Top 10 performance desktop PCs

Intel's Sandy Bridge processors are still the popular kids on the block, but the new Sandy Bridge Extreme Edition has arrived, to take top honors on our Performance PC benchmarks

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Great general performance for the price
Strong gaming performance
Ample upgrade room for hard drives

Lacks Blu-ray
Limited upgrade room for 5.25-inch drives

Bottom Line: We love this performance desktop's speeds, but its omission of a Blu-ray player leaves movie buffs in the cold.

The iBuyPower Gamer Paladin HS11 is a performance-class PC that produces excellent general and gaming speeds for a picture-perfect price ($999 as of January 5, 2012). But the Paladin has a few drawbacks, as it forces potential purchasers to pick between killer gaming graphics and stronger support for high-definition content.

On the Gamer Paladin HS11, you'll find an Intel Core i5-2500K processor running at 3.3GHz, teamed up with 8GB of DDR3-1600 memory. And as you might have guessed by the clock speed, this system zipped along on all of the general-performance tasks that make up our WorldBench 6 series of tests. With a final score of 161, it isn't the best in the performance-PC category, but it gives similarly priced systems (such as the $1200 Micro Express MicroFlex 68B and its score of 184) a run for their money--talk about an excellent price-to-performance ratio.

The Paladin can game, evidenced by its performance on our FarCry 2 benchmark. We were pleased to see the system dish out an average frame rate of 67 frames per second on our standard benchmark run (2560-by-1600-pixel resolution, high quality settings). That beats the MicroFlex 68B's frame rate of 52 fps, effectively giving each system a single key advantage against the other--it's the age-old battle of general performance versus gaming.

But here's where things get interesting. The Gamer Paladin HS11 comes with 1TB of storage and ample internal space for more (a whopping seven free 3.5-inch drive bays, all of which require screws when you're installing new devices). The trade-off is that you get only a single free 5.25-inch bay to tinker with. You'll probably want to fill that with a Blu-ray player, as the machine's included optical drive is a mere DVD burner.

Those are the two big areas where the slightly pricier MicroFlex 68B wins out: That machine has a Blu-ray player, a 1TB drive, and an extra 128GB solid-state drive thrown into its as-reviewed configuration. These two systems are fairly matched, though, in the open PCI slots they offer. The Gamer Paladin HS11 comes with room for two extra PCI Express x1 devices, two PCI devices, and one PCI Express x16 device.

The available connections on the Gamer Paladin HS11 seem great at first: You'll find seven USB ports split between the system's front and rear, a multiformat card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, an optical port for an S/PDIF connection, two HDMI ports (one motherboard, one graphics card), a gigabit ethernet port, a VGA port, a parallel port (really?), two DVI ports, and a DisplayPort connection. Note, though, that FireWire and eSATA support are both missing from this list. Although the speeds of USB 3.0 make eSATA practically irrelevant, having "legacy" support for these alternative connection types would still be nice. It isn't as if every device on the market magically grew a USB 3.0 port the day the connection went live.

And yes, the MicroFlex 68B supports both of those connections--it just doesn't have HDMI.

Our Paladin system, as reviewed, shipped with a generic wired mouse. However, we did appreciate the function-key-packed keyboard. It's dull on the eyes, and just as wired as the mouse, but at least you can use it to launch a plethora of programs with the press of a button.

We really like the iBuyPower Gamer Paladin HS11. Its general and gaming capabilities fit perfectly with its price, its storage capacity is good enough for most needs, and it offers a great amount of upgradability as long as you're not expecting to pack your desktop PC with four optical drives (something you might very well wish you could do, as the machine's core weakness is its lack of Blu-ray support). If you need more power and don't mind spending a bit more, Micro Express' MicroFlex 68B might be the speedier PC that better suits your interests.

Micro Express MicroFlex 79B
Micro Express MicroFlex 79B Review, by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal December 20, 2011

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