The system lacks some of the polish you'd expect from bigger-name PCs, but iBuyPower's Value Pro has all the makings of an excellent jack-of-all-trades system, including a very attractive $1,299 price tag and a suite of strong midrange components. Your configuration options are wide ranging; our test system fell somewhere in the middle and included a speedy 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of 400MHz memory, and Nvidia's midrange GeForce FX 5600 graphics card. We suggest you spend a few extra dollars to increase the hard drive capacity from 80GB to 120GB and choose a ViewSonic LCD over the Aopen display that came bundled with our review unit. No matter which features you choose for the Value Pro, though, the end result is a PC with a price that's tough to beat.
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The Raidmax A268 case delivers USB 2.0 ports up front.
For its Value Pro series, iBuyPower gives you a selection of Raidmax cases. Our test system arrived housed in the standard, silver A268 midtower case, which offers a 350-watt power supply and an impressive amount of expansion room. In addition to the case's four 5.25-inch drive bays, two 3.5-inch external bays, and four 3.5-inch internal bays, the Abit Is7-E motherboard serves up five PCI slots, all of which were unoccupied on our test system.
iBuyPower also gives you the option to add a bit of dash to the package--for, say, an affordable gaming system--in the form of sound-activated interior lights, a variety of case colors in addition to the silver case pictured here, and a temperature LCD. You can also upgrade the power supply (up to 550 watts).
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iBuyPower keeps the interior tidy and gives you some room to grow.
Peer through the window on the side of the case, and you'll notice that iBuyPower does a fine job 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.
Two front-mounted USB 2.0 ports (behind an admittedly flimsy door) and four more on the back panel alongside the S/PDIF connector are among your external expansion options. You'll need to choose a $29 PCI card from iBuyPower's online configurator, however, to add FireWire ports. We would have preferred to see the six-in-one flash-media card reader that iBuyPower is offering as a free upgrade instead of the floppy drive that the company included in our Value Pro test system.
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DVD double vision: DVD-ROM and DVD+/-RW drives.
Families and small businesses may not appreciate the Value Pro's windowed side panel or its colorful array of available colors, but they're bound to like what we found inside our test system: a speedy 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor and 512MB of fast 400MHz memory, alongside Nvidia's midrange GeForce FX 5600 graphics card. The Intel 865PE chipset provides an 800MHz frontside bus. Together, these components will handle the majority of any family's computing needs, including casual gaming and light digital-video editing. For such tasks, the system serves a 16X DVD-ROM drive and a multiformat 4X DVD+/-RW drive. Only the 80GB hard disk gives us pause: although it runs at 7,200rpm, it's a tad on the small side. For just $25 extra, you can bump it up to 120GB, adding 50 percent more space.
The peripherals that accompanied our Value Pro test system, on the other hand, were a mixed bag. The 17-inch Aopen LCD is a decent-size screen, but in our testing, we saw some off colors and poor differentiation among black and dark colors. DVDs also flickered slightly on the Aopen LCD. We'd suggest you take advantage of iBuyPower's offer and choose the 17-inch ViewSonic Optiquest Q170 for an extra $20 instead. The 4.1 Creative speakers we tested with the Value Pro will best serve for casual listening, although they sounded better than we expected. iBuyPower offers a wide range of speakers, from the smallest 2-piece set all the way up to 7.1 sets, and all the big names are represented: Altec Lansing, Creative, Klipsch, and Logitech.
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|For only a few dollars more, you can upgrade to a ViewSonic LCD. We suggest you jump at the chance.|
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|We've yet to see a Mitsuko keyboard we've liked.|
The cheap, plastic Mitsuko multimedia keyboard and optical mouse that came with our test system were merely satisfactory. If you're planning to have long sessions at the keyboard, think about upgrading to one of the Logitech or Microsoft keyboard-and-mouse combos.
The included software was spartan. Our Windows XP Home test system included CyberLink PowerDVD for watching DVDs and Nero Express 6.0 for burning DVDs and CDs. A productivity suite or a DVD-editing app will add to the price.
The iBuyPower Value Pro's performance wasn't stellar, but it would satisfy families and entry-level videographers. Its SysMark 2002 score of 270 was slightly below average for a 2.8GHz-based system and more on a par with that of a 2.6GHz-based PC. Though iBuyPower also offers 3GHz and 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processors for added costs, the 2.8GHz P4 has more than enough muscle to handle most--if not all--of today's office tasks. When coupled with 512MB of fast 400MHz DDR memory and Nvidia's midrange graphics card, the system will even serve for many graphics tasks, which we'll discuss below.
Application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2002, 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
Thanks to Nvidia's midrange GeForce FX 5600 graphics card with 256MB of graphics memory, the iBuyPower has the horsepower to handle many graphics tasks. Its graphics scores of 549 in Futuremark's 3DMark03 and its 95.3 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 2003 were in line with the 5600-based competition. Only serious gamers and digital-video hobbyists will need to upgrade to a more advanced graphics card.