Chillblast Fusion Spectre review
Chillblast’s Fusion Spectre takes a different approach to most of the enthusiast manufacturer’s recent offerings. Instead of the usual knockout performance punch, this is a more reserved machine that seeks to balance decent power with whisper-quiet operation.
To this end, both sides of the Hiper Anubis chassis, as well as the front fan area, have been lined with a centimetre of thick, sound-absorbing foam, and the only two working fans – on the CPU and at the rear – are from Austrian manufacturer Noctua. The NH-U12P CPU cooler features low-noise resistors and anti-vibration grommets between the heatsink and the fan to reduce noise even further. Even the hard disk is secreted inside an anti-vibration cage, and the optical drive has been chosen specifically for its quietness.
The results were impressive. We pressed our ears up against the aluminium of the Anubis chassis and could only hear the faintest of hums, with this noise fading away at a distance of a mere three feet. It’s testament to Chillblast’s hard work that the blue LED on top of the case is often the only way to tell if the machine is turned on.
Conversely, this concentration on quietening the Spectre has an overwhelming effect on the CPU’s temperature levels. The combination of thick foam lining and lack of airflow is a recipe for disaster, and the two low-noise resistors that are installed on each Noctua fan to lower their rotational speeds regularly dipped their voltages to the point where they stopped spinning altogether. Having to prod them back into life with a pen every ten minutes isn’t the best way to enjoy a gaming session.
Consequently, CPU temperatures soared to over 100 degrees at peak levels, and the motherboard topped 80 degrees when idle. It’s not a safe environment for computing, and we wouldn’t be confident about running intensive applications for any length of time in the Fusion Spectre’s stifling atmosphere.
Removing the resistors saw the fans spin at their maximum speeds and the processor chilled to a safer level. Even when running through our intensive multiple application benchmarks, core temperatures rarely exceeded 60 degrees and the increased fan speed didn’t massively add to the noise: even with the Noctua fans working hard, the Spectre was still quiet.
Aside from its concentration on noise reduction, the Anubis chassis offers several potential upgrades. A handful of empty 5.25in and 3.5in bays cater for additional optical drives and hard disks; there are empty SATA ports; three fallow DIMM sockets; and empty PCI-Express 16x slots mean that CrossFireX is a possibility.
There’s a decent range of ports and sockets, too. The rear houses six USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, two PS/2 ports, an optical S/PDIF output and eSATA, and the front offers the usual pair of USB ports alongside headphone and microphone jacks.
Chillblast hasn’t compromised on power despite its concentration on reducing noise levels. The 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920 processor returned a healthy benchmark score of 1.9, and a particularly high multi-tasking score should please those who want to run several intensive applications at once.
ATI’s Radeon HD 4850 managed a respectable score of 34fps in our high-quality Crysis benchmark, with the framerate only dropping to unplayable levels when we ramped the quality up to the game’s highest levels – an area only normally tamed by dual-GPU cards. In keeping with the rest of this machine’s ethos, the Powercolor card has been chosen because of its low noise output.