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iBuyPower Level 10

magine filling Thermaltake's Level 10 case with today's highest-performing components, setting up RAID config­ urations, and adding all the connectivity features you can think of. The result is iBuyPower's Level 10 dream PC submis­sion. iBuyPower tells us that the Level 10' s cooling capabilities allowed them to produce a system built for long-term reli­ability, stability, and quality.

The compartmental design of the Level 10 case makes it a very quiet system; iBuyPower further lowered noise levels by installing Enermax fans with high-perfor­mance magnetic bearings. The iBuyPower Level 10 was nearly silent, even during our intensive gaming benchmarks. There's not much glitz on the outside of the case, but inclusion of Creative's Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatall ty Champion Series sound controller and a 12-in-l memory card reader draw your attention to the top compartment. Since all the components are hidden in com­partments, there's no need for any fancy lighting. To make the interior clean, iBuyPower replaced the system's visible power cables with extensions made of individually wrapped wires. The all-black, mesh-sheathed cables add a touch of class to the inside of the case.

Inside the motherboard compartment, iBuyPower installed an Intel Core i7­980X. For graphics power, the Level 10 sent to us featured dual ATI Radeon HD 5970s in CrossFire. iBuyPower shipped the cards in a separate box to keep them safe during the shipping process. Power users will also appreciate the 12GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600 memory, and an OS drive that consists of two 128GB Kingston SSDNow! VSeries in RAID O. Your personal data can be stored on the two 2TB Seagate Barracudas that are set up in RAID 1 to provide redun­dancy. A 1,200-watt Thermaltake power supply and lOX BD-ROMIDVD burner combo drive round out the system.



The lack of a CPU overclock, due to iBuyPower's focus on reliability, and  the inclusion of Radeon HD5970s as opposed to GTX 480s in 3-way SLI, put the Level 10 benchmarks behind many of the Tier II dream PCs. That being said, the Level 10 comes in around $500 to $1,000 less than most of the competition. One test where the Level 10 excelled was 3DMark Vantage, where it delivered an overall score of 24736, a GPU score of 24348, and a CPU score of 35480. The Level 10 also produced an impressive speed of 333.12MBps in the Sandra 2010's Physical Disk test.

We have no doubt that iBuyPower's Level lOis a well-designed build, but we'd have liked to see iBuyPower cus­tomize the exterior of the PC to match the quality parts hidden inside. Imagine how imposing the Level 10 would look with some artwork on the side panels or a clear panel that shows off its high-end components.

Nevertheless, the focus on reliability and stability is something that people wanting a well-rounded gaming machine should take into consideration

iBuyPower Paladin XLC


BuyPower tells us that the Paladin XLC is designed for performance-oriented buyers who are also focused on reliabili­ty, aesthetic design, and value. In short, it's more of an all-around performer than a pure gaming beast. The Paladin XLC sent to us featured Intel's six-core Core i7-970 overclocked to 4.04GHz, an OS volume created with two 64GB Kingston SSDNow V Series in RAID 0, and two Asus Matrix 5870 Platinums in CrossFire.

The Paladin XLC is built in a red (both inside and out) NZXT Phantom case, which we found to be plenty roomy. Two 120mm fans on the side of the case blow cold air over the graphics cards, while a 360mm mesh opening in the side panel allows for heat to passively move out of the system. There are two 200mm fans at the top of the case, where iBuyPower also installed the 240mm liq­uid-cooling radiator for the Asetek 570Le. The interior of the case looked great. iBuyPower added cable harnesses made of individually black-wrapped wires. The result was that even the visible wires weren't distracting to the eye.


The two 64GB Kingston SSDNow VSeries SSDs set up in RAID 0 seemed to save us several seconds, in comparison to other systems, each time we loaded an application. And combined with the over­clocked, six-core Intel Core i7 -970, the Paladin XLC was snappy to respond during all our testing. Other speedy conveniences inside this build included a lOX BD-ROM drive, a 22X DVD burner, and USB 3.0.

the Paladin XLC per­formed extremely well in our processor benchmarks, including the top mark among Tier I systems in Cinebench 11.5, POV-Ray 3.7, and several of Sandra 2010's processor benchmarks. It also wasn't a terri­ble performer in games, with 136.05fps in Left 4 Dead 2, 32.9fps in Aliens vs. Predator, and 44.1fps in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.:

Call of Pripyat. Those quick load times we experienced were backed by a 360MBps speed in Sandra 2010's Physical Disks test. The Paladin XLC's processor-centric design is shown in 3DMark Vantage, where it delivered a 36843 CPU score.

