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iBuyPower Value Ultra review: iBuyPower Value Ultra

Students will love the Value Ultra System for its many performance and aesthetic options. Their parents may want to save a little dough by opting for a cookie-cutter system from eMachines, but the extra change gets you a lot at iBuyPower.

John R. Delaney
5 min read
Whether you're looking for a computer for your kid to take to college or a second PC to convert his or her now-vacant bedroom into a home office, iBuyPower's sub-$1,000 Value Ultra system lives up to its name by delivering an ultralevel value. And better still are the myriad ways in which the company lets you configure it: strip it down for maximum economy, add a fancy monitor and speakers for multimedia work, or go whole hog with a top-of-the-line processor and dual SLI-ready graphics cards. It's true that the similar, cookie-cutter eMachines T6532 costs less (even when you add in a comparable monitor), but the better graphics power and warranty plus the customization options you get from iBuyPower more than justify the Value Ultra's price. At $999, the Value Ultra makes a great fit for families and students, and enthusiasts on a budget will also dig its high degree of configurability.

If you don't care to pick and choose your components, the eMachines T6532 remains our pick among budget PCs. But if you want to customize your PC, the iBuyPower Value Ultra system (VUS) makes a compelling case. In addition to the standard configuration options, such as adding more memory or a larger hard drive, iBuyPower lets you choose from a handful of cases, power supplies, and motherboards. And no matter your choices, you'll find value throughout. Take away its graphics card, for example, and the iBuyPower VUS stacks up even more closely to the T6532 in price--within about $60--and still you'll have a better graphics subsystem, more expansion, and a better case. That's the beauty of the offerings from iBuyPower: A single system can range from bare-bones basic to a top-shelf screamer.


iBuyPower Value Ultra

The Good

Competitively priced; highly configurable; solid performance, including respectable 3D frame rates; good warranty.

The Bad

Messy case, inside and out; no warranty extensions.

The Bottom Line

Students will love the Value Ultra System for its many performance and aesthetic options. Their parents may want to save a little dough by opting for a cookie-cutter system from eMachines, but the extra change gets you a lot at iBuyPower.

Though we won't quibble about its value, the iBuyPower Value Ultra isn't without its issues. First of all, the gaming-oriented CoolerMaster Ammo-533 case included with our system may have some nice touches--a built-in handle and side-mounted USB and FireWire ports--but it's tweaked with too much neon and molded ornamentation. From a purely aesthetic point of view, one colleague put it best, "It looks like something you might like if you were 12 years old." Ouch. Thankfully, more mature-looking cases are offered.

The case interior is also a big mess. You can open the side panel with ease, but you'll find cables snaking all over the place, making access to some components more difficult. While the Value Ultra is priced like a budget system, its interior is designed with the enthusiast in mind. The eVGA Nforce4 SLI motherboard features three PCI Express x16 slots--though two offer only x8 bandwidth when used in an SLI configuration; the third provides full x16 bandwidth for a single card--and three PCI slots. In addition, you'll find a total of 10 drive bays, 7 of which were available in our evaluation model.

The iBuyPower Value Ultra is strictly AMD based. Ours came with a 2.2GHz Athlon 64 3500+ processor inside and finished in a statistical dead heat in CNET Labs' SysMark application benchmark with the eMachines T6532, not surprising since both systems are similar and use the same processor. The Value Ultra bested the Intel-based Dell Dimension E510 by a healthy 12 percent. You can, of course, save a bit of dough by opting for the slower 3200+ CPU, or you can jack things up as high as you like. A bleeding-edge FX-60 will run you $910 more. iBuyPower also offers a wide range of Intel-based desktops.

Where the iBuyPower Value Ultra flexes its muscle is with 3D games, turning in respectable scores for a budget PC. We don't typically run our 3D benchmarks on budget systems since most feature integrated graphics and aren't designed for gaming. Our Value Ultra test system used a current-generation Nvidia card, the 256MB GeForce 7600 GT, which delivered decent 3D frame rates, including a very playable 60.9 frames per second (fps) in our Half-Life 2 test at 1,600x1,200 resolution. It pulled down 73.8fps and 35.5fps on Doom 3 at 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200, respectively. High-resolution gaming (or more-demanding games) will require you to up the ante, and iBuyPower allows you to do this with 27 different graphics card options, including eight dual-card SLI profiles.

At this price, our system included 1GB of 400MHz DDR RAM, a 200GB hard drive, and a double-layer DVD burner. Here again, the sky's the limit when it comes to configuration. The company offers 10,000rpm Raptor hard drives, a 1TB dual-drive RAID setup, and almost anything in between. We suggest you chip in the extra $82 to add a second 200GB hard drive.

Among the wide assortment of CRT and LCD monitors, iBuyPower bundled the 17-inch ViewSonic Q7B with our review unit, the lowest-priced LCD currently available. It supports a native 1,280x1,024 resolution, looks decent, and has an easy-to-use menu system.

At the quoted price, the system includes Windows XP Media Center Edition and Microsoft Works Suite 2006 software, a standard Internet keyboard and optical mouse, and some rather flimsy 2.1 speakers. You can save a couple of bucks by foregoing the neon light kit, which thankfully comes with a back-mounted on/off switch.

Interestingly, while you can configure your new Value Ultra to within an inch of its life, you can't do anything to the warranty. However, the warranty that isn't terrible to begin with: three years for labor and one year for parts protection and lifetime toll-free technical support. That's more than most vendors offer as a standard warranty, but iBuyPower doesn't allow you to upgrade the warranty to match the ironclad four- and five-year optional warranties some of the big guys offer. Moreover, phone support is available only during business hours, five days a week.

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

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Dell Dimension E510
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 3.0GHz Intel Pentium 4 531; Intel 945G chipset; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X300 SE (PCIe); Maxtor 6L160M0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

eMachines T6532
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3500+; Nvidia Nforce4 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated Nvidia GeForce 6100 graphics chip using 256MB shared memory; Western Digital WD2000BB-22GUCO, 200GB, 7,200rpm, ATA/100

Gateway DX200X
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 3.06GHz Pentium 4 519; Intel 915G chipset; 5124MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; integrated Intel 915G graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; Seagate ST3160023AS 160GB 7,200rpm SATA

iBuyPower Value Ultra
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3500+; Nvidia Nforce4 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7600GT PCIe; Western Digital WD2000JS-00PDB0 200GB 7,200rpm SATA

Lenovo 3000 J105
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3200+; VIA VT8237 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated VIA S3 Unichrome Pro graphics chip using 64MB shared memory; Western Digital WD800JD 80GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA


iBuyPower Value Ultra

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 9Performance 7Support 7