The stunning performance of Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8400 and E8500 processors has tempted many to unleash their full potential through overclocking. Chillblast’s E8500-based Fusion Cobra usually ships overclocked to 3.6GHz, at no extra cost to the user.

We’ve seen WorldBench scores of more than 130 in this configuration. If it’s performance you’re after – and you’re comfortable with running an overclocked system – don’t be put off by the Chillblast Fusion Cobra’s uninspiring stock-speed score of 110.

Gaming performance is excellent, thanks to the Chillblast Fusion Cobra's 512MB nVidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card. The 320GB hard drive is a decent size, so you should have plenty of space to install a large selection of games.

You also get a Creative Audigy SE sound card and a set of Logitech S220 stereo speakers, although you’ll need to upgrade these to take advantage of the Chillblast Fusion Cobra’s multichannel surround capabilities.

The Asus P5K SE motherboard can’t be used for scaleable link interface (SLI) upgrading like Mesh's G94 Pulse. There’s still some expansion room remaining in the form of one PCI and a pair of PCI-Express 1x slots, although all four memory slots are filled to provide the Chillblast Fusion Cobra with 4GB of system RAM.

As with the Best Buy Arbico CD8520 XL, the Chillblast Fusion Cobra uses the functional and well-built Elite 330 case; six of its tool-free drive bays remain unused. No memory-card reader is supplied, but two front-facing USB ports have been fitted along with headphone and mic docks.

The Chillblast Fusion Cobra's 19in Hannspree XM monitor may not offer the very best image quality we’ve seen but it’s better than many budget offerings. It’s also solidly constructed, with a metal frame, ergonomic height adjustment and looks that are bold and stylish.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (June issue)

  1. Arbico CD8520 XL
  2. Chillblast Fusion Cobra
  3. Mesh G94 Pulse
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 850
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition