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Most readers know the name iBuypower by now, but they don’t know our nickname for the company: iStealpower.
OK, that’s not really true, we just made that up to make this story sound sexier, but there is some truth to our jest. Over the years, we’ve often wondered how the hell these guys can offer PCs for less than the cost of the parts. You know, like getting $2,900 worth of parts in a machine that cost $2,200.
We’re not sure if the cost of the parts in iBuypower’s Paladin F exceeds the price of the machine, but it probably gets close. The Paladin F sports Intel’s new hotness: the hexa-core 3.33GHz Core i7-980X (clocked up to 3.8GHz). Even with AMD’s new hexa-core CPU now on the market, Intel’s Core i7-980X is still clearly the recognized fastest CPU in der verold! To the 980X, iBuypower adds Nvidia’s top-dog GeForce GTX 480 card, aka Fermi. Also aboard are 6GB of Kingston DDR3/1600, a 1-kilowatt PSU, an LG Blu-ray combo drive, a 1.5TB hard drive, and RAID 0 SSDs, along with Windows 7 Home Premium. The entire system is embedded in a Zalman GS1000 Plus enclosure.
Our first issue with the Paladin F stems from the storage configuration. In the rush to get a low-cost RAID 0 config in the PC, iBuypower used a pair of 30GB Kingston SSDNow V Series drives. That’s 60GB for your primary boot partition. We started to get nervous about space just by installing our 20GB of benchmark files on the machine. Fortunately, there’s also a 1.5TB Seagate drive in the mix—but come on, 60GB?
On the performance front, the Paladin F turned in good, but not insane, application numbers. Against our zero-point machine, a 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, the 3.8GHz Core i7-980 was about 35 percent faster in Vegas Pro 9 and Main Concept Reference. In ProShow Producer, the Paladin F only managed a 17 percent faster score. Lightroom saw a 15 percent boost.
In gaming, however, our zero-point dominated. Yes, the GeForce GTX 480 is the fastest single-GPU card in existence, but our zero-point uses a Radeon HD 5970 card, the single-fastest videocard in existence. That dual-GPU 5970 saw the Paladin F run roughly 23 percent slower in both Far Cry 2 and STALKER: Call of Pripyat. The asterisk on our 5970 card, though, is the cost and availability. You’d be lucky to find a Radeon HD 5970 for less than $700—if you can find one at all. It’s not an easy card to get, folks.
Of course, neither the Paladin F nor our zero-point can hold a candle to Digital Storm’s tri-CrossFire Hail Storm (reviewed in May) nor Main Gear’s tri-SLI Shift (reviewed in June). But here’s the kicker: Those two super PCs were $7,800 and $6,900, respectively. The Paladin F is $3,000.
Is it the fastest rig in der verold? No. We’re not even sure it’s the fastest in the Tri-State area, but for $3,000, you’re getting Intel’s best and a DX11 card that’s actually almost as fast as the dual-GPU 5970 card.
In the end, despite a couple configuration issues, the Paladin F is a solid machine and a darn good value.
Quiet; affordable; room to expand.
Incredibly small main partition; could use a second GPU.
|Processor||Intel 3.33GHz Core i7-980X (OC’d to 3.8GHz) with Acetek 550LC cooler |
|Mobo ||Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD5 |
|RAM||6GB Kingston DDR3/1600 in tri-channel mode |
|Videocard ||GeForce GTX 480 |
|Soundcard ||Onboard Realtek |
|Storage ||Two Kingston 30GB SSDNow V Series, 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda|
|Optical ||LG Blu-ray combo drive |
|Case/PSU ||Zalman GS1000 Plus / 1000 Watt PSU |
|Zero Point ||iBuypower Paladin F |
|Vegas Pro 9 (sec)||3,049 ||2,273|
|Lightroom 2.6 (sec) ||356 ||309 |
|ProShow 4 (sec) ||1,112||947 |
|Reference 1.6 (sec) ||2,113 ||1,553 |
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: CoP (fps)||42 ||32.3 (-23%) |
|Far Cry 2 (fps) ||114.4 ||87.7 (-23%) |
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked to 1,750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate.