Introducing the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC

It's amazing how quickly reviewing a complete computer system can become dicey when dealing with as informed a readership as ours. Reviewing notebooks is fairly straightforward: since whitebox machines have mostly evaporated from the market, we can safely review the pre-built machines the manufacturers send us because they're basically the only options presenting themselves to you.

Desktops get a little trickier, where we have to ascertain not just the machine's value to a broader market, but also find the value to people who know how to spec and build their own machines. When it's something like the Dell and Acer desktops we've reviewed it's easy enough: these are machines you can recommend to friends and family without tying yourself to their continued maintenance and service. The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC we have on hand to review is another beast entirely.

This is a machine that falls very much in line with the kinds of computers we as the reviewers and many of you as the readers are capable of assembling. But there are also readers who don't want to go through the hassle of building and tuning a gaming machine, and readers for whom a machine like this will be their gateway into the world of tweaking, tuning and overclocking. And I'm reasonably sure there's at least one granny out there somewhere aching to pwn n00bs in Modern Warfare 2, a seasoned veteran of first person shooters who refuses to stoop to using a console controller. Ultimately we need to determine what iBUYPOWER brings to the table compared to what you can do on your own, alongside how capable the machine itself is.

iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-930 @ 3.5GHz (184MHz Bclk with x19 multiplier)
(spec: 4x2.8GHz, 45nm, 8MB L3, 130W)
Chipset Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R rev. 2 Motherboard with X58 chipset
Memory 3x2GB A-Data DDR3-1600 @ 1480MHz (expandable to 24GB)
Graphics 2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470 1280MB GDDR5 in SLI
(448 CUDA Cores, 607MHz Core, 1215MHz Shader, 3.3GHz Memory, 320-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Kingston 64GB SSDNow! V2 Series SSD (OS drive)
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gbps (Data drive)
Optical Drive(s) LG 10x BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW
Networking Realtek Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC889 HD Audio
speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Front Side Optical Drive
Three open 5.25” bays
MMC/SD/CF/MS reader
Top 2x USB 2.0
eSATA port
Headphone and mic jacks
Power and reset buttons
Fan controllers
Back Side 2x PS/2
S/PDIF and TOSlink digital audio jacks
4-pin and 6-pin FireWire ports
2x Combo eSATA/USB 2.0 ports
4x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0 (blue)
Gigabit Ethernet jack
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks
4x DVI-D
2x Mini-DisplayPort
AC Power
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 25.74" x 21.32" x 8.74" (WxDxH)
Weight 24.25 lbs (case only)
Extras 850W NZXT HALE90 Modular Power Supply
Asetek 570LX 240mm Liquid Cooling
NZXT Phantom Case
Wired keyboard and mouse
Flash reader (MMC/MS/CF/SD)
Overclocked from warehouse
Warranty 3-year limited warranty and lifetime phone support
Pricing Starting at $1,459
Priced as configured (9/02/2010): $2,278

As you can see, it's an awful lot of computer. The big pop-out is the Core i7-930 overclocked to 3.5GHz, with the overclock done largely to the Bclk to bring up memory and uncore speeds. iBUYPOWER calls the overclock their "Level 3 Powerdrive Overclocking"—bringing a 25% overclock to the processor core with it. Intel doesn't ship any processors that hit this speed at stock, so right there you can assume at least some measure of bang for your buck: iBUYPOWER ships you a computer with a processor faster than Intel's specs for the i7-975, already stability tested and ready to go. There's even an Asetek watercooler attached to the 930 to keep temperatures (and noise levels) down.

iBUYPOWER backs up the i7's gaming prowess with a pair of GeForce GTX 470's in SLI. This level of performance should be a known quantity to most of our readers by now, but for reference sake, this is a pair of NVIDIA's second-fastest single-chip cards, each sporting 448 of NVIDIA's CUDA cores. They run at clock speeds of 607MHz on the core, 1215MHz on the shaders, and 1.2GB of GDDR5 on each running at an effective 3.3GHz. The 470 is generally a match for AMD's Radeon HD 5870, and SLI has been demonstrated to scale extremely well. If there's one thing that should give a potential buyer pause, though, it should be the amount of heat generated by these cards. The GA-X58A-UD3R motherboard is fantastic (I actually run one in my personal system), but it doesn't allow the user to space the cards to NVIDIA's specifications. The two are right next to each other and as we'll see later, this causes some issues.

