With the option of an excellent monitor and graphics card, the Fusion Kestrel is a superb system if you go for a couple of upgrades
4.2GHz Intel Core i5-4670K, 16GB RAM, 23.6in 1,920×1,080 display, Windows 8
This PC was provided to us as a base PC system with a variety of internal and external upgrade options, contact the manufacturer to get the exact specification you require
The Chillblast Fusion Kestrel has a sturdy case which provides a reasonable amount of sound proofing. It’s not particularly dust-proof, due to the large number of mounting points for additional fans, but there are fine mesh grilles over the lower vents that’ll help keep the worst of the fluff out. We like the case’s matt finish and relatively neutral design, as far as black boxes go. Inside, the case has eight 3 1/2in drive bays, one of them an external bay that’s ideal for a memory card reader or hot-swappable hard drive caddy, and three 5 1/4in bays.
The front panel has three USB ports, one of them USB3, and the usual 3.5mm mic and headphone ports. An Asus Z87-K motherboard gives you another four USB and two USB3 ports at the rear of the case, as well as two PS/2 ports. There’s also the usual Gigabit Ethernet port and three 3.5mm stereo outputs for 5.1 analogue surround sound.
The PC comes with Intel’s latest Core i5-4670K processor, but the speed it runs at depends on which upgrades you want to add to the PC. The most basic version of the system, which costs £640, uses an Intel stock cooler, which doesn’t provide enough heat dissipation to successfully overclock the system. However, for an extra £16, you can get a Xigmatek Gaia Cooler, which makes it possible for Chillblast to overclock the system to 4.3GHz, producing an overall score of 132 in our benchmark tests.
Without the overclock in place, we saw a more sedate score of 115 under the same test conditions, but this is still enough to chew through most tasks at a rate of knots. The overclocked processor is a nice option, and we certainly appreciate having someone else do the slightly fiddly job of fitting the oversized cooler, but the processor is quick enough at its stock speed that for most users the enhanced clock speed will be more a bragging point than an item of practical necessity.
Chillblast will also provide other upgrades which will have a more perceptible impact on the system’s performance. If you’re a keen gamer, the £59 upgrade to a 2GB Nvidia GTX 760 graphics card is definitely one to go for. With this card fitted we saw frame rates of 63.9fps in Dirt Showdown and 41.1fps in Crysis 2, both at maximum quality and a resolution of 1,920×1,080. If you’re prepared to play games at lower detail levels, the standard option of an overclocked 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti will do nicely: with this card, we saw a sluggish 24fps in Crysis 2 until we dropped to Extreme quality, which brought the frame rate up to 38fps. This card failed our Dirt Showdown test due to a driver conflict; this is a problem we often have with GTX 650 Ti-based cards.
For general responsiveness and shorter boot times, adding an SSD is a quick and simple way to improve your PC. £68 gets you a 120GB SSD in addition to the PC’s 1TB hard disk. All configurations include 8GB RAM, which is plenty for all standard purposes, unless you want to get into serious editing of ultra-high-resolution images or run more than one virtual machine at once.
Although the PC’s motherboard doesn’t have a particularly exciting selection of rear ports, it’s well equipped with expansion slots, with three PCI slots, two PCI-E x1 slots and two PCI-E x16 slots. However, one of the PCI-E x1 slots is inevitably blocked by whatever graphics card is installed, while the second, PCI-E x16 slot actually only runs at x4 speed. This won’t be a problem unless you plan on running two high-end graphics cards in SLI mode, however. The motherboard also has a full complement of six SATA3 ports, leaving either three or four vacant for your own upgrades depending on what hard disk configuration you go for.
For £116 you can add an Iiyama Prolite X2377HDS monitor to the system – this is much less than you’d normally have to pay for this screen. While the monitor is a bit awkward to adjust and doesn’t have great viewing angles, we measured its IPS panel as being able to display 97.7% of the sRGB colour gamut, and with an excellent contrast ratio of 1,013:1. This was borne out by our subjective testing, too; the monitor displayed accurate colours and there was plenty of detail visible in both pale and shadowy images.
The Kestrel comes with a basic Cherry keyboard and mouse. They’re not the best input devices in the world, but both are fairly comfortable and accurate to use. You also get a 550W Corsair power supply, and Chillblast provides a two-year collect and return warranty which covers both parts and labour for the duration.
The high-spec version of this PC, including all the optional upgrades we’ve mentioned, costs £900 and is an excellent all-round system. If you’re on a budget, rather than getting the basic version of the PC, you’re better off with one of our Budget Buy winners such as the PC Specialist Infinity A10 Pro Elite or Mesh Elite G4-i5 Plus – CS. However, when taken as a fully upgraded system, the Fusion Kestrel is a monster PC and takes away an Ultimate award.
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4670K|
|Processor external bus||100MHz (DMI)|
|Processor clock speed||4.2GHz|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel Z87|
|USB2 ports (front/rear)||3/6|
|eSATA ports (front/rear)||0/0|
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100/1000|
|Wireless networking support||none|
|PCI-E x1 slots (free)||2 (1)|
|PCI-E x16 slots (free)||2 (1)|
|Free Serial ATA ports||3|
|Free memory slots||2|
|Free 3.5in drive bays||7|
|Hard disk model(s)||1TB Seagate Barracuda HDD (additional 120GB Samsung 840 SSD +£68)|
|Graphics card(s)||1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti (2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 +£59)|
|Graphics/video ports||2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort|
|Sound outputs||5.1 line out, headphone, microphone|
|Supported memory cards||none|
|Optical drive type(s)||DVD+/-RW +/-DL|
|Viewable size||23.6 in|
|Screen model||Iiyama ProLite PLX2377HDS (+£116)|
|Screen inputs||HDMI, DVI, VGA|
|Operating system||Windows 8|
|Operating system restore option||Windows disc|
|Warranty||two years collect and return|