iBuyPower Chimera XLC: Untapped Potential Keeps a Beast at Bay
By Nate Ralph
At a Glance
Plenty of room for upgrades
Excellent chassis design
Timid overclocking limits its potential
A great case and premium components make for an imposing machine, but its timid overclocking prevents the Chimera XLC from leading the Performance PC pack.
The iBuyPower Chimera XLC is loud in all the right ways. Its aggressive looks include a slick black finish and fun, fiery decals. Its well-designed chassis is packed with premium powerful components that run silently, despite the plethora of massive fans. And at $2700 (as of April 29, 2011), it stands out as one of the more cost-effective entries on our Performance Desktop PC chart.
The Chimera comes housed in the Phantom NZXT, a stunning (albeit heavy) chassis that we first encountered on iBuyPower’s Gamer Paladin XLC. Tall and roomy, the case is surrounded by large, virtually silent fans. Of special note are the five fan controls located on the lid. You can toggle the fan speeds at will–handy if you decide to overclock the innards and you need a bit more airflow. iBuyPower also provides a pair of USB ports, an eSATA port, and the requisite headphone and mic jacks.
Inside, a simple liquid-cooling loop keeps the overclocked CPU’s temperatures in check, trapping the heat and routing it to the dual-fan 120mm radiator strapped to the top of the case. Tinkerers will appreciate the roominess of the interior. You’ll find a pair of PCI-e X8 slots, and one free PCI-e X16 slot (the other houses the massive graphics card).
There’s room inside for a total of eight hard drives, plus four more 5.25-inch drives–the Blu-ray drive occupies one bay. The best part: Almost everything is tool-free (the graphics card is held in place by thumbscrews).
Cables can make or break a custom-build, and iBuyPower has done a great job of keeping this PC tidy. Cables are routed through rubber grommets and effectively hidden in a compartment on the opposite side of the chassis. The optimized airflow keeps the Chimera XLC’s innards happy. But woe unto those who seek to add new hardware. It’s a tight fit–and if you want to preserve the neat presentation, you’ll have your work cut out for you.
The Chimera’s rear end offers a fair assortment of connectivity options: eight USB ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA ports, optical and analog SPDIF audio connectors, 7.1-channel audio connectors, and a gigabit ethernet jack. Mouse and keyboard purists will appreciate the PS/2 serial keyboard and mouse combination port. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 graphics card contains three DVI ports and a mini-HDMI output port. Unless you’re especially attached to FireWire, there’s something for everyone here. A multiformat card reader would’ve been nice, though.
Intel’s Core i7-2600k processor, overclocked to 4.3GHz, sits alongside 8GB of RAM and Nvidia’s latest and greatest dual-GPU GeForce GTX 590. A 128GB solid-state drive gets you up and running quickly, while the 2TB hard drive stores all of your stuff. All very impressive–but it’s not the strongest loadout we’ve seen.
On our WorldBench 6 test suite, the Chimera XLC earned a score of 188. The Origin Genesis ($6400), which packs twice as much RAM, a pair of 128GB SSDs in RAID 0 configuration, and a processor pushed to 5GHz, earned a 223–the highest score we’ve seen to date. Mere mortals can opt for the V3 Convoy ($2500), which is also overclocked to 5GHz, and which earned a WorldBench 6 score of 204; it offers a pair of 64GB SSDs in RAID 0, but only 4GB of RAM.
Number crunching is great, but most prospective buyers don’t looking at those flame decals and think “spreadsheets!” The Chimera’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 is nothing to sneeze at, churning out 200 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (at 2560 by 1600 resolution and highest settings). The Origin Genesis beats it, just barely (managing 212 fps), but it’s equipped with three Nvidia GeForce GTX 580s.
Ultimately, a number of machines on our Performance Desktop chart best the Chimera XLC, but there’s plenty of potential lying dormant here. The V3 Convoy delivers more raw power for about $200 less, but if you aren’t squeamish about overclocking your PC (and potentially voiding your warranty), bumping the processor’s measly overclock up a few notches would do a lot to close the gap. And such an expansive case, you’ll have space for upgrades aplenty once this cutting-edge rig starts to show its age.