iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC: Enthusiast Classby Dustin Sklavos on September 2, 2010 3:30 AM EST
Introducing the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC
It's amazing how quickly reviewing a complete computer system can become dicey when dealing with as informed a readership as ours. Reviewing notebooks is fairly straightforward: since whitebox machines have mostly evaporated from the market, we can safely review the pre-built machines the manufacturers send us because they're basically the only options presenting themselves to you.
Desktops get a little trickier, where we have to ascertain not just the machine's value to a broader market, but also find the value to people who know how to spec and build their own machines. When it's something like the Dell and Acer desktops we've reviewed it's easy enough: these are machines you can recommend to friends and family without tying yourself to their continued maintenance and service. The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC we have on hand to review is another beast entirely.
This is a machine that falls very much in line with the kinds of computers we as the reviewers and many of you as the readers are capable of assembling. But there are also readers who don't want to go through the hassle of building and tuning a gaming machine, and readers for whom a machine like this will be their gateway into the world of tweaking, tuning and overclocking. And I'm reasonably sure there's at least one granny out there somewhere aching to pwn n00bs in Modern Warfare 2, a seasoned veteran of first person shooters who refuses to stoop to using a console controller. Ultimately we need to determine what iBUYPOWER brings to the table compared to what you can do on your own, alongside how capable the machine itself is.
|iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Specifications
Intel Core i7-930 @ 3.5GHz (184MHz Bclk with x19 multiplier)
(spec: 4x2.8GHz, 45nm, 8MB L3, 130W)
|Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R rev. 2 Motherboard with X58 chipset
|3x2GB A-Data DDR3-1600 @ 1480MHz (expandable to 24GB)
2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470 1280MB GDDR5 in SLI
(448 CUDA Cores, 607MHz Core, 1215MHz Shader, 3.3GHz Memory, 320-bit memory bus)
Kingston 64GB SSDNow! V2 Series SSD (OS drive)
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gbps (Data drive)
|LG 10x BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW
|Realtek Gigabit Ethernet
Realtek ALC889 HD Audio
speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Three open 5.25” bays
2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Power and reset buttons
S/PDIF and TOSlink digital audio jacks
4-pin and 6-pin FireWire ports
2x Combo eSATA/USB 2.0 ports
4x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0 (blue)
Gigabit Ethernet jack
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks
|Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
|25.74" x 21.32" x 8.74" (WxDxH)
|24.25 lbs (case only)
850W NZXT HALE90 Modular Power Supply
Asetek 570LX 240mm Liquid Cooling
NZXT Phantom Case
Wired keyboard and mouse
Flash reader (MMC/MS/CF/SD)
Overclocked from warehouse
|3-year limited warranty and lifetime phone support
Starting at $1,459
Priced as configured (9/02/2010): $2,278
As you can see, it's an awful lot of computer. The big pop-out is the Core i7-930 overclocked to 3.5GHz, with the overclock done largely to the Bclk to bring up memory and uncore speeds. iBUYPOWER calls the overclock their "Level 3 Powerdrive Overclocking"—bringing a 25% overclock to the processor core with it. Intel doesn't ship any processors that hit this speed at stock, so right there you can assume at least some measure of bang for your buck: iBUYPOWER ships you a computer with a processor faster than Intel's specs for the i7-975, already stability tested and ready to go. There's even an Asetek watercooler attached to the 930 to keep temperatures (and noise levels) down.
iBUYPOWER backs up the i7's gaming prowess with a pair of GeForce GTX 470's in SLI. This level of performance should be a known quantity to most of our readers by now, but for reference sake, this is a pair of NVIDIA's second-fastest single-chip cards, each sporting 448 of NVIDIA's CUDA cores. They run at clock speeds of 607MHz on the core, 1215MHz on the shaders, and 1.2GB of GDDR5 on each running at an effective 3.3GHz. The 470 is generally a match for AMD's Radeon HD 5870, and SLI has been demonstrated to scale extremely well. If there's one thing that should give a potential buyer pause, though, it should be the amount of heat generated by these cards. The GA-X58A-UD3R motherboard is fantastic (I actually run one in my personal system), but it doesn't allow the user to space the cards to NVIDIA's specifications. The two are right next to each other and as we'll see later, this causes some issues.
The rest of the build is fairly well rounded. iBUYPOWER includes a speedy 64GB Kingston SSD as the operating system drive and pairs it with a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black, one of the newer models with 64MB of cache and support for SATA 6GBps (connected to the motherboard's 6GBps port, naturally.) Memory duties are handled by 6GB of A-DATA DDR3-1600 running in triple-channel; memory brands are often matters of taste and religion (personally I swear by Corsair), but the A-DATA RAM should be fine. There's also a blu-ray reader, DVD-writer combo drive and a multi-card reader.
Finally, everything's housed in one of the new NZXT Phantom cases, and that's going to be a matter of taste for many people. Personally, I think it looks like a Transformer that turns into an Imperial Stormtrooper; it's attractive in a tacky, kitschy way. The fan controls on the top are a nice touch and the multitude of fans built in run nice and quiet. iBUYPOWER opts to use an NZXT Hale90 850W modular power supply as well, which is enough to keep the GeForces and overclocked i7 well fed while having plenty of reserves for future upgrades.
Also of note is that iBUYPOWER includes all of the extras that would have come with these parts had you built the machine off-the-shelf, along with an abnormally cheap-looking branded keyboard and a branded optical mouse of equally non-descript origins.