The Fusion Whisper Mini is part of Chillblast's 'Silent Systems' range and, on the face of it, the PC faces an impossible challenge; computers typically aren't silent.
And that rule of thumb is particularly applicable to Chillblast, whose systems are known to be high-performance units that put power ahead of panache. The challenge, then, is to combine the two, and to Chillblast's credit, the Fusion Whisper Mini is an admirable attempt.
Pricing starts from £899 including VAT, and the substantial sum suggests that the system won't be a mere Whisper, or indeed particularly Mini. Using Fractal Design's popular Define Mini chassis, the desktop tower stands tall at 210mm x 395mm x 490mm in size. It is more compact than a traditional mid-tower enclosure, but we wouldn't go as far as to call it a miniature.
What it is, is tidy. Fractal's chassis features a matte-black finish that's very easy on the eye - albeit highly susceptible to scuff marks - and the smooth front-panel door keeps optical drives and fan vents tucked neatly out of view. It's a good option for a lovely-looking PC, and the fact that 2mm-thick noise absorbing material lines the inside makes it an ideal choice for a low-noise configuration.
Moving with the times, the Fusion Whisper Mini includes a USB 3.0 port alongside two USB 2.0 ports up front, as well as easily accessible audio and microphone jacks, and a large central power button. The accompanying reset button is hidden behind the front panel, as is a standard Samsung Blu-ray drive that doubles as a DVD writer. Those willing to do without Blu-ray can downgrade to a Sony DVD writer and pocket a £19 saving, while those who require Blu-ray writing capabilities can upgrade to an LG Blu-ray writer for an additional £61.99.
The exterior is what you might come to expect from a high-performance PC that promises to keep quiet; it isn't too big or brash, and opts instead to keep things clean and simple. Build quality is good and it extends to an interior cavern that's equipped with a wide range of components designed to balance performance and low-noise operation.
Our review sample arrived with an upgraded ASUS P8Z68-M PRO motherboard that costs an extra £39 over the standard ASUS P67 option, and an Intel Core i5-2500K processor overclocked from 3.3GHz to a healthy 4.2GHz. Overclocked components and quiet computing don't tend to go hand in hand, but Chillblast attempts to marry the two by employing a GELID Tranquillo CPU cooler that promises "high airflow while running silently."
Good to know, and the powerful Intel Sandy Bridge CPU is joined by a well-rounded set of supporting components. 8GB of Corsair DDR3 memory is installed as standard (there's an option to upgrade to 16GB or 32GB capacities if you feel the need), and graphics duties are handled by a 1GB Gainward GeForce GTX 560 Ti Phantom graphics card. Also designed to run cool and quiet, the 'Phantom' card features an elaborate cooler that consists of four heatpipes, a giant heatsink and a pair of 80mm fans.
A strong Sandy Bridge CPU, powerful GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics and a neat-and-tidy chassis acts as a solid foundation, but there is room for a bit of nitpicking. We like the fact that the CPU and GPU configurations are designed to keep noise levels in check, but the massive CPU cooler does block access to the motherboard's fourth DDR3 DIMM slot, and the GPU poses similar issues; it's thick enough to cover both of the adjacent PCI expansion slots.
And, perhaps more importantly, this 'silent' PC doesn't utilise the one component we'd deem essential; a solid-state drive. In its default configuration, Chillblast equips the machine with a 1TB, 7,200RPM Samsung hard disk, though you do have the option to upgrade to a 120GB Corsair Force Series 3 SSD at a cost of £75. If low noise is high on your list of priorities - and the fact that you're reading this review suggests that it is - the SSD is an upgrade we'd highly recommend.
Elsewhere, a 680W BeQuiet power supply is installed in the bottom corner, and the chassis' two pre-installed 120mm fans - configured as a front intake and a rear exhaust - are hooked up to Fractal Design's integrated fan controller. The cost of such a configuration comes to £945, which is roughly what it would cost to source the components from various online retailers. So, for practically no additional cost, Chillblast is putting it all together (neatly, we should add), overclocking the CPU to 4.2GHz and attaching a two-year collect-and-return warranty.
The Fusion Whisper Mini appears to be a good deal, but how does it perform and is it really as quiet as it's made out to be?