The iBuyPower Paladin XLC was one of the few colorfully painted systems we saw this year. It also meets iBuyPower's goals of a value performance system with high benchmarks in our processor, memory, and storage tests to deliver a system that's good in most areas and exceptional in a few ..•

CyberPower Gamer Xtreme XT-K


At a hair under $3,000 and the second-least expensive PC in our roundup, the CyberPower

Gamer Xtreme XT-K is kind of a bargain, holding its own against the competition.

CyberPower used the relatively pint­sized and light Xion Predator 970 case for the Gamer Xtreme XT-K. Like most of the Dream PC submissions this year, the case is plain-Jane black, but this one also features a big, bright touch panel on the front where you can adjust the speeds of each fan (four total) and check temps. You can also toggle between viewing the temperatures in Fahrenheit or in Celsius, if

you're into that sort of thing.

The case also offers front access to the hard drive bay, so you can access up to two drives behind a small swinging door. The liquid-cooling setup is com­pact with thin tubing, which helps increase airflow and also makes it easier to work inside the case if and when the need arises.


despite its diminutive size . the gamer xtreme XT-K packs . in plenty of good components. The Intel Core i7 -875 K is overclocked to a solid 3.84GHz, and the dual Radeon 5970s in CrossFire provide excellent graphics horsepower. CyberPower kept the storage setup simple but strong with a single 80GB Intel X-25M for the as and 1 TB of storage via the Western Digital Caviar Black drive. By including 8GB of Kingston HyperX RAM, Cyber­Power gave the Gamer Xtreme XT-K an extra bit of oomph.


Its benchmark scores certainly hold up to other, more expensive PCs in its tier.

even surpassing some of them in several tests including 3DMark Vantage, PCMark Vantage, SiSoft Sandra Memory tests, and Left 4 Dead 2. The system's few weaknesses did emerge in POV-Ray 3.7 Beta, Aliens vs. Predator, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but on the whole it per­formed above its pay grade, so to speak.

Although it's a mite strange to say this about a dream PC, the CyberPower Gamer Xtreme XT-K offers nice bang for your buck. Nothing about it is especially pricey or gaudy; CyberPower seems to have chosen high-performing parts for the

build without relying on the dou­bling or tripling of components (with the exception of the dual graphics cards).

At this price, perhaps this sys­tem is a dream PC that may actu­ally come true for an enthusiast with a few Benjamins to spend on a killer system .


Intel Core i7 –970


Until very recently, if you wanted a six­core Intel desktop processor, you had only one speed bin and model to choose from: the pricey 3.33GHz Core i7-980X Extreme Edition. However, in the past couple of months, Intel decided to intro­duce a slightly more affordable six-core chip, the Core i7-970.

This new hexa-core beast, like the 980X, is built on Intel's new 32nm process and clocks in not so far behind at 3.2GHz. Its top Turbo Boost speed is 3.46GHz, compared to the 980X's 3.6GHz, and its QPI link speed is set to 4.8GTps vs. 6.4GTps for the 980X, the latter of which won't hamper performance much, if at all. The 970 also has 12MB of shared L3 cache, just like its more expen­sive six-core sibling. Built with Intel Hyper-Threading technology, the chip is able to offer 12 threads of processing resources to the OS.

Also like the previous Core i7 six-core release, this chip will drop into existing Socket LGA1366 motherboards, though you might need to grab the latest BIOS update to support the new chip microcode. From a performance standpoint, for single­or lightly threaded workloads, the Core i7­970 lines up slightly behind a quad-core Core i7-975. However, in multithreaded applications that make use of the chip's extra cores, the Core i7-970 is up to 50% faster than its nearest quad-core counterpart and within about 5 to 7% of the 980X.

The Core i7-970 doesn't carry such an extreme price, retailing around $885, mak­ing it a great "budget" chip if you want six cores of Intel processing power .

Asus ENGTX460 OirectCU TOP

The GeForce GTX 460 from Asus came in too late to make it into last month's roundup, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a closer look once we saw the angular heatsink shroud paint­ed blue with white pinstripes, evoking the iconic Shelby Cobra.

Under the hood, Asus overclocked the GF104's core clock to 775MHz, which is a full 100MHz higher than the stock clock of the 1 GB GTX 460. The memory clock also got a boost from 1,800MHz to 2,000MHz. The shroud covers a substantial aluminum finned heatsink with three heat­pipes, and as we hinted above, it's one of the more attractive we've seen. However, because of its open design, some of the heat this card generates ends up circulating throughout the case. But because the GTX 460 is the twice removed second nephew to the silicon-boiling big daddy that is the GF 1 00 Fermi, heat is not an issue you need to worry too much about. The backplane of this dual-slot card features a pair ofDVI ports and a mini HDMI port. Bundled extras include a 4- to 6-pin PCI-E power connector, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a DVI­to-HDMI adapter, and a CD wallet.

