IBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom Series
Today we have the opportunity to look at something we don't normally look at: a full turn-key system. Today's system is one of the newest models from iBUYPOWER. Who is iBUYPOWER? They are a company on a mission. Based in Los Angeles County California, iBUYPOWER's mission is to provide a complete computing solution to meet the needs of the surrounding community and customers nationwide. The current product line from iBUYPOWER includes gaming desktops, gaming laptops, workstations, media center PC's, peripherals and multimedia products. As you can plainly see, iBUYPOWER has quite an extensive product line to choose from and can meet any demand you may have for a system or accessory. Though today, as I said, we are going to look at one of their latest releases: the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom!
The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom has a base model and is upgradeable from there to fit your needs. The base model starts out at an expected retail price of $1459.00. I was informed that the starting price of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom may change prior to release.
|Case||NZXT Phantom - White|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-930
Asetek 570LX 240mm Liquid Cooling
|Motherboard||ASUS P6T SE|
|Video||ATI Radeon HD 5830-1GB|
|Power||Corsair 750w ATX Power Supply|
|Memory||6GB (3x2GB) DDR3-1600|
|HDD||1TB 7200RPM 64MB Cache SATA3-6.0Gb/s|
|Optical Media||24x Double-layer DVD+/-RW + CD-RW Drive|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Front Panel Connectivity||1x Mic-in
12-in-1 Multi-format Memory Card Reader
|Peripherals||iBUYPOWER 6-button 800DPI-Switching Mouse
iBUYPOWER Standard Internet Keyboard
|Warranty||3-Yr Limited Warranty + Lifetime Phone Support|
Just because it is a base model doesn't mean that it isn't a solid system. As you can see in the above table the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom features some of the latest and greatest features. Starting out with the processor, it features a water cooled Intel Core I7 930; you can get all the DirectX 11 graphics with the ATI Radeon HD 5830! The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom has plenty of space for music, movies and games with a Western Digital one terabyte SATA3 hard drive. This all comes packaged in the attractive styling of the new NZXT Phantom case!
Today though, we aren't looking at a base model iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom. We are going to look at an iBUYPOWER Paladin with a few upgraded parts; after all, what fun is a base model? You need to customize it how you want! The first piece of hardware to get upgraded is the motherboard. Instead of the ASUS P6T SE we will be using a system based around a GIGABYTE X58A-UD3R. The reason for the motherboard switch has to do with the next upgrade. Instead of the single ATI Radeon HD 5830 we are going to be running a pair of PaLiT GeForce GTX 460's in SLI! This will undoubtedly give us the ability to crank up the DirectX 11 eyecandy. We will also be adding to the list of features with a 64GB Kingston SSDNow! V2 series MLC SSD. We are also dropping the DVD Rewriter and replacing it with an LG Blu-ray rom/DVD Rewriter. Last but not least are a couple of changes with the processor. The Intel Core I7 930 will be overclocked from iBUYPOWER with the iBP Labs Level 3 Powerdrive Overclocking. The iBP Labs Level 3 Powerdrive Overclocking will give you an overclock out of the box of up to 30%; in this case we will be running at 3518MHz! That's not the only set up that we are going to use though; we are also going to run an Intel Core I7 970 at both stock speeds and with a iBP Labs Level 3 Powerdrive Overclock which will put this processor at an impressive 3840MHz!
|Component||Base Model||Configuration 1||Configuration 2|
|CPU||Intel core I7 930||Intel core I7 930||Intel core I7 970|
|Motherboard||ASUS P6T SE||GIGABYTE X58A-UD3R|
|Video||ATI Radeon HD 5830-1GB||2x PaLiT GeForce GTX 460 1Gb|
|Power||Corsair 750w ATX Power Supply||Soly-Tech SL-8850EPS 800 Watt|
|Optical Media||24x Double-layer DVD+/-RW + CD-RW Drive||LG Blu-ray ROM|
We will be testing both configuration one and configuration two today. Both of the configurations have the iBP Labs Level 3 Powerdrive Overclock in place. We will also reset that overclock and see how well the system does with the processor's out of the box speeds! Before we get to the testing let's take a peek at how well iBUYPOWER packages their products!
Unboxing the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom
One day in the not too distant past UPS dropped by with a rather large package for me. I wasn't sure what I was getting but it was big. According to the shipping documents it weighed in at 57 pounds and measured an impressive 30.5"x30.5"x17" (L*W*H). A package this size had to be something fun so I took a few pictures as I went. As I went I discovered that it was the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom!
As I opened up the packaging to a yet unknown product, I could tell it was very well packaged.
Removing the first layer of foam packaging revealed a second, thicker layer of foam for additional protection.
