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iBuyPower Zillion-FX review: iBuyPower Zillion-FX

iBuyPower Zillion-FX

Adam Fisher

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8 min read
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The case offers geek chic--even before the neon lights begin flashing.

The iBuyPower Zillion-FX uses the new RaidMax Scorpio-668 case. Though it is very functional, the aesthetic is definitely offbeat. The flashing lights--from the side-mounted fan and from two sources on the front door--are distracting, and the door itself is made of cheap plastic emblazoned with an odd-looking Z emblem. Its geek chic may appeal to gamers, but not to mainstream home users.

ibuypower-zillion-fx-tower-1-10-athlon-64-3000-plus-2-ghz-ram-512-mb-hdd-1-10-160-gb-dvd-writer-dvd-gf-6800-gt-mdm-win-xp-home.psd
7.9

iBuyPower Zillion-FX

The Good

Well priced and fast; tons of expansion room; high-quality monitor and speakers; above-average warranty.

The Bad

Messy interior; cheap mouse and keyboard; no DVD burner or productivity suite included in price.

The Bottom Line

With the new Athlon 64 FX-51 processor, the iBuyPower Zillion-FX is the most powerful sub-$3,000 PC we've tested.
Packed with AMD's new 64-bit Athlon 64 FX-51 processor, Nvidia's top graphics card (the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra), and 1GB of DDR400 memory, the iBuyPower Zillion-FX's strong benchmark performance came as little surprise. What shocked us was that all this power, plus a fine accompaniment of peripherals, amounted to only $2,699. Sure, we could complain about the lack of a DVD-recordable drive and the lackluster software bundle, but with performance that only competing FX-51-based machines can match, these gripes seem trivial. Gamers looking for a powerful system for today's 32-bit titles--and one that can play the 64-bit apps of tomorrow--will find lots to like about the Zillion-FX.

Nevertheless, the design has its upsides. You'll find plenty of expandability inside, with three free 3.5-inch bays, two open 5.25-inch bays, and three available PCI slots (a daughtercard blocks a fourth). The Zillion-FX allows for ample external expansion, too, serving up six USB 2.0 ports (two are front mounted), two FireWire ports, and an S/PDIF connector to the setup. Three audio ports on the back panel--line in, line out, and microphone--also serve as jacks for the 5.1-speaker set. This was a bit confusing at first; we had to install a driver found on the included Asus motherboard driver disk to get all of the necessary audio channels in operation.

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The cabling could be a lot neater, but the Zillion-FX's large, full-tower case makes it easy to work with.

The tool-free case, which also has front-removable drive bays, was relatively easy to access, although you'll have to unplug a side-mounted fan to remove the side panel altogether. For quick shots in and out of the case, the fan's wire is long enough to allow the panel to lie flat even if the fan is still attached. You'll encounter a tangled mess of wires inside, but the full-tower case gives you enough room to work around them.

iBuyPower built the Zillion-FX around AMD's new 64-bit processor, the Athlon 64 FX-51. Until we start seeing 64-bit apps and a 64-bit version of Windows (due sometime early next year, according to Microsoft), the FX-51 has no room to stretch its legs. For now, you're stuck with excellent 32-bit power.

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Beneath the black cooling fan resides the Athlon 64 FX-51. Just below that is Nvidia's screaming-fast GeForce FX 5900 Ultra.
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Any and all graphics--text, games, and video--looked great on the ViewSonic UltraBright e90f+.

The system's performance advantage was obvious during our hands-on testing. Video editing was extremely smooth, and Unreal Tournament II play was awesome, even with advanced settings enabled. Of course, the system's 1GB of 400MHz DDR memory and Nvidia's GeForce FX 5900 Ultra graphics card helped; so, too, did the 120GB Seagate Serial-ATA drive and its 8MB cache.

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A DVD burner will add to the cost: only DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives here.

Beyond the core components, iBuyPower surprised us with some high-end peripherals. The 19-inch ViewSonic UltraBright e90f+ CRT showcased sharp text and excellent games and video. And we've long been fans of the potent Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 speakers that accompanied our system.

Some features were merely lackluster, however, starting with the cheap, plastic Mitsuko keyboard and roller-ball mouse. The Zillion-FX's software bundle was limited to Windows XP Professional and copies of Ahead Software's Nero Burning ROM 5.0 and CyberLink's PowerDVD. Conspicuously absent from such a high-power PC was a DVD-recordable drive; our test system included a DVD-ROM and a 52X CD-RW drive. Gamers might not miss a DVD burner, but everyone else can select among the three that iBuyPower offers on its online configurator, including the Editors' Choice award-winning Sony DRU-510A. Even with this addition, the Zillion-FX's price remains safely less than $3,000.

Application performance
One of the first two systems we've tested with AMD's new 64-bit processor, the Athlon 64 FX-51, the iBuyPower Zillion-FX turned in blazingly fast SysMark2002 scores, particularly on the office-productivity portion of the test. Before we get into detail, we must explain that the Zillion-FX was using a 32-bit OS (Windows XP Pro) and running 32-bit apps on our benchmarks. Until 64-bit apps and a 64-bit version of Windows appear, you won't reap the full rewards of the Athlon FX-51 processor. But there are other new features built into the chip that offer a significant performance boost today.

