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Nathan Edwards Aug 15, 2008

iBuypower Gamer Paladin 990

At A Glance

Ozzie Smith

Smooth Creations's paint jobs continue to be the best in the business.

Adam Smith

GeForce GTX 260 cards have no place in a high-end PC.

IBuypower’s Gamer Paladin 990 is a strange beast. After we completed our testing, we were left wondering just what iBuypower was trying to accomplish with its half exotic, half midrange rig.

Take, for example, the videocard situation. The machine sports a pair of Nvidia’s newest GPUs, but not the company’s top-end offering, the GeForce GTX 280. Instead, iBuypower uses a pair of EVGA GeForce GTX 260s. If these GeForce cards weren’t midrange when they were first released, they certainly are now, as Nvidia has taken a blowtorch to prices to keep the GTX 260 competitive with ATI’s Radeon HD 4870.


IBuypower should have spent less on the Paladin’s paint job and more on its GPUs.

But just when you think, OK, this is a midrange machine, you’re confronted with two exotic additions: an overclocked, super-expensive 3.2GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9770 and a limited-edition Cooler Master CM830 case that’s been painted by Smooth Creations.

Smooth is arguably the best case paint shop in the business, dating back to the days when it decorated Falcon Northwest’s machines. Let’s just say that this rig’s paint job is nicer than our car’s. We’re also sweet on the EVGA 790i SLI Ultra board and its 4GB of DDR3 Corsair RAM. OK, so now you’re thinking this is actually an exotic PC, right? Well, no, not when you get to the storage. The machine sports a single Western Digital 150GB Raptor and a terabyte drive to back it up—and it’s not WD’s latest and greatest, lust-worthy Velociraptor.

We just don’t get it. It’s simply a crime to configure a Raptor without including a second Raptor in RAID 0. We’d rather have two terabyte drives than this funky setup.

On the performance front, the machine posts some solid benchmark numbers. IBuypower overclocked the stock 3.2GHz QX9770 to a very conservative 3.8GHz, which gets you pretty good performance and incredible stability. We subjected the machine to several hours of stress testing without a crash. In our non-gaming tests, the 3.8GHz Penryn CPU destroyed our zero-point’s 2.67GHz Core 2 Quad Q6700 but didn’t set any records. Most of our benchmark records are held by CyberPower’s Gamer Ultimate SLI Quad (reviewed July 2008), which was overclocked to 4GHz and featured a pair of Raptors in RAID 0. The Paladin 990 trailed the $5,000 Gamer Ultimate SLI Quad in every category.

The sad part is that the Paladin’s pair of GeForce GTX 260 cards couldn’t outrun the Gamer Ultimate’s pair of GeForce 9800 GX2s in SLI. The older GPUs in the Gamer Ultimate were significantly faster in Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3, so maybe there’s a reason Nvidia had to slash the price of the GTX 260 cards.

Here’s the real problem though. We’re not averse to dropping big sums on a rig—but it has to be worth it. At $4,600, the Paladin is hard to justify. Sure, it blazes past our zero-point, but we’ve tested machines that are even faster and not much more expensive than the Paladin.

Still, you get a sweet paint job and a pretty nice machine, but our take is that if you’re willing to spend $4,700, you might as well drop a few more bucks to get a faster rig.

Specifications

iBuyPower Gamer Paladin 990
Processor Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (3.2GHz@3.8GHz)
Motherboard EVGA nForce 790i SLI Ultra
RAM 4GB Corsair Dominator DDR3/1333
Videocard Two EVGA GeForce GTX 260 in SLI
Soundcard Onboard
Storage One WD Raptor 150GB, one Seagate 1TB
Optical Sony Optiarc BR-5100S
Case/PSU Cooler Master CM830 / Thermaltake ToughPower 1000
Vista 32-Bit Benchmarks

Zero Point
iBuyPower Gamer Paladin 990
Premiere Pro CS3
1,260 sec
772 sec
Photoshop CS3 150 sec
87 sec
ProShow
1,415 sec
806 sec
MainConcept
1,872 sec
1,337 sec
Crysis
26 fps
37 fps
Unreal Tournament 3
83 fps
107 fps
Best scores bolded. Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard, two EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, a Western Digital 150GB Raptor and 500GB Caviar hard drives, an LG GGC-H20L optical drive, a Sound Blaster X-Fi soundcard, a PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad PSU, and Windows Vista Home Premium 64 bit.
THE VERDICT

iBuypower Gamer Paladin 990

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