Battle Of The Boutique Behemoths: iBuyPower Vs. Maingear PC

Less Work, More Play

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.

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Custom-Built PC Specifications
SystemiBuyPower 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)
CPU CoolerAsetek Low Cost Liquid Cooling (LCLC) 2x 120 mm Dual-Fan RadiatorMaingear Arctic X20 by CoolIT Systems 2x 120 mm Dual-Fan Radiator
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 576/1,242MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-24843x EVGA GeForce GTX 285 1.0 GB, SLI 648/1,476MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-2484
System Hard DriveIntel X25-M 80GB SATA 3.0 Gb/s SSDIntel X25-M 80GB SATA 3.0 Gb/s SSD
Storage Hard DriveHitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B 1.0 TB 7,200 RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/sWestern Digital Caviar Black 1.0 TB 7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s
SoundIntegrated HD AudioIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair CMPSU-1000HX 1,000 W Modular ATX12V 2.2 / EPS12V 2.91, 80-PlusSilverstone DA1000 1,000 W Modular ATX 12V 2.2 / EPS 12V, Active PFC
OpticalLG GH22NP20 22X DVD±R, 8x DVD+RW Panasonic SW-5584 2x BD-RE, 8x BD-RLite-On iHAS422-08 22X DVD±R, 8X DVD±RW
Removable12-In-1 Internal Flash Card Reader/WriterAll-In-One USB 2.0 Flash Card Reader/Writer
OSMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1Windows Vista Home Premium x64 SP1
GamesFarCry 2, Halo 2None
Warranty and Price
Warranty Period3-Year Warranty14-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.

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).