capsule review

iBuyPower Paladin XLC: Performance You Pay For

At a Glance
  • iBuyPower Paladin XLC

    PCWorld Rating

iBuyPower's Paladin XLC has little to nothing wrong with it. That said, we would still hesitate to recommend it as a serious PC for your home, office, or wherever for one main reason: The price. At $3999, this six-core system demands a lot for what it offers -- particularly in light of the Sandy Bridge-equipped systems on our charts, which offer comparable or better performance for less.

The Paladin XLC is equipped with Intel's 3.33GHz, six-core Core i7-980X processor -- once a recurring presence on our performance desktop charts. And the chip itself comes with some pretty meaty friends: a whopping 12 gigabytes of DDR3-1600 memory and a RAID 0 array of two 64-gigabyte solid-state (SSD) drives hosting the system's boot partition. For all this background power -- including a hefty, liquid-cooling-driven overclock from the CPU's stock-clock of 3.33GHz to 4.2GHz -- you'd expect nothing less than chart-topping general performance, right?

The Paladin XLC almost gets there, but it's bested on our WorldBench 6 suite of tests by rivals equipped with Intel's second-generation Core processors. Consider the V3 Convoy desktop, for example. Though the two differ by about $1500 in price, the Paladin's score of 198 means it runs about 3 percent slower on our general system benchmarks than does the V3 Convoy, which earned a 204. And the tale of the tape is even worse when we turn to our Unreal Tournament 3 gaming benchmark. The Paladin XLC might sport an SLI configuration of Nvidia GTX 580 graphics cards, but it delivers only 140 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 3, while the V3 Convoy shoots up to 224 (both benchmarks run at a resolution of 2560-by-1600, high-quality settings).

But as we all know, it's not just speed that makes for a killer system -- although, in this case, it would take a pretty hefty feature difference to justify the Paladin XLC's steep cost. To start with, we love the Paladin XLC's mighty enclosure, heavy as it is. Though we wouldn't want to pick it up without using a lifting belt, there's no doubt that the huge, white chassis commands attention.

And rightfully so, for a closer look at the front of the screw-free case reveals a series of switches on its top -- one of the features we love most about the Paladin XLC. It's with these switches that you can turn the various fans inside the system on and off as you see fit, which gives you superfast access to increased airpower when you need it, and reduced airflow when you need a more silent operation.

The inside of the case offers aspiring upgraders a great amount of room for tinkering. Three of the five 5.25-inch slots are free for more devices -- with one being taken up by the system's Blu-ray combo drive, and the other by its front-facing multiformat card reader. Four of the seven hard-drive bays are similarly free for additional storage, though the system itself comes loaded with the aforementioned SSDs, plus a 2-terabyte drive for storage. Two of these bays are actually in a little addition that's to the left of the normal drive bays and directly underneath the system's special internal USB hub. As far as the motherboard goes, you'll also find room for two additional PCI Express x16 devices and a single PCI Express x4 card.

iBuyPower continues to show off its fluency in connections by offering three USB ports and an eSATA port in addition to a multiformat card reader on the system's front. That's but a mere whistle-whetting for what awaits users on the Paladin's rear, however. You'll find six USB ports, two USB 3.0 ports, one eSATa port, one FireWire 400 port, an optical SPDIF port, a gigabit ethernet port, and connections for integrated 7.1 surround sound.

Built-in Bluetooth and ROG Connect -- a fancy ASUS-only connector that allows one to control a system's overclocks when connected to another ROG Connect-friendly PC -- are two connections that are indeed rare to the power PC charts. The system's pair of video cards support a total of four DVI connections and two HDMI connections. Except for its lack of DisplayPort, we can't think of anything else we'd want to see on a system.

We like iBuyPower's six-core Paladin XLC; we truly do. The few changes we'd make on the system are mostly akin to putting a few pebbles on top of a stone wall -- the Paladin XLC is that strong as a performance PC (save for perhaps its missing brick of gaming speeds). However, the system's price just can't be ignored. We don't base our scoring on the cost of the PCs we review, but we would be remiss if we didn't mention that faster (and similarly tricked-out) systems like the V3 Convoy offer a pretty compelling experience for less. The Paladin XLC may be a formidable fighter, but it would appear that the sun is setting on Intel's stalwart six-core CPU.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    We love just about everything in iBuyPower’s Paladin XLC, but its commanding price puts this desktop’s total potential into question.

    Pros

    • Excellent general performance
    • Plenty of storage space

    Cons

    • Poor price-to-performance ratio
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