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
DisplayPort (IGP)
Optical out
6-pin FireWire
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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  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Dustin, how do you have time for all these reviews? Yesterday your Dell XPS 13 and Acer Aspire TimelineU M3 pieces went live, and then today this. I'm struggling to get one SSD review wrapped up and then I see three reviews from you in ~24 hours. Man, that's efficiency, keep up the hard work!
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    I appreciate the sentiment, Kristian! I tend to work in batches: photography, then benchmarking, then writing up the review. So when I knock out a chunk of reviews in short order it's because all I have to do at that point is write it up. :)

    That and I got boned spectacularly by the embargo being lifted ahead of schedule on the TimelineU M3. ;)
  • Vepsa - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    I'm jealous of both you guys (Dustin & Kristian) for being able to play with such nice hardware all the time. I'm still trying to scrounge up the money for a SSD for my desktop :(
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    2.5k is way overpriced, and i have JUST put up a system very similar to this last week. here are the parts price, as you can get them all day everyday.

    i7 2600k: Micro Center 259 dollar (ibuypower uses 2700, which is 299 dollar)
    Asus P8P67 140 dollar, or 110 after rebate (unit used in this iBUYPOWR cost 150 dollar at newegg)
    Corsair Vengeance 16 G. 89 dollar amazon (the same use in iBUYPOWER)
    Graphic: SLI GTX 570 (210 dollar each) (ibuypower uses AMD Radeon HD 7970 which is 550 dollar)
    HDD: SSD (newegg 130 dollar, or 100 dollar after rebate) 2T (100 dollar newegg samsung)
    optical drive: blueray (49 dollar asus new egg)
    PSU: OCZ ZX 1000W 100 dollar newegg, or 130 before rebate.
    my case is silverstone, which is probably one of the better ones, cost 70 dollar during promotion, 100 dollar otherwise.

    so if i am not counting any rebate or any special promotion, my system cost 260+140+90+210+210+130+100+49+100+100=1390 that makes this system in every way, shape or form equal or better than ibuypower, add 100 dollar for win 7 if you don't have one. that's still 1000 dollar less than ibuypower.

    things that doesn't make sense in this build: 7970. you could get GTX480 for 200 dollar, and 480 SLI is faster than 7970 and is cheaper. heck, you can get SLI 560Ti for 320 dollar and SLI 560 is very similar to 7970 while saving yourself 200 dollar in process.

    850W PSU. weak... as top performance brand, you settle for 850W themotake brand?

    MB, for top end, Gigabyte is a no go, you should at least got for UEFI, Asus saber tooth or equivalent.

    Win 7 home premium? how about ultimate?

    i am all in for people making money, but using poor parts in a "high end" system is just bad. when you making 1000 dollar for 2.5k machine, you are way too greedy.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    There are so many things wrong with your comparisons, but let's start from the top. Here are things that are not "equal or better in every way" with your build:

    P67 motherboard instead of Z68.
    SLI if you'd rather not deal with that headache.
    More power draw by far for your build (dual GTX GPUs vs 7970).
    OCZ vs. Thermaltake on the PSU? Really? That's pretty much same quality as far as I'm concerned.

    We pointed out (a couple times) that the system was priced the way it was because of the component choices and the water cooling. If you don't want the components iBUYPOWER put in this system, don't buy it; simple! I for one would be more than happy to pay $100 extra for a single HD 7970 than to go the SLI (or CrossFire) route, even if the single 7970 is sometimes slower. I've been there, done that (multiple times!) and if I can avoid multiple GPUs in the future I will. It's just not worth the hassle to me.

    I'd also totally skip out on all the liquid cooling, which can easily add $500+ for a high-end solution (e.g. 3x140mm radiator, a second 140mm radiator on the back, GPU and CPU cooling blocks, etc.) By my estimate, building your own comparable water cooling setup would cost at least $500, and depending on some of the other materials and components it could run as much as $750.

    Take all of the liquid cooling stuff out of the solution and what it really boils down to is that your build uses GTX 570 SLI and the review unit uses a single HD 7970. You also cut a few corners to save money, though most of these won't really matter to the majority of users.

