3D Artist
Jun
7

Chillblast Fusion Atlas Workstation Review

News & Features
by
Orestis Bastounis

Can a sub-£1,000 workstation cut the mustard for 3D and VFX? Find out in our Chillblast Fusion Atlas workstation review

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Essential info

Price $935
Website chillblast.com
CPU Intel Core i7-6700
GPU NVIDIA Quadro K620
RAM 16GB DDR4
SSD 120GB Samsung 850
Hard disk Seagate 1TB 7200RPM

The Chillblast Fusion Atlas is one of the least expensive workstations we’ve ever reviewed, at around £935, which says a lot about the high cost of computer hardware suitable for rendering these days.

You can never really have enough computing power for 3D software. There’s always more detail to add or a renderer setting to enable that can grind performance to an agonisingly slow pace.

But with more realistic aims, and knowing the kind of resources that your software demands, you can get by with something that will only make a minor dent in most bank balances, rather than empty them.

The quad-core Intel Core i7-6700 in the Fusion Atlas isn’t exactly the fastest chip that money can buy, but it’s certainly far from lacking.

It’s not possible to overclock a non-K series Intel processor, so it’s running at the default 3.4GHz (4GHz Turbo) clock frequency. But as it’s based on Intel’s ever-efficient Skylake architecture and handles eight threads, it can still tackle CPU-based rendering jobs very well.

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The 2GB NVIDIA Quadro K620 GPU is Nvidia’s entry-level workstation graphics card.

Professional-grade GPUs are astronomically more expensive than gaming cards, for a variety of reasons that include certified drivers, ECC memory and (arguably) greater longevity. Trouble is, the high-end cards cost more than every other component in the Fusion Atlas combined, so Chillblast has been sensible to keep things affordable for this default configuration.

And the rest of the system will not let you down.

We added a small 120GB SSD to the build (an essential, these days) for an extra £35, which comes with Windows 10 installed and joins a 1TB hard disk and 16GB of system memory.

Nothing excessive there, though you can opt for higher capacities for a small extra outlay, but unless you fill the hard disk with media or install loads of games, you shouldn’t run into problems with this for 3D work.

Based on its specification, it’s fair to predict that CPU-based rendering will go smoothly on this configuration of the Fusion Atlas. It won’t, however, cut the mustard for heavy CUDA or OpenCL performance, unless the graphics card is upgraded to a more powerful (and more expensive) model.

CINEBENCH 15 delivered a CPU score of 815, whereas the 3ds Max rendering took three minutes and 42 seconds for the demo underwater scene at default resolution, and a result of 13 minutes and 49 seconds for the HDTV preset.

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Meanwhile, we weren’t expecting the NVIDIA Quadro K620 to be capable of great performance, and it pales compared to bigger cards as the SPECviewperf results were below par. The Maya score of 16.16 is about half the result expected from a high-end mobile GPU, like the M5000M in the Lenovo P70, although that mobile workstation costs a lot more than the Fusion Atlas.

These are all competent, if not record-breaking results and they’re also very much in line with what we’d expect – they’re still good to see from such a small PC though.

Perhaps most impressively, the Chillblast Fusion Atlas is housed in a really tiny Micro-ATX Ace Ecco case, measuring less than 40cm across.

It uses a stock Intel cooler, so it’s not exactly silent in use, but it’s not loud either. It’s a small but efficient rendering box that delivers decent CPU performance.

But there’s no hiding the fact that for great graphics performance with a professional-grade NVIDIA Quadro or AMD FirePro GPU, you’ll need to spend more.

Verdict

If your main work is with CPU-based rendering, then a great slimline system like the Fusion Atlas is perfect

Features – 4.5/5
Performance – 3.5/5
Design – 4.5/5
Value for money – 4.5/5

Overall – 4/5