Chillblast Fusion Dragon full review
This overclocked gaming PC combines silky smooth gameplay with workstation-like build quality, and featuring the Intel Core i7-4790K Devil's Canyon CPU running at 4.6 GHz. See what's the best gaming PC?
The latest Intel processors in 2014 are still codenamed Haswell, and mainstream CPUs for desktop PCs such as the Core i5-4690 and Core i7-4790 received a welcome – if somewhat unexciting – 100-200MHz speed increase this year. However, updated versions of the unlocked K-suffix chips were nowhere to be seen.
Those chips have now arrived, with the new codename of Devil's Canyon used to separate them from the regulation fixed-speed versions.
In order to provide better overclocking performance, Intel improved the internal thermal compound, and updated the on-chip voltage regulator. The result is the Intel Core i5-4690K and Core i7-4790K and they include the promise of speeds as high as 5 GHz with air cooling alone.
With the help of Chillblast's Devil's Canyon-powered Fusion Dragon PC, we find how the new chips stack up against the old and whether or not it's time to ditch your old Haswell system.
Chillblast Fusion Dragon: Build and Components
Priced at £1700 inc VAT, the Fusion Dragon is a little more pricey than the gaming PCs you'll usually see in our PC group tests, but the quality shows even before you turn the PC on.
Housed in a Corsair Graphite Series 760T full-tower case, this is no compact PC. Its arctic white finish and 564 x 246 x 568 mm dimensions give it an almost fridge-like appearance. A look which is only enhanced by its hinged side doors.
Unlike the puny transparent side-panel built into many gaming cases, the whole of the side of the Graphite Series 760T is formed of a transparent door which swings open to provide easy access to the internals without the need for a screwdriver. Just grab the latched handle and open the door.
The inside of this PC is extremely tidy: you'll have to look very closely to see any cables as most of them have been hidden from view, carefully tucked away using the case's built-in cable management features. The motherboard also contributes to this look with its built-in shielding.
On the other side of the case, a second door provides full access to the rear of the motherboard to enable changing the CPU cooler without having to remove the motherboard from the case. It also reveals the nest of cables, invisible from the front of the motherboard.
A total of eight fan mounts are provided, with a pair of 140 mm fans installed at the front illuminated by white LEDs, and an additional 140 mm fan at the rear.
Externally, the front of the case provides two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports for maximum convenience. There's also a fan-speed button; headphones and mic ports; a reset switch and a larger power button.
A total of nine internal 3.5in drive bays are provided, with the 2 TB Seagate hard drive and 240 GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD taking up one each. There are also four dedicated SSD bays, although Chillblast has elected not to use these.
Three 5.25in external bays are provided, one of which has been fitted with 24x DVD-RW drive.
An Asus Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 motherboard is installed, which comes fitted with "TUF Frontier shielding". This encases all parts of the motherboard which don't need to be exposed in a textured plastic cover. This is designed to improve cooling and prevent damage to components. It's designed with reliability in mind and also features dust defenders, and customised fan-tuning options. Don't get side-tracked by the Mark 2 version of this board, which is a lower-cost version without the extra shielding.
As its name suggests, the board is fitted with Intel Z97 Express chipset, which supports the 4th Generation (Haswell and Devil's Canyon) Core processors as well as the forthcoming 5th generation (Broadwell) chips. It enables overclocking of the CPU, which Chillblast has put to good use in the Fusion Dragon. (See also: Best compact gaming PCs 2014.)
A sealed Corsair H100i liquid-cooling unit manages the CPU temperature and its large, 240 mm radiator is fitted to the top of the case where it is cooled by a pair of 120 mm fans. It features ‘Corsair Link' which allows monitoring of temperatures and the adjustment of the cooling performance from a desktop application.
Graphics are provided by an nVidia GeForce GTX 780Ti graphics card with 3 GB of memory, which is currently nVidia's fastest single-GPU offering.
This FKA2-branded model offers a standard design without any special cooling or substantial overclocking. The motherboard also supports nVidia Quad-GPU SLI if you want to add additional nVidia cards; and AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX, should you wish to switch to AMD cards in the future.
The system is backed by a Corsair RM850 modular power supply, which is 80 Plus Gold certified and engineered for quiet operation. Its built-in low-noise fan will stop entirely when it's not needed. The 850W rated output is more than ample for this system – even when overclocked.
The Fusion Dragon is therefore pleasantly quiet. This is due to quiet fans and components rather than any specific soundproofing, so you will notice a little noise when it's working flat out, but most of the time it runs at a mere whisper.