    I priced everything (and I mean everything) out and without water cooling I could put together this same basic setup for around $1850 at Newegg. If you shop around at multiple vendors and look for the absolute lowest prices, you could probably build such a system for $1750 to $1800. For that price, you don't get the same case or some of the other features of the Erebus GT, and you have to assemble and configure the system yourself. The total cost (minus water cooling) of around $1850 compares to an iBUYPOWER cost for a similar configuration of around $2000, which is quite reasonable. They are not "making $1000" and being "way too greedy"; your comparison is simply apples to oranges and declaring your particular fruit "better".
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    challenge accepted.

    i need P67 board because i don't like Logix virtu. also you should know that P67 board is in the same price range as Z68. and you are out of your mind saying Asus P67/Z68 is a poorer choice than Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3. agreed?

    i am not arguing OCZ is better than Thermaltake but at least 1000 W give you more head room and also higher efficiency. PSU achieve maximum efficiency at around 50% load.

    again SLI give you the most bang for the buck, a SLI 570 performs better than 7970 in almost all areas. if you want to stay with single card, EVGA GTX 580 can be had for 400 dollar in newegg all day everyday. and that's 150 dollar savings over 7970.

    and yes, i skipped cooling, what i also skipped is ibuypwoer buying stuff at wholesale price wherewas my price is everyday price. i don't even count count on rebate or promotion. and FYI, i was about the first wave of people who uses water cooling, my first water cooler was 300 dollar ZALMAN RESERATOR back in 03. you can get internal corsair cooling H80 for 100 dollars off amazon. and you can get that GPU water block for 50 dollar retail. you can spend 10k on water solution, but one that presented in this case is no where near that price.

    lastly you said my build was 'cutting corner' as far as i am concerned, no corner was cut (single card vs SLI is more of a preference) , rather it was better. everything i used in my build is better than what is presented here. talk is cheap. why not show some numbers? here are the price TODAY for this computer

    2700k, 299 USD
    Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3, 150 USD
    Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 , 89 USD.
    AMD Radeon HD 7970: 550 USD
    AData S510: 155 USD
    Deskstar 7K1000 1T: 130 USD.
    LG blue ray 63 USD
    Thermaltake TR2 RX 850W PSU 130 USD (it is 2 out of 5 stars, just to show how horrible this choice is)

    those came out to be 1567 USD to the EXACT PART. how the hell did you get 1850 mind i asking?

    and bear in mind this is retail price TODAY not counting on any rebate and promotion. and you normally mark up price by at least 25% from wholesale to retail (been there, done that, don't argue with me on the margin unless you have data, apple is different animal so leave that out). feel free to throw you argument at me, i doubt you have any.

    so you have 1000 dollar to chose a case and water cool solution. do you honest think Erebus GT case look nice?
  • Egg - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    The case?

    I don't see how your power supply comparison makes any sense, according to the 7970 draws around 400w at full load, so your "50% efficiency" rule, by my interpretation, makes a kilowatt PSU less useful.

    You can't compare any video card but a 7970 to the 7970. There are just too many variables; furthermore, there are plenty of instances where the 7970 performs substantially better than the 580 GTX.

    You can't compare a custom loop to an H100.

    In your cost estimate for what it would cost to clone the iBUYPOWER computer, you left out any aftermarket air cooling, a case, and Windows.

    You have skipped the water cooling; but you didn't put forth any counterargument, but merely mentioned the fact that iBUYPOWER gets these parts at wholesale price. What would you like? For iBUYPOWER to sell you the entire system for the exact price that it would cost you to buy the parts from Newegg? Are you going to complain that Newegg marks up the price from wholesale as well? The way I see it, iBUYPOWER has all the costs of Newegg, as well as having to cover warranty, build the system, and design a case. The markup seems perfectly reasonable for the system.
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    wow. did you bother to read? my list of things was just to show JarredWalton that the exact component doesn't cost 1850 and i showed him talking is cheap and provided a break down of the internal component price to the total of 1567. that give the system about1000 dollar margin (should you want to spend 2.5k total) to spend on case and cooling.

    will i use that on my system? not a chance.
    like i said, i would go with SLI, but that's more of personal preference.
    AData S510? i would go for 130 dollar sandisk that has twice the performance for less.
    HDD? i would go for 2T for less.
    MB? i would go with one that has UEFI.

    the PSU used in the system has 2 start out of 5 based on 19 amazon reviews. sorry i don't have tendency of buying crap. just FYI, the 750W version of this PSU is selling at 70 dollar a piece at newegg. cheap? yes, quality? no.

    water cooling, you argue there is no replacement to custom loop? do you have any facts to back this claim? i do, check out 3d guru,, you will find H100 cools the system very very well, unless here is some number posted by IBUYPOWER, i doubt they can exceed
    the cooling performance by H100.

    "iBUYPOWER has all the costs of Newegg" like i said, talk is cheap. i have part price listed, and if you still making this statement then you are either blind or a hired gun. either way there is no value for me to show just how wrong you are.

    and don't get me started on windows. they put home premium? do you know how much they paying for each license? the difference between ultimate and premium, for them, is like 30 ~ 50 dollars.
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Watercooling: You do realize that the graphics card is also watercooled? The 560 radiators will do a much better job than a H100 and whatever you put on the Radeon.
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    i did, you can buy water cooling GPU blocks for 50 dollars each

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