Anyone who has been reading our gaming PC reviews will know that the AMD/ATI Radeon 5850 is one of our favourite video cards at the moment because of its excellent performance, frugality and reasonable price, so we’re glad to see it in the Fusion Panzer.
Unfortunately, though it offers two free PCI slots and two PCIe x1 ones, the Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard Chillblast has opted for doesn’t provide a second graphics card slot, so CrossFire is out of the question. If this is a more important consideration for you than USB 3.0, you’re better off with the Cryo Nano.
Thankfully, a single 5850 is plenty to power through all but the most demanding games. At Very High detail it could barely handle Crysis, providing a just playable 27fps average. Knocking detail down a notch, however, resulted in a smooth experience.
In the DirectX11 title Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the Fusion Panzer had no trouble running the game maxed out.
With older games like Call of Duty 4, of course, there’s power to spare and then some. Keep in mind that the Fusion Panzer outperforms some systems against which it should be scoring lower, simply because AMD/ATI keeps updating its drivers to wring better performance from its graphics cards. Thus the Panzer returned a better score in Crysis during our tests than the DinoPC i7 Osaurus which sported a Radeon 5870!
To sum up, what Chillblast has produced should have been a great little system: it looks good, is fairly well built, relatively portable and offers decent performance and value. It’s also one of the few sub-£1,000 systems to offer USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s, for what the latter is worth. However, the overclock isn’t as high as we’re used to and the assembler has made a few puzzling configuration choices. These include removing the case’s original thumb screws, and while we can easily forgive the Panzer’s unbearably noisy out-of-the-box performance as it’s easy to fix, even with the fans set to the quietest setting Asus’ BIOS supports this is one loud computer.
Thus, if you don’t mind a larger system, we would recommend the Wired2Fire Hellspawn instead, which offers nearly identical specifications yet a higher overclock on its Core i5 750, a Blu-ray drive and card reader, all for less money.
If small is your thing or you’re particularly interested in upgrading to CrossFire in the future, the water-cooled Cryo Nano should be your weapon of choice. Don’t forget that either system will allow you to install an add-on card to provide USB 3.0.
Chillblast’s cute and generally well-performing Fusion Panzer squanders some of its potential due to a lack of care both in some elements of its assembly and its acoustic performance. Frankly, for many it will be one to avoid, unless you don’t mind a noisy system or are happy getting a separate fan controller.
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