Chillblast Fusion Vacuum Mini review
A silent and well-specified living room PC with dual TV tuners and promising performance, but it doesn’t come cheap
Review Date: 7 Sep 2012
Reviewed By: Mike Jennings
Price when reviewed: £832 (£998 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
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.
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.
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.
Not sure of the benefits of small size for a media centre. If you're going to hide it behind a TV, then it would want to be large and thin. Otherwise, it's probably going to sit underneath in a standard setup. Thus a larger form factor would give more room for expansion and cooling. It would probably be cheaper, too!
By mypointis on 7 Sep 2012
Strange review to not have a picture of the back of the machine!
Is there a SPDIF for audio and would it be possible to add an eSATA card into the cramped space?
By AlphaGeeK on 7 Sep 2012
There is SPDIF, but no room for eSata by the looks of things. What a shame.
By AlphaGeeK on 7 Sep 2012
Great marketing ...
Nothing says "silent" and "no cooling fans" like "Chillblast" and "Vacuum"!
By JohnAHind on 7 Sep 2012
Just half-great marketing, since 'Chillblast' is the name of the firm!
By JohnGray7581 on 7 Sep 2012
Spec says motherboard wired connection at 1000Mb/s but no front or rear Etrhernet connector visible - major shortcoming in a £1000 machine surely?
By jknight on 13 Sep 2012
How many of the following did you not spot as well?
Ports on rear of system:
6 x USB 2.0 ports
2 x USB 3.0 ports
1 x PS/2 for keyboard
3 x Audio outputs
1 x 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet for network
Optical SPDIF Audio
No photo of the rear...
By JohnGray7581 on 15 Sep 2012
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