Chillblast’s Fusion Panther is the first small-form-factor system we’ve seen for a while, and Chillblast hasn’t shied away from installing a high-end kit in this modest box, despite its height of just 292mm height. For example, the Gigabyte RTX 3070 card inside this rig overclocks the GPU’s original boost speed of 1725MHz to 1810MHz.
The other key component is the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X, which is now overshadowed by Intel’s new i5-12600K, but its six SMT-enabled Zen 3 cores and boost speed of 4.6GHz are still perfectly fine for most people’s needs.
The Panther has 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory clocked to 3200MHz, and storage comes from two solid-state drives. A 500GB Samsung 980 Pro PCI-E 4 NVMe drive functions as the boot drive, and delivered great read and write speeds of 6,865MB/sec and 4,959MB/sec, while a 1TB Samsung 870 QVO 2.5in SATA secondary drive offers speeds of 565MB/ sec and 537MB/sec, which still outpaces any hard disk.
It’s powered by a mightily impressive SFX PSU – the Corsair SF750 is a small unit with a fully modular design and 80 Plus Platinum certification. Chillblast’s warranty remains one of the best around too, giving you a five-year labor deal with two years of parts coverage.
Chillblast Fusion Panther Review
You get a decent mini-ITX motherboard too. The Asus ROG Strix B550-I Gaming has dual-band 802.11ax Wi-Fi and 2.5Cbps Ethernet, along with two M.2 connectors – albeit only one with PCI-E 4 support. At the rear, you’ll also find three USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A connectors and a Type-C port alongside a BIOS flashback button.
The board has SupremeFX S1220A audio as well, which sounds great. You lose the usual extras from going for miniITX, though, so you only get two (already populated) memory slots and no PCI-E slots beyond the 16x CPU slot. The rear I/O panel only has three audio jacks as well.
The case itself is a Cooler Master MasterBox NR200P, which is a great choice. The external panels are robust, and the external panels pop free with tool-free mechanisms. The graphics card dominates the bottom half of the build, and above that, you’ll find a hefty Noctua CPU cooler with two 92mm fans.
The PSU is held in a cage, and behind the front panel, you’ll find the 2.5in Samsung SSD and a fan hub. There are pairs of Noctua fans on the floor and roof as well, and Chillblast has kept the interior impressively tidy considering the small space. However, bear in mind that mini-ITX cases have inevitable restrictions. You have to remove loads of components to access the internals, and there’s limited room for extra storage.
You’ll also have to shell out $1,999 for the Panther, and that’s relatively high when compared with conventional systems.
The overclocked GeForce RTX 3070 zipped through all our game tests at 1,920 x 1,080, maintaining averages between 84fps and 95fps in three of our test games, and averaging a massive 335fps in Doom Eternal, showing the great scope for running undemanding games on monitors with high refresh rates.
The Ryzen 5 5600X is still a good mid-range CPU as well, with enough space to avoid gaming bottlenecks and the ability to tackle mainstream content-creation tasks and everyday streaming. That’s great, but Intel’s new Alder Lake-based i5-12600l< is miles better in every metric – the Intel chip was more than 7,500 points quicker in the single-threaded image-editing test, for instance, and 226,000 points faster in our heavily multithreaded Handbrake benchmark.
The tiny Chillblast isn’t the quietest PC either. No matter what you do on this rig, there’s noticeable fan noise, and it’s a little louder than most full-sized gaming systems. The processor is a little restricted too – its all-core turbo during a working benchmark sat at 4.2CHz, and this chip can hit 4.45GHz and beyond in ideal conditions. Happily, the noise levels don’t increase if you push the components, and the CPU and GPU delta Ts of 46°C and 49°C respectively are absolutely fine.
You’ll never be able to get near silence with this rig though. That’s not a problem if you have beefy speakers or use a headset for gaming, but it’s not ideal if you want a quiet machine for work as well.
Chillblast has done a great job with building this small, powerful PC – it’s fast enough in games and applications, it’s neat and compact, and its memory, storage, power supply, and warranty all impress. If you want a small and powerful gaming system, it largely delivers the goods. However, it’s also loud, Intel’s latest processors are far faster and it’s expensive for the spec on offer.