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Battle Of The Boutique Behemoths: iBuyPower Vs. Maingear PC

Maingear won today’s performance shootout with its meticulously-crafted and tuned creation, averaging 6% better performance than the similarly-priced system from iBuyPower sporting an unsanctioned overclock.

iBuyPower, on the other hand, included a more expensive motherboard and processor. But rather than tweak its system’s overclocking capability to the max, its builders instead settled for increasing CPU multipliers, while leaving nearly everything else at BIOS defaults. In other words, Maingear put more effort into its system, and that’s something buyers of ultra-expensive equipment should be able to appreciate.

But both companies offer many of the same parts. We were curious to see what would happen if we configured the iBuyPower PC with Maingear’s motherboard, processor, graphics, and lack of Blu-ray disk burner. So, we plugged these options into iBuyPower’s Web site and found that we could have saved over $1,000 by selecting the less detail-oriented build. That difference is hard to justify simply by looking at Maingear’s high-end case, which isn’t available from iBuyPower.

Another problem is that getting Maingear performance from an iBuyPower PC will cost the buyer time, since iBuyPower doesn’t optimize system tuning (and doing so on your own is not explicitly covered under the company's warranty). If you’re willing to spend time tuning a system to save $1,000, you’ve probably already built your own.

It’s easy for us to recommend Maingear to anyone who wants the fastest possible system and is willing to pay for it, but iBuyPower appears to be a better-value company for less discriminating buyers who simply don’t want to handle the components themselves. iBuyPower’s value is further enhanced with a three-year warranty period that Maingear buyers must purchase as a $200 option (Ed.: be aware that this pro evaporates if you tune the system yourself).

Note to Maingear: buyers at this market level are often willing to pay more for higher-level craftsmanship, but out-of-pocket warranty options diminish the purchase experience. The extra coverage is expected, should be representative of build-quality, and should reflect confidence that the overclocked settings you've chosen still offer longevity (Ed.: After this review was published, Maingear changed its warranty period to three years, standard, at no additional cost).

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