The rest of the build is fairly well rounded. iBUYPOWER includes a speedy 64GB Kingston SSD as the operating system drive and pairs it with a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black, one of the newer models with 64MB of cache and support for SATA 6GBps (connected to the motherboard's 6GBps port, naturally.) Memory duties are handled by 6GB of A-DATA DDR3-1600 running in triple-channel; memory brands are often matters of taste and religion (personally I swear by Corsair), but the A-DATA RAM should be fine. There's also a blu-ray reader, DVD-writer combo drive and a multi-card reader.

Finally, everything's housed in one of the new NZXT Phantom cases, and that's going to be a matter of taste for many people. Personally, I think it looks like a Transformer that turns into an Imperial Stormtrooper; it's attractive in a tacky, kitschy way. The fan controls on the top are a nice touch and the multitude of fans built in run nice and quiet. iBUYPOWER opts to use an NZXT Hale90 850W modular power supply as well, which is enough to keep the GeForces and overclocked i7 well fed while having plenty of reserves for future upgrades.

Also of note is that iBUYPOWER includes all of the extras that would have come with these parts had you built the machine off-the-shelf, along with an abnormally cheap-looking branded keyboard and a branded optical mouse of equally non-descript origins.

Getting to Know the iBuyPower Paladin XLC
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  • HangFire - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    Dustin, you comment:

    When it's something like the Dell and Acer desktops we've reviewed it's easy enough: these are machines you can recommend to friends and family without tying yourself to their continued maintenance and service.

    I find myself tied to the continued maintenance and service of friends and family systems, whether or not I recommend them.

    Could you explain this extraordinary statement of yours? If the comments field isn't large enough, perhaps you could write a feature article on the topic.

    -HF
    Reply
  • Sanada - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    It looks like a Storm Trooper. Reply
  • wolfman3k5 - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    After reading this review I've checked out ResellerRatings.com, and also checked out the iBuyPower website. And I've also googled them. My gripes with the review and this company:

    1) The name is stupid. iBuyPower sounds awful, and will never be taken seriously as a high performance computer manufacturer. It sounds more like the Daewoo of the computer world. They can also be easlily confused for CyberPower (maybe they're the same company?).
    2) The configuration as tested costs $2610 + $65 for Ground Shipping, not $2099. Hell, $2099 don't even cover the cost of the parts on NewEgg.com, even considering a couple of rebates and combo discounts. So, why are you guys lying?
    3) The cable management that the reviewed system came with cannot be ordered from iBuyPower.com !!! It's called cable sleeving, it's very time consuming, and only the sleeving materials can cost up to $100 for a single computer, plus a day of work to sleeve every and each cable. So why does iBuyPower ship systems with cable sleeving to reviewers???
    4) No pictures from the right side of the computer (the backside behind the motherboard). I bet that it looks like cable spaghetti there.
    5) Hailing a 3.5GHz overclock on a Core i7 CPU !? WTF? Any newbie can pull that off. Now a 4.0GHz overclock would have been something worth paying money for. But to pay $80 for a 3.5GHz overclock?

    This review sounds like classic advertising. iBuyPower probably shelled out a couple of bucks so that you guys could say nice words about them. What I've found online is more in line with the truth about iBuyPower. They still are a horrible company with horrendous customer service and their builds that they ship to paying customers look nothing like the system that's posted in this review. There are legions of angry customers that got shipped a broken system, after which they had to wait for months for either a refund or in rare cases they got their systems repaired. Ultimately, you'll get what you pay for.

