Re-Introducing the iBUYPOWER Erebus GT

It was only a month-and-a-half ago that we were able to test the iBUYPOWER Erebus GT, a boutique desktop with a custom water-cooling loop at a very compelling price for what you got. Yet in the intervening period the computing landscape has actually changed fairly drastically, with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680 coming to market and Intel releasing the Ivy Bridge-based Core i7-3000 series processors. Our previous review unit focused more on value proposition with a single AMD Radeon HD 7970 handling graphics duties, but the one we have on hand today is a true war machine.

We've covered Ivy Bridge extensively up to its launch and exhaustively this week, with a breakdown of the architecture and performance, analysis of its overclocking potential, testing in an HTPC environment, benching the notebook version, and even a vendor discussion and Q&A with ASUS of the Z77 platform that accompanies it. Today we have a firsthand look at how Ivy Bridge is going to handle and overclock in the field courtesy of an updated Erebus GT from iBUYPOWER, along with our first taste of a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 graphics cards in SLI running on the platform.

There's no question that Intel's made a major achievement with Ivy Bridge: IPC is up, power consumption and die size are down, so that's pretty much win-win for all involved. Yet there's one discipline Sandy Bridge has excelled in that Ivy Bridge has a bit harder of a time with: overclocking.

The Erebus GT system that was equipped with Sandy Bridge was able to hit a 4.6GHz overclock on the Core i7-2700K, while the refreshed system with a Core i7-3770K is only able to go up to 4.4GHz, and we expect this is going to be about as high as Ivy Bridge is going to consistently go. So the question becomes: are the IPC improvements in Ivy Bridge enough to make up for the reduced overclocking headroom? We'll find out in a moment, but first here's the rundown of the updated Erebus GT.

iBUYPOWER Erebus GT Specifications
Chassis iBUYPOWER Custom
Processor Intel Core i7-3770K
(4x3.5GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.9GHz, 4.4GHz Overclock, 22nm, 8MB L3, 77W)
Motherboard ASUS Sabertooth Z77 (Z77 Chipset)
Memory 4x4GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 (expandable to 32GB)
Graphics 2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2GB in SLI
2x (1536 CUDA cores, 1006/6008MHz core/RAM, 256-bit memory bus)
Storage Intel 520 120GB SATA 6Gbps SSD (SF-2281)
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 2TB 7200-RPM SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) Hitachi-LG BD-ROM/DVD-RAM
Power Supply Corsair AX1200 80 Plus Gold
Networking Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC892
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround jacks, optical out for 7.1 sound
Front Side Optical drive
SD card reader
2x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
Headphone and mic jacks
6-channel fan controller
Top -
Back Side 4x USB 2.0
DisplayPort (IGP)
Optical out
2x eSATA
4x USB 3.0
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround, and optical jacks
4x DVI-D (2x GTX 680)
2x HDMI (2x GTX 680)
2x DisplayPort (2x GTX 680)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Extras Card reader
Custom liquid-cooling loop
Custom LED lighting
80 Plus Gold modular PSU
Warranty 3-year parts, lifetime labor and support
Pricing ???

Compared to the last unit we reviewed, we're looking at what theoretically could be a wash in terms of CPU performance (4.6GHz i7-2700K vs. 4.4GHz i7-3770K), but pretty dramatic improvements most everywhere else. The ASUS Sabertooth Z77 leverages the i7-3770K's PCIe 3.0 support along with USB 3.0 connectivity, and it includes Intel's highly desirable gigabit ethernet NIC as opposed to the Realtek controller more commonly found.

The other elephant in the room, or elephants, are the pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 cards in SLI. NVIDIA got rid of the hot shader clock in Kepler, but in the move to 28nm they also basically tripled the number of CUDA cores from GF100/110. Do some vulgar math and that works out to about 50% more shader power per GPU than the GTX 580, and you get to enjoy NVIDIA's generally excellent SLI support. That said, as has been mentioned before, the GTX 680's memory bandwidth nears 200GB/sec but still doesn't scratch the ~250GB/sec the AMD Radeon HD 7970 offers, and the GTX 680 is also working with a smaller framebuffer with 2GB of GDDR5 instead of the 7970's 3GB. Still, the 680 has been fast enough to be crowned the fastest single-GPU video card available, so theoretically two of them should be screaming fast.

Finally, we have a hefty 1200W, 80 Plus Gold power supply from Corsair, an Intel SSD, and 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3 running at 1600MHz. There's very little to complain about here, the parts employed are top shelf from start to finish.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • Kimbernator - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    1200w for 2 680s? that's probably not wasteful.

    Never buy prebuilt gaming computers, building is cheaper and you'll get better performance.
  • Sabresiberian - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Well, Nvidia's recommendations would put the PSU at 750W for 2 680s in SLI.

    You need some headroom if you plan to overclock the video cards, but I don't see that requiring another 450W. An 850W PSU should be more than plenty, unless you want room for installing 2 more cards, or 1 more card and plenty of room to OC the 3.

    You did read the test results showing max draw to be less than 500W, right?

    It's all good to say "never buy pre-built" when you personally have the time and inclination, and I more or less agree with the sentiment, but rigs like this one from iBUYPOWER are very much known quantities - everything in it is name-brand, and the unit itself has been tested here at Anandtech favorably. I wouldn't fault anyone for buying this rig over building his own.

  • DigitalWolf - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    "We've heard that Ivy Bridge runs hotter than Sandy Bridge does, and I can confirm those findings by comparing the thermal readings from our Sandy Bridge-based Erebus GT against our Ivy Bridge-based Erebus GT."

    The images that you have to compare the two systems... show the 2700k system with a maximum vcore of 1.06v and the 3770k with a maximum of 1.36v.

    I would expect the system with .3 higher vcore to run "hotter" even if they were the same chip...
  • Nickel020 - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    The same screenshot show that +12V is at a maximum of 7.03V... Don't put too much faith into software readings, especially with very hardware there are often errors. Given that the current value is 1.10V during idle, that 1.36V is likely just a freak reading, the VCore will not vary that much.
  • Nickel020 - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    *with very new hardware there are often errors.
  • leonzio666 - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Where are Metro 2033, Mafia II, Witcher II with ubersampling and Crysis or Starcraft II MP benchmarks ??? No one, and I mean absolutely no one in their right mind would buy such a beast only to play the games tested.
  • imaheadcase - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    No one buys a system for just the games YOU listed to. Games are subject to the user, the games they used are POPULAR games so they went with them.

    Starcraft MP does not stress a GPU/CPU much. Metro 2033 is not a game many play, Mafia 2 not many play, etc.
  • jonbanh - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    hmm, i would say starcraft 2 is pretty POPULAR. and if you say it doesnt stress the CPU/GPU enough, well you also have portal 2 up there hitting almost 300 fps. i would've liked to see metro 2033 also just because it's been one of the most demanding games so far. as well as crysis 2

    i always figured when systems are given to sites for reviews, the manufacturer provides "guidelines" for what benchmarks they want or dont want shown
  • Sabresiberian - Saturday, April 28, 2012 - link

    Oh yeah, popularity is always the top reason a game should be included in a benchmark suite.

    Dustin should have included "Angry Birds".

  • Tchamber - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    When do you expect to get the chance to compare 7970s in CF to the 680s in SLI?

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