Chillblast has taken the bold step of knocking together a £1,100 machine with just a pair of lower-end GPUs running in SLI. Have the minds at Chillblast lost the proverbial plot? Surely dropping a top single GPU card in there for the same price is a much better way to go for top-end performance, and without the troubles you tend to associate with multi-GPU gaming?
Well, considering a pair of GTX 650 Ti Boost cards cost roughly £300 - the same as a single GTX 670 - that received wisdom doesn't really scan. Nvidia has closed the book on its last-gen graphics cards with one of the best budget cards around. We'll have to wait a good long while for Nvidia to release a GTX 700 card within the same price bracket, but until then we've got a quality little GPU that scales fantastically.
In single card trim it shows some impressive budget chops - as evidenced by the Aria Gladiator FX Predator - and in SLI it hoses the GTX 680 in our Core i7 PCF test bench. Because each GPU in the SLI setup has a healthy boost clock, 768 CUDA cores, 2GB of speedy GDDR5 and a pair of 192-bit memory buses running in parallel, the Fusion Carbine has some serious graphical power under the unassuming Corsair 300R chassis.
A single, more expensive GTX 680 has a slower clock speed, the same total core count and the same memory configuration, and is trying to squeeze data down the same 256-bit bus. The SLI pairing was always going to have the edge. But as we've seen from the GTX Titan vs GTX 690 debate, smooth running is often preferable to outright performance.
The debate about single card/multi-GPU products though is slightly different to standard dual-card SLI support. A single multi-GPU card has different problems to a dual-card array, and Nvidia's recent SLI support has been impressive - especially on day one of big game releases.
More is more
And what of the rest of the rig? Well, Chillblast is always good value on the balance front, and the only strange component choice is the doubling up of optical drives. It's not obvious that you need one at all these days, let alone both a Blu-ray and DVD drive.
Elsewhere you'll be rocking some basic 1,600MHz RAM (16GB of it), a seriously overclocked i5-3570K running at 4.6GHz, and a decent SSD/HDD combo. Chillblast has also jammed in one of Corsair's lower-end liquid chillers to keep that CPU cool, and the whole machine is pretty quiet.
We've benched the Chillblast machine against the Aria rig with a single GTX 650 Ti Boost inside, and our PC Format test bench with a stock-clocked i7 and a GTX 680. There's an impressive improvement in performance over the Aria machine, and it does well against the test bench, too.
CPU rendering performance
Cinebench R11.5: Index score: Higher is better
CHILLBLAST FUSION CARBINE: 7.6
ARIA GLADIATOR FX PREDATOR: 4.5
PCF TEST BENCH: 7.9
DirectX 11 tessellation performance
Heaven 4.0: Frames per second: Higher is better
CHILLBLAST FUSION CARBINE: 47.5
ARIA GLADIATOR FX PREDATOR: 24.1
PCF TEST BENCH: 39.7
DirectX 11 gaming performance
BioShock Infinite: Frames per second: Higher is better
CHILLBLAST FUSION CARBINE: 83
ARIA GLADIATOR: 47
PCF TEST BENCH: 76
In terms of full machines, you'd struggle to find another one at the same price with the same graphics grunt. Certainly not one with the same level of supporting componentry inside, such as the mass of DRAM and the operating system's SSD.
We'll see a lot of Haswell machines in the coming months, and ones with the latest Nvidia graphics cards in them too, but we're confident that they'll struggle to match the balance of the Fusion Carbine.