Chillblast Fusion Vacuum Mini review

7 Sep 2012

A silent and well-specified living room PC with dual TV tuners and promising performance, but it doesn’t come cheap

Price when reviewed 
998
4

Media centres and passively cooled PCs tend to be the preserve of specialist builders such as Quiet PC and Tranquil, so we didn’t expect to see one from Chillblast – a company better known for producing high-end overclocked systems.

Chillblast has followed a tried and tested route when designing its Fusion Vacuum Mini. Streacom’s F8 chassis, which we’ve seen before in the Tranquil iXL, has been pressed into service. It’s easy to see why: its build quality is fantastic. The minimal design and brushed aluminium make for a smart small-form-factor machine and one side of the system is covered with metal fins designed to dissipate heat.

Chillblast Fusion Vacuum Mini - front (angled)

Under the lid – which slides off after several screws are removed – it’s clear that Chillblast has pushed the Streacom to its limits. The SSD and optical drive are attached to a cage that sits at the top of the machine, and while this can be removed with a handful of screws, it’s not easy. The heatsinks on the RAM make removal tricky and the BlackGold BGT3620 TV tuner card is tall enough to intrude too.

Upgrade room on the Asus P8H77-I motherboard is limited. The TV card takes up the single PCI-Express x16 slot. Both memory slots are occupied and, even though three SATA 3Gbit/s and one SATA 6Gbit/s sockets are empty, there’s little room to add extra storage. While there’s a free 3.5in bay on the underside of the drive cage, the DIMMs will make fitting a hard disk tricky.

Chillblast Fusion Vacuum Mini - interior

It’s cramped, but without any cooling fans the only noise that escapes the Fusion Vacuum is the sound of a disc spinning in the optical drive. This is also one of the best specifications we’ve seen from a small-form-factor machine. The BlackGold TV tuner has impressed us before thanks to its dual tuners and Freeview HD support, and Chillblast also includes a dual-band 802.11n wireless USB dongle, eight gigabytes of RAM and a Blu-ray reader. The only major omission is a hard disk – storage is provided by a 240GB Mushkin Chronos SSD.

Processing power comes from Intel’s Core i5-3450S, which is the company’s weakest low-power Core i5 chip. That’s not to say it’s sluggish, as this 22nm CPU runs at 2.8GHz, Turbo Boosts to a peak of 3.5GHz across one core and includes 6MB of L3 cache. Its benchmark score of 0.95 is the best we’ve recorded from a passive PC, and it’s arguably more than most people need – the £529 version of Apple’s Mac Mini includes a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M with reasonable power, and the £799 version has a Core i7-2620M, which has scored 0.7 in our benchmarks in Apple’s 13in MacBook Pro.

Details

Price ex VAT £832
Price inc VAT £998
Overall rating 4
Performance 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4

Warranty

Warranty 2yr collect and return

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 240GB
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Screen size N/A

Processor

CPU family Intel Core i5
CPU nominal frequency 2.80GHz
CPU overclocked frequency N/A
HSF (heatsink-fan) Passive

Motherboard

Motherboard Asus P8H77-I
Motherboard chipset Intel H77
Conventional PCI slots free 0
Conventional PCI slots total 0
PCI-E x16 slots free 0
PCI-E x16 slots total 0
PCI-E x8 slots free 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots free 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots free 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 0
Internal SATA connectors 3
Internal SAS connectors 0
Internal PATA connectors 0
Internal floppy connectors 0
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory type DDR3
Memory sockets free 0
Memory sockets total 2

Graphics card

Graphics card Integrated
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards? no
3D performance setting Low
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 2500
DVI-I outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 0
Number of graphics cards 0

Hard disk

Hard disk Mushkin Chronos
Capacity 240GB
Internal disk interface SATA/600
Spindle speed N/A
Cache size N/A
Hard disk 2 make and model N/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speed N/A
Hard disk 2 cache size N/A
Hard disk 3 make and model N/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 4 make and model N/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacity N/A

Drives

Optical disc technology Blu-ray reader
Optical disk 2 make and model N/A
Optical disk 3 make and model N/A

Monitor

Monitor make and model N/A
Resolution screen horizontal N/A
Resolution screen vertical N/A
Resolution N/A x N/A
Pixel response time N/A
Contrast ratio N/A
Screen brightness N/A
DVI inputs N/A
HDMI inputs N/A
VGA inputs N/A
DisplayPort inputs N/A

Additional Peripherals

Speakers N/A
Speaker type N/A
Sound card N/A
Peripherals N/A

Case

Chassis Streacom F8
Case format Mini ITX
Dimensions 240 x 250 x 100mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays 0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 8
PS/2 mouse port no
3.5mm audio jacks 2

Front ports

Front panel USB ports 2
Front panel memory card reader yes

Operating system and software

OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery disc
Software supplied N/A

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 40W
Peak power consumption 101W

Performance tests

3D performance (crysis) low settings 43fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.95
Responsiveness score 0.99
Media score 0.97
Multitasking score 0.88