    This to iBuyPower: How about you send a system (like you send to your paying customers) to Kyle at [H]ardOCP.com. Those guys are far more truthful and honest about products. As for the iBuyPower review posted here on AnandTech, it is biased beyond belief. Nevertheless, you guys do great work when it comes to scientific articles.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    1. Not really my place to judge.
    2. MSRP in our press materials listed this unit as $2,099. I was able to pull together a similar configuration for less than two bills at NewEgg. The SSD is $120, the HD is $90, the CPU is $300, case is $160, mobo is $200, GTX 470's are $300 apiece, the (overpriced) PSU is around $180, optical drive is $80, RAM is about $150. Price of materials from NewEgg hits around $2k, which makes this a pretty decent deal from iBuyPower if they're selling this thing at $2,099. If they're not honoring that, then that's another matter entirely.
    3. Again, the press materials say they just sleeve the cables as a matter of course.
    4. You mean the side of the system that's probably supposed to look like cable spaghetti? Ignoring the fact that the PSU is modular so the only cables connected are the ones that are needed.
    5. I didn't hail it. I do believe I said it was lazy. In fact I'm pretty sure I spent the majority of page three griping about it.

    If AT is getting paid for this review, I didn't see any of it and no one told me about it.
    Reply
  • wolfman3k5 - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    Maybe I was to harsh with you about this review, because I don't think that it's really your fault. I also don't want you to get me the wrong way, so I will try to explain again:

    First of all, there is nothing wrong with getting paid for a review. We see product placement all over the place, from movies to every day life, and it's something that has been practiced since the beginning of the 20th century (Onasis introduced smoking to women as a fashion accessory by having a famous singer smoke on stage - but this is besides the point). My point is that I don't have a problem with anyone getting paid to write nice words about a product, as long as there is some truth to it. Anyway, if you guys didn't get paid to write nice words about iBuyPower (to some extent) I'm sorry for you, because you would have deserved some compensation to write any kind a review about this crappy company.

    The system being slow may not have actually been iBuyPower's fault (to some extent). I had 2 X MSI GTX 470 cards in SLI on a MSI X58 Bing Bang XPower motherboard, and the system performance was abysmal at best. After MSI sent me a BETA BIOS the system was running fine. It could be the case here as well. Then again, iBuyPower should have done their homework.

    A good reviewer throws the press lease away, and does his/her own investigation. Further more, the proper way to review any system is to order it from the manufacturer, review it and then ask for a refund. Then you will get an actual system that they ship to customers, and not a nicely dressed up system with clean cable management and "free" cable sleeving. Back to the press release, as far as price is concerned, I couldn't configure an identical system on iBuyPower's web site for $2099 with identical specs. It was $2610.

    For potential customers: YOU WILL NOT GET YOUR CABLES NICELY SLEEVED BECAUSE IT'S NOT EVEN AN OPTION THAT YOU CAN PURCHASE. IT'S SOMETHING THEY DID FOR THE REVIEW. CLAIMING THAT THEY SLEEVE AS A "MATTER OF COURSE" IS B.S. THEY SIMPLY DON'T DO IT FOR CUSTOMERS.

    Sorry about the caps, but I want people to see this. Cable sleeving is labor intensive, and there isn't enough margin in that system to do it. Heck, there isn't enough margin for the 3 Year Warranty either, that's why customers have to cover all the shipping charges, and sometimes even repair charges during the warranty period, but it sure looks cool when you offer 3 years warranty.

    The Bottom Line:
    I wish it was true, I wish that iBuyPower would ship all their systems at a super low price, with a true 3 year warranty, with sleeved cables. I wish that they would put the same amount of work, care and dedication into every system that they ship as they've put in the system in this review, but they simply don't. Why they don't? Because there isn't enough margin to cover all the business expenses, employees, packaging materials, and so on. A couple of hundred bucks won't cover it! Oh, and why I was insisting on the cable sleeving? Because I've done it, and I know how long it takes to do it for a single computer system, especially when it comes to power supply cables. And no, no computer that costs over $2000 should have any kind of cable spaghetti, whether it's visible or not. I would love to believe that this is how iBuyPower ships systems to their customers, but they simply don't. My advice: stay away from them. There are simply enough better companies out there, and if not, you can always build your own. There is plenty of good advice on Anandtech.com about how to build a computer from scratch.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    See my post below. As for your other comments, you're apparently having problems reading our review. Nowhere did we suggest this system is slow; it's fast, just like you'd expect from a 3.5GHz Core i7. Regarding cable sleeving, which you appear to have a vendetta going on about, when did you buy a system from them? Have you every purchased one from them, or are you just ranting because they compete with your business? Here's a post from another web site at CES 2010:

