Gaming Benchmarks & Conclusion
Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation
The iBuypower Snowblind Element Extreme begins our test suite with similar results as our productivity and synthetic benchmarks, with average framerates falling below our Z270 test rig and the Corsair one at 1920 x 1080 and 2560 x 1440, where the CPU frequency plays a pivotal factor in the results. However, at 4K, the processor’s core count helps upend our Core i7-7700K-equipped test bed by a small margin, despite the small performance penalty of having a second screen attached.
Bioshock Infinite provides similar results, with the Snowblind falling short of the other GTX 1080 Ti-equipped PCs in the field at all tested resolutions. The lower minimum framerate points to the CPU clock speed as being a prime contributor, especially with triple-digit average framerates even at 4K.
Although the CPU plays less of a role in the Snowblind’s performance in the DiRT Rally benchmarks, it still causes it to fall behind the other PCs by a small margin. Even at 4K (where the CPU bottleneck is weakest), the Snowblind still falls behind by a 3.63 FPS average, and we suspect the side-panel display could be a factor. However, you won’t see much a of a difference in performance with the human eye.
Grand Theft Auto V
The performance impacts of the Snowblind’s CPU clockrate are better defined in the GTAV in-game tests. At 1920 x 1080, the iBuypower offering falls behind its closest competitor (our Z270 test rig) by an average of 3.21 FPS, but increasing the pixel count to 2560 x 1440 shifts the bottleneck to the GPU and narrows the lead to 1.68 FPS. At 4K, the Snowblind’s performance is near identical to the other GTX 1080 Ti-equipped PCs in the field, averaging 30.81 FPS with all the highest setting enabled. Although the Snowblind again takes a backseat to our Z270 reference rig and Corsair’s Z370-equipped One Elite, the performance gap is hardly noticeable in this particular game.
The Snowblind continues to trail the Corsair One, but it’s by about 1 FPS average in the Hitman benchmarks at all tested resolutions. The Snowblind does manage to outperform our Z270 test bench, albeit by a small margin.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider’s in-game benchmark is punishing to even high-end hardware, especially with all the eye candy turned to the maximum. The iBuypower Snowblind Element Extreme continues to fall behind other GTX 1080 Ti-equipped PCs, but it’s only by about 3 FPS average at 1920 x 1080 and 2560 x 1440. At 3840 x 2160, there’s a still a 2 FPS gap, which leads us to believe the side-panel could also be a factor. However, none of the GTX 1080 Ti systems are enough to get a playable 30 FPS at 4K at these settings, but it’s still considered top of the heap for single-GPU PCs.
We see similar results with higher average framerates in The Division, where the Snowblind’s Core i7-7800X keeps it behind the other GTX 1080 Ti PCs with faster processors. However, you can still get more-than-playable framerates at 4K with all the highest details enabled, and you can easily reach above a target 60 FPS at 2560 x 1440.
Middle Earth: Shadows of War
The iBuypower Snowblind Element Extreme ends our test suite exactly where it’s been for the duration of the review, at the bottom of the chart against our Z270 test rig and the Z370 version of the Corsair One Elite. Although CPU horsepower does play a role at 1920 x 1080 (as shown by the gap in performance between our test rig and the One), the Snowblind nets lower average frame rates in the Middle Earth: Shadows of War in-game benchmarks even at higher resolutions (where the GPU performance equalizes for the two other GTX 1080 Ti systems).
We again suspect the side-panel display plays a role in the 5 FPS average difference between the similarly-equipped PCs, and the cost of the innovative feature appears to be some GPU performance (but no more than you would see by attaching any additional display, provided you don’t run resource-eating animations on it while gaming).
The Bottom Line
The iBuypower Snowblind is certainly eye catching, and the Extreme model housed in an Element chassis we reviewed impressed us with its sleek design, premium components, and reasonable pricing. The star of the show is the transparent 1280 x 1024 60Hz tempered glass side-panel display, which is both a blessing and a curse in that it looks cool, but it draws some graphics horsepower away from gaming workloads. However, this unique feature is sure to turn heads and is worth the performance hit and premium pricing.
Nevertheless, the iBuypower Snowblind Element Extreme earns our Tom’s Hardware Editor’s Choice award for its unique side-panel display, reasonable pricing, and top-tier performance. An X299 platform may not be the best weapon for a pure gamer, but the Snowblind can be equipped with other chipsets (including Z370) if you want more horsepower. Starting at $1,679, iBuyPower's desktop can fit most premium gamers' budgets.
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