The Value of a Custom Build

I'm reasonably certain there's still a big question mark floating above the heads of many readers. While we've demonstrated the Paladin XLC is fast and certainly powerful enough to max out most any game available now and for the foreseeable future, and the configuration seems fairly forward-thinking, there remains the question of what secret sauce iBUYPOWER brings to the table. You're paying a premium to have the machine assembled, tweaked, and tested so you don't have to do it. You're paying a premium for the right parts.

This becomes interesting for me in particular because my personal build actually isn't far removed from what iBUYPOWER put together here. We share the following components specifically: an Intel Core i7-930 processor (overclocked and stability tested in both cases), a Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R revision 2 motherboard, and a Kingston 64GB SSDNow! V2 solid state drive for the operating system. I personally opted to go for 12GB of Corsair DDR3-1333 memory since I use my machine to edit video, and I run a Radeon HD 5870 instead of SLI'ed GeForce GTX 470's, but the cores of the configurations are similar enough to warrant scrutiny.

My first big red flag was the overclock on the Core i7 in the iBUYPOWER unit. I may have lucked out with the one in my desktop: it hits 4GHz on stock voltage, but I run it at a Bclk of 166, left turbo boost on, and undervolted it to 1.1375V and scored a Prime95-stable 3.6GHz. The overclock on the i7 in the Paladin XLC seems tame bordering on just plain bad, though. iBUYPOWER ships it with a stunning 1.325V on the core, and they confusingly opt to drop the multiplier and raise the Bclk to get it to 3.5GHz. The overclock on my machine yields modest improvements over the iBUYPOWER's overclock in Cinebench and no real change in the x264 benchmark.

It only gets odder, though. The VID of my chip is 1.2375V; the VID of the one in the review unit is a frankly impressively low 1.11875V. iBUYPOWER also opts to change the chip's Vcore directly instead of using the "Dynamic Vcore" option present in the GA-X58A-UD3R's BIOS, an option which allows the user to alter the chip's load voltage while letting the chip reduce operating voltage when idling or running at lower clocks. This doesn't give me the sense that this machine was tuned, and unfortunately that increased power draw is going to be passed on to the end user. This is work that could've taken a day to do, placed alongside other machines on the same bench undergoing tuning and testing. Less power. Less heat.

A power user would probably be able to wring a lot more out of this machine, but doesn't that suggest the question of why they would buy it in the first place?

Using SLI'ed GeForce GTX 470's is also a questionable decision. Certainly the performance is there, but in my own experience even a single AMD Radeon HD 5870 (and consequently, a single NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470) is plenty for a single monitor unless you move up to 27" and 30" 2560x1440/2560x1600 displays. If you crave more power, iBUYPOWER lets you configure the system with a pair of GTX 460's instead, and honestly that's probably the better call. Two 470's just put out far too much heat and worse, this machine makes a heck of a racket when the cards are under load. It really does sound like a jet engine, and a large part of that is the fact that the motherboard basically requires the two cards to be sandwiched together.

In summary, while the motherboard is good it's probably not the best choice for SLI or CrossFire setups due to spacing concerns. Also, the CPU overclock looks lazy and/or amateurish, and while it does have a warranty covering the overclock we'd prefer more attention to detail. If you know what you're doing, you can easily tweak the configuration to suit your needs, and that's what we'd recommend doing. iBUYPOWER can clearly build a good rig, but don't expect overclocking and tuning to equal what some of the extreme boutique vendors (i.e. Falcon Northwest) provide.

Getting to Know the iBuyPower Paladin XLC Good Value but Perhaps Overkill
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  • HangFire - Thursday, September 2, 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.

  • Sanada - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    It looks like a Storm Trooper.
  • wolfman3k5 - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    After reading this review I've checked out, 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, 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 !!! 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] 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.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, September 2, 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.
  • wolfman3k5 - Thursday, September 2, 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.


    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 about how to build a computer from scratch.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 2, 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:

    "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.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, September 2, 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.
  • Ratman6161 - Friday, September 3, 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.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 2, 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?

    As for the pricing, I just went here ( 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.
  • wolfman3k5 - Thursday, September 2, 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:

    NZXT Phantom Full Tower Gaming Case - Red
    Case Lighting
    iBUYPOWER Labs - Noise Reduction
    iBUYPOWER Labs - Internal Expansion
    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
    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
    [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
    Flash Media Reader/Writer
    12-In-1 Internal Flash Media Card Reader/Writer - Black
    Meter Display
    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
    2nd Monitor
    Speaker System
    iBUYPOWER 2.1 Channel Stereo Super Bass Subwoofer Speaker System
    Power Protection
    Video Camera
    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
    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).

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