    http://www.thinkcomputers.org/ces-2010-ibuypower/

    "One cool thing iBUYPOWER is doing is the completely sleeved cables on the power supply. This is not just regular sleeving, but every cable is sleeved individually. To understand what I mean check out the photos below. iBUYPOWER will be offering this as an upgrade option on their system for around $50."

    Either they're doing it or they aren't, but somehow I suspect that you're not the authority on what iBUYPOWER does or doesn't offer. It's entirely possible that the sleeving comes standard on the Paladin XLC, which would in part explain the slightly higher price compared to some of their other systems.

    Please don't accuse people of lying when they're not, and don't accuse people of incorrect pricing when your own pricing is off. If you can't get the price below $2610, you're not trying very hard. And just to be clear, we are not paid by companies to review product -- never have been in all the years I've been here. Sure, we have advertisements on the site, and some of those come from companies whose products we review. However, our review team is totally separate from the marketing team that handles advertisers. In my 6+ years working for AnandTech, I have never been asked to review a product for money, I have never been told to give a product a good review, and I have never even dealt with the advertising side of things.

    Don't believe me? Then go try and buy a review from our site. The most you can do is ask us to review a product, and if we feel like doing so we will (mostly based on if we have time and if your product looks interesting). iBUYPOWER, AVADirect, Eurocom, CyberPower, and other smaller companies -- along with big names like ASUS, Dell, HP, Intel, NVIDIA, AMD, etc. -- are all at the same level. We ask them for products, or they ask us to review something, and that's about it. If a product performs well and is priced reasonably, then we like it.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I take umbrage at the idea that we get paid for reviews and I suspect a lot of the writers and editors at the sites I've written for would feel the same way. Being paid to write a review, favorable or otherwise, is an inherent conflict of interest. We review what we're sent.

    In this case, we reviewed a machine that I felt had some merit. It wasn't perfect, but if you can get this machine for $2,099, that's a good deal. If you'd rather roll your own, so much the better. Like I mentioned in the review, I built my own machine. We can't review the company as a whole, we can't review reliability, because these things are just logistically too difficult to do. If people have had negative experiences with iBP as you seem to have, then these comments are the best place to sound off.
    Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Friday, September 03, 2010 - link

    I have no experience with iBuyPower one way or the other, but after reading the review and your comments I did go to their site and price out a system as I might buy it if I were going to actually buy one. I was looking at a p55/i7 870 system which is obviously different from the review

    But, what struck me is the huge number of options available. As to your specific comments:

    1. Cable sleeving is in fact available as an option. The review was incorrect in implying it is a standard feature but you are also wrong in saying that it isn't an option because it is. You have to get beyond the "base components"tab and go through the process as if you were going to buy. You will find it on the "Services and Support" tab and it will cost you $38.00 ($19 for "basic pro wiring" and another $19 for the sleeving).

    2. Overclocking options. If you don't like their overclocking as described in the article, you can just order the system without it. Overclocking is an option available as 10%, 20% or 30% for $19, $49, and $99 respectively. I would personally order it without overclocking and just do it myself. They do give you that option.

    3. You state that the "proper way to do a review" is to order it then return it for a refund. I can see the value of ordering it without telling them it is for a review so that you can see what an actual customer would see. But ordering a product knowing in advance that you are going to use if for your purpose and then return it is dishonest. And if Anandtech had to pay for all the systems they review...there would probably be no reviews.