In Win Dragon 81ayer

Meet an mATX mini tower in the vein of Frank Frazetta. This Dragon

Slayer is just an airbrushed side-panel mural away from total awesomeness.

In Win says that the hexagonally per­forated steel motif is meant to evoke chain mail. We see in it ye olde hex pa­per, much beloved among turn-based gaming nostalgists.

Breezy is the Dragon Slayer. Beyond its quartet of included fans, its perforated and filtered side panel has rubber mounting grommets for up to four more 120mm blowers. There's another paneled vent on the floor to accommodate your bottom­feeding power supply.



In Win pulls off a largely tool-less design here. The pin brackets for the drives have twist locks that are color-coordinated with the fan rotors, grom­meted drive rails, and expansion card retainers. The consensus around the lab calls the hue matte neon yellow, if not chartreuse


The front SuperS peed USB 3.0 connector termi­nates in a long cable meant to loop out the back through a rubber-lined hole, thence to mate with an unattached and suitably fast female port, such as on

the motherboard or a daughtercard.


two Hi-Speed USB ports and the usual HD/AC97 jacks round out the front gallery. Slaying any dragon requires adaptability, and thus In Win allows you to repurpose the drive bays in a number of ways. Rest assured that if you need to mount an SSD or prefer to use multiple burners, you're covered. The hardware packet even includes several incon­spicuous, peel-and-stick cable tamers .


by Marty Sems

Bigfoot Networks



Bigfoot Networks may not be a household name among general PC consumers, but in hardcore gaming circles the company's gaming net­work cards have earned a solid reputation, including the company's latest effort, the Killer 2100. Unlike "dumb" NICs that cause "huge, unpredictable latency spikes" during gameplay, Bigfoot states that the Killer 2100 "has latency in microseconds" thanks to its NPU (Net­ work Processing Unit) that offloads game data from the CPU and Windows. The card evidently impressed Alienware enough for the game system builder to announce in mid-August that it's offering the Killer 2100 in Aurora, Aurora ALX, Area- 51, and Area­51 ALX systems. Alienware's Frank Azor stated the NI C-system combo "represents a lethal combination-maximizing performance for more frags, faster leveling, and higher scores.


You know about Moore's Law and the power-consumption, pro­gramming, and architectural roadblocks making it more difficult to double the number of transistors on an integrated circuit approxi­mately every two years. So does DARPA. Thus, the agency recently announced a UHPC (Ubiquitous High Performance Computing) program that "directly addresses major priorities expressed by Pres­ident Obama's 'Strategy for American Innovation,'" including the exascale supercomputing Century Grand Challenge, energy-efficient computing, and worker productivity. With the goal to "reinvent computing," UHPC will involve developing "radically new computer architectures and programming models that deliver 100 to 1,000 times more performance" but are easier to program than present sys­tems. Intel, Nvidia, MIT, and Sandia National Laboratory have been tabbed to build UHPC prototypes by 2018.


Samsung's BD-C8000 ($499.99) may very well be the "world's first portable Blu-ray player with 3D capability," but don't get too excited just yet. Although the netbook-Iooking BD-C8000 will give you 1080P HD video on its 1O.3-inch screen, what it won't give you is 3D viewing while on the go. For that ability, you'll need to connect the player (HDMI 1.4a integrated) to a 3DTV. On the plus side, the BD-C8000 does build in Wi-Fi and is Netflix-ready. It also includes 1GB built-in storage and access to the various goodies that make up Samsung Apps (YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Pandora, etc.). Battery life, meanwhile, is rated at three hours .

The Mac Pro Upgrades

Apple's desktop workstation, the Mac Pro, now features up to 12 CPU cores for what Apple says is a 50 percent performance improvement on its predecessor.

"In terms of the processor, we're adding Intel's latest generation Xeon technology, the Westmere generation of products," says David Moody, Apple vice president of worldwide Mac hardware marketing, referring to the Intel code name for the processor line. The new chips feature a 32-nanometer process that can fit up to six cores on a single die.

The new Mac Pro features a pair of either quad-core or six-core Intel Xeon processors, with up to a 12MB Level 3 (L3) cache and speeds ranging from 2.66GHz to 3.33GHz. "The combination of the cache and the integrated memory controller provides outstanding memory band­width and improved memory latency," Moody told Macworld.

The new Mac Pro also features Turbo Boost, which allows the system to dynamically boost CPU speeds up to 3.6GHz, and Hyper-Threading, which allows the system to create up to 24 virtual cores.

A first for the Mac Pro line, customers can slip a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD) into one or all four of the drive bays. By filling all four drive bays with SSDs, users can create a striped RAID.

The ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card with 1GB ofGDDR5 memory is now Custom Rig Apple says that there are 1.3 billion possible configurations of the Mac Pro.