Once that the second layer of foam was removed I saw that it was the NZXT Phantom Case, or so I thought. 57 pounds did seem like it was a bit heavy for an empty case, though there was quite a bit of packing material.
Opening up the packaging for the NZXT Phantom Case it still wasn't obvious to me that it was a full system, but I had my guesses since I was expecting a system from iBUYPOWER though I wasn't sure as to what the system was. The first real indication was the bundle that was included inside of the packaging.
As you can see the bundle that was inside of the packaging had all of the above parts that don't typically come with just a case. The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom comes with everything you need to fire up your system. Above you can see the iBUYPOWER keyboard and mouse. Also included is a power cable, the driver discs, accessories from the GIGABYTE X58A-UD3R motherboard, PaLiT GeForce GTX 460's and all of the unused screws from the NZXT Phantom Case. iBUYPOWER also includes an installation disc for Windows 7 Home Premium 64Bit.
IBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom Series outside Images
The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom is built in the new NZXT Phantom case. Take notice of the paperwork on the side of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom; this instructs you to open up the side of the case to remove the internal packaging that protects the components.
There is plenty of air intake on the side panel. The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom has a pair of 120mm fans installed on the side with available placement for a 200mm fan as well.
The front of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom is sharp looking and clean; all the drive space is placed behind the door.
This particular version of the Paladin XLC Phantom has been upgraded to a single blu-ray rom/DVD re-writer. There is also a 12 in 1 card reader in the bottom 5.25" drive bay.
The back panel of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom has black mesh that will allow for the air from the pair of 120mm fans on the front flow over the hard drive cages.
The back of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom features all the usual connections, as well as four grommeted holes for water lines if you decide to run an external water cooling system.
Above we can see the USB, audio, and e-SATA ports on the top of the system. Just below them are the buttons for the power and reset functions.
Here we can see the five fan speed sliders that control the various fans in the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom.
The fans on the top of the case are a pair of 200mm fans with the rear fan being an LED fan that can be switched on and off.
The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom comes with everything you need to fire up your system. Above you can see the iBUYPOWER keyboard and mouse. Also included is a power cable, the driver discs, accessories from the GIGABYTE X58A-UD3R motherboard, PaLiT GeForce GTX 460's and all of the unused screws from the NZXT Phantom Case. iBUYPOWER also includes an installation disc for Windows 7 Home Premium 64Bit.
IBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom Series Moving Inside
Once we pull the side cover off we can see the internal packaging that will keep the components safe during shipping. It is imperative that this be removed prior to firing up the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom.
Once the packaging is removed we can see that the cable management in the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom is impeccable.
Looking inside the top of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom we can see that the CPU is cooled by a 240mm radiator. The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom's CPU cooling system is an Asetek 570LX 240mm Liquid Cooling system.
The motherboard used in this particular model is a GIGABYTE X58A-UD3R, which is an upgrade from the base model's ASUS P6T SE. The graphics cards that you can see here are also upgraded from the base model's Radeon HD 5830. Here we have a pair of PALIT GeForce GTX 460 1GB cards running is SLI! Powering the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom is a Soly-Tech SL-8850EPS 800 Watt power supply.
The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom that was sent to us includes a 64GB Kingston SSDNow! V2 series MLC SSD for your operating system and a 1TB SATA3 Western Digital Black Edition data drive.
The back of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom is a bit of a rats nest. Fortunately, that is okay since we aren't worried about airflow back here. Although, I am not real wild about the extension cables used for the motherboard and cpu power cables. I know that sometimes you need additional cable length but I would prefer to use a power supply with the necessary cable length.
Now that we have covered what makes up the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC we can start the fun and get to some testing. We are going to test the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom in four different configurations. First we are going to run two configurations each with the Intel Core I7 930 and the Intel Core I7 970, first we will run the processors at the out of the box speeds of the I7 930 2.8GHz with turbo enabled and the same for the Intel I7 970 at 3.2GHz with turbo enabled as well. Next we will run the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom at a 25% overclock on each processor. We will be running the Intel Core I7 930 processor at 3518MHz and the Intel Core I7 970 at 3840MHz. This is considered iBUYPOWER's level 3 overclocking which will overclock the processor up to 30%. Well, enough talk; let's get to the testing!
PCMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed for Windows Vista offering one-click simplicity for casual users and detailed, professional grade testing for industry, press and enthusiasts.
A PCMark score is a measure of your computer’s performance across a variety of common tasks such as viewing and editing photos, video, music and other media, gaming, communications, productivity and security.
From desktops and laptops to workstations and gaming rigs, by comparing your PCMark Vantage score with other similar systems you can find the hardware and software bottlenecks that stop you getting more from your PC.
