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

Introduction

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.

  • 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.
    Reply
  • Ogdin
    Would have been nice if the video cards where the same in both.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • IronRyan21
    Cyber Power comes to the rescue.......
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • goose man
    @supergroover,mcvf

    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.
    Reply