iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC: Enthusiast Classby Dustin Sklavos on September 2, 2010 3:30 AM EST
Getting to Know the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC
Normally this would be the point where we'd talk about the physical design of the machine and how it's laid out, but since iBUYPOWER uses a known enthusiast chassis, we'll limit our analysis more strictly to what iBUYPOWER brings to the table with this build.
First, as is custom of a good boutique build, the internals of the Paladin XLC are epically tidy. Where possible, cables are routed cleanly behind the motherboard tray, and the whole of the inside is nice and spare. Certainly the modular power supply helps in this instance, but iBUYPOWER wraps the cables off of the power supply individually and frankly, they keep a clean house. No complaints here. When they ship the unit, they also use special form-fitting padding inside the tower to ensure nothing gets moved or jostled in transport. It's a nice touch, just be sure to pop open the side of your tower and remove it before you power on the machine.
As far as performance goes, the Paladin XLC is...well...damn fast. We ran the same set of basic benchmarks on the XLC as we have on the previous desktops and compared them to the Dell XPS 7100 we reviewed. This is what we came up with:
|General Performance Overview
|Dell XPS 7100
|iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC
|Cinebench R10 1-CPU
|Cinebench R10 x-CPU
|X264 720p Encode Pass 1
|X264 720p Encode Pass 2
Those numbers are compared to a Phenom II X6 1055T, and that's an overclocked Core i7 utterly demolishing a processor with two more physical cores. When we move on to our 3DMark tests, it gets even better.
|3DMark Performance Results
|Dell XPS 7100
iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC
|3DMark Vantage Performance
|3DMark Vantage Entry
Yowza. None of these numbers should be at all surprising to you; the XPS 7100 has "just" an AMD Radeon HD 5870 to work with against the SLI'ed GeForce GTX 470's in the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC. To test actual gaming performance, we used our mobile benchmark suite (which we will likely standardize on for our desktop reviews moving forward), at our "high" and "ultra" test settings and 1080p resolution.
To go over the settings we use for each game, BFBC2 is run at 1xAA/16xAF and High (max) detail for the "High" setting, and we bump up to 4xAA for "Ultra". DiRT 2 is run using the Ultra High in-game defaults, at 0xAA and 4xAA. Left 4 Dead 2 has everything maxed out at High, including 4xAA, so we don't have anywhere to go—after all, it's the least demanding game in our test suite at present. Mass Effect 2 has everything maxed for High, and we use the driver control panel to enable 4xAA for the Ultra run; the same goes for StarCraft II. Finally, STALKER: Call of Pripyat is run at the "High" setting with DX11, Tessellation, and Contact Hardening Shadows; for the Ultra test we bump up to Extreme detail and enable 4xAA, A-Tested AA (10.1 style), default SSAO with High quality, and we check DX10.1 as well. These are the results we came up with:
|iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Gaming Performance
|Battlefield: Bad Company 2 DX11
DiRT 2 DX11
|Left 4 Dead 2
|Mass Effect 2
|STALKER: Call of Pripyat
We did run into one bug in our gaming tests: our Ultra results in STALKER: Call of Pripyat result in some severe artifacting that makes the game unplayable. We don't know if it's just a driver issue, or something in particular with our cards, but with all the same settings at "High" quality it's fine, but "Extreme" quality creates artifacting. Our score above may not even be a correct result, but we included it just as a reference point. It's also a bit odd that DiRT 2 scored higher with 4xAA enabled, but it did, indicating there's another potential driver optimization issue—not that either result is bad.
Anyway, there you have it. A glitch in STALKER notwithstanding, the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC will most definitely run any game on the market at 1080p with power to spare. Since there are a pair of SLI'ed GTX 470's in the Paladin XLC, you can also opt to use NVIDIA Surround to stretch your gaming experience across three monitors if you're so inclined. It's obvious this machine can game—oh, how it can game—but what happens when we put the build itself under scrutiny?