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Battle Of The Boutique Behemoths: iBuyPower Vs. Maingear PC

Battle Of The Boutique Behemoths: iBuyPower Vs. Maingear PC
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Most enthusiasts prefer to build things on their own boxes, but the time involved can often be excessive, especially when overclocking and stability tests are (necessary) parts of the plan. If you’d rather spend your leisure time doing anything but banging your head against the desk (and don't mind paying a bit extra for that luxury), a boutique builder might be the best way to get exactly what you’re looking for in a PC. But whom should you choose?

Two leaders in configuration options, iBuyPower and Maingear PC, designed a pair of $4,200 systems specifically to meet high-end performance demands in gaming and general multi-tasking. Comparing these should answer some questions about which company provides the best build quality and/or value.

Custom-Built PC Specifications
System
iBuyPower Paladin

Maingear PC EPHEX

CPU

Intel Core i7 965 (3.20 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache)
Overclocked to 3.73 GHz (28x 133.3)

Intel Core i7 920 (2.66 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache)
Overclocked to 3.80 GHz (19x 200)

CPU Cooler

Asetek Low Cost Liquid Cooling (LCLC)
2x 120 mm Dual-Fan Radiator

Maingear Arctic X20 by CoolIT Systems
2x 120 mm Dual-Fan Radiator

Motherboard

Asus P6T Deluxe V2
Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366

Asus P6T
Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366

RAM

Corsair 6.0 GB
DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24 (2T)

Kingston 6.0 GB
DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-20 (1T)

Graphics

2x XFX GeForce GTX 295 1.8 GB SLI
576/1,242MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-2484

3x EVGA GeForce GTX 285 1.0 GB, SLI
648/1,476MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-2484

System Hard Drive

Intel X25-M 80GB SATA 3.0 Gb/s SSD

Intel X25-M 80GB SATA 3.0 Gb/s SSD

Storage Hard Drive

Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B 1.0 TB
7,200 RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/s

Western Digital Caviar Black 1.0 TB
7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s

Sound

Integrated HD Audio

Integrated HD Audio

Network

Integrated Gigabit Networking

Integrated Gigabit Networking

Power

Corsair CMPSU-1000HX 1,000 W Modular
ATX12V 2.2 / EPS12V 2.91, 80-Plus

Silverstone DA1000 1,000 W Modular
ATX 12V 2.2 / EPS 12V, Active PFC

Optical

LG GH22NP20 22X DVD±R, 8x DVD+RW
Panasonic SW-5584 2x BD-RE, 8x BD-R

Lite-On iHAS422-08 22X DVD±R, 8X DVD±RW

Removable

12-In-1 Internal Flash Card Reader/Writer

All-In-One USB 2.0 Flash Card Reader/Writer

Software

OS

Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1

Windows Vista Home Premium x64 SP1

Productivity

None

None

Games

FarCry 2, Halo 2

None

Warranty and Price

Warranty Period

3-Year Warranty

14-months (3-year option add $199.99)

(Ed.: After this story was published, Maingear changed its warranty period to three years, standard, at no extra cost)

Price

$4,368 ($4,209 w/o Keyboard, Mouse, BRD)

$4,205 ($4,405 with 3-year Warranty)


iBuyPower skewed the price comparison a bit by including a keyboard, mouse, and BRD compared to Maingear system, but none of these will affect benchmark performance. Ignoring those parts puts these systems within $10 of each other, making the head-to-head extremely well-balanced.

Display 62 Comments.
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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    jonbach , May 5, 2009 7:22 AM
    Bravo for the editor's note on page 9. I'm downright excited to see CNET and Tom's Hardware giving attention to keeping system builders honest when it comes to system reviews. In addition, I do think that in the end, most consumers value a problem free process and fast, reliable support even more than they value a few percentage points performance gain (Or am I off base here? Please comment!).

    Yet that aspect of system builders is missed by the current review process. I'd love to see even more about the ordering and support process, but you're right that would require a "secret shopper" method.

    I can't speak for all boutique builders, but I bet you would find many of us extremely receptive to any ideas you may have on how we can help mitigate the costs of a secret shopper program in a way that preserves the fairness and anonymity of the review process.

    Jon Bach
    President - Puget Systems
    http://www.pugetsystems.com
Other Comments
  • -9 Hide
    tacoslave , May 5, 2009 7:01 AM
    what the hell Halo 2?
  • -1 Hide
    sepuko , May 5, 2009 7:15 AM
    Why do the systems have different video driver packages? You call that a fair comparison ?
  • 10 Hide
    jonbach , May 5, 2009 7:22 AM
    Bravo for the editor's note on page 9. I'm downright excited to see CNET and Tom's Hardware giving attention to keeping system builders honest when it comes to system reviews. In addition, I do think that in the end, most consumers value a problem free process and fast, reliable support even more than they value a few percentage points performance gain (Or am I off base here? Please comment!).

    Yet that aspect of system builders is missed by the current review process. I'd love to see even more about the ordering and support process, but you're right that would require a "secret shopper" method.

    I can't speak for all boutique builders, but I bet you would find many of us extremely receptive to any ideas you may have on how we can help mitigate the costs of a secret shopper program in a way that preserves the fairness and anonymity of the review process.

    Jon Bach
    President - Puget Systems
    http://www.pugetsystems.com
  • 1 Hide
    speedone , May 5, 2009 7:24 AM
    Halo 2 with Vista. i did not get Halo 2 when I bought Vista.
  • 5 Hide
    Crashman , May 5, 2009 7:31 AM
    sepukoWhy do the systems have different video driver packages? You call that a fair comparison ?


