Cyberpower’s Gamer Dragon: Can AMD Bring The Game?

In our last System Builder Marathon (SBM) series, we had about $1,300 to spend on components for the mid-range machine, and, after a long and hard deliberation, we went with a Core i7-920-based system coupled with a pair of GeForce GTX 260 cards. At the time, this seemed to be the best-performing system we could put together with our budget.

The system we almost built for about the same amount of money was AMD-based, consisting of a Phenom II quad-core processor coupled with a pair of Radeon HD 4890 cards in CrossFire. With the cheaper Phenom II processor and platform in the AM2+ arena, the budget allowed for a pair of more powerful Radeon HD 4890 graphics cards. It was close, but in the end we really felt that the Core i7-920 CPU was too good to give up in exchange for the better graphics system, especially considering that new game titles have demonstrated notable gains with the addition of better threading optimization. Our choice caused quite a bit of backlash, and if you read the article and paid attention to the forums, you’d have noticed that there were a lot of accusations of brand-preference on our part.

I was then delighted to hear that Cyberpower wanted to offer us its impressive AMD-based Gamer Dragon PC to put through the paces with a Phenom II X4 955, an impressive 3.6 GHz overclock, and two Radeon HD 4890 cards in CrossFire. The system also sports an AM3 motherboard with DDR3 support, so it might even represent the best-case scenario for the Phenom II.  

With the next SBM a couple months away, is there a better way to find out if the Phenom II’s price advantage over the Core i7 will allow it to excel, thanks to that stronger graphics system? I can’t think of one, and by the end of this article, we’ll have found out if the stinging cries of bias were justified.

But for now, let’s take a closer look at the real star of the show: the Cyberpower Gamer Dragon.

Editor's Addendum

Having just run across this issue in a past iBuyPower review and vowing to keep a better eye on it, I have to call Cyberpower out on this particular configuration. Nowhere on the company's page was I able to find an option to order this Phenom II X4 955-based configuration overclocked to 3.6 GHz. In other words, you will actually pay $1,740-ish for a 3.2 GHz machine. And while I don't think it's a stretch to assume that most of the enthusiasts who read this site should be able to realize the overclock we received, it's worth noting that the company's warranty reads as follows:

"This warranty does not cover damage due to external causes, including accident, abuse, misuse, problems with electrical power, acts of third parties, servicing not authorized by CyberPower, usage not in accordance with instructions accompanying the product(s), or failure to perform required preventive maintenance..."

So, there's a good chance that the coverage you paid a premium to attain as part of buying a pre-configured PC will actually be invalidated as soon as you seek the performance levels reported here.

We let the overclock slide, having been told that this would be made an option by the time of publication. As of this writing, however, it does not appear to be available. Should we receive notification from Cyberpower that its options have been updated to reflect factory overclocking, we will update this space.

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  • astrodudepsu
    Great article. It will be quite hard for anyone to shout after something like this. Granted, there will surely be the 'you can build it for less' crowd but I think all in all this should silence some folks.
  • Ogdin
    Would have been nice if the video cards where the same in both.
  • Proximon
    I have to wonder what would happen with a 790FX board and RAM running at CAS 7. Those are two glaring problems I see with their build. I priced out the items to make the build work better and still came out at $1300.
    While it's an indictment of AMD clearly, seems like you shouldn't write it out of the SBM just yet.
    I was actually surprised to find some reasonable 790FX boards, as long as you don't need one of the big two brands.
    Also, other tests seem to contradict this. Sure, there is going to be some FPS difference, but there should not be so much.
  • Ogdin
    The lower cas ram wouldn't change anything.Having the 16x16 pci-e slots of the 790fx vs the 8x8 of the 790x.....doubtful it would make a big difference,though it would be nice to see if there would be a difference.
  • Buying parts online I was able to get a fairly decent i7 920 setup for only $80 above a similar X4 955, the setups both had parts that would allow them to reach maximum OCing results and both had equivalent ATI/NVIDIA GPUs. AMD may have had a competitive price advantage a month ago but right now the i7 920 is better without question, in fact the $80 increase didn't even apply for me since the GTS 250 I bought off newegg for $135 came with COD4 and COD:WaW and the i7 920 came with HAWX for only $280 and an unopened HAWX goes for $40 at gamestop(they sell it for $50) and CoD:WaW also came in an unopened case that would have been sold to gamestop for $20 if I didn't keep it.

