringly fast newcomers. The Chillblast Apollo’s 4GB of Geil PC2-6400 RAM is certainly a factor in this impressive performance, but Chillblast has a habit of squeezing more out of its components than other manufacturers.

The Chillblast Apollo’s hard disk has a capacity of 500GB – a plentiful amount of storage space, but surprisingly commonplace at this price point.

The 22in Acer flat-panel, meanwhile, is a quality model. It features a digital visual interface (DVI), a fast response rate and a clean, vivid colour palette. We also like the Chillblast Apollo's sound – the X-Fi XtremeAudio works beautifully with the speakers.

The Samsung DVD writer is pretty well-specified although, once again, its speeds are matched by most of the other PCs here. The Chillblast Apollo's software bundle is useful (even if it mainly consists of free utilities), while the warranty is reasonably lengthy.

Power PCs chart ranking (May issue)


  1. Arbico CD8500 PRO
  2. Chillblast Fusion Anaconda
  3. Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI
  4. Mesh Pulse 24
  5. Chillblast Apollo

Verdict

With its strong Windows and gaming speed, very decent sound system and nice screen, the Chillblast Apollo is another finely polished system from a company on a fine run of form. The Chillblast Fusion Anaconda is better still, however.

NEXT PAGE: Power PCs buying advice > >

See also: Our first look at Chillblast's Apollo > >

Power PCs buying advice (May issue)

Processor: We may shortly reach the tipping point in the delicate balance of power between Intel’s dual-core Core 2 Duo chips and the quad-core stunners in the Core 2 Quad range, but we haven’t got there yet. All the systems in this month’s chart use dual-core processors.

If you want a PC that’ll fly through next year’s software library, a quad system may be worth a gamble. You may have to sacrifice a little speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the gains could far outweigh the pains.

Yet dual-core chips continue to improve: the E8500 is among the best. Even in the age of quad-core, you should get plenty of performance from the top dual-core chips.

Memory: At this price point, 2GB should be a minimum, especially if you’re running Vista. If you skimp on memory now, you might find yourself having to administer a critical upgrade later on. Indeed, most PCs at this price come with 4GB – expect this to become the norm.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space: four of this month’s systems come with a hefty 500GB. Many users can actually get along very comfortably with considerably less – 320GB is a respectable capacity – but those intending to store lots of video and audio files shouldn’t compromise.

Cover backup with a multi-format DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are a must. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL with a minimum of eight-speed – although 10-speed or 16-speed would be better still. DVD-R DL is a bonus rather than essential.

Flat-panel: Flat-panels can vary wildly in quality. We’re starting to see 22in flat-panels as standard, with 20in models becoming increasingly scarce. Bear in mind that you’ll probably have to stare at the screen for long periods so, if you’re plumping for a cheap 22in display, give it a try to ensure that you’ll be able to put up with the picture quality.

A screen with a response time of 8ms or less will minimise blur on fast-moving images – in games, for example – but for image-editing tasks, other specifications such as contrast ratio and colour fidelity are much more important.

Graphics card: At this price, you should be able to get something rather special. The GeForce 8800 GTS 512 has just jumped on the scene and is already making waves. Its support for DirectX 10.0 means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games in the future.

However, the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. The latter is a cheaper card, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a PC housing not one but two of them. In scaleable link interface (SLI) mode, this will produce outstanding results. In exceptional circumstances – namely the Eclipse Platinum, page 183 – you may get hold of dual 8800 GTS cards.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard or integrated sound has come on in leaps and bounds, with support for 7.1 channel sound – but it’s still no match for a decent sound card. Hunt around and you should be able to get a PC with a card from Creative’s Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they’re high-quality models, but most manufacturers are bundling 5.1 speakers. For audio excellence, hold out for a set of 7.1-channel speakers in this price range.

See also:

Chillblast Apollo: expert review

Power PCs chart ranking

NEXT PAGE: Our first look at Chillblast's Apollo > >

Our first look at Chillblast's Apollo

Chillblast snatches yet another award this month by dint of its graphics card – the rather ludicrously named 8800 GTS 512.

We say ludicrously named because, as we show in our review of the Asus nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512, this is rather more than simply a 512MB version of the 320MB and 640MB 8800 GTS cards. Built around an entirely new chip, the GTS 512 is faster even than the 8800 GT. For games, then, the Chillblast Apollo is a good choice, even if the Mesh Pulse SLI’s pair of 8800 GTs make it a viable alternative.

