iBuypower revolt - Mini tower Review

Phenomenal Pricing; not-so-great storage

iBuypower revolt - Mini tower Review

One of the problems of showing off any OEM system to DIYers is they invariably snort, and then cinch up their belt up before loudly pronouncing to the room, “Hell, I could do it better andcheaper!”

That’s when iBuypower steps in and crushes their little armchair system-builder fantasy like a fire truck rolling over a Diet Coke can. You still don’t believe us, do you?

Well, just give iBuypower’s Revolt a spin: This micro-tower features a GeForce GTX Titan, Core i7-4770K, NZXT Kraken X40 140mm liquid-cooling, 8GB of DDR3/2133 RAM, ASRock Z87E-ITX board, 500-watt PSU, slot-load DVD burner, 1TB SATA 7,200 HDD, 120GB SSD, and Windows 8. Oh, yeah, there’s also a three-year warranty and lifetime phone support, to boot — all for $2,000.

Don’t think we didn’t try to beat iBuypower, either. We spent half an hour on PCPartpicker.com trying to game out scenarios to beat iBuypower at its price/performance game and we just couldn’t do it. And that’s not even mentioning that you can’t get iBuypower’s custom micro-tower case anywhere, either. So, Bubba, just pack up your, “I can do it cheaper “ talk and walk on down the road.

Of the four systems here, the Revolt is actually the portliest of the bunch. Not by much, but when the Alienware X51 R2 and Digital Storm Bolt are each 3.75 inches wide and the Falcon Northwest Tiki is 4 inches, the Revolt looks noticeably bigger at 4.75 inches.

One feature of the case we really appreciate is its ability to rest vertically or horizontally. Only the Alienware and iBuypower support both orientations out of the box. Digital Storm offers an optional attachment at an extra cost and the Falcon only sits vertically. The Revolt’s case features pulsating LEDs integrated into both sides that can be manually switched to different colors or plain shut off. It’s a nice effect but not as impressive as the Alienware’s ability to set the LED colors individually.

We know that micro-towers save space at the expense of serviceability, but we still wanted to know what it’s like to get into each machine’s innards. By sliding off the side of the Revolt, you can access the drives and PSU. To get to the actual guts of the box, you’ll need to pull the PSU, unscrew a metal plate, and carefully tilt it out. From there it’s easy to access the DIMMs and CPU. Pulling the GPU requires unscrewing it from the back plane to slide it out. Overall, it’s not a bad service job if you decided to replace the RAM or upgrade the Core i7-4770K down the road. Of the four systems, though, it’s probably at the bottom in terms of access to components, but to be honest, it’s not that bad. It’s certainly not as easy to wrench on as a mid-tower, but this ain’t no mid-tower. In fact, compared to some traditional shoebox small form factors that we’ve worked on in days past, the Revolt is an improvement.

In the configuration arena, the Revolt is “well-kitted,” as our cousins across the pond say, in the CPU and GPU departments. In fact, you can’t get better in something this small. The GeForce GTX Titan and Core i7-4770K are the absolute fastest parts available in any micro-tower. iBuypower, however, took an interesting tack by including an NZXT 140mm liquid cooler for the CPU. This amount of cooling should allow for pretty reasonable overclocking on a Haswell, but iBuypower left its Haswell part bone-stock. Say what you will about the lack of an overclock in terms of performance, but acoustics nuts will be pleased. Of the four boxes here, the Revolt was the quietest under a full CPU load. Where the other three micros would start to howl under load—even the liquid-cooled Falcon Northwest Tiki — the Revolt was noticeably quieter. It’s not silent, mind you, and we’re not even sure it’s the best solution for a quiet night of pretentious foreign cinema on your HDTV, but it’s definitely the least noisy of the four under load.

One area where the Revolt failed to impress was in storage. iBuy-power took the route used by many vendors lately: skimping. To get a PC with a Titan and top-end Haswell under $2,000 (OK, $1 under), you have to rob Bill to pay Steve. In this case, iBuypower went with a 1TB Western Digital Black drive and a 120GB Corsair Neutron GTX SSD. Pardon us, but that is so 2012 in drive capacity. Just trying to run our benchmarks we ran into space limitations fairly quickly. It’s hard to believe, but 120GB of primary storage is no fun. Even the 1TB hard drive seems miserly in a day when 3TB HDDs are growing on trees.

In the all important area of performance, we figured the iBuy-power, with its Core i7-4770K, would stand a good chance against the Ivy Bridge–based Digital Storm Bolt, but the heavily clocked-up Bolt easily outpaced it. In our Stitch.Efx 2.0 test, where we task the machine with creating a massive gigapixel image from 200 images shot with a Canon EOS 7D, the Revolt was 9 percent slower than the Bolt. In ProShow Producer 5.0, it was slower than the Bolt by 8 percent. The Revolt does get some partial revenge in our Premiere Pro CS 6 workload, with its final render time just 2 percent slower than the Bolt.

The copper-colored elephant in the room is the Falcon North-west Tiki, though. With its Haswell soaring along at 4.7GHz, the Tiki simply crushed the Revolt by double-digit margins in almost every benchmark.

In gaming tasks, the Revolt is fully capable of playing every single game out today with all settings at maximum at 1920x1080, as well as at 2560x1600 with most settings cranked up, but in this show-down, the Bolt and Tiki are still faster.

That’s all fine and good, but careful observers will note the price disparity. The Revolt is $2,000. The Digital Storm Bolt hits $3,377, and the Falcon Northwest Tiki is more than twice as much at $4,433. Only the Alienware X51 R2 comes in at a lower price, but its components put it in a different class than the top three contenders. No, this is really a three-way battle between the Bolt, Revolt, and Tiki. In that respect, the Revolt certainly doesn’t take home any performance trophies, but with its still-respectable speed and insanely good price, it damn well wins the prize for best deal. And for a lot of folks, that’s what really matters. Double up on the storage and you’ve got an even more well-rounded box.

Processor Intel Core i7-3770K@4.2GHz
Mobo iBuypower Z77E
RAM 8GB DDR3/1600 single-channel
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 670
Sound Card Onboard
Storage120GB Intel 330 Series SSD, 1TB WD Caviar Blue
OpticalBlu-ray combo drive WH14N540
Case/PSUCustom / FSP 500W