Lately, we've been doing a lot of articles covering PC hardware that require basic knowledge on how to build your own computer. However, one option I often overlook is pre-built computers by companies such as iBuyPower. Today, I'm going to review the iBuyPower HS11: a holiday special made for gamers who want a good deal, but at the same time, are not interested in building the computer themselves.
These are the system specs I received from iBuyPower:
One problem that often occurs when dealing with computer companies of this nature is that while they do include quality components -- the i5-2500K, for example -- there can be a distinct lack of brand names on some of the other components. This lack of exact model allows the company to use cheap components that don't necessarily have the best quality track record, which can leave you potentially with a blown power supply or a leak in the liquid cooling system (Okay, unlikely, but still possible).
Not a bad case, but it's not a good case either...
At first glance, you can tell it's a pretty cheap case, but it is more or less standard for a midtower. There are three USB ports on the front, including ports for SD cards, along with your typical 5 1/4" drive bay. There are four thumb screws attaching the side panels to the rest of the chassis and a total of five ventilation grates on various parts of the case.
To begin, let's take a look at the front. The entire front is on a somewhat raised platform, which under closer inspection, is a front ventilation panel. However, it's more or less useless, as the air circulation is poor to begin with and the front ventilation just ends up being another way for dust to get into the system and gunk things up. The ports are all in convenient places, except for the top audio/mic and USB ports. While it's not a big deal, cords from headsets, USB devices, and the like are liable to be in the way when you open up the DVD drive. All in all, though, good placement on ports.
One thing that really kills this case for me is the lack of a good power button; I actually thought it was the circle the plastic mold leaves on cheap toys upon first glance. When the computer is off, it's not very obvious that it's the power button, as it has no visible marking. In fact, the only difference between the power button and the reset button is a small change in size. When the computer is on, the power button is lit up by a small white light that shines around the outside of the circle, and the hard drive light is a small dot in the middle of the reset button. I feel like some more thought should have gone into the power button, or at least some impression on it with a power signal; I've seen better layouts on ten-dollar cases.
Although it doesn't matter as much to people who won't be tinkering around inside, this case does have decent room to move around in compared to other midtower cases, but it still suffers from a distinct lack of space compared to a full tower (This may be obvious to some, but it needs to be said. People's fingers only come so small).
You can't go wrong with the Intel Core i5-2500K
I've said this before and I'll say it again: the i5-2500K is one of the best deals out there for a processor in terms of balance between power and price. While there are good AMD solutions available, I would venture to say that for your average gamer, this is really the only Intel processor you should consider unless you have an extra hundred bucks to blow on the i7-2600K, which is the next level up. Of course, everyone's situation is different and if you do need the extra processor power, I am in no way saying you shouldn't get a more powerful one.
In case you aren't caught up with your computer hardware, the i5-2500K is a quad-core processor that is priced a little over $200 on most sites. Although this processor doesn't support hyper-threading, many gamers do not necessarily need the power supplied by hyper-threaded machines.
Powerful graphics card, but a bit on the noisy end of things...
This computer comes with an NVIDIA GTX 570 that holds not one, but two fans. With the extra fan comes added cooling as well as noise output. When idling, it is relatively quiet, as it should be, but when you load a game such as Battlefield 3 or Skyrim, it sounds like a small plane is taking off. Despite the noise, this card is quite powerful and is able to take all the games I tested (Battlefield 3, Skyrim, Deus Ex: Human Revolution) all on the highest settings -- but more on that later.
I have mixed feelings about this card, because while it is superior to the GTX 560 Ti, I'm not sure as to whether or not the extra $200 is worth the performance increase. Personally, I would go with the GTX 560 Ti over the GTX 570 because it's not worth it to me, or I would go all the way and get the GTX 580 if I wanted to step the performance up from the 560.
This is an overall powerful graphics card, but not necessarily the most price efficient (Not to say the GTX 580 is, but it does offer a decent performance boost over the 570, and a sizable one over the 560). For someone looking for more power, I would recommend using two GTX 560 Tis in SLI, which would offer as much power as the GTX 580 for slightly less money.
A little iffy on the Seagate from personal experience
The IBP computer I got came with a 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM hard drive, which is relatively fast for an HDD. It's hard for me to treat this drive without bias based on past experience and that my current computer runs on a RAID array of SSD, but as far as I can tell from the short time I've used the drive, it's perfectly fine.
As I said in the last paragraph, I'm not very fond of Seagate drives, and with reason. Out of six Seagate drives I've had in my life, all six have died within a year (if not within the first six months). I understand other people may have experienced better results, but I have not and have lost faith in the company. Again, that is not to say that Seagate isn't a good company, it's just saying that I've had the bad luck of receiving six faulty drives in a row.
8GB of Corsair XMS3? Sounds good to me!
When it comes down to RAM, Corsair is one of the best companies to buy from. Although you can change the speed, the increase isn't very noticeable, which leaves quality measure up to the longevity and the consistency of the RAM. Corsair has both, and if you happen to get the bad unit of the bunch, it can be exchanged without a second thought.
Coonix's website doesn't even publicly sell an 800W power supply...
This computer comes with a Coonix 800W power supply, which is all fine and dandy, but I couldn't find anywhere that sold the same model power supply. In fact, Coonix's website doesn't even have it on their product list! You have to wonder why that is, and if it's a quality product or not being that there's no documentation.
