Thursday, April 21, 2011

iBUYPOWER LAN Warrior II: NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 590 in a Small Shell

The last time we checked in with iBUYPOWER we reviewed the behemoth that is the iBUYPOWER Paladin XLC, a massive hunk of machine that was generally a solid value but suffered from the same kind of shaky overclocking that afflicted so many boutique builds during the era.

This time iBUYPOWER is packing a K-series Sandy Bridge processor (complete with easy overclocking) and one of the most powerful graphics cards on the planet: the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590. The 590 may ultimately not have had the performance to beat AMD's Radeon HD 6990, but it's also a much quieter card. What's more, iBUYPOWER managed to fit it into a MicroATX case (along with a 92mm water-cooling rig for the processor). Does the beefy LAN Warrior II work, and does it work well?

Intel's P67/H67 chipset bug (and the recall that followed) nearly obliterated review hardware in the channel; now that it's been fixed ahead of schedule, hardware has rushed right back in. Near the top of our list and coinciding with the release proper of the GeForce GTX 590, iBUYPOWER was kind enough to furnish us with the LAN Warrior II complete with NVIDIA's latest and greatest. I had the chance to eyeball it back at CES and frankly it's the kind of machine that's particularly compelling for reviewer and reader alike because it feels like a true custom machine. iBUYPOWER has the LAN Warrior specially fitted with a 92mm water-cooler for the processor, and is confident that this relatively petite design can efficiently cool a beast like the GeForce GTX 590.
iBUYPOWER LAN Warrior II Specifications
Chassis NZXT Vulcan
Processor Intel Core i7-2600K @ ~4GHz (38x105 BCLK)
(spec: 4x3.4GHz, 32nm, 8MB L3, 95W)
Motherboard ASUS P8P67-M (Rev. 3.0) Motherboard with P67 chipset
Memory 2x4GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 @ 1399MHz (expandable to 16GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 3GB GDDR5
(2x512 CUDA Cores, 607MHz Core, 1215MHz Shaders, 3.4GHz RAM, 384-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 2TB 7200-RPM SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) LG 10x BD-RE Drive
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC887 HD Audio
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Optical out
Front Side Fan controllers
Optical drive
Card reader with USB 2.0
Top Headphone and mic jacks
2x USB 2.0
Back Side 2x PS/2
2x USB 3.0
Optical out
6x USB 2.0
6-pin FireWire
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 7" x 16" x 16.6" (WxDxH)
Weight 12.79 lbs (case only)
Extras XFX PRO 850W Power Supply
12-in-1 Card Reader
92mm CPU Watercooling
Case carrying handle (not included)
Warranty 3-year limited warranty and lifetime phone support
Pricing Starts at $749
Review system quoted at $2,099 ($2,148 on website)

From the get-go you're probably alarmed at the processor, Intel's Core i7-2600K, running with a bumped BCLK and no multiplier tweaks. The 2600K is a quad-core processor with four physical cores and eight logical cores through Hyper-Threading, built on a 32nm process and running at a 3.4GHz nominal clock speed (3.8GHz turbo) with a TDP of 95W. iBUYPOWER has bumped up the clock speed to 3990MHz by setting the multiplier to 38 and setting the base clock to 105MHz. This is one of two anomalies in this particular build.

The reason is a simple one that is fairly common on our side of the industry fence: hardware basically needing to be rushed together to be sent to reviewers. NVIDIA sent out the GeForce GTX 590 coards at the last minute, roughly the same time this system was volunteered to us. As a result you're going to see results from a couple of components that you wouldn't see in the retail model. From a conversation with our rep, it's my understanding this LAN Warrior was assembled extremely quickly to get a GTX 590-based system in our hands. That's not really a crime because as you'll see it's still very well put together, and all the important metrics are liable to carry over to the unit you purchase from them.

Speaking of the other shining star of the LAN Warrior II, iBUYPOWER not only offers the GeForce GTX 590 in this small build...they offer it in SLI. Ours only comes with a single card, but that single card is still pretty impressive: two fully functional GF110 chips complete with 1.5GB of GDDR5 apiece attached to a 384-bit memory bus, burdened somewhat by a 365W TDP and relatively anemic clocks of just 607MHz on the core, 1.2GHz on the shaders, and 3.4GHz on the GDDR5. For more you can check out our detailed review, but suffice to say it wasn't quite the Radeon HD 6990 killer we were hoping for (unless you count the much improved acoustics).

The remainder of the LAN Warrior II is fairly standard, though highlights include 8GB of Corsair DDR3-1600, a Blu-ray writer, and a Crucial RealSSD C300 solid state drive. This last one is important because it's the other fly in the LAN Warrior II review unit's ointment: retail systems will ship with A-DATA 6Gbps SSDs. The two drives should be fairly comparable (both use Marvell controllers), but if you're concerned, the test results you'll want to avoid will be the two PCMarks (and in fairness those tests skew unfairly towards SSDs anyhow).

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