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.
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.