    X4 955 buyers beware, you're getting equivalent performance to a Q9550 setup for a $100 premium and if you're looking for an upgradeable setup the 1366 socket is a lot safer investment.

    P.S. - Sorry if the grammar and such is terrible, I just woke up to get a late night snack and check my e-mails but saw this and felt a need to post.
  • IronRyan21
    Cyber Power comes to the rescue.......
  • cinergy
    The point is if you build a system without any "Cyberpower" ready made premium priced stuff, AMD platform is cheaper and makes more sense, so again comparison seen here is unfair. Of course you wanted to justify your previous choices but in a misleading way. Having to the max (almost 1ghz) over clocked i7 only and comparing self built cheaper system to premium retail system just underlines to fact that you have taken sides.
  • supergroover
    I Still say biased. Why not give the overclock a go and present the results with the note that it may void warranty. You also overclock the SBM core i7 system.
    Also as proximon points out, this build does not say anything. You can yourself piece together something better at a lower cost, therefore the price comparison is not a good one if you want to point out the difference between AMD phenom II and Intel core i7.
  • mcvf
    My points:
    1. Comparison of two different graphics cards. Based on completely different systems you speculate that i7 is much better. If the i7 is so clearly better, it is important for readers to know how much. Test it on the same computer (same graphics card) and prove how much better it actually is. Till now I only see relatively small advantages of i7 over phenom or intel quad limited within few percents only in Tom's review. Seems to me Tom is just hyping i7 (regularly "forgetting" comparisons with core 2 quads).
    2. Power usage. How the hell is possible that overclocked i7 takes significantly less power than non-overclocked one? That smalls to me and says that there is something rotten in the benchmark. I do not think readers should trust this review too much and rely on it when buying new computer.
  • goose man

    In SBM article before, many reader states that the prices different between Phenom system and Core i7 system can be used to purchased "stronger" GPU.

    Assuming frreerr_hardware (no 5 post) statement is true, the difference is only $80 and ATI 4890 is STRONGER card than GTX 260 core 216
    The cheapest ATI 4890 in Newegg is $189 after MIR
    and the chepest GTX260 core 216 in Newegg is $149 after MIR
    The difference is $40 for a card and $80 for a pair (SLI or Crossfire)
    So the comparison of Phenom system using ATI 4890 and Core i7 system using GTX 260 core 216 is well justified.

    And please do not start talk about overclock.
    The standard (not overclocked) Core i7 system (2.66 GHz) manage to wins some cases to the overclocked Phenom system (3.6 GHz), that's almost 1 GHz difference in clock. Do you really want to compare their performance in fully overclocked system like frreerr_hardware's system ?

    Typical Phenom 955 (in average) can achieve 4 GHz when overclocked and so does typical Core i7 920. Remember this is in SAME PRICE system (according to frreerr_hardware). Logic dictates the the Core i7 system will crushed the phenom system if both is fully overclocked.
  • mcvf
    goose man: "stronger graphics card", as stated many times by Tom's, applies only to the chosen game title. Are you absolutely sure that used Nvidia card is in all presented game titles slower that presented ATI? If yes, could you point me to the site (Tom's or other) where they are fairly compared, because I did not have any information about their relative "strength" when reading this review.
  • stridervm
    For me the results are clear :

    At stock. They offer similar performance. The AMD system has a slightly better video card. The Intel has a slightly better processor. But this is theorhetical at best.

    Clearly not fair, as certain stuff/programs will favor one platform over the other.
  • stridervm
    Also, I've noticed most of the benchmarks/games used favor processor speed over videocard speed.
  • kevin1212,2278-9.html

    Toms very own review of the phenom 955, gaming benchmarks... now that is a test with the same gpu, is there a big difference?
  • Awesome Case, have just last week finished re-building my PC into this case, and the cooling is second to none , especially with a couple of Skythe Kaze Maru 140mm fans on the side!