    Basically I think the readers of this site are plenty smart enough to do their own homework and the anger, finger pointing and accusations are certainly not adding anything to the discussion.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    And for those that haven't heard of iBUYPOWER, they've been around for at least five years, and most people I know think they have decent builds and good prices. Unless you don't trust resellerratings?
    http://www.resellerratings.com/store/iBUYPOWER

    As for the pricing, I just went here (http://www.ibuypower.com/Store/Paladin_XLC_V1) and came up with a price of $2278 with the exact configuration tested. Prices change, so it's possible some of the items went up. I've updated the price in the first table to reflect this. Obviously you pay a slight charge for the assembly and testing, but for a complete system with some decent components that price is still very reasonable.
    Reply
  • wolfman3k5 - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    Jarred, could you please stop advertising for a second:
    "And for those that haven't heard of iBUYPOWER, they've been around for at least five years, and most people I know think they have decent builds and good prices. Unless you don't trust resellerratings?"

    You also read the bad review, or only the good ones? Also, their lifetime rating is 7.5. Anyway, my whole point was that they don't ship to customers system as well built as the one in the review, let alone cable sleeving and other details. Plus, most people that order a system from them should be happy if they even get it in one piece, because their packaging leaves allot to be desired. I don't want a dirt cheap product made from expensive components that may or may not work, I want a good product and I'm willing to pay a couple of hundred more to get it. That way I know that if there is an issue, someone will actually service my system. Otherwise, I could just build my own. iBuyPower should step up and be honest and offer a good product, even if it means that they would charge more, instead to try and compete by undercutting everyone.

    Anyway, here is the configuration straight from their web site. Look for the final price at the bottom. It's still more than what you came up with:

    Case
    NZXT Phantom Full Tower Gaming Case - Red
    Case Lighting
    None
    iBUYPOWER Labs - Noise Reduction
    None
    iBUYPOWER Labs - Internal Expansion
    None
    Processor
    Intel® Core™ i7 930 Processor (4x 2.80GHz/8MB L3 Cache)
    iBUYPOWER PowerDrive
    PowerDrive Level 3 - Up to 30% Overclocking
    Processor Cooling
    Asetek 570LX Liquid CPU Cooling System w/ Dual Radiator [SOCKET-1366] - 2x Enermax Silent High Performance Fan Upgrade
    Memory
    6 GB [2 GB X3] DDR3-1600 - ** FREE Upgrade from DDR3-1333 ** Corsair or Major Brand
    Video Card
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470 - 1.2GB - EVGA Superclocked - SLI Mode (Dual Cards)
    Video Card Brand
    Major Brand Powered by ATI or NVIDIA
    Motherboard
    [SLI] Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R w/ 4x PCI-E 2.0 x16
    Motherboard USB / SATA Interface
    Motherboard default USB / SATA Interface
    Power Supply
    850 Watt -- NZXT HALE90 / 80+ Gold
    Primary Hard Drive
    1 TB HARD DRIVE -- 16M Cache, 7200 RPM, 3.0Gb/s - Single Drive
    Data Hard Drive
    1 TB HARD DRIVE -- 64M Cache, 7200 RPM, 6.0Gb/s - Single Drive
    Optical Drive
    [10X Blu-Ray] LG BLU-RAY Re-Writer, DVD±R/±RW Burner Combo Drive - Black
    2nd Optical Drive
    None
    Flash Media Reader/Writer
    12-In-1 Internal Flash Media Card Reader/Writer - Black
    Meter Display
    None
    Sound Card
    3D Premium Surround Sound Onboard
    Network Card
    Onboard LAN Network (Gb or 10/100)
    Operating System
    Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium + Office Starter 2010 (Includes basic versions of Word and Excel) - 64-Bit
    Monitor
    None
    2nd Monitor
    None
    Speaker System
    iBUYPOWER 2.1 Channel Stereo Super Bass Subwoofer Speaker System
    Power Protection
    None
    Headset
    None
    Video Camera
    None
    Warranty
    Standard Warranty Service - Standard 3-Year Limited Warranty + Lifetime Technical Support
    Rush Service
    Rush Service Fee (not shipping fee) - No Rush Service, Estimate Ship Out in 5~10 Business Days
    Keyboard
    iBUYPOWER USB Keyboard Black

    TOTAL PRICE: $2419 (I had 12GB RAM in my first build, that's why the first time I came up with $2610. But now since you can see the build straight from their web site, there isn't anything left here to say).
    Reply

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