Ever since the appearance of Intel’s smoking-fast second-gen Core i7 processor in January, we’ve been wondering if Intel’s hexa-cores still have a purpose. When iBuypower’s Paladin XLC strode into town with a hearty Intel six-core inside its shining white armor, we expected an epic battle.
And we got one. Outfitted with Intel’s priciest hexa-core, the 3.33GHz Core i7-980X, the Paladin XLC seemed destined to take on Falcon Northwest’s black-clad Mach V system that we reviewed in February.
Using NZXT’s excellent Phantom case, the Paladin XLC certainly strikes an impressive pose. Along with 12GB of DDR3/1600, a 128GB A-Data SSD, a 2TB hard drive, and a 10x Blu-ray burner, the Paladin XLC fields an imposing collection of hardware, and at a decent price.
White is the new black, which was the new beige.
But that’s the rub. Though stuffed with a hexa-core, the Paladin XLC is outfitted with a pair of solid, but let’s face it, budget AMD Radeon HD 6870 cards. We weren’t surprised because that jibes with iBuypower’s reputation of providing a crapload of hardware at a hell of a good price. Getting a water-cooled, CrossFireX hexa-core machine at $3,500 is a pretty good deal.
Unfortunately for the Paladin XLC, it’s not enough to take out its closest competitor: the Falcon Northwest Mach V. Yes, it’s a bit of a mismatch here. The Mach V is about $800 pricier, which gets you a crazy OCZ Revo X2 drive and a pair of GeForce 580 GTX cards. With the GeForce 580 GTX crowned as the new king, we didn’t expect much of a competition in graphics and we didn’t get one. In our STALKER: CoP benchmark at super-high resolutions, the pair of GTX 580 cards can match the performance of tri-SLI GTX 480 cards. The pair of Radeon HD 6870 cards, on the other hand, is about the equivalent of a single Radeon HD 5970 card. In Far Cry 2, which is less dependent on the GPU and more dependent on CPU, the competition gets closer. The Paladin XLC pushes out a very respectable 147fps. That far outstrips our zero-point’s HD 5970 and overclocked quad-core combo, but again, the two GeForce GTX 580s are far more impressive. OK, so GPUs that cost twice as much are faster. What about CPU-based benchmarks?
That’s where it gets interesting. The Paladin XLC against our zero-point is an easy win. The six cores beat our four cores quite handily. But against the higher-clocked Sandy Bridge CPU, it’s far closer than we expected it to be. The Sandy Bridge–based Mach V is actually slightly faster in Lightroom and ProShow Producer. The six-core fires back, though, by beating the Mach V in Sony Vegas Pro 9 and MainConcept Reference.
So, what can we determine from all this? There is still value in hexa-core chips. Perhaps not the advantage they had just two months ago, but in anything that’s heavily multithreaded, six cores can still prevail. Even with the Mach V clocked up 500MHz faster than the Paladin XLC, the hexa-core still has moxie.
And that’s really what the Paladin XLC represents. It’s a pretty good bargain when you consider the hardware loadout. The similarly outfitted Velocity Micro Edge Z55 system that we reviewed in our December issue tipped the scales at $4,300. iBuypower shaves $800 off of that and gives you faster graphics cards than that system, too.
So, while the iBuypower cannot defeat the black knight, it fights the good fight. And isn’t that all any Paladin would care about?
iBuypower Paladin XLC
Six cores and CrossFireX for $3,500.
Mismatch between budget GPU and extreme CPU.
Intel 3.33GHz Core i7-980X (overclocked to 4.2GHz)
Asus Rampage III Extreme
Two Radeon HD 6870 in CrossFireX
128GB A-Data SSD, 2TB Hitachi 7,200rpm
LG 10x Blu-ray burner (WH10L530)
iBuypower Paladin XLC
Vegas Pro 9 (sec)
Lightroom 2.6 (sec)
ProShow 4 (sec)
Reference 1.6 (sec)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: CoP (fps)
Far Cry 2 (fps)
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 1750MHz, 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