Chillblast Fusion Brimstone Review
Chillblast’s concentration on graphics means that other components have been cut back though. The Core i5-6600K is Intel’s best mid-range processor, and it’s been overclocked from 3.5GHz to 4.4GHz, but has a smaller L3 cache and no Hyper-Threading. Meanwhile, the 16GB of memory is ample, but it only runs at 2133MHz – the slowest DDR4 frequency available.
The storage is middling too. The 250GB Samsung 850 Evo is a fine SATA drive, but the latest M.2 NVMe drives are significantly faster. None of these components is bad, but they’re undeniably mid-range, and we’d say the same about the Gigabyte GA-Z170XP-SLI motherboard. It’s designed for multi-GPU operation and runs its two primary PCI-E slots at 8x speed – so there’s enough bandwidth to go around – but it’s entirely conventional in most departments.
On the plus side, it has an M.2 connector, and its backplate has USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C connectors alongside USB 3 ports and six audio jacks. It also has dedicated audio circuitry. However, there are no on-board power and reset buttons, and the EFI menu system is clunky and unintuitive. In addition, many of its upgrade paths are hard to reach in this particular machine. Many of the free expansion slots can’t realistically be accessed without removing a graphics card, and the same is true of the SATA ports. What’s more, the M.2 port and one of the spare memory slots are both hidden by the Akasa Venom Voodoo CPU cooler – a heatsink that’s so big it almost touches the case window.
All the kit is housed in an NZXT Source 340 case, which we recommend as a great budget case. The motherboard and components dominate the main area of the case, with the PSU and hard disk hidden behind a smart shroud that stretches across the entire bottom section, while cables are hidden behind a raised metal section.
On the outside, the case is glossy and dark, with subtle logos and no lights. It makes for a tidy system that emphasises components rather than cables, although there isn’t any of the lighting or colourful cable sleeving that helps the Overclockers Titan Finesse Phoenix to stand out.
Chillblast beats its rivals for warranty longevity though. The Brimstone is bolstered by a five year labour deal that also covers shipping and parts for the first two years.
The graphics cards are the undeniable stars of this system. All three of our test games never dropped below 30fps at 4K, which is fantastic for a £1,500 machine, and that’s with Fallout 4 running in Ultra settings.
The emphasis on gaming performance means that the Chillblast is less impressive in application benchmarks, though. With its Core i5 CPU, it was consistently behind the Overclockers Titan Finesse in all our RealBench 2015 tests, except the LuxMark OpenCL test, thanks to the two GPUs. In particular, our heavily-multithreaded video encoding test suffers on the Chillblast. You’ll only notice this performance difference if you regularly use multithreaded software though. The Core i5 chip still has four cores, and it’s fast enough for most people’s needs.
The SSD didn’t break any records, either. Its read and write speeds of 493MB/sec and 470MB/sec respectively are fine for a SATA drive, but the Samsung SM951 inside the Phoenix rattled through those tests at 2,070MB/sec and 920MB/sec, thanks to its 4x PCI-E 3 bandwidth.
On the plus side, despite the cramped case and reliance on air cooling, the Brimstone did a decent job of cooling its components: the CPU and GPU delta Ts of 55°C and 57°C are warm, but not hot enough to ring any alarm bells. The noise output was similar.
The Brimstone was almost silent when running lowintensity tasks, but the fans quickly ramped up their speed during game tests. At peak load, the Chillblast was a little louder than the Overclockers machine – it’s certainly audible, but the noise isn’t irritating.
There’s only so much that can be done with a £1,500 budget, and in this case, Chillblast has clearly chosen to pump most of its money towards the graphics department. That decision pays dividends in game benchmarks, where it’s generally even faster than the Overclockers Titan Finesse. This machine has the pace to play any modern title at 4K, or on a VR headset, without any slowdown and that’s a great achievement for a £1,500 machine.
However, this focus inevitably results in cutbacks elsewhere. The processor is mid-range, and the memory and SSD are both slower than you expect at this price. There isn’t much room to upgrade this machine either, and there isn’t any sign of attractive touches, such as lighting and colour-matched cables. These deficiencies are eclipsed by the Brimstone’s sheer graphical power though. The Overclockers machine is much better balanced, but if 4K gaming (or VR) frame rates are your priority, and you have a limited budget, the Fusion Brimstone delivers gaming performance in spades for a very reasonable price. MIKE JENNINGS
VERDICTBlistering speed in games and a tidy build, but the focus on GPU power sees the specification suffer elsewhere.
SPECIFICATIONSCPU 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K overclocked to 4.4GHzMotherboard Gigabyte GA-Z170XP-SLIMemory 16GB 2133MHz Goldkey DDR4Graphics 2 x Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 4GBStorage 250GB Samsung 850 Evo SSD; 1TB Seagate hybrid hard diskCase NZXT Source 340Cooling CPU: Akasa Venom Voodoo with 2 x 120mm fans; GPU: 6 x 80mm fans; rear: 1 x 120mm fanPSU FSP Raider 750WPorts Front: 2 x USB 3, 2 x audio; Rear: 3 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 2, 1 x PS/2, Gigabit Ethernet, 6 x audioOperating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bitWarranty Two years parts and labour collect and return, followed by three years return to base labour only.