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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  • will54 - Saturday, March 17, 2012 - link

    Where did you find a GTX 570 for 210$? The ones on Newegg are around 300$ if I could find one for 210$ I would be less likely to wait for Kepler to build my rig. Reply
  • rakunSA - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    The sleep issue you were experiencing isn't an isolated incident. It affects the whole SB platform. People thought Z68 would correct this issue but apparently, Z68 boards are still affected.

    http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1619794

    There hasn't really been an official fix. But it seems like it has to do with PLL overvoltage enabled or disabled.
    Reply
  • Zap - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    It is an issue, but can be worked around. All of the overclocked Sandy Bridge systems I have built (8-10?) can S3-sleep/resume just fine, with the exception of one using an Asus P8P67 Pro which on occasion (once a month?) doesn't resume and another using an ASRock board that was fixed with a BIOS update. Reply
  • WeaselITB - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    My ASUS ROG motherboard with an overclocked i5-2500k experiences this issue, too, if I try to resume from either keyboard or mouse input - it seems to hang while re-initializing the graphics. If I resume by pressing the power button on the tower, it comes up every time.

    Food for thought.

    -Weasel
    Reply
  • zanon - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the review, this looks like a very interesting piece of kit. I agree that the incredible overclock capability of the 7970 seems in fact to be one of its major virtues, so it's a bit too bad to not see that pushed a bit in an LC setup (I'd prefer that with a tamer CPU OC actually), but even so stuff like the attention to detail in tuning the CPU OC voltage is appreciated.

    One review-related thing I wondered about though was temp & noise. You have the normal Anand review charts showing idle/load power, but not the charts for temperatures & noise under idle & load. Per above, I understand that you're really busy with batches of stuff at once, but particularly with liquid cooling a big part of the value centers around temperature and noise, so it's helpful to be able to see exactly how it stacks up. Even so, thanks again!
    Reply
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    I'm not versed in the nuiances of Watercooling setups. Was wondering what kind of maintenance is involved in maintaining a system like this? I suspect the coolant would have to be replaced completely by IBuypower at some point? Reply
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    by IBuypower or the user at some point? need an edit button here! Reply
  • rakunSA - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    looks like a standard loop with a 360 rad. Since they're using dyed coolant, the tubing will stain. You're probably looking at a standard 1-4 flushes a year depending on OCD you are with it (there are some people who flush once every 2 years). Also gotta make sure the rad is clean (much like you would clean a normal heatsink).

    The coolant is typically some sort of mixture of distilled water, glycol, biocide, and colored dye. Most enthusiasts will just use distilled water, biocide or 99.999% silver and call it a day. Its the best performing setup (yes better than the proprietary coolants), and requires the least maintenance.
    Reply
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Friday, March 16, 2012 - link

    Thanks :) Reply
  • Sunburn74 - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Sleep issues with the k series sandybridge chips with high overclocks can often be remedied by turning off CPU PLL and running memory at stock settings with exactly 1.5V as the input vdimm. That being said, sometimes to cross 4.5ghz you need cpu PLL on so pick your poison. Reply

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