capsule review

iBuyPower Gamer Paladin F860-a Gaming Desktop PC

At a Glance
  • iBuyPower Gamer Paladin F860-A

    PCWorld Rating

The iBuyPower Gamer Paladin F860 has a peculiar moniker. Paladin? Its general performance indicates that this system is closer to a stable hand than to an itinerant warrior (and given its size, the roaming it does is unlikely to be far, far from home).

Priced at $2199 (as of April 16, 2009) the Gamer Paladin F860-a is relatively inexpensive for a gaming PC. Still, for $600 less, you could buy a power PC--like the Micro Express MicroFlex 92B--that delivers better performance. Our test system came configured with the 2.93-GHz 940 Intel Core i7 CPU, rather than with the meatier 3.2-GHz 965 CPU we commonly see on gaming systems, and it packed a single 1TB hard drive. On the other hand, its 6GB of DDR3-1333 memory is substantially more than the usual 2GB to 4GB we see on power PCs.

Unfortunately, the Paladin F860-a's score of 134 on our WorldBench 6 performance test suite is one of the poorer marks we've recorded for its category. Relying on a single PowerColor Radeon HD 4870 graphics card, the system achieved frame rates of 62 frames per second on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and 72 fps on Unreal Tournament 3 (each run at 2560 by 2100 resolution and high quality). PCs configured with the top-of-the-line single-card offering from either ATI (the Radeon 4870 x2) or nVidia (the GTX 280) achieve much higher frame rates on these tests. We're surprised that iBuyPower skimped on the graphics card: Even if opting for a top-tier graphics card had forced the company increase its price for the Gamer Paladin F860-a by another hundred dollars or so, the rig's total cost would still be lower than that of most gaming PCs we've tested.

The Cooler Master HAF 932 case offers a great mixture of screw-free upgradability, extensive front-panel connectivity, and unique features--such as a rubber-covered, water-cooling fill hole on the top of the case. Too bad iBuyPower decided to paint the Gamer Paladin F860-a's chassis with an eye-straining red-and-black theme. The black base and red accents look great if you're staring at the case head-on, but the side paneling's solid red might be too much for your home office or dorm room to handle.

Our system arrived with two LG Electronics optical drives in place--a Blu-ray and HD DVD-ROM drive and a standard DVD burner. The chassis has room for four additional 5.25-inch externally accessible devices as well, and five more hard drives can fit into the system's easy-to-use internal 3.5-inch drive trays. A single PCI Express x4 slot joins two free PCI Express x16 slots and one PCI connection for all your motherboard add-ons. As shipped, the case's excellent wiring job provided plenty of room for airflow and for new hardware installation.

Though it lacks an HDMI connection, the Gamer Paladin F860-a can accommodate most external devices on both the front and the rear of its chassis. On the back, you get eight USB 2.0, one FireWire 400 port, one eSATA port, two gigabit ethernet connections, optical and coaxial SPDIF, and integrated 5.1 surround sound. On the front, five USB 2.0 ports are joined by a single FireWire 400 port, an eSATA port, and a media card reader. Few systems offer this much connectivity.

iBuyPower bundled a couple of rather lackluster input devices with this PC: a generic-looking two-button mouse and a 104-button keyboard, both from Logitech. Neither is a worthy companion for a system built for gaming.

The Gamer Paladin F860-a aims for the look of a high-end gaming PC, and it succeeds on some fronts--connectivity, upgradability, and chassis design (minus the paint job). But it fails to deliver on what matters most. For general-purpose usability and gaming, we've seen better performance by more-affordable power PCs, let alone by the ferocious combatants at the top of our gaming PC charts.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This gaming PC packs solid extras, but it lacks performance chops.

    Pros

    • Above-average amount of memory
    • Plenty of connections for devices

    Cons

    • Slow graphics and general performance
    • Less storage space than competing PCs
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