A gaming PC that offers a prebuilt GTX 1080 system for a decent price
- Cheap for a GTX 1080 system
- High storage capacity
- SSD isn’t NVMe
- Not pre-overclocked
Chillblast’s Nighthawk Edition PC (we’ve typed out its full name enough times) is certainly a commanding presence, with an asymmetric black-and-grey chassis suspended by drastically angled feet.
The centrepiece, however, is its 8GB GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card. Together with a quad-core Intel Core i5-7600K and a healthy 16GB of DDR4 memory, this is the kind of system you know will be able to handle 4K and VR gaming before you’ve even switched it on.
Exactly how well does it cope, though? Undemanding titles pose no problem, as in Dirt: Showdown benchmark, the Nighthawk Edition produced 136fps at 1080p, 134fps at 1440p and 100fps at 4K resolution. The much more demanding Metro: Last Light Redux strained it at 4K, with an average of 21fps, although simply disabling SSAA (supersampling anti-aliasing) saw this jump to an altogether more pleasurable 44fps. It’s more than fine for lower resolutions, as well – with SSAA enabled, the Nighthawk Edition managed a smooth 86fps at 1080p and 49fps at 1440p.
Finally, in the SteamVR Performance Test (which judges how far you’d need to reduce graphical quality to achieve 90fps in a virtual-reality game), Chillblast’s PC came out with a score of 11 – the highest possible, indicating that you can easily get by with maxed-out settings.
So far, so good, although we have seen the same GPU put out higher frame rates in Dirt: Showdown when combined with more powerful CPUs, such as the Intel Core i7-7700K. It appears that the Core i5-76600K is acting as a bottleneck here. To be fair, though, not only would the Core i7 bump up the total price significantly, but you’d also need a 200Hz monitor and an eagle eye to tell the difference. There’s no such deficiency in the Metro: Last Light Redux or SteamVR benchmarks, either.
Still, it’s worth overclocking the CPU, which arrives running at its stock 3.8GHz clock speed. This left it lagging behind the Yoyotech BlackBox SP, which has its own Core i5-7600K chugging along at 4.6GHz, in our 4K application benchmarks; the Nighthawk Edition scored 127 in the image test, 124 in the video test, 125 in the multitasking test and 125 overall. There’s little wrong with these scores per se – they show this PC is a capable all-rounder for home use – but since there’s already a watercooling unit installed, it would have been good to see the processor pushed a little further.
Then again, it’s not the quietest of all-in-one watercoolers, and the graphics card – as powerful as it is – can whirr pretty loudly. There was even some nasty coil whine while playing Dirt: Showdown, and the case doesn’t do much to keep this noisiness contained.
Chillblast Fusion GTX 1080 Gaming PC review: Storage
On a more positive note, the storage drive setup acquits itself well. You get a 250GB, 2.5in SSD as the main drive, with a 2TB hard disk providing plenty of extra capacity. It’s no NVMe drive, but the SK Hynix SL301 SSD performs well for a SATA model: in the AS SSD benchmark, it achieved sequential read speeds of 514.78MB/sec and sequential write speeds of 429.66MB/sec.
It’s easy to add more drives, if you’re so inclined. Open up the windowed side panel for easy access to the three-bay 3.5in drive cage and two 2.5in bays, with two extra 2.5in drive mounting points on the other side of the internal chassis. The motherboard also offers two M.2 slots for ultrafast NVMe drives, as well as spare PCIe x16 and PCIe x1 slots plus two legacy PCI slots.
It was a pleasant surprise to see an 802.11n Wi-Fi card occupying the second PCIe x1 slot, although you’ll get better speeds by utilising the rear Ethernet port. This accompanies two USB 2 ports, four USB 3.1 ports, one USB Type-C port and a PS/2 port – a passable, if unexceptional, selection. The main thing to note back here (besides the Wi-Fi antenna points) is the wide array of video outputs, which covers two HDMI jacks, three DisplayPorts, two DVI-D connectors and a VGA port.
Chillblast Fusion GTX 1080 Gaming PC review: Verdict
As far as high-end gaming PCs go, this feels rather basic, especially compared to the likes of the BlackBox SP and PC Specialist Apollo K-VR. The upside is that this is one of the most affordable GTX 1080-based PCs we’ve tested yet, which makes it worth a look even if our review sample was a bit noisy.
Be warned, though: back in that overlong name is a “Limited”, and Chillblast tells us that stocks are unlikely to last longer than a couple of months. Make up your mind quickly, then, if the Nighthawk Edition sounds like the PC for you.