Proving that a $999 PC doesn't have to pull any punches, the iBuyPower Value-Pro serves up a balanced mix of components at a budget price. In addition to your choice of stylish midtower cases, you get a robust processor, an LCD monitor with DVI input, and support that includes both onsite service and live Web-based help. The fast hardware resulted in impressive performance scores; in our comparison tests of similar systems, the Value-Pro finished at the top of its class. Only cheap speakers and a virtually nonexistent software bundle tarnish this otherwise value-packed deal.
We didn't expect anything more than a standard tower case from a PC in this price range, but our iBuyPower Value-Pro came housed in a shiny black Trinity ATX midtower case with a small blue-backlit LCD in front and a big window on the side--the latter illuminated by a matching blue-LED fan. A large door hides the system's drives (but thankfully not its power button), making for a smooth, solid-looking face. Several other case options are available, adding or subtracting anywhere from $9 to $78 from the cost.
The stock Trinity ATX case plays hard to get, at least where access is concerned. Two screws hold the side panel in place; once you've removed them, you still have to disconnect a power cord from the panel's cooling fan. Once inside, there's plenty of room for expansion in this spacious tower: USB and audio connections are available on both the front and rear of the system. The front ports (two USB 2.0, one microphone, and one headphone) are helpfully mounted on the right side, keeping cables from sprouting from the front of your PC.
iBuyPower stocks the Value-Pro with a 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3500+ and 1GB of 400MHz DDR SDRAM--twice the amount of memory of other $999 systems we've reviewed. You also get a 160GB hard drive--not the largest in the group, but certainly better than the 80GB in the Sys MediaMax S2600. We were impressed to find a built-in Wi-Fi adapter as well, a feature we'd love to see on more desktops. Just connect the antenna, and you have easy access to a home or office wireless network.
The iBuyPower Value-Pro's video card is one of the few concessions to the $999 ceiling. Although the Nvidia GeForce 6200 comes with an impressive 256MB of onboard memory, we'd much rather have a ViewSonic VA712b monitor. The 17-inch dual-interface display (VGA and DVI) delivered commendable images despite its relatively low 450:1 contrast ratio. The VA712b's stellar 8ms response time makes it perfect for games and movies., which would better accommodate visually demanding games. iBuyPower offers a 256MB version of the 6600 for just $58 extra--a decidedly worthwhile upgrade. Both video cards pair well with the included
Speaking of games, our system included a coupon for the full version of Half-Life 2 (which must be downloaded). Although the video card isn't up to the task of running it at high resolutions with antialiasing and other visual effects turned up, the iBuyPower Value-Pro still ran the game at a respectable 58fps on our 800x600 resolution test, easily the best of the budget group.