You can look at every PC as having its own personality—an essence comprising its strengths, quirks, and flaws. Take iBuyPower’s Gamer’s Fire PC, for example: It’s a crossbreed of Rodney Dangerfield and Steven Seagal. You might not respect its pot belly and ugly golf clothes, but it can snap a suite of benchmarks like a twig.
Of course, we expected nothing less of a machine equipped with Intel’s Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPU. iBuyPower paired the X6800 with a respectable MSI 975X Platinum mobo.
Two 10K Raptors in RAID 0 handle storage (along with a Samsung double-layer burner and a DVD-ROM drive). And this is where the Gamer’s Fire is decidedly Dangerfield. Like Falcon Northwest’s screaming-fast Mach V box from last month, iBuyPower gives you no backup for your 300GB RAID. Sure, you can easily add an external USB drive, but iBuyPower should have anticipated that need and included another 500GB drive inside. And iBuyPower made the controversial decision to skip the SoundBlaster X-Fi card for onboard HD Audio.
This isn’t a trend we like. Perhaps iBuyPower omitted the soundcard because the inside was getting too cramped. The space crunch is only compounded by a typically poor iBuyPower wiring job. If Voodoo is known for its stellar wiring, iBuyPower is building a reputation for its signature “zip tie all the loose wires together” look.
Just when you’re ready to write off the Gamer’s Fire completely, its Seagal side comes out with an elbow to your nose. In applications, the Gamer’s Fire is fast. Not quite as fast as Falcon’s expensive overclocked machine, but enough to put a hurt on all of the previous Athlon 64 machines we’ve seen this year and even on the Dream Machine.
The Gamer’s Fire really shines when compared with our Athlon 64 FX-60 zero-point system. The Core 2 Extreme stomps our FX-60 in the application-intensive SYSmark2004 SE with a score about 55 percent faster. The Gamer’s Edge completes our Adobe Photoshop CS2 test about 75 percent faster than the zero-point and is about 73 percent faster in our Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 HDV test—faster even than our Dream Machine 11. When you consider that our overclocked Dream Machine had a 300MHz advantage, you have to wonder what’s up. But then we got to the games. That’s where the Gamer’s Edge up and struts its ugly checkered golf jacket and white shoes.
In FEAR, the Gamer’s Edge is actually slower than our zero-point—which sports a pair of GeForce 7900 GTX cards in SLI—by 13 percent. In Quake 4, the Gamer’s Edge barely beats our zero-point by a measly 2 percent. To keep things in perspective, the Gamer’s Edge is capable of playing any game out today at high resolutions without frame rates being an issue. But our Dream Machine 11 and Falcon’s Mach V ran about 20 percent faster in Quake 4 and roughly 30 percent faster in FEAR. That’s a grim reminder of why we don’t see many CrossFire systems and why we chose nForce over the 975X chipset.
In fact, we wonder if the Gamer’s Fire is really the right name. With its ass-kicking application performance, iBuyPower might want to consider calling this baby the Applications’ Fire or Content Creation’s Fire instead.
Month Reviewed: November 2006
+ BACK TO SCHOOL: Core 2 Extreme rips through applications tests.
- ROVER DANGERFIELD: CrossFire can't hold a candle to a pair of 7900 GTX cards.