Chillblast Fusion FX55 SLi Ultra review
With the current backlash against hot-running and noisy PCs, Chillblast is hardly a name that conjures up images of computing discretion. And with a total of five cooling fans, we were expecting the Fusion FX55 SLi Ultra to announce its presence with some gusto. But although there’s a lot of heat produced by the high-performing components inside, the fans thankfully manage to exhaust it with minimal whine.
The main reason for the proliferation of fans is the twin GeForce 6800 Ultras running in SLI mode. Chillblast has changed the stock cooler on both cards – notorious for its high-pitched howl – for a double-height heatsink from Arctic Cooling (www.arctic-cooling.com), with a larger 70mm fan. This attention to detail is laudable. However, the dual graphics leave only one PCI slot usable. Chillblast has chosen a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS card for this, which is a good choice for both music creation and games.
The primary purpose of SLI is gaming, and the twin 6800 Ultras manage to power through even the most extreme settings of our 3D benchmarks. Even at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x AA and 8x AF, Far Cry and Doom 3 exceeded 60fps, with Half-Life 2 breaking the 80fps barrier. The attention to cooling let the Chillblast loop our Far Cry benchmark (at the same tough settings) overnight with no problem, so you can be confident that this machine won’t fall over in the midst of a frantic firefight.
Should you not own a screen capable of a 1,600 x 1,200 resolution, you can add a Sharp LL-2015B 20in TFT and Logitech diNovo keyboard and mouse to the base unit at a combined cost of £3,199.
The 20in Sharp isn’t only a good match for the 6800 Ultras when gaming, but also for the AMD Athlon FX-55 when you’re working. It’s a great chip that regularly scores impressive results in our benchmarks. As befits it, there’s 1GB of PC3200 RAM split across the dual memory channels of the nForce4-based Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe. For even more performance, Chillblast has striped two 10,000rpm 74GB Western Digital Raptors in RAID0 for the system drive. It’s about the fastest setup currently available, reaching 3.12 overall. Our Office tasks ran almost without processing pauses, while our video-encoding test was completed several seconds faster than with a high-end 3.8GHz Pentium 4 570 rig.
Although the striped Raptors provide a reasonable 138GB of usable storage space, Chillblast adds a 300GB Seagate 7200.8 disk for extra storage. This is another impressively fast component, as our recent hard disks Labs proved. The twin gigabit Ethernet ports of the Asus board provide plenty of networking options, so you can happily use all that storage as a communal resource too.
However, should you want wireless networking, you’ll need an inelegant external USB box. You’ll find only four USB 2 ports at the back – enough for all the basic peripherals, and you can add a further four via the supplied backplates. The trouble is, they’re all stuck round the back of the system: the WaveMaster case has no front-mounted ports at all. This is a surprising, not to mention inconvenient, oversight for a machine that costs £2,449. Bear in mind that Chillblast also offers the system in the Lian-Li V1000 case (www.lian-li.com), which has a friendlier complement of accessible ports – but it’s slightly less refined.
Inside, the attractive silver power cables from the monstrous 520W PSU are legion, snaking around the motherboard like something from The Matrix. They’re all firmly secured and routed against the end of the drive bays and, with such large graphics cards, the case is rather cramped. It’s a theme repeated with the Zalman CNPS7700-Cu heatsink and its 120mm fan: if you want to get to the first or second RAM sockets, you’ll have to remove it. The plus side of all this is that you’ll be able to see the quiet, slow-spinning fan and marvel at the fact that the copper fins never get hotter than tepid.