Benchmark Results: The iBUYPOWER Paladin Phantom with the overclocked Intel Core I7 970 was the clear victor in Futuremark PCMark Vantage. I will be surprised if this isn't the theme of the day.
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Performance settings were used, so a 1280x1024 resolution was used.
Benchmark Results: Not surprisingly, the Paladin XLC Phantom with the overclocked Intel I7 970 had a solid lead in 3DMark Vantage.
SiSoft Sandra 2010 Memory Bandwidth
The Sisoft Sandra 2010 benchmark utility was released a few weeks ago and we have started to include it in our benchmarking. Sandra 2010 now comes with support for Virtualization (Virtual PC/Server, Hyper-V, VMware) and GPGPU (OpenCL, DirectX 11 Compute Shader/DirectCompute). Today we will be utilizing Sandra 2010 to look at memory bandwidth performance!
Benchmark Results: In SiSoftware's SANDRA 2010 we can see that the Paladin XLC Phantom using the Intel Core I7 930 with the level 3 OC from iBUYPOWER has significantly more memory bandwidth than the system with the Intel Core I7 970.
MAXON recently released CINEBENCH Release 11.5, an advanced hardware testing suite that assesses a computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on the same powerful technology as MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. The new version of CINEBENCH includes the ability to more accurately test the industry’s latest hardware, including systems with up to 64 processor threads, and the testing environment better reflects the expectations of today’s production demands. A more streamlined interface makes testing systems and reading results incredibly straight forward. Again, higher Frames/Second and point score equal better performance.
Benchmark Results: Cinebench is a great benchmark for testing multi-core and single core performance. During the multi-core benchmark the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom featuring the I7 970 with level 3 overclocking is the clear and definitive leader. When looking at single core performance it came down to clock speed. Here the level 3 overclocked I7 970 still reigns supreme; it all comes down to the frequency of the chip. The overclocked Intel I7 970 running at 3.84GHz and leads, the overclocked Intel I7 running at ~3.5GHz takes up the second spot, the Intel Core I7 970 running at the stock speed of 3.2GHz falls in third and the Intel Core I7 930 running at 2.8GHz takes up the last place.
Colin McRae: DiRT2
Colin McRae: DiRT 2 is one of the most anticipated racing games of the year and will take full advantage of DirectX 11, adding realism to the racing environment. The game also will have hardware tessellation that is said to improve the appearance of water and other surfaces, as well as crowd animations. Utilizing the EGO Engine, DiRT 2 should raise the bar for PC gaming and is a definite must-have for PC gamers as it will have cars and tracks twice as detailed as those seen in Race Driver: GRID. To test I use the high presets with no AA.
Benchmark Results: At the low resolutions the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC with the Intel Core I7 970 overclocked to 3.84GHz easily takes the win in Colin McRae: DiRT2. Though it is safe to say that all of the processors combined with the pair of Palit GeForce GTX 460's make a very playable system.
Aliens Vs. Predator
Aliens vs Predator is an entirely new title for PC and high-definition consoles from acclaimed British developer Rebellion, the team behind the 1999 original PC gaming classic. Bringing the most intense war between two of science-fiction’s most popular characters FPS fans, AvP delivers three outstanding single player campaigns and provides untold hours of unique 3-way multiplayer gaming. Experience distinctly new and thrilling first person gameplay as you survive, hunt and prey in the deadly jungles and swamps surrounding the damned colony of Freya’s Prospect.
We cranked up all the image quality settings in the benchmark to the highest level possible, so we were running 4x AA and 16x AF with SSAO enabled at both 1920x1200 and 1280x1024 on all the video cards.
Benchmark Results: Aliens Vs. Predator seems to have hit the performance limit of the Palit GeForce GTX 460's. None of the processors' configurations made any sort of significant performance difference.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
The events of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat unfold shortly after the end of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl following the ending in which Strelok destroys the C-Consciousness. Having discovered the open path to the Zone's center, the government decides to stage a large-scale operation to take control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat utilizes the XRAY 1.6 Engine, allowing advanced modern graphical features through the use of DirectX 11 to be fully integrated; one outstanding feature being the inclusion of real-time GPU tessellation. Regions and maps feature photo realistic scenes of the region it is made to represent. There is also extensive support for older versions of DirectX, meaning that Call of Pripyat is also compatible with older DirectX 8, 9, 10 and 10.1 graphics cards.
The game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: CoP has no internal benchmarking tools built into the game engine, but they do have a standalone benchmark available that we used for our testing purposes. The screen capture above shows the main window of the benchmark with our settings. Notice we are running Enhanced Full Dynamic Lighting "DX11" as our renderer.
