Stylish system is cheaper than Alienware alternative, has lots of upgrade option

The Revolt from iBuyPower is a bit different than the past systems from the gaming-geared PC maker, but it essentially operates on the same fundamental principle -- give PC gamers a high end system without the fuss of do-it-yourself.  But unlike past designs, Revolt goes even farther in that direction trading form factor for ease of upgrade.

I. Looks/Aesthetics

That approach may perturb those looking for easy do-it-yourself upgrades.  However, if you're primarily interested in mild overclocking and gaming, though, the Revolt is a well priced and attractive option in the mid-range.

The case itself is a custom "mini-tower".  The sides are white with cutouts exposing a black grill.  The front and back are back plastic.  A word of warning: the black plastic picks up fingerprints easily.

Revolt Side

The side vents are illuminated by red, green, and/or blue LEDs.  

Revolt Revolt green Revolt red

There's multiple settings, but they all follow a slow pulse in and out sort of pattern.  The black plastic front has the letters "REVOLT" on the top, illuminated by LED.


Case Detail

The front houses a DVD/CD drive slot a hulking triangle power button, and a smaller button that controls the lights.  There's also two USB 3.0 ports, a multi-card reader slot, a headphones jack, and a microphone jack.

Revolt front

Everything seems pretty well thought out with the front plate, except perhaps that there's no eject button for the CD.  Ultimately I ended up using a free program called nircmd.exe to make life easier, by making a softbutton (both in Metro and the desktop) to eject CDs/DVDs.

Another minor gripe is the lack of any sort of indicator of which way the disc is to be inserted.  You'll eventually remember the proper orientation, but some sort of small graphic near the drive might be helpful to prevent annoyance.

The rear has a standard PS/2 style mouse/keyboard jack, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, standard audio ports (including optical audio), the power plug, and the GPU graphic connectors.

Revolt Rear Revolt Rear

Overall the look is modern and stylish.  For fans of very minimalist design this case may not please, but it's a rather good compromise, in the sense that it's not as flambuoyant as some gamer cases. 

The case is about 15.5x4.5x15.5 inches.  That means it's going to be bigger than your average gaming consoles.  It's also heavier.  On the other hand it's lighter and more compact than most PCs.  Overall, the slender profile is one selling point.

Some sort of handle to carry the case might be nice -- after all, it's light enough to make it a decent option for LAN parties.

II. Hardware

Hardware-wise iBuyPower offers the system with a wide range of Ivy Bridge chips from Intel Corp. (INTC), ranging from an Intel® Core™ i3-3225 Processor (2x 3.30GHz/3MB L3 Cache) to a Intel® Core™ i7-3770K Processor (4x 3.50GHz/8MB L3 Cache).  

Ivy Bridge
Revolt is powered by Intel's third generation Core i-Series CPU. [Image Source: BBC News]

iBuyPower offers to pre-overclock your CPU up to 20 percent.  It also offers liquid cooling options (which you have to pick, if you pick a factory overclock.

You can get the system with up to 16 GB of DDR3 1600 MHz DRAM, or get 8 GB of DDR3 2133 MHz DRAM.  There's a broad range of NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) graphics card selections, ranging from NVIDIA's flagship Titan to the the GeForce GTX 650 (1 GB).  There's either a 250, 350, or 550 watt power supply, depending on which GPU you pick.

There's options for a built-in 64 GB NAND cache to boost Windows performance.  Hard drive options are available with up to 3 TB of total storage (or alternatively a 1 TB, 10k RPM drive); SSD up to 480 GB are available from several different manufacturers.

You can get a system with a Titan graphics card, a i7-3770, premium liquid cooling, and a 512 GB HDD for under $2,000, a pretty sweet deal.

There's built in Wi-Fi as an upgrade.  One minor gripe is that there's no Blu-Ray drive option.

The cheapest iteration of the system (the R320) starts at $499.  Then there's the i5-based R420, which starts at $649.  Lastly there's the i7-based R520 at $899.

