Chillblast Fusion Thunderbird review

15 Aug 2012

The chassis may put off some with its outlandish design, but this is an extremely impressive all-round system that delivers great performance throughout

Price when reviewed 
998
5

We’ll get the sticking point out of the way first: the Zalman Z11 Plus case Chillblast has used for its Fusion Thunderbird is an acquired taste. Its jutting, angular side-pods and pointed fins result in a chassis that’s every bit as over the top as you'd expect from a high-end gaming system, and the blue lights make it almost as bright. We can understand if you’ve made your decision based on looks alone, but we’d urge you to keep reading, since the Zalman chassis has much to recommend it.

For starters, build quality is excellent. The metal side panels and plastic accoutrements feel strong and well built, with the flimsy plastic fins at the top the only weakness. The interior is finished with the same matte-black paint as the outside, and the Fusion Thunderbird is very tidy.

The Akasa Nero 3 heatsink is large, but doesn’t impede the two free DIMMs, and although the free hard disk bays aren’t tool-less, they have sturdy side-facing caddies. The Asus P8Z77-V motherboard has two free PCI Express x16 slots, although the third slot runs at only x4 speed.

Chillblast Fusion Thunderbird

It’s all powered by a Core i5-3570K, and Chillblast has managed to eke out 4.8GHz from the silicon - the same overclock achieved by Wired2Fire in its Hellspawn Predator. The Chillblast takes the performance crown here, though, managing to best its rival in our benchmarks: the Fusion Thunderbird scored 1.18, and the Wired2Fire managed just 1.15.

Gamers will be familiar with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 670, which lines up against the AMD Radeon HD 7950 selected by Wired2Fire. In our Very High quality Crysis test its 66fps average was 3fps ahead of the Hellspawn Predator. There's not much in it when it comes to gaming performance, then, but the Chillblast is marginally quicker - a key factor when it comes to playing the latest games.

Chillblast Fusion Thunderbird

The choice of a 240GB Mushkin SSD works well, too. Its large-file write speed of 491.5MB/sec isn't far behind the 507.4MB/s we've recorded from the fastest drives, and its small-file write and read speeds of 209MB/sec and 44.2MB/sec are, again, among the best results we've seen. The accompanying 2TB Seagate Barracuda hard disk also performed well, and the rest of the specification extends to 8GB of RAM, again from Mushkin, and a Blu-ray reader.

There’s little to worry about when it comes to thermal performance or noise, either. The processor’s peak temperature of 88°C is well within Ivy Bridge’s limits, and the graphics card was even cooler, hitting a top temperature of 71°C. A maximum power draw of 306W is reasonable, and even under stress testing the Fusion Thunderbird emitted only a low hum on similar levels to the Wired2Fire.

Despite the looks, it really is a fine PC. It offers excellent performance across applications, games and storage, it’s well built and it runs quietly - and, crucially, it's £999 inc VAT price is more palatable than the Wired2Fire's £1,162 cost.

If the case isn't to your taste then the Wired2Fire is a superb if more expensive alternative but, if not, then the Chillblast Fusion Thunderbird is our new base unit of choice.

Details

Price ex VAT £832
Price inc VAT £998
Overall rating 5
Performance 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5

Warranty

Warranty 2yr collect and return

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 2,240GB
RAM capacity 8.00GB

Processor

CPU family Intel Core i5
CPU nominal frequency 3.40GHz
CPU overclocked frequency 4.80GHz
Processor socket LGA 1155
HSF (heatsink-fan) Akasa Nero 3

Motherboard

Motherboard Asus P8Z77-V
Motherboard chipset Intel Z77
Conventional PCI slots free 2
Conventional PCI slots total 2
PCI-E x16 slots free 2
PCI-E x16 slots total 3
PCI-E x1 slots free 1
PCI-E x1 slots total 2
Internal SATA connectors 6
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory type DDR3
Memory sockets free 2
Memory sockets total 4

Graphics card

Graphics card Palit GeForce GTX 670
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards? no
3D performance setting High
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GTX 670
Graphics card RAM 2.00GB
DVI-I outputs 2
HDMI outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 1
Number of graphics cards 1

Hard disk

Hard disk Mushkin Chronos Deluxe
Capacity 240GB
Hard disk usable capacity 223GB
Internal disk interface SATA/600
Hard disk 2 make and model Seagate Barracuda 7200.14
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity 2,000GB
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity 1,810
Hard disk 2 spindle speed 7,200RPM
Hard disk 2 cache size 64MB

Drives

Optical disc technology Blu-ray reader/DVD writer combo

Additional Peripherals

Sound card Realtek HD Audio

Case

Chassis Zalman Z11 Plus
Case format Full tower
Dimensions 260 x 525 x 498mm (WDH)

Power supply

Power supply OCZ StealthXStream 2
Power supply rating 700W

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays 4

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 2
PS/2 mouse port yes
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
3.5mm audio jacks 6

Front ports

Front panel USB ports 4
Front panel memory card reader no

Operating system and software

OS family Windows 7

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 81W
Peak power consumption 306W

Performance tests

3D performance (crysis) low settings 102fps
3D performance setting High
Overall Real World Benchmark score 1.18
Responsiveness score 1.24
Media score 1.24
Multitasking score 1.19