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iBuyPower Viiv-350 review: iBuyPower Viiv-350

iBuyPower Viiv-350

John R. Delaney
5 min read
Technically speaking, the iBuyPower Viiv-350 meets the necessary criteria to qualify as a Viiv system. PCs with Intel's Viiv sticker are supposed to be optimized for multimedia use and must include the Windows Media Center Edition operating system, 5.1 or 7.1 audio, and Intel's Quick Resume instant on/off technology. Other things we think you need for a great entertainment PC, such as a TV tuner and a Media Center remote, are not part of the Viiv requirement. The $999 iBuyPower Viiv-350 lacks both of these essential components, and there are better bargains out there for the money, including the marginally more expensive HP Pavilion Media Center TV m7360n. On the plus side, the 1GB of RAM is generous for the price, and the low-profile case may fit in tight home-entertainment centers more easily than other A/V-style cases would.
The iBuyPower Viiv-350 is housed in a black AOpen B300A BTX case that looks as much like an old-school desktop chassis as a living-room component-style case. It has room for one optical drive and one 3.5-inch drive, but the remaining bays are occupied by a dual-layer DVD burner and a media-card reader/floppy combo drive. Thanks to the BTX chassis, the system itself is very quiet. The low-noise output and the design of the case should allow the system to blend easily into most home-entertainment setups. Behind a door on the front panel are four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and headphone and mic-in jacks. Four additional USB 2.0 ports and another FireWire port are located on the rear panel.
The Viiv-350 is based on an Intel D945GBO motherboard, which provides integrated eight-channel audio with multiple analog output jacks and one optical S/PDIF jack. Onboard sound works fine for most users, but if you're serious about your audio quality and want to upgrade to a high-end sound card such as the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro, the low-profile expansion-card requirement is a deal breaker.
Although the system's 160GB hard drive is adequate for storing multimedia files, chances are it will fill up quickly, especially if you decide to use the Viiv-350 as an entertainment hub with lots of stored video files. Upgrading can be tricky because there's room for only one hard drive inside. Video is driven by an ATI Radeon 300 SE with 128MB of memory, which sits horizontally in an x16 PCIe riser card. It's better than onboard video, but not by much. Two traditional PCI slots and an x1 PCIe slot are available to accept low-profile expansion cards.
The iBuyPower Viiv-350 system brought up the rear in our roundup of Viiv systems. On CNET Labs' BAPCo SysMark 2004 application benchmarks, the Viiv-350 and its 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D 820 processor ran 35 percent slower than the Polywell Poly 975MCE-E system--which is understandable, considering the Polywell's high-end 3.46GHz Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 955 CPU. The iBuyPower's performance was more in line with that of the HP Media Center m7360n, offering statistically even scores. The HP has a 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D 920, which despite the higher number is virtually indistinguishable from the Pentium D 820. Even though it landed at the bottom of our first batch of Viiv systems, the iBuyPower Viiv-350 has enough horsepower to handle most casual multimedia workloads.
The system is not set up for serious gaming, as evidenced by its unplayable score of 5.6 frames per second on our Doom 3 1,024x768-resolution gaming tests. The included ATI 300 SE video card should be able to handle older games, such as Unreal Tournament 2004, at lower resolutions.
The Viiv-350 comes with Windows XP Media Center Edition, but if you want to take advantage of the operating system's DVR features, you'll have to install your own TV tuner card and get your hands on a Media Center remote control, as neither are included in the base price. Likewise, you'll have to add your own monitor and speaker system. The Viiv-350 bundles an OEM version of Nero's CD/DVD burning software and a copy of Age of Empires III, courtesy of Microsoft, and World of Warcraft, courtesy of Intel.
The iBuyPower Viiv-350 comes with a three-year warranty covering labor, but parts and onsite service are covered for only one year. The company's iCare Deluxe onsite-service program provides for up to two house calls in a one-year period. After that it'll cost you $165 per visit. Online FAQs and drivers are nonexistent, and if you click on a link for drivers, you just get a message that says, "Looking for driver download? Please visit manufacturer Web for information." Toll-free telephone support is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.
Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating  

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
System configurations:
Alienware Area 51 3550
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D 920; Intel 945G chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 6200 TurboCache (PCIe); Hitachi 250GB 7,200rpm, SATA
Dell XPS 400 (Viiv)
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 3.2GHz Intel Pentium D 940; Intel 945P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 (PCIe); two Maxtor 250GB 7,200rpm SATA; integrated Intel (RAID 1)
HP Media Center m7360n
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D 920; Intel 945G chipset; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6200 SE (PCIe); Maxtor 300GB 7,200rpm SATA
iBuypower Viiv-350
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D 820; Intel 945G chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI X300 (PCIe); Seagate 160GB 7,200rpm SATA
Polywell Poly 975MCE-E
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 3.46GHz Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 955; Intel 975X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GT (PCIe); two WDC WD740GD-00FLC0 74GB 10,000rpm SATA, two Maxtor 7Y250M0 250GB 7,200rpm SATA; Integrated Silicon SiL3114 SoftRAID 5 (RAID 0)

iBuyPower Viiv-350

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 6Performance 5Support 4