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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  • greylica - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    The Ge forces uses the same cores of the Quadros, but are are hardware and software hacked by Nvidia to separate ''content consumers'' from ''content producers''. They separate them as having money to work or not having money to work. Same thing from ATI and their FireGL Cards. You can find searching in the internet that a GTX 285 is faster than a GTX 580 in OpenGL applications. For example: some folks are so irritated with this that made a hack to GL read Pixels. When GTX 580 launched, I tought ''OOOOHHH'' Awewsome specs ! Then I said ''OOOOOHHHH'' slower than GTX 285 ???

    Bought 2 used GTX 285 and I'm very happy using my Linux Workstation with Blender...

    Quadros with the same power as a GTX 285 in OpenGL are 4X more expensive, why Nvidia ? 2X the price isn't enough ???
    Nvidia said that they won't fix their drivers for GTX 580, it's clear that they want to separate consumers from producers, but GTX 580 isn't the best card to compare with Quadros. The problem started with GTX 480...
  • jamyryals - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    Obviously the enterprise cards have different optimizations than the consumer brethren. The extra costs for enterprise GPU cards are for driver validation testing/support. In consumer cards you have many more people sharing those costs.

    Simple as that. It's not gouging, it's what the have to charge to make a profit in that business.

    1 day of avoided downtime will pay for the extra cost. If something goes wrong you can get someone on the phone and get immediate service. Enterprise support is vastly underrated by many people, but it's extremely important to minimize risks to a delivery schedule.
  • Stuka87 - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    I am going to assume that you don't work in the industry that makes use of professional grade cards such as the Quadro and FireGL.

    There are hardware differences, but the biggest difference is i the drivers. The drivers go through a great deal of testing, and get certified to work properly with the software that they are typically used with (Such as AudoCAD, SolidWorks, etc). The drivers are also not always in a constant state of flux. Updates come less often, so they are far more stable.

    I have no problems with the pro cards costing far more when it means there wont be compatibility or crashing issues. You using GTX cards for Blender is fine. But if you are running a business you can't afford to take chances like that. Things need to work, and they need to work the same way day in and day out.
  • greylica - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    Ok, I Work everyday with different equipments and I can tell that there is not a single problem in years using the combination Blender + Linux + Good OpenGL Cards. Believe it or not, I have a flickering problem With a Quadro FX3450 using Nvidia Quadro drivers that does not appear in GTX 285 using Subsurf Level 5 with a big displacement map.

    *''1 day of avoided downtime will pay for the extra cost.''

    Agree, but some problems appear even with Quadros, and the only perception I have in years is that decent cards like 2XX series and OpenGL drivers are stable enough but performance are downgraded artificially in drivers in a manner that separates creators from consumers. After 4XX series, OpenGL performance are thrown in an abysm. Thanks to good (free software) coders, those problem doesn't affect conformant renderers running in CPUs or Multiple Small cores (OpenCL), and the only limitation we have for now is the fact that a big map can sometimes suffer from laggies. Thanks again to good (free software) coders, we can decimate visualization and turn Subsurf on for the Render time only. And Thanks again to good coders, we are now aware of the problems that are present in 4XX and 5XX cards, or others from now and up that are OpenGL performance hacked.

  • lockheart - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    Does IBP give a retail version of Windows 7 or do they supply an OEM DVD type recovery disk like other major manufacturers do? A lot of times we'd like to use Microsoft tools like ImageX and Windows AIK to make images of our operating systems and with OEM DVDs this is not possible due to the way the license keys work.
  • haxor911 - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    They should have put quieter drives; but I think this is being marketed as a workstation not a desktop. The Dell Precisions we have here come with 15k RPM SAS drives and they sound like they are grinding rocks when working with large files.
  • wyrmslair - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    Yes, very few people overclock a Xeon workstation but many, many workstation users push their CPU's to the limit over long periods with rendering or other CPU intensive tasks. Trust me when I say that the advantages of a LC over AC system will show for many workstation users. How do I know this? I used to do these kinds of configurations for a boutique shop that serviced that industry and I was getting it straight from the horse's mouths. Most engineers and graphic artists (this was back when video rendering actually needed horsepower) where very aware of how well cooled or ventilated their systems were and had horror stories of overheating at some point. From what I still hear, things have not changed much in that respect in the WS market.

    Other than that, good job on showing how the boutiques can compete and do decent job of it even with their inherent weaknesses.
  • IdBuRnS - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    "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."

    ibuypower's customer service is freaking horrendous.

    They deliver computers that have disconnected internal components, BSOD repeatedly upon first boot and when they promise to replace the computer after a multiple issues they just send the exact same computer back to you (on your dime) without any of the issues resolved and claim they never said they would replace the system in the first place.

    They suck and you guys keep reviewing their systems and giving them good scores.
  • Adelwich - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - link

    After extensively reviewing the components, I pulled the trigger on an ibuypower system that arrives tomorow. This thread, combined with similar threads elsewhere, gives me the fear and makes me wonder if i blew it.Am I doomed?
  • Drittz121 - Friday, February 28, 2014 - link

    Just do yourself a favor. STAY AWAY from this company. Yes they look good. But when it breaks and it WILL. All they do is give you the run around. They have had my system for over 2 months trying to fix the garbage they sell. Worse company out there for support. DONT BUY

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