Opening the case up reveals a very spacious if slightly messy interior. Chillblast has done the best job of cable-tidying it can, but the case doesn’t provide many routing options. The positioning of the OCZ 600W non-modular power supply above the video card explains the Panzerbox’s abnormal width and ensures there’s lots of room around the edges of the full-size motherboard. However, it does of course mean you have to remove it to change a graphics card or suchlike. Alternatively you can avail yourself of the case’s removable motherboard tray, but seeing as you need to unplug all the cables from the front of the motherboard to get it out , it’s still a bit of a bind.
Internal build quality seems excellent, with a nice black finish and no sign of sharp edges. In addition to the tool-free 5.25in cage there are two separate 3.5in cages, and all bays are lined with rubber strips to minimize vibration. Unfortunately, Chillblast has chosen to make use of the bottom (vertical) cage for the Fusion Panzer’s single Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB hard drive, restricting air flow just slightly from the large front fan (though making it easier to remove).
While on the topic of fans, it’s time to check out the Fusion Panzer’s cooling setup. The case offers two huge 190mm fans, one at the front (intake) and one at the top (output), in addition to a 120mm fan at the back. The power supply exhausts heat directly out of the case.
This setup sounds excellent in theory, but unfortunately the reality is very different. The first thing you will notice about Chillblast’s Fusion Panzer when turning it on is that it’s very noisy. Easily the noisiest PC of any description we’ve had through the office, the Panzer would put most vacuum cleaners to shame. Naturally, its cooling performance is astonishing and the huge fans literally blast cool air throughout the case, but deafness is too great a price for even the best cooling.
Luckily, though there are no physical speed switches on the fans themselves, they’re all hooked up to the Asus motherboard. Just pop into the Hardware Monitor and activate Chassis Q-Fan Control in the BIOS, and the noise levels drop down to bearable levels. It’s a very easy fix, but not necessarily obvious for less technically-oriented buyers, and it’s beyond us why Chillblast didn’t just activate this in the first place. At best, it’s a sign of poor quality control.
Intel’s Core i5 750 CPU is paired with an Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro, which keeps all four cores below 60 degrees even under load, despite being overclocked to 3.6GHz (from its stock 3.2GHz). This a relatively minor overclock compared to the 4GHz we’re used to seeing (on the similarly-priced Cryo Nano and Wired2Fire Hellspawn, to name but two), but thankfully the 750 is already an eminently capable CPU at stock speed, leaving the onus almost completely on the graphics card when it comes to gaming.
Chillblast has backed up the CPU with 4GB of Corsair XMS3 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM, which is pretty much par for the course, though competitors sometimes use faster 1,600MHz memory (a £20 upgrade in this case, with 8GB of 1,333MHz RAM setting you back an extra £90). A clean install of Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit takes full advantage.