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IBuyPower Value-Pro Athlon 64 3500+ 2.2 GHz - 17 TFT review: IBuyPower Value-Pro Athlon 64 3500+ 2.2 GHz - 17 TFT

Providing more than you might expect from a $999 PC, the iBuyPower Value-Pro includes built-in Wi-Fi, a DVI LCD monitor, and a whopping 1GB of RAM. Only subpar speakers mar the package. A welcome bonus: the coupon for a free download of the full version of Half-Life 2.

rickbroida
Rick Broida
rickbroida

Rick Broida

Senior Editor

Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").

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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.

7.7

IBuyPower Value-Pro Athlon 64 3500+ 2.2 GHz - 17 TFT

The Good

Snazzy case options; built-in Wi-Fi adapter; excellent DVI monitor; includes Half-Life 2 coupon; solid performance; real-time online support.

The Bad

Cheap speakers; one-year parts warranty; case lacks easy entry.

The Bottom Line

Nearly everything about the iBuyPower Value-Pro suggests a price tag higher than $999, making this a top choice among sub-$1,000 systems.
iBuyPower Value-Pro
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.

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 GeForce 6600, 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 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.

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.

Half-Life 2 is the only software iBuyPower provides with the Value-Pro, save for a handful of system utilities and Nero Express, a "lite" version of the robust Nero disc-authoring suite. But the no-name 2.1 speaker system is the biggest letdown. Leave it off your configuration, and iBuyPower will knock a whole $4 from the price, which should give you some idea of the sound quality. Actually, they're impressively loud speakers, but anyone who cares even slightly about audio fidelity will want to consider one of the company's numerous add-on Logitech or Klipsch speaker options.

Although iBuyPower's parts warranty expires after one year, the company covers labor for three years. What's more, the first year includes onsite service, a rare perk for a budget system. Equally gratifying, the company offers real-time online support in the form of a live chat window, something normally available only from big-name vendors, along with toll-free telephone support Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus demo (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with no antialiasing and no anisotropic filtering  

Half-Life 2 custom demo (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
800x600 with no antialiasing and no anisotropic filtering  
* iBuyPower Value-Pro ran Half-Life 2 using DX9
** ZT Group Pro A7055 ran Half-Life 2 using DX7
*** Shuttle XPC K6200h ran Half-Life 2 using DX8.1

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
Gateway 5310S
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.06GHz Intel Pentium 4 519; Intel 915GV chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated Intel 915GV graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; Seagate ST3160023AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
iBuyPower Value-Pro
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3500+; Nvidia Nforce-4 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6200 TurboCache PCI-Express; Western Digital WD1600JD-98HBB0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Shuttle XPC K6200h
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.8GHz Intel Celeron D 335; ATI 9100IGP chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated ATI 9100 graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; Western Digital WD1600JB-00GVA0 160GB 7,200rpm EIDE
Sys MediaMax S2600
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.8GHz AMD Sempron 3100+; Via K8M800 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 AGP; Western Digital WD800JD-75JNCO 80GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
ZT Group Pro A7055
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+; Via K8T800 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 MX 400 AGP; Western Digital WD2000JB-00GVC0 200GB 7,200rpm EIDE

7.7

IBuyPower Value-Pro Athlon 64 3500+ 2.2 GHz - 17 TFT

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 8Support 7
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