    Would have loved to see the i7 Figures if under this cases chilling winds, would have blown the AMD system even further backward I think!
  • ohim
    Thing is lately i`m starting not to trust games anymore that has Adds at startup with Runs great on Intel or Nvidia ... just wonder if they got payed to put that add at startup wonder what other things they got payed to "optimize" the game. And this article is so wrong ... custom home build vs Retail build ... oh boy and comparing in the end 2 CPUs that have different videocard setup ... i`m not saying that P2`s > I7s in performance but this test is way wrong.
  • ohim
    The only good thing that comes out of this article is that you can build a home PC for less monney and better performance than retailers, but don`t use it as a CPU brand comparation.
  • You guys aren't getting the point of this article. It is to point out that IF for the price you saved with a P2 vs an i7, you went and bought better graphics cards (GTX260
  • doomtomb
    So pretty much the $1300 DIY comp stomps the $1740 prebuilt comp. No surprise there but I got to hand it to Cyberpower, it appears as though they have improved their cable management since the last time I've seen.
  • sublifer
    You did pick games that have always heavily favored nvidia gfx cards... much less balance than normal. You guys usually give us a show of both the nvidia optimized and the AMD optimized games but this time just nvidia..
  • nukemaster
    All in all it should just be a SBM vs Cyberpower article. I do not think there is any clear i7 evidence here.

    You should take those 4890's and try them in the SBM system (X58 has SLI and XFIRE right?)

    Then when you redo the tests, you can see how much was i7 and how much was "They Ways Its Meant To Be Played" tax(if any). There should be a larger selection of games used to show ATI and Nvidia friendly ones.
  • trinix
    It keeps repeating itself. Tom's tries hard to convince everyone to stay away from amd and ati. Only in the monthly budget videocard articles Ati cards win.

    2 different video cards, are you joking? What's the point, even if 1 is better and you want to show, how can you compare cpu's when you have more variables. The first law in scientific comparisons is reduce the variables to a minimum. Too many variables will only ask people to call bias yet again. There should have been a 3rd system to check on.

    The big question remains, what did you want to test. A that system from Cyberpower can or can't deliver and if so, why did you lash out at AMD P2, if the Cyperpower system failed. Where is the self build system with good stuff.

    This is just too much yet again. It's too hard to take anything serious when you keep things unfair for either of the companies. I can't use this comparison yet again.
  • da bahstid
    It does start to show where i7 starts to have an advantage...specifically in CPU-intensive games with no less than a pair of GTX-260 or 4870 videocards in SLI/X-fire, and even then sometimes only when driving low resolutions noone would run such a graphics combination on. Yeah, I thought that part of the test was a little weird...but it does show that as time goes on i7 WILL distance itself from both Phenom II and Core2Quad, and that is an important point.

    However, while i7 prices have steadily become more reasonable, what still deserves note is that an AM2+ system based around a 940BE and DDR2 RAM still comes in ~$150 below that of i7. You just have to ditch DDR3 which doesn't help Phenom II anyway (for that matter it often doesn't help i7 either). And as ironic as this may sound, there's a very real possibility that socket 1366 will end up having LESS of an upgrade path than AM2+/AM3.

    Consider: It's already official that the current i7s on LGA-1366 are going to be gradually phased-out, and it's increasingly looking like the socket will be reoriented toward server applications. As far as I've seen there's no guarantee LGA-1366 will see ever 32nm chips in anything other than server chips, and Intel's first 32nm chips are going to be dual-cores (i3?) for LGA-1156. In the meantime processors that were initially used to represent the performance of i5 are now being called i7 for LGA-1156. System builders thinking their new LGA-1366 board is gonna last through 5-years worth of processor upgrades may have another thing coming. In the meantime AMD oddly enough has announced that they're releasing 32nm chips in 2010, even though Bulldozer isn't supposed to arrive till 2011. Will AM2+/AM3 actually see 32nm domestic chips? Who knows really with that one.

    Now I could be overthinking with the LGA-1366 deal, but it's not stopping me from holding off on i7 for the next little while. Fortunately with the graphics setups and resolutions I happen to be running (both a Phenom II and a Core2 setup) i7 isn't presenting any advantage yet anyway. But this multiple socket deal has seemed funny to me for some time now, and every new article I see on the matter seems to reinforce my suspicions.

    And it's not like it hasn't happened before, either...AMD pulled similar antics with sockets 754/939/940/AM2.
  • Onus
    I thought this article was pretty decisive. It wasn't saying that the PII is a bad system; it showed that the i7 was better. For grins, it would be interesting to see (added to the same benchmarks), the i7 system with the pair of 4890s; nevermind the cost, just to remove the graphics subsystem from the CPU comparison. I'm thinking it would be sad...BUT...
    Going to start a discussion thread in the Forum, as it gets a little OT.