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What did we learn from the Cyberpower Gamer Dragon? A heck of a lot, and the points were more dramatic than we expected.
First off, we learned that new game titles will definitely see a benefit from the high CPU power that the Core i7-920 brings to the table. The results speak for themselves, so we can’t really be accused of brand favoritism for choosing a Core i7 system over a Phenom II in the System Builder Marathon series. The results are as plain as day: the Phenom II can bottleneck a theoretically-superior graphics system in modern game titles, and even a stock Core i7 will allow those games to stretch their legs.
Are we saying that the Phenom II is a bad buy? No. But Phenom IIs shine most brightly where they make sense: in low-cost systems that a Core i7 can’t reach due to comparatively-high platform costs. If we were going to put together a Phenom II system, we’d use a lower-cost AM2+ motherboard, DDR2 RAM, and a couple of Radeon HD 4850 cards to better realize the configuration's cost advantages. That would be a formidable low-cost system, and would stand well against any Core 2-based offering from Intel.
But back to our contender, the Cyberpower Gamer Dragon:
We have a fairly good bead on the price of this setup at the time of writing: it's a little bit of $1,700. How do we know? We priced it out right on Cyberpower's site. Now, the documentation Cyberpower sent us corresponded to a Phenom II X4 940 instead of a Phenom II X4 955 with a lot of other components that were different from our test system, claiming an MSRP of $1,499. This would not be a bad price with the operating system, warranty, and decent assembly included, if it were accurate. But it isn't.
While Cyberpower has pieced together the Gamer Dragon system with care, we would opt for the company's Core i7 offerings instead, such as the Gamer Infinity CrossFireX 6000. With a couple tweaks, we configured a Core i7-920 system with a Corsair 750TX PSU on an ASUS P6T Deluxe motherboard, complete with 6 GB of DDR3-1600, a 750 GB hard drive, and two GeForce GTX 280 cards in SLI (all in a pretty Storm CS Scout case). According to the Web site, the price of this system would be under $1,700.
Configured as such, this system will perform as well as our SBM system did, and probably a lot cooler since it won't be constricted by a tiny Micro-ATX case. At first glance, you might wonder why this $1,700 figure is so much higher than the $1,300 system we built from Newegg, but recall that we don't include the price of the operating systems in our SBM articles. When you tack on a $225 for Windows Vista Premium 64-bit, the SBM machine costs $1,525. This means that for less than a $200 difference, Cyberpower will assemble the beast for you with good cable management and a warranty for three years labor and a year for the components.