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Pricing And Conclusion

Three Core i7 Systems From Boutique Builders
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Not only did all three manufacturers have no problem coming in under our $2,500 price cap, but each of them managed to pack a lot of bells and whistles into their boxes. We appreciate the performance tuning that AVADirect and CyberPower performed on their offerings, and dig the liquid-cooling systems these two were able to squeeze into their budgets. Even if we hadn’t helped them along, Alienware’s size and influence typically enables it to be first in line when new components such as Nvidia’ GeForce GTX 295 are handed out.

The Thermaltake V9 enclosure that AVADirect chose is attractive enough, but the fact that it doesn’t accommodate a front FireWire port cost it several points because we figured downloading video from a digital camcorder to be a crucial application. And while you’ll never mistake an Alienware enclosure for any other manufacturer’s offering, we need more than just two USB ports in front. The CyberPower system not only included five front-mounted USB ports, but it boasted FireWire and eSATA, too. AVADirect and CyberPower also included media-card readers—another important feature for a multimedia-oriented rig; Alienware did not.

AVADirect and CyberPower bested Alienware in terms of storage, too. Both companies delivered machines with more than a terabyte, compared to the Alienware’s dual 500 GB drives in RAID 0. If you plan to use your computer for audio recording, video editing, 3D modeling, and similar applications, you’ll need as much storage as possible.

But when it comes to the bottom line, CyberPower did the best job of building a system that met all our requirements. Granted, their machine had the weakest videocard, but it also came with the fastest CPU, the fastest RAM, the best enclosure, and a Blu-ray player. We’d recommend spending a few extra bucks for a stronger power supply and a better videocard (if you’re interested in playing games), but it’s hard to argue with the rest of this configuration.

Display all 99 comments.
  • 1 Hide
    gkay09 , March 24, 2009 6:36 AM
    Well this article would help people buying preassembled computer very much...
  • -5 Hide
    crisisavatar , March 24, 2009 6:58 AM
    all 3 suck concidering you can add a 24 inch monitor, high quality speakers, audio card, gaming mouse/keyboard and still have money to spare.

    ps. running a couple of gtx 260s at stock will be more than enough to pull 45 fps in crysis and everything else at idk fps.
  • -1 Hide
    crisisavatar , March 24, 2009 7:00 AM
    ups forgot to add the new OCZ vortex 30g ssd in raid 0 to boot up and still be in budget.
  • 7 Hide
    pivalak , March 24, 2009 10:52 AM
    Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines"?
  • -6 Hide
    pivalak , March 24, 2009 10:53 AM
    Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines"?
  • -6 Hide
    pivalak , March 24, 2009 10:54 AM
    Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines" in this case?
  • 0 Hide
    pivalak , March 24, 2009 11:00 AM
    Oooops... sorry for the multiple posts. I had some issues with my browser (does anyone know how to delete them?) :( 
  • 3 Hide
    nerrawg , March 24, 2009 11:19 AM
    Kind of surprised that Thomas Soderstrom's (is he swedish btw?) $2,500 core i7 build from December wasn't mentioned from what I could see for comparison.
    If anyone is curious how tom's home-build system compares to the boutiques here's the link: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i7-overclock,2116.html

    From the gaming benches on that review it appears that the now slightly outdated december build still trumps the above builds with its triple 260 SLI and 4.0 Ghz overclocked 920. Best value award goes Tom's own Build! Now if only that one came pre-built with a 3 year warranty .... guess I'll still be getting out my toolkit (no pun intended)
  • 1 Hide
    MrMick , March 24, 2009 11:59 AM
    pivalakHummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines" in this case?


    Hi, I'm the author of the story. Trying to objectively measure a system's noise levels without sophisticated measurement equipment is as problematic as describing them subjectively.

    I have a level meter, but decided not to use it because it wasn't sensitive enough to measure noise levels where it mattered--at ear level where I was seated. I needed to measure the ambient room noise with no computers running to set a basis for comparison, and the meter wasn't sensitive enough to do that.

    And even if the meter was sensitive enough for my purpose, the decibel measurement would be relevant only for the environment in which I was testing (my home office, which measures 13.6x8 feet).
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , March 24, 2009 12:29 PM
    “No one ever got laughed at for buying an Alienware.”

