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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  • wolfman3k5 - Friday, September 3, 2010 - link

    You may do your own search on youtube about how actual iBuyPower systems look like that are being shipped to customers, but for reference here is a video from May, 2010:

    I wouldn't say that it looks any better than from what an average Joe with average computer hardware skills would put together.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 3, 2010 - link

    I'm not sure what you'd want it to be. Since the switch to SATA in place of the old IDE cables, wiring has become less critical IMO. Anyway, I've played with old Falcon Northwest and VoodooPC computers in the past, with immaculate wiring jobs. The problem is that if you ever need to replace something, or add hardware, or whatever it's a total pain in the butt. Then again, I don't care about case lighting or windows, so all I need is wiring that isn't terrible. iBUYPOWER doesn't do much beyond what an enthusiast can do, but if you were to ask me to build a similar system I'd probably charge $200 and I wouldn't be providing free tech support.
  • Notleh - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    1) Personally, I love the look of the white Phantom case. I am friggin sick of boring black rectangles.

    2) You are spot on with the i7 overclock. You can get 4.0-4.2 easily on air cooling. With that 2X120mm radiator they should have no problems hitting at least 4.0ghz.

    3) I think you are a bit off on 470GTX. Yes, to your comments about heat and power. But the 470GTX is at a sweet spot right now, since you can pick up a pair of them for $440. When run in SLI they are very competitive at that price. Not needed for a single monitor run at normal res, but VERY nice for high res or multi-monitor.

    4) The cable sleeving argument is mildly retarded. Nowadays you can just buy the colored, pre-sleeved cable extensions from NZXT directly or newegg or frozencpu for like 6-10 bucks. They look fantastic. Not to mention the fact that this case has so much room and amazing airflow that sleeving isnt much of a performance issue.

    Anyway, nice review. You marked your issues but still made a call at the end. I wouldn't go prebuilt since I could build my own, but this isn't a bad build or a bad price. Rock on Dustin.
  • wolfman3k5 - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    The cable sleeving argument was mine. I wasn't talking about pres-sleeved extensions, which is probably what they've used. Yes they look fantastic, and no, I didn't know that you could buy them for NZXT power supplies. I've done cable sleeving in the past and it is very time consuming, not to mention expensive if you do a whole computer (~$60 to $70 in materials alone). My point was that I couldn't believe that they would take the time to sleeve cables at this price point, but since there are extensions that you can buy readily available, it is more plausible.

    I agree with you on the GTX 470. I've just picked up a pair of Gigabyte GTX470 (reference cards, probably made by the same manufacturer who makes all the other GTX 470 cards) for ~$500 from NewEgg. Maybe in some amazing combo, they would cost $440 for a pair. But right now they are actually the best bang for the buck when used in SLI.

    Hitting 4.0GHz requeres a little bit of skill, regardless of the motherboard that they where using. However, 3.5GHz was easy to attain. The reviewer meant that the overclock was poorly tuned when he said that it was "lazy", not that the CPU wasn't set at a higher speed.
  • Will Robinson - Sunday, September 5, 2010 - link

    Enough with the "You can easily get 4GHz on air" comments.
    Do you even have one?
    A Core i7 WILL overclock stably to 3.8GHZ without too much tweaking but after that it requires voltage increases that rapidly increase system temps and often result in INstability.
    I have mine under water cooling and with summer ambient temp,anything over 3.8GHz heats things up very quickly.
    I know it sounds so hardcore boasting about 4GHz overclocks but in the real world its not as "gosh darn" child's play as you state.
  • Notleh - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    You can buy them at Fry's for $249 each and they have a $30 rebate. I got a similar deal a month ago that Galaxy posted on the [H}ardocp forums.

    I see what you mean on the OC. Weaksauce adjustments to Bclk, vcore and such...which led to a weak overclock. If I am paying for an expert to build my system I would expect it to be properly tuned.

    Wolfman, how are you liking those 470's? I am very pleased with mine running 3 monitors in NVSurround.

    Sleeved cables ($10 for 24 pin in black/red/white):

    470 deal:
  • wolfman3k5 - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    I love the my pair of GTX 470. IMHO they're the best bang for the buck right now, period. I got a pair of Gigabyte GTX 470 from NewEgg (it was an order for a whole system), and with the combos and MIR I got my pair same as you, for $440. Again, I highly recommend the cards in SLI.
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, September 5, 2010 - link

    This article is a perfect example of why I don't buy a pre-built.

    Power supply made by who? The people who build machines to sell will find ways to cut corners. Overclocked by a factory monkey who cared the first 100 machines he/she built, but frankly the job is getting a bit old and doesn't really pay all that well to begin with. Besides, time is money, and spending a extra couple of hours with your boss breathing down your neck isn't fun, even if you still enjoy the actual work. Been there, done that.

    Okay, I imagine there are a few who don't cut corners, but they don't sell machines under $3k. Most don't even bother to check with mainboard manufacturers and see if the components they use have been tested, or see if Microsoft has approved it for Win 7. I'm not saying iBUYPOWER is that sloppy, but many manufacturers are.

    As far as video card overkill - all I have to say is, I play WoW on a system using an i7 920 OC'd to 4.1GHz running Crossfired 5770s and it can't hold 1920x1200 @ 85 Hz everywhere in the game with all settings on "Ultra", so I'll believe 2 470s in SLI, even with their much greater power and scalability, will be more power than I need when I see it - and that's before I buy a bigger monitor with more pixels to generate. The fact is, standard these days is 1920x1080 and a bunch of us have more than that (I'm running old school still, and far better than most of you, which is the reason I can run @ 85 Hz. Hz=refresh rate=fps for those of you unfamiliar with the nomenclature); this system is far from overkill. We run 2 monitors (or more), Sony GDM FW900s, The Dell U2711, 30" monitors, or a variety of other options other than the average setup.

    (Not putting down "the average setup" or anything else. I also have an LCD running 1920x1200@60Hz, and it is a nice monitor. TN monitors have come a long way. But then, so have other screen types.)

    Granted, WoW is a CPU intensive game and not strictly speaking a fair judge of video card performance (but it is a great judge of overall computer video performance); and the WoW tech boys and girls need to step up and bring the game in to modern times and take advantage of the video card power we have these days (maybe they are going to do it in Cataclysm, but I'm not holding my breath. Regardless, even software doing mostly traditional CPU style work is wasting a modern computer's power if it's not taking advantage of the GPU to share the load - the 2 systems are not as separate in function as they once were, and software engineers should be taking advantage of that.) but the video card setup does have a big impact.

    We also now have 3D with a 120Hz requirement@ 1920x1080 (Didn't I just read an article talking about how much better the experience of 120Hz was over 60Hz here in Anandtech?), monitors capable of 10-bit color becoming mainstream, and LCD television screens capable of 240Hz. The video capabilities of a computer like this are far from overkill.


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