Re-Introducing the iBUYPOWER Erebus GT

It was only a month-and-a-half ago that we were able to test the iBUYPOWER Erebus GT, a boutique desktop with a custom water-cooling loop at a very compelling price for what you got. Yet in the intervening period the computing landscape has actually changed fairly drastically, with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680 coming to market and Intel releasing the Ivy Bridge-based Core i7-3000 series processors. Our previous review unit focused more on value proposition with a single AMD Radeon HD 7970 handling graphics duties, but the one we have on hand today is a true war machine.

We've covered Ivy Bridge extensively up to its launch and exhaustively this week, with a breakdown of the architecture and performance, analysis of its overclocking potential, testing in an HTPC environment, benching the notebook version, and even a vendor discussion and Q&A with ASUS of the Z77 platform that accompanies it. Today we have a firsthand look at how Ivy Bridge is going to handle and overclock in the field courtesy of an updated Erebus GT from iBUYPOWER, along with our first taste of a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 graphics cards in SLI running on the platform.

There's no question that Intel's made a major achievement with Ivy Bridge: IPC is up, power consumption and die size are down, so that's pretty much win-win for all involved. Yet there's one discipline Sandy Bridge has excelled in that Ivy Bridge has a bit harder of a time with: overclocking.

The Erebus GT system that was equipped with Sandy Bridge was able to hit a 4.6GHz overclock on the Core i7-2700K, while the refreshed system with a Core i7-3770K is only able to go up to 4.4GHz, and we expect this is going to be about as high as Ivy Bridge is going to consistently go. So the question becomes: are the IPC improvements in Ivy Bridge enough to make up for the reduced overclocking headroom? We'll find out in a moment, but first here's the rundown of the updated Erebus GT.

iBUYPOWER Erebus GT Specifications
Chassis iBUYPOWER Custom
Processor Intel Core i7-3770K
(4x3.5GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.9GHz, 4.4GHz Overclock, 22nm, 8MB L3, 77W)
Motherboard ASUS Sabertooth Z77 (Z77 Chipset)
Memory 4x4GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 (expandable to 32GB)
Graphics 2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2GB in SLI
2x (1536 CUDA cores, 1006/6008MHz core/RAM, 256-bit memory bus)
Storage Intel 520 120GB SATA 6Gbps SSD (SF-2281)
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 2TB 7200-RPM SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) Hitachi-LG BD-ROM/DVD-RAM
Power Supply Corsair AX1200 80 Plus Gold
Networking Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC892
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround jacks, optical out for 7.1 sound
Front Side Optical drive
SD card reader
2x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
Headphone and mic jacks
6-channel fan controller
Top -
Back Side 4x USB 2.0
HDMI (IGP)
DisplayPort (IGP)
Optical out
2x eSATA
4x USB 3.0
Ethernet
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround, and optical jacks
4x DVI-D (2x GTX 680)
2x HDMI (2x GTX 680)
2x DisplayPort (2x GTX 680)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Extras Card reader
Custom liquid-cooling loop
Custom LED lighting
80 Plus Gold modular PSU
Warranty 3-year parts, lifetime labor and support
Pricing ???

Compared to the last unit we reviewed, we're looking at what theoretically could be a wash in terms of CPU performance (4.6GHz i7-2700K vs. 4.4GHz i7-3770K), but pretty dramatic improvements most everywhere else. The ASUS Sabertooth Z77 leverages the i7-3770K's PCIe 3.0 support along with USB 3.0 connectivity, and it includes Intel's highly desirable gigabit ethernet NIC as opposed to the Realtek controller more commonly found.

The other elephant in the room, or elephants, are the pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 cards in SLI. NVIDIA got rid of the hot shader clock in Kepler, but in the move to 28nm they also basically tripled the number of CUDA cores from GF100/110. Do some vulgar math and that works out to about 50% more shader power per GPU than the GTX 580, and you get to enjoy NVIDIA's generally excellent SLI support. That said, as has been mentioned before, the GTX 680's memory bandwidth nears 200GB/sec but still doesn't scratch the ~250GB/sec the AMD Radeon HD 7970 offers, and the GTX 680 is also working with a smaller framebuffer with 2GB of GDDR5 instead of the 7970's 3GB. Still, the 680 has been fast enough to be crowned the fastest single-GPU video card available, so theoretically two of them should be screaming fast.