Even though it's a phantom power supply, it seems to be of at least decent quality on the surface. The power cords have sleeves on them, which is a big plus in my book because it keeps the computer clean looking, and there's a nicely sized fan on the bottom of the unit. However, the fan placement does bother me somewhat. Because the fan is on the bottom, it doesn't allow very good air circulation from the power supply. It would be more understandable if the case had longer legs to allow for more air to get underneath the unit, but the case's legs are only about a centimeter high. If for some reason you put your computer on a carpeted floor, it could cause heat problems. I haven't tested this myself, but just be warned.
And now for the mysterious liquid-cooling device with a cheesy blue light...
I seriously have no clue what brand or model the liquid cooling is. There's no markings on either the fan or the socket that would say what brand name or give any hint. However, you can't argue with the results. It idles around a balmy 30 degrees Celsius in a cool room, and hovers around 50-60 degrees Celsius depending on the temperature of the room at the time. The cooling system didn't come fully filled (meaning there was air in it) and made a constant gurgling sound as the liquid and air traveled through the pipes. So, right from the start, I needed to fill it up with more distilled water to get rid of the noise. To be honest, I don't know what exactly is inside the liquid cooling, and just assumed it was water because I didn't want to buy anything else. Yet another reason why having no documentation on the liquid cooling is a bad decision!
As for the blue LED light in the liquid cooling, it seems random that it's located there, as the only way you would see the light is through the small ventilation grating on the side or from above; the case clearly isn't designed to show off the innards. To top it off, the light is covered by a cloudy plastic cover, which makes it look muddy and sloppy. I'm all for LED lights on the inside of cases, but this doesn't even look good.
I ran a few games to see how this machine performed as a gaming system, but I decided not to go through the trouble of running individual benchmarks for each component as I normally would because this review is over how the system works together as a whole instead of many separate components.
As I mentioned before, I decided to test the frame rate of three games running at 1920x1080: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Battlefield 3. The IBP system held up well against both Human Revolution and Skyrim on the highest settings at around 50-60 FPS and 40-50 FPS, respectively, depending on what was going on in the game.
In Battlefield 3, however, I began to see some irregularities: while the gameplay ran smoothly at around 30-40 FPS, some clipping started occurring in the cut scenes. I noticed that parts of faces and scenes would begin to artifact (distort) when on ultra settings, which was a big heads up that things were not going as well as the FPS counter showed. As iBuyPower.com suggests, high settings are probably the highest you want to take Battlefield 3 without some noticeable artifacting, though it should be noted that gameplay was perfectly fine on ultra. Cut scenes were the only place where this happened to me.
Here's what I assume a lot of you are reading for: whether or not building the same computer on your own is cheaper, or if buying from iBuyPower makes more sense. Looking elsewhere for individual components, this is what I came up with.
So, in the end, it seems as though the iBuyPower computer does indeed come out on top in terms of price by $122 based off my estimated prices for the parts I didn't have exact models for.
Let's take some more things into consideration. For instance, given the current power consumption of this computer, an 800W power supply is unnecessary. Instead, a 700W or 650W would cut it, so you can cut off about $10 right there or more depending on which power supply you look at (assuming they are equal quality and brand-name units). There are also a few other things that could be changed with little to no effect on the system: one being the liquid cooling. Unless you intend on heavily overclocking, an air cooler will be more than enough, which takes off another $20 from the price tag. Adding to that, getting a normal (one-fan, non-superclocked) EVGA GTX 570 will knock off another $25, making the total discount $55, which is obviously not enough to make it an even game.
The iBuyPower computer wins this one, hands down. Sorry to all you computer builders out there!
You can't argue with the price iBuyPower offers. For $999, you get the i5-2500K, EVGA GTX 570 Double Shot, 8GB of Corsair XMS3 RAM, and the rest of the components discussed earlier in the article. To top it off, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and a cheap keyboard/mouse are both thrown into the mix.
Despite my typical distaste towards pre-made computers, it is undeniable that iBuyPower offers a superior deal -- due to their bulk ordering and ability to obtain components cheaply -- and, therefore, deserves a positive review. I recommend iBuyPower's holiday special computer if you are in search of a new computer, because it is one of the best deals you will find out there. Be it for yourself, or a (really, really nice) present for someone else, this is a good buy and worth the money.
Along with being a good deal to begin with, you also get some free games with the computer: Batman: Arkham City and Just Cause 2. Paired up with the deal the computer is already, this makes it a complete steal. If you are looking for a new computer in this price range, I would not pass up the offer.
Remember when I told you guys about the sketchy unmarked liquid cooling? Sadly, as it turns out, it ended up being a bad unit. After about 5 months of owning the machine, I found that the liquid cooling had leaked onto the GTX 560 and ultimately fried it. While it was definitely a really irritating experience, customer service wasn't a bad experience at all. Although I didn't end up getting the parts back (because of a situation completely unrelated to this review), I would have had the replacement parts within the week. The person I talked to spoke very good English (yes, it does matter to me. When they can't understand me, it's a problem) and understood what went wrong. Just because it took them a while to get around to agreeing to send me the replacement parts, I give them an 8/10 for customer service. However in retrospect if I were to buy this computer, I would buy another cooler to replace the sub-par one they put in my machine. All in all, still a good deal, just watch out for the bad parts they sneak in.