Our test system was a slightly upgraded R520 with:
  • CPU: Intel i7-3770K (3.5 GHz, quad-core, no factory overclock)
  • MEMORY: 8 GB DDR3 PC3-12800 (1600 MHz) DRAM (G.Skill Ripjaws X)
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 (EVGA FTW, 2 GB)
  • STORAGE: 120 GB Adata SSD, 1 TB Western Digital 7200 rpm hard drive
  • POWER: 500 watt Gold 80 power supply
  • EXTRAS: Built-in Wi-Fi
  • OS: Windows 8 Home
This configuration would cost $1,464 and comes with a three year warranty, which could be extended to up to 5 years for a price.

So where does this stack up with the competition?  For $1,018, you can upgrade the base R520 to 8 GB of DDR3 and a i7-3770.  Dell, Inc.'s (DELL) similar Alienware slim-case system, the Alienware X-51, would cost $1,079.  

The margin is slim, but general iBuyPower is around $60-80 cheaper than the Alienware options.  

Also, iBuyPower deserves some praise for their easy customization webpage -- AlienWare makes you jump through some annoying hoops -- for example, you can't see some processor options, forcing you to dig through four base configurations to find the one with the processor you want.  By contrast iBuyPower's configurations are like suggestions -- you can put any options available in any configuration.  This is much less clunky and makes ordering more painless.

Overall the system performed very well.  It would be nice if iBuyPower offered a multi-touch keyboard (such as the $29 USD model from Logitech Int'l SA (LOGI)) for users who pick Windows 8.  Windows 8 without multi-touch is a somewhat handicapped experience -- but multi-touch monitors are fatigue-prone and expensive; in my opinion a multi-touch keyboard would be the best way to let users get the most of Windows 8 without a significant bump in the system cost.

Revolt -- Windows 8
Yes, we used Windows 8.

I do question why iBuyPower is offering Office Starter 2010 (a full copy) to users who downgrade to Windows 7, versus only a demo for users who go Windows 8 Home.  Perhaps Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is pricing the licenses for Windows 7 cheaper, but in theory you would expect the same perks if you don't exercise your downgrade rights.

iBuyPower explains that this is due to Microsoft's policies.  Microsoft gives them copies of Office to give to Windows 7 (downgraders), but refuses to give that perk to Windows 8 users.  It still makes no sense, but I guess only Microsoft is to blame.  Sorry, iBuyPower!

III. Benchmarks

I benchmarked four games -- Electronics Arts Inc.'s (EA) Crysis 3 and Dead Space 3, Bethesda's Dishonored, and Ubisoft Entertainment SPA's (EPA:UBI) Far Cry 3.

The framerates are as follows:
Revolt game benchmarks

All games were run at the maximum supported resolution for the test display (1680x1050) and were set to the maximum graphical settings.  In some cases vertical sync had to be turned off, in order to get FRAPS to collect framerates.  Framerates were taken from playing the opening stretch of each game, collecting 5 sample framerate captures with FRAPS.

Putting these numbers in context gets a bit tricky, but suffice it to say that Crysis 3 and Far Cry 3 are marginally playable even at the highest settings for our screen reesolution.  The rest of the games are silky smooth even on the highest settings.  Overall, this is what we'd expect from the i7-3770K/GeForce GTX 670 combo, so no real surprises here.

Moving on to synthetics, we ran a variety of freely available benchmarking software:
Revolt synthetics

Again, no real surprises here.  A liquid-nitrogen cooled i7-3770K takes about 4 minutes and 42 seconds to chug through 32M places of pi; the stock Revolt i7-3770K has about half the clock speed and takes almost precisely twice as long.

IV. Conclusions

If you're not in love with Alienware and are looking for a slender pre-made system the Revolt appears a solid option.  Beware, taking apart the system is a bit onerous and upgrades aren't going to be as easy as with a roomier case.

But if you can live with that, iBuyPower's system is good looking, affordable, and powerful, with relatively few flaws.

Revolt Side

It ships within 5 to 10 days of ordering.  It's available customized direct from iBuyPower or via Newegg's online store in pre-configured form.

Next up...
I'll tear down the system and give some thoughts on how hard (or easy) it would be to upgrade, in a closing piece.  I wanted to squeeze that in here, but the case is somewhat hard to take apart, so I wanted to put this up first.

(System reviews are something somewhat new for us at DailyTech, so feel free to offer criticism!  Also check out Anandtech's nice piece on the Revolt.)

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