To build or to buy? That is the question for many gamers taking their first tentative steps into PC gaming. To help answer that question, we challenged custom PC maker iBuyPower to build us a great gaming machine for under $1,000. They delivered a solid Intel i5-based PC capable of playing the latest and greatest on high settings. But would we have been better off building a similar machine on our own? That’s the question we aimed to answer.
iBuyPower HS 11: $999.99
Processor: Intel i5 2500K @ 3.3GHz overclocked to 3.6GHz
Mobo: Gigabyte Z68 AP-D3
RAM: 8GB GSkill DDR3/1600 (2 x 4GB)
Videocard: Nvidia GeForce GTX 570
Storage: 1TB Seagate 7200rpm HDD
Optical: LiteOn iHAS124-04 DVD
Case/PSU: NZXT Source 210 / Coonix 800W
OS: Windows 7 64-bit
Ready to go out of the box, the PC iBP sent GameSpy is the HS 11. The computer is no-frills on the outside, with the modest NZXT Source 210 mid-tower case. If impressing your friends with the look of your new PC is on your checklist, this is not the case you’re looking for. However, if you care more about what’s on the inside, the Source 210 will do just fine, saving you some space over a full tower case while still giving you enough room to easily upgrade in the future.
Inside the Source 210, iBP did quality work putting the PC together. All of the cards and drives were locked in tight and snug, and the many wires nicely wrapped and tied, keeping the components on the mobo clear and promoting healthy ventilation. iBP also replaced the stock fan and Intel i5 heatsink with a liquid CPU cooling system – a wise choice in the tighter confines of the mid-tower.
Basic (read: cheapo) iBuyPower-branded keyboard and mouse were included with the HS 11, and once all of the peripherals were plugged in, it was time to fire it up for a test run.
The HS 11 booted up without a problem and we were able to connect to the web and download Steam in a jiffy. We grabbed Batman: Arkham City from our collection because of the game’s built-in benchmarking feature, and ran the machine through its paces.
On high settings at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with anti-aliasing enabled (but DirectX 11 and PhysX off – for now) the HS 11 had no problem keeping Batman at a steady 60 frames per second, and the FPS only dipped into the low 50s when the screen filled with goons trying to take down the Bat. We were also impressed with how quiet the HS 11 remained as the action grew fast and furious, a quality that can be attributed to the included liquid CPU cooling system.
Of course, one of the big PC-exclusive features of Rocksteady’s latest is DirectX 11 support, so we enabled this feature for the purposes of the test run.
iBuyPower HS 11 Batman: Arkham City Benchmark
Minimum Frames Per Second: 21
Maximum FPS: 60
Average FPS: 44
Batman: Arkham City on high settings, with DirectX 11, anti-aliasing, and PhysX enabled (aka the latest graphical bells and whistles) played smoothly on the iBP PC, and when the frame rates did dip down, it was so brief as to be unnoticeable. Bottom line: iBuyPower built a solid PC gaming machine. Some additional stats on the iBP PC for you number crunchers out there:
iBuyPower HS 11 Stats
RAM Speed: 14075 MB/s
- Floating Point Operations/Second: 102744528
- Integer Operations/Second: 419630452
- MD5 Hashes Generated/Second: 1189889
- 3D Frames Per Second: 2058
Build or Buy?
The PC iBuyPower configured for us can be yours and ready to go out of the box for $999. Thanks to promos from component manufacturers, this build also includes copies of Battlefield 3 and Batman: Arkham City. A three-year warranty from iBuyPower on all labor and a one-year warranty on parts is there, as well, should things go south.
Could you put together a comparable machine by yourself for less than iBuyPower is asking? Sure, but it would prove to be a worthy challenge. Could you put together this exact machine yourself for less? Nope. If you purchased every component in this build from NewEgg.com (including a cheapo mouse and keyboard), you would spend — give or take a few dollars for shipping and taxes — roughly $1,030.
How is iBuyPower able to offer this machine at that price? The company clearly has solid contracts with its suppliers, and it also managed to find a few cost-saving strategies. For example, the 800W power supply is from Coonix — a desktop PSU you won’t find anywhere but inside iBuyPower builds.
Overall, the iBP HS 11 features quality components and they’re well put together in a no-frills machine. We challenged iBuyPower to build us a great gaming PC for under $1,000, and they delivered. You won’t have the satisfaction of building your own rig, but you will get what you paid for from iBuyPower — and then some. So if you’re taking your first tentative steps into PC gaming and trying to decide whether to build or buy, we can strongly recommend iBuyPower as one outfit to consider buying from.