For its Value Pro series, iBuyPower gives you a selection of Raidmax cases. Our test system arrived housed in the standard, silver A268 midtower case, which offers a 350-watt power supply and an impressive amount of expansion room. In addition to the case's four 5.25-inch drive bays, two 3.5-inch external bays, and four 3.5-inch internal bays, the Abit Is7-E motherboard serves up five PCI slots, all of which were unoccupied on our test system.
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The Raidmax A268 case delivers USB 2.0 ports up front.
iBuyPower also gives you the option to add a bit of dash to the package--for, say, an affordable gaming system--in the form of sound-activated interior lights, a variety of case colors in addition to the silver case pictured here, and a temperature LCD. You can also upgrade the power supply (up to 550 watts).
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iBuyPower keeps the interior tidy and gives you some room to grow.
Peer through the window on the side of the case, and you'll notice that iBuyPower does a fine job keeping things tidy on the inside, especially when you consider that it has a total of four cooling fans. Two of the fans are located at the bottom of the side panel, which slides off, so be careful that you don't just rip off the door in your haste to get inside your system. You must disconnect each fan's power cord to completely remove the side panel. You'll also need a screwdriver; the side panel is held on by two screws on the back.
Two front-mounted USB 2.0 ports (behind an admittedly flimsy door) and four more on the back panel alongside the S/PDIF connector are among your external expansion options. You'll need to choose a $29 PCI card from iBuyPower's online configurator, however, to add FireWire ports. We would have preferred to see the six-in-one flash-media card reader that iBuyPower is offering as a free upgrade instead of the floppy drive that the company included in our Value Pro test system.
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DVD double vision: DVD-ROM and DVD+/-RW drives.
Families and small businesses may not appreciate the Value Pro's windowed side panel or its colorful array of available colors, but they're bound to like what we found inside our test system: a speedy 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor and 512MB of fast 400MHz memory, alongside Nvidia's midrange GeForce FX 5600 graphics card. The Intel 865PE chipset provides an 800MHz frontside bus. Together, these components will handle the majority of any family's computing needs, including casual gaming and light digital-video editing. For such tasks, the system serves a 16X DVD-ROM drive and a multiformat 4X DVD+/-RW drive. Only the 80GB hard disk gives us pause: although it runs at 7,200rpm, it's a tad on the small side. For just $25 extra, you can bump it up to 120GB, adding 50 percent more space.
The peripherals that accompanied our Value Pro test system, on the other hand, were a mixed bag. The 17-inch Aopen LCD is a decent-size screen, but in our testing, we saw some off colors and poor differentiation among black and dark colors. DVDs also flickered slightly on the Aopen LCD. We'd suggest you take advantage of iBuyPower's offer and choose the 17-inch ViewSonic Optiquest Q170 for an extra $20 instead. The 4.1 Creative speakers we tested with the Value Pro will best serve for casual listening, although they sounded better than we expected. iBuyPower offers a wide range of speakers, from the smallest 2-piece set all the way up to 7.1 sets, and all the big names are represented: Altec Lansing, Creative, Klipsch, and Logitech.
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|For only a few dollars more, you can upgrade to a ViewSonic LCD. We suggest you jump at the chance.|
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|We've yet to see a Mitsuko keyboard we've liked.|
The cheap, plastic Mitsuko multimedia keyboard and optical mouse that came with our test system were merely satisfactory. If you're planning to have long sessions at the keyboard, think about upgrading to one of the Logitech or Microsoft keyboard-and-mouse combos.
The included software was spartan. Our Windows XP Home test system included CyberLink PowerDVD for watching DVDs and Nero Express 6.0 for burning DVDs and CDs. A productivity suite or a DVD-editing app will add to the price.
The iBuyPower Value Pro's performance wasn't stellar, but it would satisfy families and entry-level videographers. Its SysMark 2002 score of 270 was slightly below average for a 2.8GHz-based system and more on a par with that of a 2.6GHz-based PC. Though iBuyPower also offers 3GHz and 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processors for added costs, the 2.8GHz P4 has more than enough muscle to handle most--if not all--of today's office tasks. When coupled with 512MB of fast 400MHz DDR memory and Nvidia's midrange graphics card, the system will even serve for many graphics tasks, which we'll discuss below.
|Application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
3D graphics and gaming performance
Thanks to Nvidia's midrange GeForce FX 5600 graphics card with 256MB of graphics memory, the iBuyPower has the horsepower to handle many graphics tasks. Its graphics scores of 549 in Futuremark's 3DMark03 and its 95.3 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 2003 were in line with the 5600-based competition. Only serious gamers and digital-video hobbyists will need to upgrade to a more advanced graphics card.
|3D gaming performance (in fps) (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
|3D gaming performance (in fps) (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, which is widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled. At this color depth and resolution, Unreal is much less demanding than 3DMark03, and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.System configurations:
ABS Awesome 4500B
Windows XP Home; 2.6GHz Intel P4; Intel 865PE chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5600 128MB; WDC WD1200JB-00CRA1 1,200GB 7,200rpm
Dell Dimension 4600C
Windows XP Home, 2.8GHz Intel P4; Intel 865PE chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB; WDC WD800BB-75CAA0 80GB 7,200rpm
IBM ThinkCentre A50p
Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel P4; Intel 865G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9600 Pro 128MB; Maxtor 6Y120L0 1200GB 7,200rpm
iBuyPower Value Pro
Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel P4; Intel 865PE chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5600 256MB; Maxtor 6Y080L0 80GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Professional; 2.8GHz Intel P4; SIS 645DX chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB; Seagate ST3120023A 120GB 7,200rpm
iBuyPower backs the Value Pro with an above-average, one-year-parts and three-year-labor warranty, which now includes a year of onsite service. You can increase the duration of the onsite service for an added cost.
First-time PC owners may get a little lost upon setup, since the Value Pro comes with neither a system manual nor a setup guide. If you find yourself in need of assistance, you'll have to sift through the included motherboard manual, which is the closest thing to a user manual you get. iBuyPower offers toll-free telephone support Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. Online support is limited to browsing a list of driver downloads and sending e-mail to iBuyPower tech support. By comparison, other companies are now offering live chat with a support technician and, at the very least, a troubleshooting FAQ page on their site that details common problems. Still, iBuyPower's prices make its products among the best deals you'll find, even if they come at the cost of a printed manual or more robust online-support options.