Introducing the iBUYPOWER Erebus GT

Boutique gaming desktops are nothing new around here; while enthusiasts may readily dismiss them, it's easy to forget they do serve a purpose and a market beyond the do-it-yourself crowd. There are certain things even a lot of enthusiasts, myself included, aren't able to do that boutiques can; specifically, assembling custom liquid cooling loops. The last one of these we saw was Puget Systems' Deluge, a behemoth of a machine that retailed for more than seven grand.

Today iBUYPOWER is making available a system with many of those same perks at a fraction of the cost. The Erebus GT uses an entirely custom enclosure, has a laser-etched panel window with white LED lighting, and most importantly includes a custom liquid loop attached to a massive top-mounted radiator that cools the CPU and GPU. Can iBUYPOWER deliver a truly compelling boutique build at a reasonable price without cutting any corners?

At first glance it certainly looks that way. When you check out the specs below you'll undoubtedly see a system that could be built and air-cooled at two-thirds of the price from the same vendor, but the hardware used for the liquid cooling loop can be pricey on its own.

iBUYPOWER Erebus GT Specifications
Chassis iBUYPOWER Custom
Processor Intel Core i7-2700K
(4x3.5GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.9GHz, 4.6GHz Overclock, 32nm, 8MB L3, 95W)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 (Z68 Chipset)
Memory 4x4GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 (expandable to 32GB)
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB GDDR5
(2048 shaders, 925/5500MHz core/RAM, 384-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) AData S510 120GB SSD (SF-2281)
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.D 1TB 7200-RPM HDD
Optical Drive(s) LG BD-RE
Power Supply Thermaltake TR2 RX 850W PSU
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC889
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
Top -
Back Side 4x USB 2.0
PS/2
DVI-D (IGP)
VGA (IGP)
HDMI (IGP)
DisplayPort (IGP)
Optical out
eSATA
6-pin FireWire
Ethernet
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround, and optical jacks
DVI-D (7970)
HDMI (7970)
2x Mini-DisplayPort (7970)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Extras Card reader
Custom liquid-cooling loop
Custom LED lighting
Warranty 3-year parts, lifetime labor and support
Pricing $2,499

For this build, iBUYPOWER opted to stick with Sandy Bridge instead of Sandy Bridge-E. This is undoubtedly going to be a source of some contention; Sandy Bridge-E is a fantastic workstation processor (at least the hex-core variants are) but is generally excessive for gaming systems, substantially raising both the cost to purchase and the cost to run it (by way of your power bill) for benefits within gaming that are negligible at best. The i7-2700K remains essentially the fastest quad-core processor available, and iBUYPOWER has overclocked it from 3.5GHz all the way to 4.6GHz.

The Erebus GT is also equipped with what's presently the fastest single-GPU video card available, the AMD Radeon HD 7970. Despite the liquid cooling loop that includes the HD 7970, though, iBUYPOWER opts not to overclock the card, leaving its 2048 shader cores clocked at the stock 925MHz despite reports that the card is very overclockable. It's a mild disappointment, but we have yet to see a system come in from a boutique with the graphics card overclocked (e.g. beyond what the video card manufacturer might provide).

Thankfully they didn't skimp on quality kit for the rest of the build, either. The Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 is based on Intel's Z68 chipset and is a fine motherboard that sports all the trimmings, while iBUYPOWER has also outfitted the system with 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 in four DIMMs running at 1.5v. Arguably the only place you could say they cut a corner was by opting for an A-Data SSD instead of one from Intel or another vendor, but SSD reliability is still a relative unknown, and the A-Data part is still a second-generation SandForce drive with a decent amount of storage. A-Data may not update their firmware quite as fast as some other SSD vendors, but otherwise performance and reliability should be the same as any other (non-Intel) SF-2281 SSD.

If we breaking down the pricing compared to rolling your own at Newegg, let's start with the basics. You can get all of the core components and put them in an Antec Twelve Hundred case for around $1850. However, that doesn't give you a factory overclock (covered by the warranty), and it doesn't include any form of liquid cooling. That's where assaying the price of the build becomes a bit more difficult. FrozenCPU has this EK 7970 cooler and backplate that will add $155 to the cost of the system. A similar LGA 1155/1156 CPU cooler and backplate will tack on another $90 or so, and a 3x140mm radator would add another $108. That doesn't even include a water pump or reservoir, which could add anywhere from $50 to $100 for basic components, and you still need to add fittings and tubes! If you want to go higher-end on the liquid cooling parts, you could spend two or three times as much depending on what you purchase.

