A competent and compact gaming PC - the Fusion Drone is a bit of a bargain
Processor: Quad-core 3.7GHz AMD Athlon X4 860K, RAM: 8GB, Front USB ports : 1x USB3, 1x USB2, Rear USB ports: 4x USB2, 3x USB3, Total storage: 1TB hybrid hard disk, Graphics card: 2GB AMD Radeon R7 370, Display: None, Operating system: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
The Fusion Drone is an understated and fairly compact PC, which is exactly what we would expect from a budget system; it means your money is going towards the components inside, rather than LEDs or fan controllers. The Zalman Mini T4-V2 case Chillblast has opted for is decent enough, with front vents that look a bit like shark gills and a small footprint that means it’ll fit into the smallest of spaces. There are two USB ports on the top, but only one operates at USB3 speeds, and two 3.5mm audio jacks on the front.
The absence of a side panel window means it’s not a particularly showy build, despite the neat cable routing inside, but it still feels like a system that’s hiding some potent components. Indeed, remove the case panels and you’ll find AMD Athlon X4 860K processor inside. It’s a quad-core chip that’s based on AMD’s A10 APU family, but lacks its own integrated Radeon graphics processor. With each of its four cores running at 3.7GHz, and the ability to Turbo up to 4GHz, it’s a great choice for any PC being built with low costs in mind. Chillblast has even found room in the budget to install a Corsair H55 closed-loop water cooler, with the 120mm radiator and accompanying cooling fan fitted as an intake at the front of the PC.
The X4 860K was never going to match top-end processors for outright speed, but you can’t expect that from such a cheap PC. An overall score of 54 in our benchmarks is decent enough for a £500 desktop. CPU-intensive tasks like multimedia encoding and 3D rendering won’t be completed as quickly as they would on a system equipped with one of Intel’s Skylake processors, but you’d be looking at paying at least another £150-200 for a PC with that much power.
8GB of DDR3 RAM is included across two DIMMs, but there’s room for another two sticks of RAM on the motherboard if you decide you need more memory at a later date. Windows 10 feels snappy enough as it is, with web pages and programs loading without any discernible delay, so unless you’re planning on undertaking some serious multimedia work, this PC will easily fulfil your needs.
There’s no dedicated SSD where, which is unsurprising given the price, but Chillblast has made a sensible compromise. The 1TB mechanical hard disk has 8GB of SSD cache, which should give your most-used files and programs a performance boost.
The Drone is supplied with an AMD Radeon R7 370 graphics card, which has 2GB of dedicated video memory. The R7 370 is a terrific mid-range card, one that neatly undercuts Nvidia’s competing GeForce GTX 960 while keeping pace in the majority of games at Full HD resolutions. Firing up Dirt Showdown, our representative for older 3D games, the PC managed an average frame rate of 61fps.
Metro: Last Light is a more significant challenge. We run our standard benchmark at maximum graphical settings with supersample anti-aliasing (SSAA) switched on. At these settings, we saw an average frame rate of just 16fps, which isn’t remotely playable. Switching SSAA off, things increased to 31 fps, although we found it more sensible to drop the settings by a notch just to ensure a stable frame rate. The Fusion Drone is a competent 3D gaming machine, and while the very latest titles may not run at maximum settings, even at Full HD resolution, you won’t have to make too many compromises.
The Gigabyte GA-F2A88XM-D3H motherboard has to be small to fit into the rather snug chassis, and it lacks expansion options as a result. The rear panel has just two USB3 connectors and four USB2 ports, and there are only three 3.5mm audio jacks for 5.1 surround sound. You do get optical S/PDIF for high-end audio kit at least. The slight dearth of ports shouldn’t be an issue for most people, but if you have a lot of peripherals you may want to think about buying a USB hub.
Inside, there are connectors for an additional seven SATA2 or SATA3 storage devices, although the case only has room for six. There’s room for three 2.5in disks, two 3.5in disks and a single 5.25 drive. The placement of the 2.5in drives in particular are a bit all over the place, with all three positioned in completely different parts of the case. You’ll definitely want to consult the chassis manual if you’re going to be fitting storage devices in the future. The one free PCI-E x1 slot is obstructed by the graphics card, but you can still fit a x1 component to the x16 slot that sits just below it. There’s also a legacy PCI slot at the bottom of the motherboard.
This PC comes with Chillblast’s excellent five-year warranty, which includes labour for the full term and a collect and return parts warranty that lasts two years.
The Fusion Drone is a great little gaming PC for very little cash. You can’t spend much less and still get a system capable of Full HD gaming. However, up against the Palicomp AMD Shockwave there’s no room to hide. The Shockwave’s slightly more powerful, overclocked processor and more video memory gives it the edge in terms of raw value for money, although Chillblast’s warranty may offer that crucial extra peace-of-mind.
|Quad-core 3.7GHz AMD Athlon X4 860K
|Ports and expansion
|Front USB ports
|1x USB3, 1x USB2
|Rear USB ports
|4x USB2, 3x USB3
|Case dimensions HxWxD
|PCIe x1 (free)
|PCIe x16 (free)
|Serial ATA (free)
|8x SATA3 (7)
|Memory slots (free)
|Drive bays 2 1/2″ (free)
|Drive bays 3 1/2″ (free)
|Drive bays 5 1/4″ (free)
|1TB hybrid hard disk
|Memory card reader
|Optical drive type
|2GB AMD Radeon R7 370
|2x DVI, 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort
|Realtek ALC887 (integrated)
|Sound card outputs
|3x 3.5mm, 1x optical S/PDIF
|Windows 10 Home 64-bit
|Operating system restore option
|Windows 10 Restore
|Five years RTB including two years of parts and two years of collect and return
|Price including delivery (inc VAT)
|Price excluding monitor (inc VAT and delivery)