    That's the way they shipped them, so it's the ONLY way to run a fair comparison: NO MODIFICATIONS.

    Also notice that the system with the newest drivers lost. We tried ripping out the newer drivers and putting in the older ones: a few benchmarks lost around 0.1-1.0 FPS with the "matching" drivers, but it really wasn't worth the time to finish retesting since it only made the worst-performing system perform slightly worse than it had when it first lost. An increased loss of less than 1% (average) is still a loss and the difference isn't noteworthy.
  • 9 Hide
    hustler539 , May 5, 2009 8:38 AM
    Wheres 1920 x 1200?
    Who buys a $4k+ system to game at 1024 x 768?
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , May 5, 2009 8:49 AM
    hustler539Wheres 1920 x 1200?Who buys a $4k+ system to game at 1024 x 768?


    Who buys a $4k system to game at 1920? The 2560 results are there.
  • -1 Hide
    ta152h , May 5, 2009 9:33 AM
    They're ugly systems, as usual.

    If they are going to put in premium parts, why do they buy ugly cases to stick them in? When are PC makers going to put more attention into more attractive cases?

    $4,000 for an ugly brick. Whatever.
  • 6 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 5, 2009 9:39 AM
    I like seeing a silverstone chassis in there. Nice to know they ain't just tossing all the nice stuff into an average garbage bin from antec or something (like we cost concious people do).
  • 4 Hide
    SpadeM , May 5, 2009 9:51 AM
    CrashmanWho buys a $4k system to game at 1920? The 2560 results are there.


    1920 x 1080 or 1200 is "the buzz" resolution for eye candy + fps so yeah ppl who buy a 4k pc do game at 1920 since paying 1000$ for a 30" screen doesn't give a better gaming experience then 22" or 24" screens with 120Hz and fast response times.
  • 3 Hide
    Tindytim , May 5, 2009 9:55 AM
    CrashmanWho buys a $4k system to game at 1920? The 2560 results are there.

    Then why even include any other results then 2560 x 1600? One of the systems can be for 2.5k if you build your own. I'd much prefer to spend 1k on a 4 monitor 1920x1200 setup.

    So including a resolution I very obviously wouldn't use (1024x768), isn't all that helpful.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , May 5, 2009 10:30 AM
    neiroatopelccI like seeing a silverstone chassis in there. Nice to know they ain't just tossing all the nice stuff into an average garbage bin from antec or something (like we cost concious people do).


    Actually, The TJ10 is one of the best-looking cases out there, though Lian Li has some attractive alternatives.
  • 0 Hide
    Tindytim , May 5, 2009 10:35 AM
    neiroatopelccI like seeing a silverstone chassis in there. Nice to know they ain't just tossing all the nice stuff into an average garbage bin from antec or something (like we cost concious people do).

    The Antec P180 and P182 are the best looking cases I have ever seen. Cold-rolled steel, and none of those extra ancillary frills.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , May 5, 2009 10:43 AM
    TindytimThe Antec P180 and P182 are the best looking cases I have ever seen. Cold-rolled steel, and none of those extra ancillary frills.


    The problem is that black paint and stick-on dressing doesn't look as good as black anodized aluminum. Well, that's not the only problem, since the P180 and P182 have a fake sports-car-spoiler on the back, use plastic front panels and are heavy. I'd expect to see an Antec case in a $2000 system perhaps, but it doesn't live up to the luxury standards I like to see in a $4k+ PC.
  • 3 Hide
    sjss , May 5, 2009 11:11 AM
    jonbachBravo for the editor's note on page 9. I'm downright excited to see CNET and Tom's Hardware giving attention to keeping system builders honest when it comes to system reviews...


    Aye. I know a few people who've been suckered into a certain builder who seems to not make good machines except for review sites/mags. The problem with the "sunday best", is that while this kind of QC failure may be common in everyday shipments, it won't happen to the retailers, which is why I'd never trust an article on a pre-built system unless it was a blind shopper/secret shopper type thing.

    My first thought is look at something like resellerratings, or a similar site, but don't just look at the ratings, read the reviews. A company doesn't just get a better rating for having a better product, but also less discerning customers.

    Ex. Company A sold computers. They had delayed ship times by 3 weeks+ (5 stars), System wouldn't boot properly (4 stars), and pieces of the computer (memory, CPU, HDD) rattling around the floor of the chasis because they weren't properly connected (3 stars). They had many cases of all these.

    Company B also sold computers. They had delayed ship time (3 stars) and that was about it. They averaged between one and two stars below company A, even though the problems weren't nearly as severe.


    So, really, do your research, see what you can find from customer feedback in the cases where they don't use blind shoppers.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 5, 2009 11:50 AM
    hustler539Wheres 1920 x 1200?Who buys a $4k+ system to game at 1024 x 768?

    Agree, 1920 is missing, but 1024 is there to show cpu bound bottlenecks!
  • 0 Hide
    Tindytim , May 5, 2009 12:10 PM
    moriconAgree, 1920 is missing, but 1024 is there to show cpu bound bottlenecks!

    Why wouldn't 1680x1050 work just aswell? I mean, these are both Core i7 systems.
  • -2 Hide
    xsamitt , May 5, 2009 12:33 PM
    LOL .....LOL Silly indeed
  • 2 Hide
    cknobman , May 5, 2009 1:37 PM
    What a joke.

    Over 4K and both dont have discrete audio? Not that integrated audio is bad or anything but for over 4k Id expect a kick ass audio card.

    Also wtf with home premium?

    These builders need to realize that they should give a little more value for the money.
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