    Are you kidding? They have to be the most overpriced POS on the market.

    Pfft. Alienware = glorified console.

    Real PC gamers build their own. Period.
  • 3 Hide
    marraco , March 24, 2009 12:58 PM
    Why the Alienware (Dell) do:

    -Ruined Asus BIOS support by changing the P6T deluxe naming?. Is standard behavior from Dell, who delays BIOS upgrades, and sometimes totally forget it. Dell ruins motherboards.
    -Overclocked nothing.
    -Used crappy memory, when significant better memory cost little more.
  • 0 Hide
    Luscious , March 24, 2009 1:10 PM
    I'd like to know what power supply the Alienware uses so I can use it in my next build. Power saving like that definitely add up over the course of a year, and when you look at the life of the hardware (18-48 months) those savings on your electricity bill can add up to the cost of the hardware itself sometimes.
  • 0 Hide
    jcknouse , March 24, 2009 1:13 PM
    User421“No one ever got laughed at for buying an Alienware.”Are you kidding? They have to be the most overpriced POS on the market.Pfft. Alienware = glorified console.Real PC gamers build their own. Period.


    I can't argue that Alienware isn't overpriced for what you get.

    But, not all "Real PC gamers" build their own. Some have the dosh to pay for custom rigs.

    Not myself, of course. Plus, I like tinkering with gadgets :) 

  • 0 Hide
    MrMick , March 24, 2009 1:30 PM
    LusciousI'd like to know what power supply the Alienware uses so I can use it in my next build. Power saving like that definitely add up over the course of a year, and when you look at the life of the hardware (18-48 months) those savings on your electricity bill can add up to the cost of the hardware itself sometimes.


    There were no markings on the power supply other than Alienware's that I could see, so I'm guessing that they contract with a supplier to build a private-label PSU for them (as they did with the Asus motherboard).

    But there's more to power consumption than just the power supply. The Cyberpower rig used a dual-GPU videocard, for instance, and the AVADirect machine was running two Nvidia cards in SLI.
  • -3 Hide
    Fadamor , March 24, 2009 1:32 PM
    OK, who wants to chip in for a spell-checker for Mr. Brown? :)  Shouldn't the title of the article be using the word "Boutique"?
  • 1 Hide
    marraco , March 24, 2009 1:55 PM
    LusciousI'd like to know what power supply the Alienware uses so I can use it in my next build. Power saving like that definitely add up over the course of a year, and when you look at the life of the hardware (18-48 months) those savings on your electricity bill can add up to the cost of the hardware itself sometimes.


    I know of a Dell PC whose Power supply stopped working.
    The owner buyed a new, standard power supply... and burned the motherboard, because Dell had the custom of modifying his motherboards, and power supplies, making them non standard.
    By making that, Dell slaved buyers to buy parts from Dell only, and gave no warning about non standard hardware.

    The merely fact that Dell has hidden the P6T Deluxe under a suspicious What The Fck change, advice to not but things from that crappy company.
  • 2 Hide
    Fadamor , March 24, 2009 1:59 PM
    I work with hundreds of Dells on a daily basis and can state that the only non-standard power supplies they use are in their "slim" cases. Your standard-size cases have a "regular" ATX compliant power supply.
  • 0 Hide
    marraco , March 24, 2009 2:00 PM
  • 2 Hide
    marraco , March 24, 2009 2:07 PM
    FadamorI work with hundreds of Dells on a daily basis and can state that the only non-standard power supplies they use are in their "slim" cases. Your standard-size cases have a "regular" ATX compliant power supply.


    That is not the point. If Dell custom modified this mother, probably was to make it non industry standard, to force you to buy Dell only upgrades.

    Dell has done it many times. Be warned.
  • 2 Hide
    xsamitt , March 24, 2009 2:07 PM
    Wondering when the constant commercials will stop.Most people here build their own systems.Of course I don't deny there is merit in articles like this but the balance of toms is way different than it used to be.
    What about a review of the new lcd's that are out now some of which are 120HZ.
    Rob & Ben to me was the last saving grace for toms.
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