Like many recent Chillblast PCs, the Apollo is strong in several areas. Its baseline Windows speed is excellent – the best in the chart, in fact, with a scorching WorldBench 6 score of 120 keeping it just clear of the field. The Chillblast Apollo's 4GB of Geil PC2-6400 RAM is certainly a factor in this impressive performance, although Chillblast has a habit of squeezing more out of its components than other manufacturers. None of the companies have gone overboard on hard-disk space this month, and the Chillblast Apollo’s 500GB is plentiful without being eye-popping.

The Chillblast Apollo's 22in Acer flat-panel is a nice model, boasting a digital visual interface, a fast response rate and a clean, vivid colour palette. We also like the sound – the X-Fi XtremeAudio works beautifully with the speakers.

The Samsung DVD writer is pretty well-specified, although the drives supplied with the Arbico Elite 8850GX and Mesh Pulse SLI have faster DVD+R DL capabilities. The Chillblast Apollo's software bundle is useful (even if it mainly consists of free utilities), while the warranty is reasonably lengthy.

Verdict

Chillblast’s fine run of form will come to an end at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet - although the blinding good value of fellow Best Buy the Arbico Elite 8850GX may well catch your eye. With its strong Windows and gaming speed, very decent sound system and nice screen, the Chillblast Apollo is another finely polished system.

NEXT PAGE: desktop PC buying advice > >


See also:
Chillblast Apollo: expert review
Power PCs chart ranking
Power PCs buying advice

Power PCs buying advice (March 07 issue)

Processor We may shortly reach the tipping point in the delicate balance of power that exists between Intel’s dual-core Core 2 Duo chips and the quad-core stunners in the Core 2 Quad range, but we haven’t got there yet.

If you want a PC that’ll fly through next year’s software library, the Quad Q6600 is worth a gamble. You may have to sacrifice a small amount of speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the gains could far outweigh the pains.

Having said that, dual-core chips continue to improve. For today’s programs, the likes of the E6850 are the best bet. Even in the age of quad-core, you should still get plenty of performance from the top dual-core chips.

Memory Make no mistake about it: the age of the 2GB PC as standard is here. If you skimp on memory now, you might find yourself having to administer a critical upgrade later on. Indeed, most PCs at this price point now come with 4GB. You can make do with less, but expect 4GB to become the norm.

Storage It’s unbelievable that anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space, but look at our chart and you’ll see that three of the manufacturers have actually opted for a hefty 500GB. Many users can actually get along very comfortably with considerably less than this – 320GB is a respectable capacity – but those intending to store lots of video and audio files should be prepared to stock up.

Cover backup with a multi-format DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are a must, and you should make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL with a minimum of eight-speed – although 10-speed or 16-speed would be better still. DVD-R DL is nice but not essential. Also, look for good eight-speed DVD+RW facilities. Other optional formats to consider include DVD-RAM.

Flat-panel Flat-panels can vary wildly in quality. We’re starting to see 22in flat-panels as standard but, for the best image quality, the safe bet remains a good 20in screen. Bear in mind that you’ll probably have to stare at this screen for long periods so, if you’re buying a cheap 22in, give it a try to ensure that you’ll be able to put up with the picture quality. Try to get a screen with a response time of 8ms or less so that the screen doesn’t blur on fast-moving images.

Graphics card At this price point, you should be able to get something rather impressive. The 8800 GTS 512 has just jumped on to the scene and is already making waves. Its support for DirectX 10.0 means Vista users can look forwards to some impressive games in the future. However, the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. The latter is a cheaper card, and you may be able to find a PC housing not one but two of them. In scaleable link interface mode, this should produce good results.

Sound card and speakers Onboard or integrated sound has come on in leaps and bounds, with support for 7.1 channel sound – but it’s still no match for a decent sound card. Hunt around and you should be able to get a PC with a card from Creative’s Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they’re high-quality models, but most manufacturers are bundling 5.1 speakers. For audio excellence, hold out for a set of 7.1-channel speakers in this price range.


See also:
Chillblast Apollo: expert review
Power PCs chart ranking
Power PCs buying advice

Chillblast Apollo: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5K
  • 8 x USB
  • 22in Acer AL2216WSD (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 max res @ 75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Asus nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Gony S6123
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG AntiVirus
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 120
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5K
  • 8 x USB
  • 22in Acer AL2216WSD (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 max res @ 75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Asus nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Gony S6123
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG AntiVirus
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 120

OUR VERDICT

With its strong Windows and gaming speed, very decent sound system and nice screen, the Chillblast Apollo is another finely polished system from a company on a fine run of form. The Chillblast Fusion Anaconda is better still, however.

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