iBuyPower Value XP PC review: iBuyPower Value XP PC

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The Good Plenty of room for expansion; online configuration options are clear and wide-ranging; Pentium 4 processing in value PC; cool silver case.

The Bad USB 2.0 and FireWire support are added-cost options; standard speakers, keyboard, and mouse are low quality; no system manual or quick-setup guide.

The Bottom Line With a powerful P4 processor and a low price, the stylish iBuyPower Value XP PC is--true to its name--an excellent value.

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7.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 5

Just because the new generation of iBuyPower Value XP PC looks pretty doesn't mean that it has left its down-home roots behind. This PC comes highly recommended because it's still one of the best values around. The standard configuration costs a mere $899 and includes a speedy 2.26GHz Pentium 4, 256MB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive, and a GeForce4 MX 440 card. All of this plus the bundled 17-inch CRT adds up to quite a system for the money despite a lackluster support package. Upgrade the flimsy default speakers, keyboard, and mouse, and you'll still walk away with a sub-$1,000 system. If you're determined to spend less than a grand for a new PC and you want enough power for the applications of today (and tomorrow), the iBuyPower Value XP PC deserves a spot on your shortlist. With its swanky silver case, iBuyPower brings high-class looks to its low-cost Value XP PC. But this isn't just another pretty case; it also provides plenty of room for upgrades and has two convenient USB ports at the bottom of the front panel. Its beige predecessor, on the other hand, supplied these only on the back of the box. FireWire, however, is another story. You'll need to pony up $29 for an add-in FireWire card that gives you three such ports on the back of the system.

Two USB 1.1 ports up front.

Four USB 1.1 ports on the back,
but zero USB 2.0 anywhere.

The Value XP's back panel contains the usual ports for monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse, and so on. Our Value XP test system didn't include an Ethernet port, but iBuyPower offers five network-card options from which to choose. Also missing is USB 2.0 support. You'll need to buy a PCI USB 2.0 card if you have peripherals that support this faster spec.

Cabling under control.
Peer through the window on the side of the case, and you'll notice that iBuyPower does a fine job of 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.

iBuyPower had reason to keep the cabling from the four fans, the hard drive, and the optical drives under control. If the system were cluttered with cables, you'd have a harder time realizing your expansion plans. And thankfully, the Value XP PC has lots of room for just that with its two available 5.25-inch drive bays, two free 3.5-inch bays, and five free PCI slots. This is truly a system that will grow with you.

Plan to expand? No problem.

iBuyPower offers a broad and colorful array of features for its Value XP PC. Yes, you can customize your Value XP PC with blue, green, yellow, black, or silver optical drives, keyboard, and mouse. But to keep the system's price low, some of these peripherals--no matter which color--are second-rate at best.

These are not the speakers you want.
Our test configuration included speakers, a keyboard, and a mouse from a company called Mitsuko, and all of which felt like cheap, plastic children's toys made to resemble actual computer peripherals. The three-piece speaker set includes a minisubwoofer that doesn't require its own power source--never a good sign. In fact, we'd hesitate to call it a subwoofer at all; it's more like a third speaker and a tinny one at that. If you're entertaining even the slightest notion of watching DVDs or listening to MP3s on your computer, spend the extra money to upgrade to Altec Lansing's three-piece set at the very least. We'd also suggest upgrading to one of the three Microsoft keyboards and an IntelliMouse Explorer.

Peripherals aside, iBuyPower doesn't skimp on the Value XP PC's guts. It offers only Pentium 4 processors--no value Celeron or Duron chips here. (The XP in the system's name refers to the fact that it comes preloaded with Windows XP, not to the AMD Athlon XP processor.) And if you're willing to spend a bit more cash, you can purchase all the power your heart desires. Although the Value XP PC ships standard with a 2.26GHz P4, iBuyPower provides eight P4s to choose from, ranging in speed from 1.8GHz to 2.8GHz. Also standard is 256MB of 333MHz DDR SDRAM, a 60GB hard drive, and a GeForce4 MX 440 graphics card.These are all superior components compared to what you'd find on other sub-$1,000 machines, which generally come with 128MB or 256MB of 266MHz DDR SDRAM and a 40GB hard drive.

With the Value XP PC's included DVD-ROM and 40X/12X/48X CD-RW drives, you can both watch DVDs and burn CDs disc-to-disc, two things that every computer should be able to do these days. And if you want to burn DVDs, iBuyPower offers a Pioneer DVD-RW combo drive.

DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives.
We have no qualms about the Value XP PC's standard 17-inch Aquaview 7GS CRT. It doesn't have a truly flat screen, but it's bright enough and allowed for an enjoyable test viewing of X-Men. For the space or energy conscious, you can also choose between a 15- and a 17-inch Sceptre LCD.

As with most budget PCs, the Value XP PC doesn't include Microsoft Office XP. Instead, you get Microsoft Works Suite 2002, which is perfectly acceptable for home use. (Business users will want to upgrade to Office XP.) The iBuyPower runs on Windows XP Home and includes Nero Burning ROM 5.0, Cyberlink's PowerDVD, and Norton AntiVirus 2002.

Application performance
The iBuyPower Value XP PC's overall application performance is in the right ballpark for a 2.266GHz P4-based desktop, albeit somewhere out in left field, with similarly configured systems outperforming the Value XP. This is surprising considering that the Value XP uses DDR SDRAM system memory running at a faster speed of 333MHz. Overall, the Value XP's application performance is more than capable, but it's not as speedy as other 2.266GHz P4-based systems.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 Rating  
SysMark2002 Internet Content Creation Rating  
SysMark2002 Office Productivity Rating  
CybertronPC Xercom 2920 (2.266GHz P4)
Gateway 500S (2GHz P4)
iBuyPower Value XP PC (2.266GHz P4)
Sony VAIO PCV-RX790G (2.4GHz P4)
Starfish SS2000 (2.266GHz P4)
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, 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
An Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440-based graphics card is a solid choice for a midlevel desktop. It doesn't deliver the outrageously fast performance of a high-end graphics card, such as the GeForce4 Ti 4600, but it also doesn't come with the premium sticker price of a high-end card, either. The Value XP delivers strong 3D graphics acceleration that is more than powerful enough for most of today's games.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro (16-bit color)  
MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro (32-bit color)  
CybertronPC Xercom 2920 (2.266GHz P4)
Gateway 500S (2GHz P4)
iBuyPower Value XP PC (2.266GHz P4)
Sony VAIO PCV-RX790G (2.4GHz P4)
Starfish SS2000 (2.266GHz P4)
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro. We use 3DMark to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 (DX8) interface at both 16- and 32-bit color settings at a resolution of 1,024x768. A system that does not have DX8 hardware support will typically generate a lower score than one that has DX8 hardware support.

3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Quake III Arena  
CybertronPC Xercom 2920 (2.266GHz P4)
Gateway 500S (2GHz P4)
iBuyPower Value XP PC (2.266GHz P4)
Sony VAIO PCV-RX790G (2.4GHz P4)
Starfish SS2000 (2.266GHz P4)
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Quake III Arena. Although Quake III is an older game, it is still widely used as an industry-standard tool. Quake III does not require DX8 hardware support--as 3DMark2001 does--and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low- to high-end graphics subsystems. Quake III performance is reported in frames per second (fps).

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

CybertronPC Xercom 2920
Windows XP Home; 2.266GHz Intel P4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 64MB; IBM IC35L060AVVA07 60GB 7,200rpm

Gateway 500S
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz Intel P4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 64MB; Maxtor 6L080J4 80GB 7,200rpm

iBuyPower Value XP PC
Windows XP Home; 2.266GHz Intel P4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 64MB; Maxtor 6L060J3 60GB 7,200rpm

Windows XP Home; 2.4GHz Intel P4; 512MB RDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 64MB; Western Digital WD120BB-22CAA01 120GB 7,200rpm

Starfish SS2000
Windows XP Home; 2.266GHz Intel P4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 128MB; Western Digital WD800JB-00CRA1 80GB 7,200rpm

There's a reason why the Value XP PC's maker is not called iBuySupport: there isn't much of it. First-time PC owners may get a little lost upon setup, since there is 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, and an additional $29 nets you 24/7 phone support. Online support is limited to 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.

iBuyPower's standard warranty lasts for three years for labor and one year for parts. You can upgrade to one, two, or three years of onsite service for $39, $79, and $119, respectively. Keep in mind that you pay the shipping one-way if you don't opt for any of the onsite service plans and you need to send your system back to iBuyPower for repairs. This all adds up to a level of support that's less than ideal, but it is yet another way that iBuyPower keeps its PC prices as low as they are. For experienced PC users looking to stretch their dollars, it's a worthwhile trade-off.

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