Chillblast Fusion Stinger review

The last few months have seen new processor launches from AMD and Intel, with the Phenom II X4 and Core i7 ranges respectively. The first few PCs to take the plunge have largely opted for AMD – quite a turnaround from a year ago, when a high-end PC wouldn’t be seen dead with a Phenom.

Nevertheless, the Fusion Stinger has gone for Intel’s entry-level Core i7 processor, the 2.66GHz 920, and by now you’ll know Chillblast rarely sends us a PC that isn’t overclocked. The Core i7 part in this machine has been tweaked to run at 3.4GHz, which is faster than even the 3.33GHz Core i7 975 Extreme Edition.

This enthusiastic speed boost resulted in a suitably quick benchmark result of 2.33, which puts it in front of all three machines currently sitting in the High-end PC category of our A List. The Chillblast Fusion Sidewinder managed 1.88, the PC Specialist Apollo Q8200 GTX+ a lesser 1.4 and the Mesh Matrix II, with its standard-clocked Phenom II X4 processor, returned a score of 1.67. In fact, the Stinger is one of the quickest machines we’ve ever seen, able to handle the most intensive applications and multi-tasking, and to get this amount of power for such an affordable price is impressive.

Gaming performance was decent, with the mid-range ATI Radeon HD 4850 brushing aside our low and medium-quality Crysis tests. Our high-quality benchmark was dispatched at a commendable 33fps, although the Chillblast faltered at very high settings, where it only managed 20fps. Nevertheless, all modern games should be playable on this machine, with only the top tier of titles having to be toned down to run at decent framerates.

Elsewhere, the specification is decent without really exciting. A half-terabyte hard disk will hold plenty of games or movies, but recent competitors have offered twice that. Three gigabytes of triple-channel RAM is also reasonably good, but four gigabytes is now becoming standard in high-end machines; we can’t imagine sticking with 3GB represents a huge saving.

The chassis isn’t anything to shout about, either. The CoolerMaster Elite 330 feels flimsy and its mesh-fronted facade looks plain, and the selection of two USB ports and headphone and microphone jacks, without even a card reader, leaves the front of the Chillblast looking a little bare of features.

Inside, though, Chillblast has done a fine job of keeping the machine neat and tidy. Cables are routed behind the motherboard and hard disk racking, and groups of wires are lashed together and tied down. There’s a good amount of upgrade potential, too, thanks to a raft of free 3.5in and 5.25in bays and a pair of empty PCI-Express 16x slots, one of which could be used for CrossfireX graphics. Couple this with the tidy arrangement inside the chassis and it makes for a PC that’s easy to work inside and upgrade.

it_photo_6458The plain but well-kept chassis also does an excellent job at keeping the noise down. We barely noticed the Chillblast humming while we were sat at a desk, and had to put our ears close to the machine to hear it at all. It’s certainly not a machine that will prove intrusive during a gaming session, despite the fearsome power lurking within.

The Fusion Stinger even has an attractive price. At £725, this base unit has a huge amount of power, and it’s ideal if you already own a decent monitor and peripherals. If you’re factoring in the cost of these along with the machine, the picture is a lot less clear-cut: once you’ve chosen a monitor, speakers, keyboard and mouse, the price will likely be around £1,000 exc VAT, which puts it in Chillblast Fusion Spitfire territory. That PC offers more storage, a better graphics card, and a better case, but does so with a budget DGM monitor and slightly less 2D muscle, so it is a little restricting when it comes to ensuring you get the best for your money.

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