capsule review

CyberPower Black Pearl Desktop PC

At a Glance
  • CyberPower Black Pearl

    PCWorld Rating

    Though not the best gaming PC around, the Black Pearl is solid, feature-packed, and attractively priced.

This $3799 (as of March 1, 2009) gaming PC is a warship of a desktop rig, with connections for a extensive range of cables. Though the Black Pearl varies in performance from average to great depending on the game you're playing, it is a solid PC for the price.

Our review unit's configuration included a 3.2GHz Intel Core i7 965 processor--the fastest CPU you can purchase on the market today--but only 3GB of DDR3-1600 RAM; it also carried two super-fast, 10,000-rpm 150GB Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drives in a striped RAID configuration, plus a 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F1 drive for storage.

Two XFX GTX 280 graphics boards in an SLI configuration handle video responsibilities--a curious choice, since a single ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics board can output nearly the same performance. Sure enough, the Black Pearl managed to outpace our current gaming performance champion, the Falcon Northwest Mach V, on only one of our games tests: 124 frames per second to 119 fps in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (at normal quality and 2560 by 2100 resolution). Retested at high quality settings and same resolution, the Mach V topped the Black Pearl on Enemy Territory, 112 fps to 82 fps-the latter being an average score in the gaming PC spectrum.

The CyberPower system fared better against its peers on our Unreal Tournament 3 tests, delivering frame rates that trounced similarly priced rivals by more than 30 fps at both medium and high quality settings. The Mach V beat the Black Pearl on both benchmarks, but it also costs twice as much. Nevertheless, we were disappointed by the Black Pearl's WorldBench 6 score of 148 in the PC World Test Center, an average mark for a power PC and 15 points below the Mach V's 163).

The interior of the Black Pearl's Cooler Master ATCS 840 tool-free chassis offers room for whatever expansions you might want to make to this already loaded setup. The case has five 5.25-inch drive bays and six 3.5-inch drive bays, two PCI Express x16 card slots, one PCI Express x4 card slot, and one PCI card slot. The two XFX GTX 280 video cards dominate the motherboard's PCI connections, but you can squeeze in another PCI Express x4 card if you wish. Our system configuration filled four of the five available 5.25-inch drive bays with a Sony Optiarc Blu-ray reader and DVD burner, a media-card reader, and a two-bay fan controller--not a bad array of add-ons. On the front of the Black Pearl, CyberPower's included an NZXT Sentry LX fan controller, which enables you to check temperatures on your rig and adjust fan speeds accordingly.

Connectivity options on the back of the system start with eight USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 400 port, one eSATA port, optical and coaxial SPDIF connections, integrated 5.1 surround sound, and two gigabit ethernet ports. On the front, you'll find five USB 2.0 ports, a second FireWire 400 port, and a second eSATA port. As configured, our Pearl lacked only an HDMI port and a DisplayPort.

CyberPower bundled Microsoft's Sidewinder mouse and X6 keyboard with our review unit. The former offers plenty of buttons for gaming, as well as on-the-fly sensitivity toggles, macro recording functionality, and a button that launches Vista's games explorer. The keyboard provides macro functionality, swappable "normal" and "gaming" keyboard modes, rapid-fire button locks, a removable keypad, and a ton of fat, backlit buttons.

The Black Pearl doesn't exactly rule the seas as a gaming machine. But its low price eases the sting of its performance shortcomings, and its multiple connectivity and input device options raise its overall system usefulness to a very high level.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Though not the best gaming PC around, the Black Pearl is solid, feature-packed, and attractively priced.

    Pros

    • Lots of add-ons
    • Great keyboard and mouse

    Cons

    • Not a top-notch gaming PC
    • Average general-purpose performance
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