Battle Of The Boutique Behemoths: iBuyPower Vs. Maingear PC

Test Settings

Reducing the component list to benchmarked parts shows that the biggest difference between systems is the choice of 3-way GTX 285 or two-way GTX 295 SLI configurations.

However, both companies also offer the competitor’s graphics and motherboard configuration as an option, and everyone expects four GTX 275 graphics processors (two go into each dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295) to beat three GTX 285s. Is this even a fair fight?

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Test System Configuration
 iBuyPower PaladinMaingear PC EPHEX
CPUIntel 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)
MotherboardAsus P6T Deluxe V2 Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366Asus P6T Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366
RAMCorsair 6.0 GB DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24 (2T)Kingston 6.0 GB DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-20 (1T)
Graphics2x XFX GeForce GTX 295 1.8 GB SLI 576 MHz/1,242 MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-24843x EVGA GeForce GTX 285 1.0 GB, SLI 648 MHz/1,476 MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-2484
Test Hard DriveIntel X25-M 80 GB SATA 3.0 Gb/s SSDIntel X25-M 80 GB SATA 3.0 Gb/s SSD
SoundIntegrated HD AudioIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingIntegrated Gigabit Networking
OSMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1Windows Vista Home Premium x64 SP1
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 182.50Nvidia GeForce 182.08
ChipsetIntel INF INF

iBuyPower also used a far more expensive processor, but its slightly lower overclock could tip the performance scale towards Maingear’s less-expensive part.

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Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: World at WarPatch 1.1, FRAPS/saved game High Textures, No AA / No AF, vsync off Ultra Textures, 4x AA / Max AF, vsync off
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
Far Cry 2DirectX 10, Steam Version, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 8x AA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo Test 1: High Details, No AA / No AF Test 2: Very HighDetails 4x AA / 16x AF
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunes 8Version: (x64) Audio CD ("Terminator II SE"), 53 min Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98 64bits (07-04-2008) Audio CD "Terminator II SE," 53 min wave to MP3
TMPGEnc 4.6Version: Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes) Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.5Encoding mode: Insane Quality Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4 Quarter-pixel search
Xvid 1.2.1Display encoding status = off
Mainconcept Reference 1.6MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Autodesk 3ds Max 2009Version: 11.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8Version: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.80Version 3.80, WinZIP Commandline Version 3.0, Compression = Best, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
WinZip 12Version 12.0, Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)
Sythetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player
SiSoftware SandraVersion 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • tacoslave
    what the hell Halo 2?
  • johnsmithvag
    What a stupid and pointless article. Thanks again for wasting my time. Really, i mean, if i wanted to see an add i'd just look slightly to the right.
  • sepuko
    Why do the systems have different video driver packages? You call that a fair comparison ?
  • jonbach
    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
  • speedone
    Halo 2 with Vista. i did not get Halo 2 when I bought Vista.
  • Crashman
    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.
  • hustler539
    Wheres 1920 x 1200?
    Who buys a $4k+ system to game at 1024 x 768?
  • Crashman
    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.
  • ta152h
    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.
  • neiroatopelcc
    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).