When it comes to buying a pre-built desktop for the average consumer or gamer, about the only thing the big box manufacturers really have going for them is price. That hasn't stopped them from doing very well, but oftentimes the end user will be better off going to a boutique like iBuyPower for their desktop and enjoying the generally superior build and component quality along with better customer service.

But for small business and enterprise, it can be a whole different ball game, where powerhouses like Dell and HP produce uniquely designed configurations meant for mass deployment...and have the resources to greatly improve support, to boot. We've seen business class machines from both vendors before, but today we have on hand iBuyPower's Professional Series desktop.

Any boutique would probably be remiss to not at least offer some kind of professional solution to end users, and in fact some (like AVADirect) can produce a healthy business going this route by leveraging their own agility in terms of component selection, producing custom builds that bigger OEMs simply aren't readily capable of. Yet the first warning sign comes from iBuyPower's own website, where their Professional Series towers aren't immediately presented; the front page is nothing but gaming machines. In fact you have to hit their "Featured Product" section under the "Desktop" button at the top of the page to even see this line; it doesn't show up under their "Intel Desktop" header. iBuyPower clearly knows who and where their bread and butter are, but a little more publicity for this line could probably go a long way.

For their custom workstation desktops, iBuyPower offers three base configurations, in X58, Xeon (LGA 1155), and Z68 flavors. They shipped us the Xeon version for review, and that's probably the best choice, but what's surprising is how closely this configuration mirrors the HP Z210 we reviewed recently, a desktop that's maybe a third the size of this tower.

iBuyPower Professional Xeon Specifications
Chassis Cooler Master Silencio 550
Processor Intel Xeon E3-1240
(4x3.3GHz + HTT, 32nm, 8MB L3, 80W, no IGP)
Motherboard ASUS P8B WS (C206 chipset)
Memory 2x4GB Kingston DDR3-1333 ECC @ 1333MHz (expandable to 16GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 600 1GB DDR3
(96 CUDA Cores, 640/1280/1600MHz core/shaders/RAM, 128-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) 2x Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C 1TB 7200-RPM SATA 3Gbps in RAID 1
Optical Drive(s) DVD+/-RW Combo Drive
Networking Dual Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD Audio
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround jacks for 7.1 sound
S/PDIF and Optical Out
Front Side Optical drive
Hot-swappable 3.5" drive bay
Top USB 3.0
Headphone and mic jacks
USB 2.0
SD Card reader
Back Side PS/2
6x USB 2.0
6-pin FireWire
USB 3.0
2x Ethernet
DVI-D (not active)
Optical and S/PDIF
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround jacks
DVI-D and DisplayPort
2x USB 2.0
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 8.3" x 17.8" x 19.9" (WxDxH)
Extras SD Card Reader
Corsair TX650 80 Plus Bronze PSU
USB 3.0 support
Asetek 550LC liquid CPU cooler
Warranty 3-year parts, 1-year labor (extendable by up to two years on each)
Pricing Starts at $1,389
Review system configured at $1,439

The HP Z210 SFF we reviewed shares its core with iBuyPower's configuration: the only difference between the Xeon E3-1240 in our review system and the E3-1245 in HP's is support for Intel's IGP. Likewise, both offer 8GB of ECC DDR3-1333, though iBuyPower opts for two 4GB sticks instead of four 2GB sticks. The NVIDIA Quadro 600 (basically a workstation-class GeForce GT 430) also remains consistent.

Where iBuyPower benefits is by being able to employ a full ATX motherboard complete with all the modern trimmings: USB 3.0, FireWire, dual gigabit ethernet, and even surround sound. They also up the ante by equipping the iBuyPower Pro with a mirrored RAID and a liquid cooler for the processor; the former can be indispensible while the latter is of much more questionable value. What I can't understand is why they elected to eschew including an SSD with this configuration; in fact only their X58 model includes an SSD standard.

Our review unit also only deviates from the iBuyPower stock configuration by using the Cooler Master Silencio 550 enclosure; the stock configuration uses NZXT's Source 210. The Cooler Master case adds $50 to the configuration price but I'm honestly not sure it's worth it, and unfortunately none of the enclosure options iBuyPower offers seem suitable for a workstation.

