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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.