Chillblast Fusion Nano review
The days of monolithic gaming PCs are numbered. Thanks to Intel and Nvidia squeezing ever more performance into every watt of electricity, it’s now possible to accommodate serious PC gaming power in a case little bigger than a shoebox. Don’t believe us? Then take a look at Chillblast’s Fusion Nano. This pint-sized performer unites a miniature version of Nvidia’s new GTX 970 graphics card, a water-cooled Core i5 CPU and feature-packed mini-ITX motherboard.
Chillblast Fusion Nano: design
It’s tough to argue with Chillblast’s case of choice: the Raijintek Metis is a handsome example of the mini-ITX breed. Its curvaceous brushed-metal exterior comes in a range of colours – you can choose from grey, red, green, blue, black and gold – and our black review sample looked very handsome indeed.
The finish feels top-notch, too, with classy brushed metal reaching all around, and a decent-sized window on the right-hand panel, plus a raft of useful features. Crucially, there’s room for a full-sized ATX power supply and a 120mm fan at the rear – essential for the powerful components required of a gaming PC. Chillblast has also improved the cooling potential further by cutting a vent in the roof of the case. If there’s a moan, it’s a minor one: the plastic flashing around the roof vent looks decidedly rough around the edges.
Chillblast Fusion Nano: specifications and performance
It’s easy to see why Chillblast has reached for the Dremel, though – the Fusion Nano’s components would normally find a home in a far larger case. The Intel Core i5-4690K has been pushed from 3.4GHz up to 4.4GHz thanks to the Corsair H55 watercooler; a dinky “mini-ITX” edition of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970 occupies the single PCI Express slot; and the 250GB Samsung 840 Evo SSD is accompanied by a 2.5in Seagate hybrid SSHD and 16GB of RAM. With all those components plumbed into Asus Z97i-Plus motherboard, the Fusion Nano looks ready to take on gaming PCs three or four times its size.
The performance numbers are solid, too. In our Real World Benchmarks, the overclocked Core i5 and speedy SSD system drive helped the Fusion Nano rack up a score of 1.13 – a competent, if unexceptional result. This result puts the Chillblast around 10 to 12% slower than gaming PCs we’ve seen with Core i7 CPUs running at similar overclocks, but realistically this isn’t anything to get hung up about. There’s more than enough va-va-voom here to satisfy most people’s needs – and plenty enough power to handle games for several years to come.
Gaming performance is handled by Nvidia’s miniature edition of its GeForce GTX 970. This unassuming-looking card eschews the meaty dual-slot coolers found on most high-end graphics cards, instead cramming a compact heatsink onto a card that measures a dainty 17cm long. To the uninitiated, it looks like a low-end graphics card from a few years back. The only giveaway to its potential is the sheer number of video outputs: there are three full-sized DisplayPort outputs, HDMI 1.4 and dual DVI ports around the back.
Despite the dainty cooler and compact dimensions, the combination of Nvidia’s new Maxwell architecture and 4GB of GDDR5 RAM allows the GTX 970 to pack a mighty wallop. In our Crysis benchmark run at 2,560 x 1,440 and Very High detail, the GTX 970 provided a silken average frame rate of 65fps. With the resolution cranked up to a 4K, 3,840 x 2,160 resolution, the GTX 970 managed a creditable average of 31fps. When you consider that Chillblast’s gaming beast from last year, the Fusion Dragon, managed an average of only 37fps in the same test – with a Core i7 CPU and a stupendously expensive (and much larger) GTX 780Ti graphics card – it’s clear that the GTX 970 is a force to be reckoned with.
Chillblast Fusion Nano: cooling performance and features
As you might expect, though, there’s a price to pay for the Fusion Nano’s tiny dimensions and near-silent cooling – there isn’t enough airflow to keep components as cool as gaming PCs with standard-sized cases. With FurMark and Prime95 doing their worst for several hours, the GPU happily ticked along at 60˚C, but the bottom of the case soon became hot to the touch and CPU temperatures rose to 100˚C. This might sound worrying, but it’s not cause for concern – not even the most demanding games or applications present a 100% load to both CPU and GPU in a real-world situation. To prove the point we left Crysis running for several hours; neither CPU nor GPU nudged over 66c.
Happily, though, the Fusion Nano’s power-consumption figures are surprisingly frugal. With Prime95 and FurMark working the CPU and GPU flat out, we recorded a maximum draw of 281W. At idle, sitting on the Windows 8 desktop, the power draw sank to 66W. In either scenario, noise isn’t an issue: even under heavy load, the GTX 970 and Corsair H55 unit emit a steady, unobtrusive whoosh of air. With a game soundtrack thundering away in the background, the Fusion Nano will be the last thing to grab your attention.
One final hearty slap on the back is deserved for the sheer amount of connectivity packed into the Asus motherboard. This mini-ITX board sports 802.11ac wireless networking, four USB 3 ports, four USB 2 ports and a further USB 3 header powers the two USB 3 ports at the front of the Raijintek case. There’s also a 10GB/sec M.2 socket ready and waiting for a suitable high-speed SSD; this is mounted on the underside of the motherboard, though, so bear in mind you’ll need to dismantle most of the system to install it. And if you need even more storage, you’re in luck: there are two SATA 6Gbits/sec ports spare for future upgrades.
Chillblast Fusion Nano: verdict
We’ve seen more than a few shoebox-sized gaming PCs over the years, but the Fusion Nano is certainly one of the better-looking to pass through our Labs. It nails the essentials, too – proving to be both capable and quiet – and its small size belies the fact that it has enough grunt to tackle the most demanding games head-on. If you’re short on space and big on games, then the Fusion Nano is a great choice.
Chillblast Fusion Nano specifications
|Processor||3.4GHz Intel Core i5-4690K @ 4.4GHz|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel Z97|
|Ports and expansion|
|Front USB ports||2 x USB3|
|Rear USB ports||4 x USB 3, 4 x USB 2|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4|
|Case size (WDH)||190 x 277 x 254|
|PCIe x16 (free)||1 (occupied)|
|Serial ATA (free)||4 (2), 1 x M.2 socket|
|Memory slots (free)||2 (0)|
|Drive bays 2 1/2" (free)||2 (0)|
|Drive bays 3 1/2" (free)||1 (1)|
|Drive bays 5 1/4" (free)||None|
|Memory card reader||None|
|Optical drive type||None|
|Graphics card||Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 Mini-ITX edition|
|Graphics/video ports||HDMI 1.4, 2 x DVI, 3 x DisplayPort|
|Sound card||Realtek ALC892|
|Sound card outputs||3 x 3.5mm jacks (rear panel), 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks (front panel)|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 64-bit|
|Operating system restore option||Recovery partition|
|Warranty||2yr C&R warranty|
|Price including delivery||£1,099 inc VAT|