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Uberclok Ion review: Uberclok Ion

Uberclok Ion

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Rich Brown
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Rich Brown

Executive Editor / Reviews - Home and Wellness

Rich moved his family from Brooklyn to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 to start CNET's Appliances and Smart Home review team, which includes the CNET Smart Home, the CNET Smart Apartment, and the Appliances Review lab. Before moving to Louisville, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printed guns to Z-Wave smart locks.

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6 min read

It seems like every day we get a pitch from a new desktop vendor wanting us to review their "fully customizable, blazing-fast gaming PC." Few of those vendors, however, seem to know how to make an accessible Web site from which to purchase their products. Uberclok is a pleasant exception. We are happy enough with the $1,999 Ion submitted to us, and if you're in the market for a midrange, overclocked gaming PC, we'd certainly recommend you include this one as you make your comparisons. We expect you'll also appreciate that Uberclok's Web site also makes it easy to know what you're buying.

7.7

Uberclok Ion

The Good

Strong, affordable gaming configuration with overclocked CPU and GPU; accessible Web site makes shopping for a system easy; upgrade room thanks to SLI-capable motherboard.

The Bad

Difficult to add second hard drive; clunky-looking case.

The Bottom Line

Thanks to its overclocked CPU and 3D card, the Uberclok Ion delivers excellent performance for its price. It also offers a reliable upgrade path due to its SLI motherboard. We also like its Web site. We'd like to see more from Uberclok before we make too strong a recommendation, but this system makes a great first impression.

The Ion is Uberclock's midrange gaming desktop, and you can't purchase it without both the CPU and the graphics card overclocked. The starting price for the Ion is $1,629, and with upgrades you can get it to over $4,000, but that's as high as you can go. Our review unit comes in at a reasonable $1,999 and includes upgrades to the processor and the hard drive. It is also a dual-boot system, with both Windows XP Professional and Windows Vista Home Premium installed.

We compare the Uberclok to the less-expensive Gateway FX7020 as these two systems are the first to complete our newest 3D gaming benchmarks. It's also instructive to see what you get in the Uberclok for an extra $900. Compared to the Gateway's AMD Phenom 9600 quad-core chip, the Ion's higher-end Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor (overclocked from 2.66GHz to 3.2Ghz) helps it stand out on our performance tests. And while Uberclok isn't the only vendor to offer a dual-boot option, none of the mainstream desktop vendors do. Windows Vista gaming has become less of a gamble than it used to be, but we can certainly understand sticking to your XP guns, as well.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Uberclok Ion
138 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Uberclok Ion
126 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Uberclok Ion
473 

CineBench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Uberclok Ion
11,481 
3,773 
Dell XPS 420
8,343 
2,408 
Gateway FX7020
6,827 
1,821 

On our application tests, the Uberclok won across the board, not only beating the less-expensive Gateway, but also taking on the $2,279 Dell XPS 420 and the $1,999 Velocity Micro ProMagix E2240. Both the Dell and the Velocity Micro systems also feature Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU, although neither is overclocked. That the Uberclok wins on all of our performance tests speaks well of its overall value.

Unreal Tournament 3 (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,080  
1,280x1,024  
Uberclok Ion
92.4 
142.7 
Gateway FX7020
82 
117 

Crysis (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,080  
1,280x1,024  
Uberclok Ion
10.2 
25.8 
Gateway FX7020
9.2 
20.7 

World in Conflict (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,080  
1,280x1,024  
Uberclok Ion
23 
31 
Gateway FX7020
17 
19 

Given its higher-end hardware, it's no surprise that the Uberclok beat the Gateway on our new game tests. Both of these systems are respectable gamers, but the Uberclok shines on high resolutions, more so than the Gateway. We remain disappointed in the Crysis performance of these two systems, however. For $1,999, it seems fair to expect that you should be able to play any game on the market at a reasonable resolution. Crysis, though, seems to be too demanding, even at a modest 1,280 x 1,024. Dropping the detail and resolution will get you better results, but we hate to have to make the compromise.

The good news is that it's easy to upgrade the Ion by adding a second graphics card. Thanks to the Nvidia NForce 680i SLI-based motherboard, you get a second PCI-Express graphics card slot. Uberclok itself offers a second GeForce 8800 GT card upgrade for $290, that's also overclocked to match the first one (to 675MHz core and 972MHz memory, from 600MHz and 900MHz, respectively). You can also purchase a second card on your own for $250 or so. The 650 watt ThermalTake power supply should provide enough juice between the overclocked CPU and two graphics cards, but if Nvidia were to come with a two-chip card like the Radeon HD 3870 X2 and you had a mind to put two of them in this system, (assuming the motherboard would support it) chances are you'd need to upgrade the power supply to something in the 1,000-watt range.

For the rest of the hardware, Uberclok includes few surprises. The dual-layer DVD burner and secondary DVD drive are relatively standard for performance systems. The five-in-one media card reader gives you further removable media flexibility. 500GB of hard drive space seems about right for this price range, although we expect to see larger drives trickle down sooner rather than later. Our major complaint about the design is that the bulky hard drive cage looks cumbersome to work with if you wanted to add a second hard drive. We also think the case is a little clunky and plastic-looking, but you may disagree. Unlike the Gateway there's no TV tuner card in this Uberclok Ion, but we expect most gamers won't really miss that feature.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this review, we want to give Uberclok particular credit for its Web site. Too often we see smaller vendors such as AVADirect, iBuypower, and others take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to their online configurators. Not only does that make for a daunting buying experience, it also hurts our confidence that those vendors will be able to effectively support all of the literally millions of hardware combinations they sell. Uberclok's focused approach not only limits you to reasonable choices for its dedicated gaming systems, it also uses plain-spoken, forthright language ("Cost-conscious? You don't need a Killer NIC") to help you choose the right options.

For support, Uberclok offers three years of parts and labor, along with a 30-day money-back guarantee. It does not have 24-7 phone support, but its toll-free line is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. Its Web site doesn't have a lot to offer as far as support resources for DIY tech support, but it does have a helpful FAQ that answers questions regarding the long-term reliability of overclocking, as well as general configuration advice.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Dell XPS 420
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card; two 320GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drives

Gateway FX7020
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz AMD Phenom 9600; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

Uberclok Ion
Windows Vista Home Premium (tested); Windows XP Professional SP2 (second partition); 3.2GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

Velocity Micro ProMagix E2400
Windows Vista Ultimate; 2.7GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card; two 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drives

7.7

Uberclok Ion

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Support 7