Put it all together and iBUYPOWER's $2500 sticker price actually doesn't seem that bad—provided of course that you really want a liquid cooled system. Also, let me put in a quick disclaimer that the above parts were selected based purely on availability and roughly similar features to the cooling setup used in the Erebus GT. I make no promises on the quality of any of those parts; they're there simply to illustrate roughly how much you might pay should you want to take the plunge into a liquid cooled PC.

Let's hold off on any further analysis until we've actually put the Erebus GT through our benchmark suite. Yes, $2500 is a lot of money to spend on a gaming system, but we've certainly seen more exotic and costly systems over the years. How does this unit compare to other high-end gaming systems from the past year or so?

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    You're still missing the point. All I'm saying is you get a good case (estimate of $150 for the case in the Erebus GT), you get about $500 worth of water cooling (minimum), and you left of Windows. Take your $1567, add $99 for Windows, add $150 for a comparable case, and price everything out at Newegg and you get $1850. Is it that hard? Now, take that price and add $500 in water cooling and you end up at $2350, giving them an additional profit of $150 plus their markup over wholesale. Reply
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    you are an editor, and i am sure you have reviewed many, many system in the past.

    if you think that water cooling system used cost 500 dollar when ZALMAN RESERATOR can be had for 200, i have an island to sell.

    by the way, i did throw in a water block just for GPU reference, and of course you missed it.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 16, 2012 - link

    A CPU water block isn't the same as what is included here. I linked the items in the article, but here's what you need:

    CPU water block
    GPU water block (compatible with 7970)
    3x140mm fans and radiator
    1x120mm fan and radiator
    Couplings
    Tubing
    Water pump

    The Zalman Reserator gives you several of those items, but it doesn't have a 3x140mm radiator and it doesn't have a GPU water block. FYI, the GPU water block is about $135 just on its own. So, Zalman Reserator is around $240, plus $135 for the GPU cooling, and then there's still a question of whether it cools as well as the solution iBUYPOWER used. Honestly, I don't know if it's better or worse, but generally speaking more expensive water cooling equipment costs more because it's better.

    What you're basically saying is if I were to discuss the pros and cons of a Honda Accord (or Toyota Camry), and then you come along and say, "If you think a mid size sedan costs $25000 when a Kia Forte can be had for $17000, I have an island to sell." Go do some real research into the topic and then show me a complete water cooling solution that will handle both the CPU and GPU and has a large radiator that costs $200.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    "PSU achieve maximum efficiency at around 50% load." And that is fine if all you do is game. But if you do something else (which is likely), your idle wattage is (far) below 100W in most cases with SB and 7970 and the efficiency drops off sharply below 20%. And "headroom"? For what? Unless you plan on going SLI/CF or dual CPU, I wouldn't recommend more than a good 600W PSU for any single GPU/CPU system. Even highly overclocked 4.5GHz SB with a highly overclocked 7970 will not draw more than 500-550W which means the PSU needs to supply 450-500W for that. Reply
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    that's a good point. but as a high end gaming machine that cost over 2.5k, i doubt use it for office work is the primary intention.

    bear in mind, it is 2.5k system. it ought to have head room for anything i want to throw at. it is like spending 250k dollar in a car, it better has 700 house power EVEN if it is more wasteful driving around downtown than 1.8L corolla.
    Reply
  • Nfarce - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Dude, you need to find yourself a girlfriend or something. What a whiny bitch. Sheesh. Reply
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    b word already? that shows your education level. i don't care if you want to have the last word. Reply
  • Minion4Hire - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    seanlee, I think what you're trying to say is that you are not personally impressed/interested in custom watercooling and would rather save your money and deal with higher temps/noise. But that entirely misses the point entirely of a direct comparison. You are making sacrifices with your rig while the reviewed system does NOT. That's fine, but you present a piss-poor argument. One you should never have even attempted to make.

    Just... no.
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    i am not impressed at all. and with 1000 dollar you can get much better water cooling solution and case.
    what did i sacrifice my rig with?
    and your pissing comment doesn't even have an argument to make.

    just .. no.
    Reply
  • Seanleeisdumb - Friday, March 16, 2012 - link

    I created an account just to tell you that you are dumb Seanlee. We all know that we could squish more performance out at a lower price or could build a higher performing machine at the same price. This build is about quality and about high end features and the relatively reasonable price Ibuypower is asking. We all know that Toyota makes Lexus and we all know that when you buy a Lexus for 75k you aren't getting three times the car that a civic is.. that's not the point. The point is that this is a pro-assembled custom build with some nice bells and whistles.. when you compare it to what other builders are charging it's a steal.
    Also... single card is sooooo much better than SLI.. I run my own business doing custom builds and have stopped offering multi-card setups because of the headaches they cause my clients.
    Reply

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