Benchmark Results: All of the systems were able to run the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat with relative ease. Results match what we have seen for most of the day with the processor with the most cores and highest frequency taking the top spot. Although, as pointed out here, this benchmark is not threaded very well so frequency will play a much more important role. The Intel Core I7 970 has been running with turbo enabled which will put it only 180MHz slower than the overclocked Intel Core I7 930.
x264 HD Video Encoding
Simply put, it is a reproducible measure of how fast your machine can encode a short HD-quality video clip into a high quality x264 video file. It's nice because everyone running it will use the same video clip and software. The video encoder (x264.exe) reports a fairly accurate internal benchmark (in frames per second) for each pass of the video encode and it also uses multi-core processors very efficiently. All these factors make this an ideal benchmark to compare different processors and systems to each other.
Benchmark Results: The first pass of the x264 HD Video Encoding benchmark is not very processor intensive and overall clock speed helped the Paladin XLC Phantom with the overclocked Intel core I7 930 stay much closer to the stock Intel Core I7 970. The second pass however, benefits from the additional cores of the Intel Core I7 970. The out of the box speeds of the Intel Core I7 970 are slower than the overclocked Intel Core I7 930 by ~300MHz but the additional cores gave us nearly 12 frames per second better performance. Once we increased the speed of the Intel Core I7 970 to the level 3 overclock, the performance gap increased to nearly 20 frames per second!
wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.
Benchmark Results: When it comes to wPrime more cores is king. Despite the higher clock speed of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom with the Intel Core I7 930 overclocked to the iBLabs Level 3 overclock, the stock Intel Core I7 970 left the Intel I7 930 systems looking like they were standing still.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
In all of the years I have been using computers I have never had a "turn key" system. I have always thought of them as too overpriced for what you get. Why pay someone else for something that I can do? However, before I needed to form my overall opinion of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom I wanted to check this idea of mine out. Out of sheer curiosity I headed over to Newegg.com and decided to build this system and see how much it would cost to buy all of the parts individually. I have to say I was thoroughly shocked!
The above configuration is for the base model of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom. You may have noticed there are two important parts of the build that are missing. The first is the NZXT Phantom case which looks like it is going to retail for $139.99 and is currently unavailable. That brings our total for the build up to $1422.90 and we are still missing the Asetek 570LX 240mm Liquid Cooling which I found for $199 out on the web. That brings the grand total $1621.90. That is above and beyond what it would cost to order the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom. Ordering the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom will actually save you more than $160.00 off the bat, add in the bundle of the keyboard and mouse and you are closer to $200+. To me that looks like a great deal. You can either pay more for all of the pieces or get a fully built, ready to rock set up. Makes it seem like an easy decision, doesn't it?
The iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom we got to play with is a beast of a system. Coming out of the box, today's system had a 25% overclock in place from the iBP Labs Level 3 Powerdrive Overclock. This gave the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom power to spare. The base specifications that we looked at on the first page of the article are impressive; once you upgrade the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom to the features you want, it will make it even better.
Once you take a look at the upgraded specifications above you can see that the value of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom remains. Once we add the cost of the NZXT Phantom case and the liquid cooling we are at a total of ~$1950, which is slightly less than the system costs from iBUYPOWER. We have to keep in mind that we are also paying for the iBP Labs Level 3 overclock which is $99.00 and the iBP Labs Advanced Professional Wiring which is only $57.00 with all of the options.
The system configuration we were using did cost a little more, though it has quite a few upgrades. For the additional $540.00 you have an SLI system running a pair of PaLiT GeForce GTX 460's, a 64GB Kingston SSDNow! V2 series MLC SSD, iBP Labs Advanced Professional Wiring and iBP Labs Level 3 Powerdrive Overclocking. We also were able to test this configuration with an Intel Core I7 970. While it is a great processor, it didn't have a huge impact on any of the game benchmarks. It does have its advantages, though; the Intel Core I7 970 easily dominated the Intel Core I7 930 on any of the processor intensive tasks such as Cinebench R11.5, wPrime and the x264 HD Video Benchmark. I don't have any doubts that we will begin to see games take more advantage of more and more threads in the future. Today, though, we just aren't there yet. If you are the type of person who likes to stay on the cutting edge of technology or if you run a lot of heavily threaded apps the Intel Core I7 970 will speed these applications up tremendously and may be the processor for you. The upgrade to the Intel Core I7 970 is a costly $625.00, though it would be worth it depending on what you plan on doing with your iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom. No matter which configuration of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom you decide on, you will have peace of mind knowing that your system is backed by a three year warranty and lifetime technical support!
Legit Bottom Line: The performance of the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom as we tested it today was top notch. Throw in the fact that the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC Phantom can be purchased from iBUYPOWER for less than it would cost you to purchase all of the parts individually, and it's a no brainer!