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
PCMark Vantage 6740 12659
Cinebench R10 1-CPU 3596 5172
Cinebench R10 x-CPU 16140 20807
X264 720p Encode Pass 1 77.29 83.45
X264 720p Encode Pass 2 24.79 33.14

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 15533 30950
3DMark Vantage Entry 30856 66562
3DMark06 18209 24053
3DMark05 22312 31000
3DMark03 69538 110995

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
  "High" Detail "Ultra" Detail
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 DX11 113.5 100.6
DiRT 2 DX11
131 135.1
Left 4 Dead 2 159.8 N/A
Mass Effect 2 247 186
STALKER: Call of Pripyat 132.7 56.6
StarCraft II 65.1 61.7

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?

Introducing the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC The Value of a Custom Build
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    The test system came with a 64GB SSDNow and 1TB 64MB HDD, not two 1TB HDDs; also, the GPUs are not the EVGA SuperClocked model. I selected the 8X LG Blu-ray, as Dustin listed a 10X BD-ROM, not a 10X BD-RW. The major difference in pricing comes from the extra $100 for a Blu-ray Rewriter, as the GPUs end up washing out with the SSD price.

    FWIW, lifetime ratings at RR can be misleading, though there are problems with a 6-month window as well. The recent history is full of pleased reviews, while at about 8 months back there's a bunch of complaints. At least one is a person whining about two unknown devices on a laptop after upgrading to Windows 7... hardly a 1-star experience. Others ordered something and it didn't ship immediately, which makes me wonder if they were trying to jump on some hot new hardware and ended up with limited inventory. Again, that's not a 1-star review in my book. They're not perfect, but perhaps -- just perhaps -- they're doing better now than in the past. Or they just had a bunch of users give them favorable RR reviews lately.

    Anyway, you have a history of angry comments, and I still don't know what you have against this company. We said the system was priced well, overclocked poorly (i.e. lazy), and the GTX 470 SLI was probably overkill... then you act as though we praised them for being the greatest thing since sliced bread. They look like a reasonable option overall, particularly if you're not after massive overclocks. There will be good and bad experiences, but on average they do well. Would I buy from them? If the price was right, sure. Last time I bought someone a system, I ended up with CyberPower purchased from Newegg because it was cheaper than iBUYPOWER, but they were my second option.
  • wolfman3k5 - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    I don't know how you can poorly overclock an Corer i7, I really don't. The platform is so mature, and given that the system is using a second generation X58 motherboard (USB 3.0 support and SATA 6), there is no such thing as a Lazy Overclock with an i7. I've explained before, different X58 motherboards show poor performance when used with 2 X GTX 470 cards in SLI due to some BIOS bug. I have experienced this with an MSI X58 Big Bang XPower. As soon as MSI sent me a new BIOS, things got back to normal. It could be the case with the Gigabyte board as well, I don't know for sure.

    As far as pricing goes, I will give up on this argument. I could nit pick us much as I want, for example I could tell you that the LG 8X Blu Ray is not being manufactured anymore and that it has been replaced by the 10X.

    My hole point is that iBuyPower doesn't ship the same build quality to their customers. Order one from them as a customer, not as a review site, review it and then we can talk.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    The overclock wasn't tuned. It looked brute force, like "this is a good baseline to get this much of an overclock from the i7."

    The i7 930 overclocks like a frigging champ. This thing had a VID lower than mine did, on the same model and revision of motherboard, and with less memory to serve than mine. It looked like they just plugged in some numbers that they felt had a high chance of producing a stable overclock, regardless of the individual tolerances of the specific CPU and motherboard, probably gave it a few runs in Linx, and called it a day.
  • wolfman3k5 - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    I see your point. My issue with the MSI motherboard didn't have anything to do with overclocking. With BIOS 1.2, when 2 X NVIDIA (GTX 470 in my case) where being used in SLI, the whole system would slow down. I had something to do with resource allocation. Anyway, BIOS 1.37Beta fixed the issue.

    As far as the effort that they've put into overclocking the system, it just echoes what I've said: there isn't enough margin for iBuyPower to do any serious work.

    Despite the fact that I can build my own system, if I don't have the time to do or mess with it, I would rather order from a custom builder. I would rather pay more and get a solid product.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    So which iBUYPOWER PC did you purchase in the past year? Because unless you've had recent personal experience with them, none of this conversation even matters.

    Sure, it would be nice to buy product, review it, and return it for a refund post-review. HardOCP tried that a couple years back (it was called "[ H ] Consumer" or something like that), and guess what? They're no longer doing it for "some strange reason". Could it be that if you buy a product, review it, and they don't like the review you're stuck with something you don't want? Maybe it just cost too much money upfront for items the readers didn't care to read about? Anyway, unless Anand offers to start buying me systems and dealing with the return and refund process, I'm not capable of footing that bill. Heh... if I got paid by companies to do favorable reviews, maybe it would be a lot easier?

    Anyway, unless you buy this same iBUYPOWER and don't get any of the extra stuff mentioned in this review, I'm not sure there's much else to discuss. Do companies try to send "better" samples to reviewers? Yup. But if cable sleeving like they claim to offer doesn't come on customer samples, and we hear about it from people that actually buy based off our review, trust me that it will come back to bite them in the butt.
  • strikeback03 - Friday, September 3, 2010 - link

    I found what appears to be the sleeving options on page 3 of the configuration, the "Services and Support" tab, Advanced Build Options. Looks like it was $57 for everything. I also got a price of ~$2500 (including the BD burner) so their $2100 estimate might have been low, unless they offered this all in a package at some point. Ultimately price comparisons are of limited use anyway, as both the prices they offer stuff at and the prices average consumers can buy stuff for from NewEgg and such are constantly changing, so the value of these reviews is more in seeing if the company does things right, such as having BIOS and drivers up to date for shipping time and such, or if the overclock is indeed stable (if lazy).

    Plus, this isn't even the most overpriced machine I have seen today, our lab got a quote for a piece of equipment this morning that included $1395 for a system listed as a 2.0GHz C2D, 2GB RAM, 80GB HDD, DVD/RW, 17" LCD, and WinXP Pro.
  • Soldier1969 - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    I dont know all that much about the company, but I have this case pictured and its incredible! Great cooling with 7 fans. Reminds me of a Stormtrooper from Star Wars. Some people that seen it think something from the USS Enterprise. Awesome spacing and easy to add parts to. If your doing a new build or adding hardware, order one youll love it!
  • Bonesdad - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    That is an amazingly ugly case. I would be embarrassed to have that hideous thing in my house. I am an adult, though. Maybe some 14 year old would think it's "awesome", but ...oh forget it.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    It's funny, I've had a couple of people come over to look at the case and we've all reached the same conclusion: it's kind of tacky, but appealing in an awesomely tacky "this looks like an imperial stormtrooper" kind of way. I like the case as a curio, but for my own build I'd still rather use my Antec P182.
  • Dragging40 - Friday, September 3, 2010 - link

    This is a very nice computer! Win I win the lotto, this will be the one I buy

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