Goodbye DIY, hello IBUYPOWER

It’s been a while since I purchased a pre-built system from a system manufacturer. I consider myself an enthusiast. Over the years I always built my own system and stayed up to date with the latest and greatest graphics cards and processors. This includes the usual upgrading every six months when NVIDIA or ATI releases a new GPU that’s the top of the line. However, after a couple of years it just didn’t seem as appealing or make much sense to constantly upgrade my system every six months.

My last system upgrade occurred a few years ago. While my system is perfectly fine for web browsing and miscellany tasks, it severely lacks when it comes to gaming. The last system I built consisted of a single-core Athlon 64 3400+, ATI Radeon X800XT, NVIDIA nForce 3 motherboard, 1GB of memory and a single 120GB hard drive. The system has shown its age when it comes to gaming and multitasking.

As my system was quite old, there weren’t many salvageable components from it. I had a dilemma, build my own system or simply purchase a pre-built system. While I’ve always built my own system in the past, it’s come to a point where I simply don’t have the time to build, install and configure anymore. The hours spent tweaking; overclocking and etc just don’t seem to make much sense anymore.

I decided to order a pre-built system for the first time since the early Pentium days. I decided to go this route simply because I can get a pre-built system with a copy of Windows installed and full warranty for not much more than it’d cost me in parts. This made more sense as I didn’t want to deal with the typical headaches involved with building a system or getting warranty replacements on dead parts.

Finding a system manufacturer was somewhat of a challenge. I considered the big three manufacturers—Dell, HP/Compaq and Gateway but wanted something more boutique. There was also Alienware, Falcon Northwest and Voodoo PC too. However, the problem with these fancy system manufacturers was the extra premium for the fancy cases, paint jobs and etc… After a little research I stumbled upon a small gaming system manufacturer—IBUYPOWER. I settled on IBUYPOWER due to the large variety of hardware configurations available and simplicity of its systems.

After settling on the manufacturer, deciding on the system specifications was the next problem. The tasks I need this new system to perform well include video editing, gaming and everyday tasks. Since I upgrade every few years I needed something that’ll be ready for Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Vista Ultimate, play some upcoming DX10 titles such as Crysis and handle high definition video streams. This time around I would go all out and get the works.

With Intel’s recent launch of its quad-core Core 2 Extreme QX6700 tearing up benchmarks and the demo of Alan Wake at IDF 2006, I had to have it in my new system. It made sense, albeit a tad on the expensive side. Nevertheless, with my high definition video editing requirements, having a quad-core processor is a necessity to reduce encoding times.

Picking out a video card was relatively easy. NVIDIA’s GeForce 8800 GTX is currently the fastest graphics card available on the market. It’s also DirectX 10 compatible for Microsoft’s Windows Vista Ultimate and future games. I stuck with a single GeForce 8800 GTX for the time being as the card is fast enough as is.

Storage performance would be an important aspect of the system, as I require large amounts of storage space for video editing. I prefer to keep the operating system and other storage separate. I decided to have two hard drives—a Western Digital Raptor 150GB for the operating system due to its sheer speed and an additional 500GB Seagate for storage.

After deciding on the base specifications I wanted, I picked out a base system configuration from IBUYPOWER. The result was an IBUYPOWER Gamer GTX system. I place an order online for an IBUYPOWER Gamer GTX system with the following specifications:
  • Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700
  • EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard
  • 2x1GB DDR2-800 MHz memory
  • GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card
  • Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD
  • 500GB storage drive
  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy SE
  • 16x DVD-ROM
  • 16x DVD burner
The total system price was $3,311. Upon initial inspection the system came with nice looking aluminum case that was pretty plain and stylish. The 700-watt Thermaltake power supply delivers plenty of power for the quad-core and GeForce 8800 GTX with plenty of headroom for SLI in the future.

Processor cooling was delivered via compact water-cooling system that didn’t take up too much space or make too much noise. All the wiring was nice and neatly tucked away. The overall result was a well-put together system.

After the initial inspection I connected the system to my existing monitor, keyboard and mouse. Everything was pretty straightforward. Windows booted, brought me to the new user guides and such. After the initial setup process I popped in a bunch of games including Far Cry, Battlefield 2142, Half Life 2, Flight Simulator X and others.

Now let's consider if I had built this system instead of bought it -- all of these prices are from Newegg.
  • Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700: $1,499 if you can find it in stock
  • EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard: $239 after rebate
  • 2x1GB DDR2-800 MHz memory: $200 for no-name memory
  • GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card: $640
  • Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD:  $230 after rebate
  • 500GB storage drive: There are actually good deals on these, $150 after rebate
  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy SE: $30
  • 16x DVD-ROM: $50
  • 16x DVD burner: $20
Without a case, the components alone come out to $3,048, and that's assuming you can even get a quad-core processor.  Right now all allocations for such chips are weighted for system builders, so getting one on your own is not as easy as it should be.   Considering I got a water-cooling kit, power supply, and a case -- and the system came preassembled -- it seems like a no-brainer to me. 

The days of building your own system are not numbered, but at least for this holiday season the temptation to go prebuilt is all too obvious.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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