Chillblast Fusion Photo OC II review
Times are good for photographers. Not only can a decent DSLR be had for a low price, but almost every desktop PC can now edit dozens of high-resolution images in almost real-time. But every bit of extra power your hardware can deliver counts, and few desktop PCs passing through our Labs come with monitors fit for the kind of demanding work photographers will put them to.
The Fusion immediately stands out on the last point. While 22in and 24in monitors are becoming the norm for desktop PCs, the outstanding design of the Dell 24in 2407WFP-HC (web ID: 128864) marks the system apart. The 1,920 x 1,200 screen remains one of our favourite panels. Our technical tests using DisplayMate (www.displaymate.com) were perfectly rendered. A solid black screen revealed no leaking backlight, and our plain white screen was exactly that. Running through a collection of photos was equally satisfying: superb colour reproduction means you’re unlikely to have problems when it comes to printing your images.
Chillblast has taken a similarly no-nonsense approach to the machine’s performance: this is the most RAM-heavy desktop system we’ve seen for some time – 8GB spread across four DIMM sockets, with a 2GB module in each. Windows Vista Home Premium x64 is installed to ensure the entire complement is accessible, but as nice as it sounds it’s doubtful that many photographers will see a benefit over 4GB. You’d need to have dozens of high-resolution raw images open before any performance difference became visible.
The quad-core Q6600 processor, although not Intel’s top-of-the-line option, doesn’t let the side down. It’s been overclocked from its stock speed of 2.4GHz to an impressive 3.2GHz. To achieve this, the stock cooler has been replaced with an Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro, keeping the system both cool and stable. It all adds up to a very quick system, returning a spectacular application benchmark result of 1.93.
Despite the Fusion’s photographic aspirations, Chillblast hasn’t ruled out the prospect of a little entertainment. The installed Nvidia 8800 GT is the current A-List occupant thanks to its remarkable performance and low price, and it’s perfectly at home in the Fusion. In Call of Duty 2 at 1,600 x 1,200, it ran at 65fps at our highest settings; even at the Dell’s native resolution of 1,920 x 1,600, it still ran at a perfectly acceptable 57fps. Those looking for a machine purely for creative or editing work may find the double-height card a waste of money, in which case Chillblast will supply an Nvidia 8400 GS for a saving of £100 inc VAT.
Storage is catered for by three Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 hard disks. One 500GB disk sits on its own, while two 250GB units are in a RAID0 array (striped) for maximum throughput. A total 1TB of space should be plenty for most photographers. Adding external storage is simple, too, with nine USB ports plus a top-mounted eSATA port and two full-sized FireWire ports.
The Fusion’s interior isn’t entirely neat. There are plenty of cable ties, but upgrading is unlikely to be pain-free. Adding an extra hard disk will be a hassle – for example, there are three free SATA ports on the board and two spare 3.5in bays, but there’s such a tangle of cables behind the existing drives that you’ll have to remove them before installing more. Matters aren’t helped by the double-height graphics card and the daughterboard, which occupy a PCI Express 1x slot. The chassis itself is imposing, and the top and front are mesh, which is good for airflow. It’s reasonably quiet, although all those top-drawer components mean it isn’t silent.
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