WE USED TO SAY that iBuypower should really be named iStealpower, because we’ve never understood how the company can sell such well-configured systems for such low prices. With its new Erebus line, iBuypower is maintaining its low-price strategy while stepping upmarket to compete with boutique vendors. Is the Erebus priced low enough to purchase on a whim? No, but considering what iBuypower packs into the rig, it’s a pretty good deal.
First up: The Erebus uses a custom NZXT-built case that takes its cues from Corsair’s groundbreaking 800D. Not to be upstaged, the Erebus case is almost an inch or two bigger in all dimensions, and it’s designed to be jam-packed with rads. The Erebus we reviewed had a massive quad radiator plus two dual radiators—with room for more. The Erebus case is designed for water cooling, and that quad radiator is integrated into the top of the unit with a plug you can use to top off its reservoir. It’s an impressive case, with the only major ding against it being its pass-through USB 3.0 cables—that’s so 2011. You’ll be hard pressed to find a new motherboard that doesn’t use internal USB 3.0 headers.
The Erebus is built within a massive tower akin to Corsair’s 800D and is fully outfitted for water cooling.
iBuypower stuffs a liquid-cooled 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K inside the Erebus, along with an Asus Rampage IV Extreme board, 32GB of DDR3/1600, a 1,200-watt Corsair PSU, a 120GB Force GT SSD, a 2TB hard drive, and a pair of liquid-cooled EVGA GTX 580 cards. The magic here is the 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K. It’s the little brother of the Core i7-3960X, with the main difference being the loss of 100MHz off its top speed, and a cache that’s cut down from 15MB in the X to 12MB in the K. Both procs seem equally adept at overclocking, though, and iBuypower takes the K to a very stable 4.7GHz. We ran Prime95 on the box for several hours with no issues. We also ran the GPUs overnight with no instability.
So how does the Erebus perform? Quite well. It managed to set a record in ProShow Producer 4.0, just edging out the Maingear Shift we reviewed in our February 2012 issue. In terms of its application performance, it’s pretty much dead even with the Sandy Bridge-E machines we’ve reviewed from Falcon Northwest, Digital Storm, and Maingear. That’s good company to be in.
Where the Erebus falls behind—by just a bit—is gaming performance. It’s not terrible—two liquid-cooled GeForce GTX 580s can’t be terrible—but the Falcon Northwest Mach V used overclocked 580s with 3GB frame buffers. The Digital Storm HailStorm had tri-SLI’d 580s. And Maingear went plumb crazy with essentially quad-SLI’d 580 cards. In most games, you won’t see a difference; in fact, iBuypower’s rig runs close to the others in Far Cry 2 and STALKER even at 2560x1600. But in the synthetic 3DMark11 and DX11 Unigine Heaven 2.5 tests, the iBuypower lags, coming in last place with 34fps in Heaven. Maingear scores best, with 69fps; tri-SLI, FYI, will give you 50.8fps, and the 3GB GTX 580 cards hit 42fps.
The real story here is iBuypower’s pricing: The Falcon weighs in at $6,993, the Digital Storm at $7,640, and the Maingear is just nuts at $8,876. Priced at $5,000, there’s no denying that the Erebus is a steal. It doesn’t sport a fancy paint job, but it’s no slouch in performance and looks pretty damn nice, too.
Get that boutique look and feel without the nosebleed price.
USB 3.0 pass-through cables? For real?
|Zero Point||iBuypower Erebus|
|Vegas Pro (sec)||1,710||1,730|
|Lightroom 2.6 (sec)||234||230|
|ProShow 4 (sec)||728||739|
|STALKER: CoP (fps)||101.0||124.4 (+140%)|
|Far Cry 2 (fps)||200.0||220.9|
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.