Finally, we have a hefty 1200W, 80 Plus Gold power supply from Corsair, an Intel SSD, and 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3 running at 1600MHz. There's very little to complain about here, the parts employed are top shelf from start to finish.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Based on previous pricing by iBUYPOWER, I'd guess they'll end up charging around $3000. However, we can't really print that since it's just a guess. :-p Reply
  • awall13 - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Would be nice to see noise measurements for this water cooled setup. Seems to me that it would be an important consideration for a potential buyer compared to building their own (more likely air-cooled) setup. Reply
  • ewood - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Normally I would overlook this little slip up but it is the third time I have heard an anandtech article refer to Lynnfield as a tick when in fact it is a tock. It did not use a new fab process and it did employ a new architecture. Lynnfield was a tock. Get it right, you're a hardware site. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Sorry, you're right. I screwed up and looked at Lynnfield. The article has been adjusted, but in my above comment, if you just replace "Lynnfield" with "Clarkdale" not a whole lot changes. Clarkdale was very underwhelming, and Gulftown is highly specialized. I never actually ran either one other than seeing a hex-core Gulftown stuffed into a Clevo X7200. :-\

    The problem is that Intel made comparisons very messy with Westmere. On the desktop we had Clarkdale (dual-core plus IGP) and Gulftown (hex-core and no IGP). On laptops we had Arrandale (basically just mobile Clarkdale). There were no mainstream quad-core Westmere parts, so you had mainstream dual-core or high-end hex-core and never the twain shall meet.

    Anyway, don't feel too superior for catching the error -- try writing about technology and code names for a few years and I can pretty much guarantee you'll make some mistakes. Heck, just read the tech junky posts in hardware forums and even the best people make mistakes.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    And yes, I know that Clarkdale's IGP was actually 45nm on package. Reply
  • web2dot0 - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Isn't there something fundamentally wrong with people using 1200W of power to play computer games? Considering that there is a power shortage all over California, it's pretty abusive to hoar all that juice when there are better ways to spent it.

    Not trying to be judgemental or anything, but there should be regulation on energy consumption for computers that are not work-related. No different than emission standards for cars and such.
    Reply
  • UltimateKitchenUtensil - Saturday, April 28, 2012 - link

    1200 W is just the power supply's capacity. If the components draw less than that (in this case, much less than that), the supply will only give them what they need. And it will do it very efficiently, since the AX-1200 is 80+ Gold.

    In this case, even though the power supply is rated 1200 W, the system, under load, only consumes 471 W of power. Some of it is wasted, but over 80% is used by the system.
    Reply
  • web2dot0 - Saturday, April 28, 2012 - link

    I'm sure having a 80+ Gold PSU is great, but you are still using alot of power. I'm guessing if you plan to have a SLI config, you are going to OC the CPU, and everything else.

    A regular PC consumes < 150W, this PC is using 471W.

    I'm also guessing that people who buys these bad boys aren't exactly casual gamers, so these PCs will be under load way more often than an average PC.

    Just saying ....
    Reply
  • buzznut - Saturday, April 28, 2012 - link

    Its funny, AMD comes out with a product that equals its previous efforts and its a major fail. Why do we find it so easy to forgive Intel?

    "I feel like a lot of us were hoping for either a bigger performance improvement or better overclocking headroom due to the new process, but what we have instead is a chip that, when pushed to its conventional limits, is essentially still only the equal of its predecessor in terms of performance."

    And doesn't overclock as well. Aren't you glad you ran out and bought that Z77 board?

    Obviously it has a little to do with power and efficiency. At least BD is much more capable with respect to overclocking. I am very underwhelmed.

    Which is what confuses me. Ivy Bridge has been overhyped as much as bulldozer was. People really should be asking, "what happened?"
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, April 28, 2012 - link

    Ivy Bridge is still directly superior to Sandy Bridge in almost every way BUT overclocking headroom. I'm underwhelmed by Ivy Bridge, but it's much more efficient in terms of power consumption than Sandy Bridge. Before overclocking, you get slightly better performance for much less power.

    Bulldozer was in many ways a step BACK from Deneb and Thuban. The FX-8150 should always have at least equalled the Phenom II X6 1100T, but in certain cases it was actually slower.

    That, and everyone wanted and needed Bulldozer to do well for AMD's sake, the sake of the market, the sake of the community. Nobody was really looking at Sandy Bridge and going "boy, if Intel could make this thing faster we'd all be better off."
    Reply

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