Ultimately, though, this configuration winds up being a bit over three bills south of the HP system we tested for a bit more flexibility in the hardware, both in terms of configuring your build and actual I/O, and while HP's Z210 tops out at the Quadro 600, iBuyPower will let you upgrade all the way up to a Quadro 5000.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • ckryan - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    I don't think the price is terrible for what you get, but it's curious that the system was sent with this configuration. Quiet air cooling and a little solid state storage make a big difference for sound and performance, so it's surprising that they didn't choose a modest SSD and a "green" HD, dropped the Asetek, and chose a more appropriate case. The Cooler Master might be a decent case, but I think it looks more than just a little cheap.
  • xQuartzx - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    I'm personally not a big fan of Ibuypower. I bought my first gaming computer from them, and honestly it wasn't a great experience. I don't like how they build their computer, how they treat their customers, and just generally how they run their business., I mean if something is on back order you have to call to find out, they don't alert you, notify you, nothing. They just let you sit and guess. That's why I'm using Ironside Computers now to build my gaming computers. They give me a much more hassle-free service. I'm notified on everything that happens with my computer, and their build quality is superb. It was a much better experience IMHO.
  • s44 - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    I realize that [H] shut their program down because it was too logistically difficult (working around the need to get a review unit through standard channels -- in order to stay anonymous -- must be a nightmare), but something like their service testing program where they simulated various things that could go wrong and the vendor's ability to deal with it through support channels seems irreplaceable, particularly in this part of the market.

    iBP, for example, is known for terrible customer service, and even though you rightly ding them for warranty spec, config, and presentation, it's still quite a leap of faith to say that had they gotten these things right, it would be worth it. How do you know what their warranty is really worth, even for what it covers? Are you really going to ask enterprise buyers to make a leap of faith on a long-term purchase just on a company's ability to nail the front-end stuff?
  • VikingDude151 - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    Please validate vast statements such as this: "a boutique like iBuyPower for their desktop and enjoying the generally superior build and component quality along with better customer service." Customization and build quality are most likely pluses, but I don't think customer service is.

    My experience with AVADirect, a similar boutique is that their customer service is horrible. With a big box store or large PC supplier I would have never experienced a DOA problem where it took nearly 1 month for AVADirect to resolve the issue where they failed to screw in the video card before shipment. A DOA problem like this would never be a problem with a large PC supplier or big box store.
  • Money Loo - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    I have to completely agree with this comment. Except my own experience is with iBuypower personally. Both me and my brother purchased computers from them around the same time about a year ago. And both of our computers had power supplies fail on us. This wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for their atrocious customer support. First of all, they only have like three people working customer support. Second, they are amazingly rude. Both me and my brother have literally had some foreigner LAUGH at us over the phone, telling us they weren't going to fix anything, and if we didn't like it, we should come to california and take it up with them personally. Then they would hang up, and continue to do this when you called back! It was AMAZINGLY INFURIATING. Needless to say we both dropped them and went with another company in the future. Maingear has been nothing but exceptional. My first computer with them had a faulty PSU, admittedly my fault because I added more components to it after selecting a borderline psu to power my dual gtx580s. I even told the guy on the phone this and he said no worries, and sent out a brand new psu at no cost to me within two days. Haven't had any problems since.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, October 22, 2011 - link

    The general idea behind going with a boutique is that theoretically they SHOULD provide better, more personalized customer service. Unfortunately part of the problem as a reviewer is that I'm always going to see the best side of any company's PR.

    When you guys post these horror stories, though, it winds up doing everybody a service. This is a public space where other potential customers are going to read these remarks, which incentivizes the company itself to get more hands on and keep their **** honest. Every so often when we see something like this, we'll ping the company themselves and let them know something's up.

    As far as large PC suppliers and big boxes go, you can get burned royally. My best friend's cousin bought a laptop from Best Buy that had problems with the screen blanking out randomly within a week of the purchase. He took it back to the Best Buy and they said "tough titties, you didn't buy our warranty so we can't help you." (By the way, I used to work in Geek Squad and I can vouch, albeit anecdotally, for their utter lack of reliability.)
  • s44 - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    Dustin, you do know about this great doomed project five+ years ago, right?

  • jalexoid - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    Why don't you use any OpenGL games for workstation GPU testing? It's kind of pointless to test an OpenGL optimised GPU with DX games.
    I'm pretty sure, that there are games that are OpenGL and you could run them as a part of your test...
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    Quadro cards are optimized for professional OpenGL use, not for OpenGL games. Besides which, the only OpenGL games are either old, not demanding, or not a good benchmark (see the Rage article I wrote recently).
  • cactusdog - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the review Dustin.

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