Chillblast Fusion Dragon: Performance
The Fusion Dragon was shipped to us fitted with a 4 GHz Intel Core i7-4790K processor, overclocked to 4.6 GHz, and it performed very well indeed. The overclocked processor helped it to achieve very high scores across the board.
PC Mark 7 recorded an overall score of 7040 points, with an Entertainment score of 6927 points. Moving to PC Mark 8, we measured a Home score of 5495 points, while Alien vs Predator ran smoothly at 101.4 frames per second at 1920 by 1080 pixels, with all the quality settings maxed out.
Overclocking can require a significant increase in component voltages and power consumption is correspondingly quite high running at 113 W just idling at the desktop. This ramped up to 420 W when running our torture tests flat out. However, the Fusion Dragon's excellent cooling system kept the processor running at a maximum 65.5 degrees celsius, even under the heaviest loads.
Although the benchmark scores are high, they're not quite as stellar as we might have expected before the Devil's Canyon chips had become available. President of Intel Renee James' oft-quoted claim that the Core i7-4790K would overclock to 5 GHz with air cooling, has failed to be realised in real-world systems, where 4.7 GHz appears to be a more realistic top speed for the best samples of the chip.
Much of the boost in performance comes from the 4 GHz base clock of the processor which is a comparatively large 500 MHz leap in frequency from the previous Core i7-4770K. The performance gain achieved through a little more overclocking is therefore rather less impressive than we had hoped.
In our tests, the Core i7-4790K achieved a maximum of around 6 percent better performance than a Core i7-4770K with both chips running at their stock speeds. Overclocking both chips roughly halved this gap in performance.
Being limited largely by the graphics card, gaming performance hardly changed when overclocking or swapping processors. While performance at stock speeds should be reproducible with any processors of the same specification, overclocking performance can vary greatly from chip to chip and, according to Chillblast, a ‘good' original Haswell chip will easily beat a ‘bad' Devil's Canyon chip when both are pushed to the limit.
With these results in mind, we certainly wouldn't recommend upgrading your original Haswell system to Devil's Canyon now. However, as the new chips are available at the same price as the old, there's now no point buying a PC with an older Core i7-4770K unless it's at a discounted price.
You could save some money by going for a Core i5 instead of a Core i7, and this might make sense in a budget gaming system, but in a £1600 PC such as the Fusion Dragon here, we hardly think the £80 saving would be worth it.
Aside from the boost in clock speed, the Core i7-4790K offers a near-identical specification to the Core i7-4770K. Both are unlocked quad-core chips, featuring Hyper Threading and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPUs.
It's a similar situation with the Core i5 processors, although the 4690K offers only a 100 MHz speed boost over the 4670K.
We're told the key difference in the new DC chips is in the new Next-Generation Polymer Thermal Interface Material used to improve processor cooling, plus the addition of some extra capacitors, designed to smooth power input. Both are features designed to reduce running temperatures and increase overclocking headroom.
We've seen already that the overclocking performance of the Core i7-4790K has proved to be little better than previous processors, however our tests showed that the Devil's Canyon chip ran nearly six degrees cooler than the original Haswell version when fully overclocked, despite running faster. This helps reduce fan speeds and therefore noise.
If you already have a decent Haswell PC with an overclocked Core i7 it's not worth buying a PC like this simply to upgrade to Devil's Canyon. However, if you're buying a new system or upgrading from something much older, the Fusion Dragon is a great example of a Devil's Canyon gaming PC which offers ample upgrade potential to future processor generations. (See also: 6 best budget gaming PCs 2014 UK.)
Chillblast Fusion Dragon: Specs
- 4 GHz Intel Core i7-4790K, overclocked to 4.6 GHz
- Corsair H100i liquid CPU cooler
- 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
- 250 GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD
- 2 TB Seagate HDD
- Corsair RM 850W PSU
- Asus Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 motherboard
- Windows 8.1 Update 1 (64-bit)
- KFA2 nVidia GeForce GTX 780Ti graphics card, 875 MHz core clock, 928 MHz boosted core clock, 3500 Mz memory clock, 3 GB 384-bit DDR5 memory
- 2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort
- on-board sound
- 2x gigabit ethernet
- 6x USB 3.0, 6x USB 2.0
- 5.1 analogue surround audio outputs
- S/PDIF optical output
- Graphite Series 760T Case in black or white
- 24x DVD±RW drive
- 2-year collect-and-return warranty
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