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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  • Ryan Smith - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

  • randinspace - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    What impresses me the most about the system is that iBUYPOWER is actually able to obtain not one, but TWO WHOLE 680s... oh wait a minute tigerdirect has a PNY model at least listed as in stock right now, so I guess anything's possible.
  • Nickel020 - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    I'm quite disappointed that you pretty much only reviewed performance. The review would have been much better (and up to the Anandtech standard), if you wrote more about the build, the cooling system/noise, the value of the system and support (options). Those are also very important for the purchasing decision, yet you leave many questions open here.

    Please provide full information on the build/ the components of the system. What are the components of the watercooling loop? In the other Erebus GT review you talk about the case being based on a NZXT case - why leave that information out here? Also: Please provide more/better pictures! If there were more pictures, I could identify the full watercooling the system. Surely you have someone on staff at AT who could do the same and provide information on whether this is a good setup or not. (One thing they did wrong is to connect the GPUs in series, parallel would have been better in this configuration).

    More on noise (incl. measurements & a subjective comparison) would be very nice. You mention it has a fan controller, but make no mention of how it works, and how the system compares to an air cooled high-end system (because at stock settings that's what you're getting the watercooling for: it's more powerful and thus potentially quieter than air - but is it quieter here?). What fans are used, and what is the minimum RPM you can set them to, and is that setting still able to cool the system under full load?

    I can understand that you don't know the price yet, but you should still talk about value. Since pretty much all of these parts are retail parts, I would like to see a listing how much it would cost to buy them and assemble the system yourself. How much extra has iBUYPOWER charged in the past over component price? What service/warranty do you get for that?
  • ggathagan - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    This is a review of a complete system.

    If you want to compare it to DIY, that's *your* job to find out the components.
    Call or email IBUYPOWER.
  • rickmoranisftw - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    i went to ibuypower to mess around with the customization, and i could not find the Z77 platform. Also, i could not find the liquid cooled 680 as an option on any of them. Is this something they are updating soon, or am i just completely missing something?
  • Denithor - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    What benchmark/software do you run to max out power consumption for the load testing? I'm curious because to be valid it would have to be something that maxes both CPU and GPU, otherwise you aren't getting a true load value.
  • Folterknecht - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    1,36 V for that 3770K max Voltage reported by HW-Monitor - which genius came up with these BIOS-Settings??? Even water cooled - that cant be good in the long run. Every review and forum discussion I read suggests that 4.4 GHz on Ivy is doable with 1,15 - 1,25 V and u start to get serious temp problems if you go above 1,25 V - even water cooled.
  • nemt - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    I've never heard of someone having a good experience with ibuypower. Everyone I know who's purchased a prebuilt (or semi built) machine from them has regretted it almost immediately.

    The specs are nice, but I doubt the built quality is worth the eventual price of admission.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Based on my recommendation, a friend bought one of their systems two years back. It had better specs than Dell or other large OEMs, and the total price for the box was $800. He's been very pleased with the computer and hasn't had any hardware problems at all. It runs quiet and fast, though it's not like he actually pushes it that hard. So there you go: at least one story of someone that bought IBP and didn't regret it at all.
  • gmallen - Friday, April 27, 2012 - link

    Our two iBuypower machines have good build quality, all brand-name parts and worked out of the box. Almost two failure-free years later, we are ramping up to buy two more, using the old machines as a media server and an NAS. So, ignore troll and check iBuypower forums for real comments by actual owners.

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