Obviously the performance level of the iBuyPower system is based on the parts inside it, and they are set at the default speeds. There are a few reasons the iBuyPower system falls behind the boutique systems. The first is that the Biohazard Armageddon and Falcon Northwest Mach V are overclocked: faster core clock speeds will aid the rate at which file decryption, text editing, file compression and other CPU intensive tasks are performed. When there is interaction between the CPU and the rest of the system, the speed of the bus between the CPU and Northbridge will come into play, and in both arenas, the Falcon system has higher clock speeds so it will score better. While the iBuyPower has the "fastest" model graphics card, the Armageddon and Mach V have their timings (Core, Shader, and Memory) set much higher than the reference 8800 Ultra clock frequencies. Just the memory was faster, and only by 40 MHz (80 MHz DDR).
3DMark and the rest of the graphics tests reveal something about the graphics cards used, in addition to the differences between the boutique builds we have previously reviewed and this system from iBuyPower. The graphics cards are reference designs with a "not for the public" BIOS on them. Installing the latest version of the driver or any public version cannot be installed as the driver and the BIOS are incompatible. This puts a damper on the performance of the cards, as the most recent optimizations for games using Nvidia's hardware are not available. As the scores show, the iBuyPower system loses a lot of points even though the graphics cards should do well. Compared to the other systems, the cards are being starved by the system, and are underperforming the overclocked system by as much as 20%.