We've been impressed by just how far system builders have been able to push the latest Core i5 and i7 2K series CPUs, especially after the initial commotion about locked clock multipliers upon release. Just as it seemed Intel were about to hobble a phenomenally powerful processor series, the Core i5 2500K and Core i7 2600K chips were released, fully unlocked and featuring serious headroom for performance boosts.
It's been the more expensive i7 2600K that's enjoyed most of the limelight and found its way into some fantastic systems, such as last month's Dino PC Evolution 2600K.
The Intel Core i5 2500K has buckets of performance on offer too, along with very respectable overclocking chops, as Chillblast has proved with the Fusion Rocket.
Crunching the numbers at 4.5GHz, a 1.2 GHz overclock, the 2500K in this machine makes up for a lack of multithreading capability with sheer speed. It actually doesn't lag far behind its illustrious show-off big brother the 2600K, and at this £750 price point, it's ideal.
Plenty has been made of the value Sandy Bridge chips offer, but one clocked up to these speeds helps keep costs down further in sub- £1,000 rigs without having to cut obvious corners with other components; it's a true gaming workhorse of a CPU.
The other glorious victory for mid-range buyers sits in the PCI-e slot. It's AMD's much-trumpeted, Optimus Prime of a 3D card, the HD 6950. It can transform into an HD 6970 you see, as it's exactly the same card, just limited at a firmware level rather than having any transistors destroyed in the factory to create a budget version. All you need to do is to flash the card's BIOS and get a free upgrade from a £200 card to a £300 card.
It must have been tempting for Chillblast to stick the 1GB version of the HD 6950 in this build to keep costs down, but it's the full fat, 2GB version with twice the frame buffer and that identical architecture to the HD 6970.
Cinebench R11 index: Higher is better
Chillblast Fusion Rocket - 7.12
Warbird SB4.6CS - 7.25
DirectX 11 gaming performance
Metro 2033 Frames per second: Higher is better
Chillblast Fusion Rocket - 22
Warbird SB4.6CS - 26
DirectX 10 gaming performance
Just Cause 2 Frames per second: Higher is better
Chillblast Fusion Rocket - 39
Warbird SB4.6CS - 45
The CPU and GPU are a fine pairing, then. Neither are the flashiest, but both are punching above their weight one way or another to bring van-loads of gaming performance to an eminently affordable PC.
The danger mid-range buyers face is investing in a good PC one day that turns into an outdated PC rather sooner than they'd hoped. Granted, the Fusion Rocket isn't Tomorrow's World in all areas. It has an anachronistic case, an underwhelming CPU cooler, and just a 1TB hard drive instead of any SSD storage to keep costs down, but it's built around this generation's CPU/chipset, giving it a longer shelf life.
Sticking in another HD 6950 in CrossFire mode will also aid gaming, for when the frame rates start to stutter. The mark up on any of the component that Chillblast has used is marginal, and those components it has expertly picked.
To avoid worrying about upgrades for another year or so, we would plump for a £1,000 rig, but if this is the top of your budget, Chillblast will have your needs covered.
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