iBUYPOWER Erebus GT: Custom Cooling for Lessby Dustin Sklavos on March 15, 2012 3:00 AM EST
For the Erebus GT, iBUYPOWER is using a custom chassis that appears to be based on an NZXT design. The framework, front hot-swap bay, card reader, and switchable LEDs that light up the port cluster and expansion slots in the back of the enclosure are all holdovers from the Switch 810, but the radiator assembly at the top of the enclosure seems to be entirely a custom solution as does the steel material used for the majority of the case itself.
The custom liquid cooling loop uses what appears to be a 420mm radiator in the top of the enclosure along with an additional 140mm radiator in the rear. Fluid can be poured in/replaced using a twist off cap on the top of the enclosure, but this area is also the seat of the Erebus GT's woes. When the system shipped, the cap seems to either have not been completely secured or came loose in shipping (not unreasonable given the system itself weighs in the neighborhood of fifty pounds), and there was minor spillage of radiator fluid. Thankfully none of it made it inside the enclosure, but iBUYPOWER also uses a nonconductive fluid for the loop as a safeguard.
The attractive internal lighting job also didn't survive the journey in quite as good a shape as I'd have liked: the hooks keeping the lighting strand affixed to the bottom of the enclosure came loose either in shipment or when the internal packing material was removed, and wouldn't stay reaffixed.
Despite these minor setbacks, the build quality proper of the Erebus GT is generally excellent, though the cabling job behind the motherboard tray could stand to be a bit neater. There's a small window for the coolant reservoir in the front of the enclosure that lets you check your coolant level, and the white lighting scheme coupled with the frosty laser-etched logo and design on the left side panel is evocative of the very coldest depths of Hell. I personally find the look of the system along with the stylistic and artistic flourishes to be flavorful and tasteful without being over-the-top or gaudy as hardware targeted towards gamers can often be.
With all that said, there were problems that I ran into in the operation and testing of the system that we'll address on the next page.
Heat, Noise, and Power Consumption
Where the Erebus GT does largely succeed is in its management of heat and power consumption. Given the custom liquid cooling loop, it's not surprising that the system doesn't have any trouble dissipating heat, but the real surprise was in how frugal it is with power consumption.
Idle power consumption ranks among the best systems we've tested, especially when you consider the fact that the Erebus GT has to power a water pump alongside the fans attached to the radiators. The success here is owed to two things: the reasonably frugal Radeon HD 7970, and the decision by iBUYPOWER's engineers to manually set a reasonably low offset voltage on the CPU overclock rather than just pump a load of voltage into the chip and call it a day. Offset voltage is something I had a chance to discuss with their representative at CES 2012 and something I always take boutiques to task about, so I'm happy to see that problem addressed here.
Heat is largely kept in check, and the Radeon HD 7970 runs spectacularly cool: there's definitely room for improvement there. Unfortunately, iBUYPOWER's system does suffer from one issue: noise. It isn't the loudest system I've ever tested and the noise is at least a low-pitched hum that's not too obtrusive, but 43dBA is loud enough to be noticeable and there don't seem to be any fan controls in place to keep the noise levels down when the system is idle. Noise is consistent regardless of how hard you push the Erebus GT.