Aside from its ability to process data in 64-bit chunks, the two most notable innovations on the Athlon FX-51 concern memory processing. First, AMD has moved the memory controller from the motherboard to the processor, removing the bottleneck between the memory and the CPU known as the frontside bus. Now the speed at which data is transferred between the memory and the processor travels at the clock speed of the processor--2.2GHz in the case of the Athlon FX-51. Second, AMD has doubled the Level 2 (L2) cache found on Athlon XP processors to 1MB. The L2 cache essentially lines up instructions in memory before sending them to the CPU for processing; the more cache you have, the more information can be herded toward the CPU, thereby increasing performance.

The Zillion-FX's benchmark performance on our 32-bit tests was impressive. Although its overall SysMark2002 score of 323 trailed by 5 percent that of our best-performing 3.2GHz Pentium 4, the Gateway 700XL, the Zillion-FX topped the fastest Athlon 3200+ system, the Polywell Poly 880NF3-3200, by 13 percent. What really jumped out at us was our test system's office-productivity score of 250, which bested the Gateway 700XL and all other 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4-based systems we've seen to date. The Zillion-FX is a definite step up from AMD's top 32-bit chip, the Athlon XP 3200+, and it's on a par with Intel's high-end 3.2GHz Pentium 4 with today's 32-bit apps. It also has an eye on the 64-bit-computing future.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 Rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark2002 office productivity  
Gateway 700XL (3.2GHz Intel P4, 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
341 
482 
241 
MPC Millennia 920i (3.2GHz Intel P4, 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
336 
464 
243 
Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1 (2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-51, 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz)
334 
420 
266 
iBuyPower Zillion-FX (2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-51, 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
323 
417 
250 
Polywell Poly 880NF3-3200 (2.2GHz AMD Athlon XP 3200+, 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
286 
355 
230 
Elite PC Titan 4 (2.2GHz AMD Athlon XP 3200+, 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
276 
350 
218 

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
The iBuyPower Zillion-FX uses Nvidia's latest high-end graphics card, the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra. It's an extremely fast card, with 256MB of memory, and it did surprisingly well in our 3D benchmarks. In fact, the Zillion-FX was the first system to top the 20,000 mark on 3DMark2001, and its astronomical Quake III frame rate of 351.6 topped the next-best-performing system by more than 6 percent. That may not seem like a tremendous boost, but we rarely see jumps in performance of more than one percentage point. It's safe to say that the 5900 Ultra will have no trouble playing any of today's titles or those on the horizon. A few trial Ghost Recon missions clearly demonstrated this fact: animation moved very smoothly, even with the graphics complexity turned all the way up.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 Second Edition Build 330 (16-bit color)  
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 Second Edition Build 330 (32-bit color)  
iBuyPower Zillion-FX (Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra)
21,674 
21,297 
MPC Millennia 920i (ATI Radeon 9800 Pro)
18,685 
18,630 
Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1 (Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra)
19,167 
18,609 
Gateway 700XL (ATI Radeon 9800 Pro)
18,686 
18,607 
Elite PC Titan 4 (ATI Radeon 9800 Pro)
17,044 
16,803 
Polywell Poly 880NF3-3200 (Nvidia GeForce FX 5800 Ultra)
17,370 
16,723 

To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark2001 Pro Second Edition, Build 330. 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  
iBuyPower Zillion-FX (Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra)
351.6 
Gateway 700XL (ATI Radeon 9800 Pro)
329.4 
MPC Millennia 920i (ATI Radeon 9800 Pro)
327.1 
Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1 (Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra)
326.8 
Polywell Poly 880NF3-3200 (Nvidia GeForce FX 5800 Ultra)
301.6 
Elite PC Titan 4 (ATI Radeon 9800 Pro)
272.4 

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).

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Elite PC Titan 4
Windows XP Professional, 2.2GHz AMD Athlon XP 3200+; Nvidia Nforce-2 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB; two Western Digital WDC WD360GD-00FNA0, 36GB 10,000rpm; Silicon Image SiI 3112 SATA Raid Controller

Gateway 700XL
Windows XP Home; 3.2GHz Intel P4; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB; two Seagate ST3160023AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial-ATA; integrated Intel 82801ER Serial-ATA RAID controller

iBuyPower Zillion-FX
Windows XP Professional, 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-51; Nvidia Nforce-3 Pro 150 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra 256MB; Seagate ST3120026AS 120GB Serial-ATA 7,200rpm

MPC Millennia 920i
Windows XP Professional; 3.2GHz Intel P4; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB; two Seagate ST3160023AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial-ATA; integrated Intel 82801ER Serial-ATA RAID controller

Polywell Poly 880NF3-3200
Windows XP Professional, 2.2GHz AMD Athlon XP 3200+; Nvidia Nforce-2 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5800 Ultra 128MB; two Western Digital WDC WD360GD-00FNA0, 36GB 10,000rpm; Highpoint RocketRAID 1520 SATA RAID controller

Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1
Windows XP Professional, 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-51; Nvidia Nforce-3 Pro 150 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra 256MB; two WDC WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; WinXP Promise FastTrak 376/378 RAID controller

iBuyPower backs the Zillion-FX pretty well, with a reasonable three-year-labor, one-year-parts warranty that includes a year of onsite service. Extended warranties are available. Also better than usual is the lifetime tech support, which is available 24/7 for the first year and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET afterward. Documentation, however, is limited to the Asus SK8N motherboard guide, and online support isn't much help, either.

ibuypower-zillion-fx-tower-1-10-athlon-64-3000-plus-2-ghz-ram-512-mb-hdd-1-10-160-gb-dvd-writer-dvd-gf-6800-gt-mdm-win-xp-home.psd
7.9

iBuyPower Zillion-FX

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 9Support 8