In a post-Linum TI world, it’s likely that a lot of you look at system integrators a little differently – or, more likely, exactly the same. After we began our Walmart system review, we put in a last-minute, rushed order for an iBUYPOWER RDY system with significantly better parts than what we could get in the Walmart build. This was before Linus had begun his series, too, and so all we knew was that the parts listing included a 9700K instead of an 8700, clearly an improvement, and an RTX 2080 instead of a GTX 1080 Ti, and iBUYPOWER did this at a lower price. The question was whether or not the assembly was any good and if any other mistakes were made along the way.
Before starting on this one, we need a trip down memory lane: We had just ordered the Walmart system, originally meant to be an i7-8700 non-K CPU with GTX 1080 Ti, and had paid over $2000 to get it. Of course, that fateful order ended up being accidentally shipped with an 8700 with a GTX 1070 and was actually the $1500 SKU, but close enough. The motherboard was an H310 platform that runs a slower DMI and only one DIMM per channel, the case had literally 3-4mm of space between the glass and the front panel, and the USB3 cable was held in with glue. Off to a good start.
We thought we were getting the DTW3 – Walmart’s new $2100 gaming PC – but the company instead shipped its $1400 model while still charging us an extra $700 for parts we didn’t receive. What we ended up with was a GTX 1070, an i7-8700, an H310 motherboard with half the bus speed of any other chipset, and 16GB of 2400MHz RAM for nearing $2300 (after taxes and shipping).
What a rip-off.
But we knew it’d be a rip-off when we placed the order, we just didn’t know it’d be a rip-off of such unchallenged proportions. Even if we assume that our receipt of a SKU $700 down-ticket was an honest mistake – and Walmart has agreed to replace it (after they get it back, so a 2-week window) – it’s still just an awful selection of components. The video below shows our genuine first reactions to this product, the Overpowered DTW3 by Walmart (by eSports Arena, by someone else), but the article will really dig in deep. Continue reading (or watch below) for more information.
Preorders are now open for the iBUYPOWER “Snowblind” system we’ve been covering for the past few months, most recently at CES 2017. The most notable aspect of Project Snowblind is the modified NZXT Noctis 450 enclosure, which uses an LCD side panel in place of a traditional clear window.
To be clear: although the buzz surrounding Project Snowblind is generally about the side panel, Snowblind systems are complete prebuilt machines and their enclosures are not available separately at this time (see our Noctis 450 review for details on the non-LCD version). As such, there are three SKUs available for preorder: Snowblind, Snowblind Pro, and Snowblind Extreme, for $1500, $1800, and $2500 respectively, with monthly payment plans optional. Additional components can be added for additional cost, but only white or silver varieties are allowed in order to give the panel maximum contrast.
We just published our final video walkthrough of iBUYPOWER’s ongoing “Project Snowblind” enclosure, which uses an NZXT Noctis 450 and custom LCD side panel assemblage. The setup has been in our coverage for several months now, starting with PAX Prime in September, followed by an office visit in October (with several upgrades), and now concluding with CES 2017.
In its simplest form, the Snowblind enclosure offers an LCD side panel (rather than traditional case side panel) which is capable of graphics playback or Rainmeter overlay. Really, it can do anything that an extra monitor could do, it’s just limited by visibility and contrast. The Snowblind uses all white/black internals to ensure the side panel’s output remains as legible as possible, and further uses ultra-bright LEDs along the inside wall of the side panel to provide the effective “backlight” for the display. iBUYPOWER is using an expansion slot in the case to host a small card that bridges comms between a DVI link (from the GPU), but the card does not use any motherboard slots. A simple DVI pass-through runs from the video card to the expansion card, which then runs the wiring to the LCD side panel.
The Intel booth at PAX West hosted iBUYPOWER's Snowblind case mod, an early mock-up made to integrate an LCD panel into an NZXT Noctis 450 side panel. The team has since improved its mod by adding a light guide, useful for darkening the black colors and reducing “fuzziness” of the output, increasing contrast overall. The side of the case has also now moved the LCD PCB and wiring to the top of the panel, nearer the CPU, as an effort to improve viewing angles and reduce the discoloration observed from non-oblique angles. As a side effect, this improves cable management by rerouting the monitor wiring through the top of the case, more concealable with an N450, rather than through the PSU shroud.
The goal of this revisit was to get a better understanding of how the Snowblind works, since our PAX coverage was entirely based on a quick study on the show floor. The enclosure mounts a 5:4 (1280x1024) resolution LCD to the side of an NZXT Noctis 450, which has its left side panel manually punched by NZXT's factory that we previously toured. You can actually see some of the machines responsible for this process in our video tour of the Shenzhen-based God Speed Casing factory. This is a one-off punch done by the factory team, but could be tooled-up for mass production if the Snowblind ends up as an actual product.
System integrator iBUYPOWER, peripheral maker Logitech, motherboard maker ASUS, and Riot games joined forces to aid UCI in opening its new eSports arena. The venue makes UCI the first top 200 public school with an eSports program, and opens the door for its participation in collegiate eSports tournaments. To our knowledge, there are presently nine other US universities with eSports programs that may allow for future 10-way contests at a collegiate level.
The university's arena hosted CLG Red & Blue teams, Immortals, and Selfless this weekend, alongside manufacturers nVidia, NZXT, ADATA, and iBUYPOWER. The venue contains sixty systems – a split between mITX Revolt 2 boxes and ATX NZXT N450 boxes – with Intel i7-6700K CPUs and GTX 1080 FE GPUs. Logitech has equipped each box with a G410 TKL keyboard, G303 mouse, and G430 headset, ASUS provided the Z170 motherboards, and iBUYPOWER did the system assembly (and provision of the Revolt 2).
The NZXT Noctis 450 enclosure was modified for display at Intel's booth for PAX West 2016, featuring an LCD panel for the side “window” in place of the usual acrylic. The display was built by iBUYPOWER as a prototype, and is effectively a 4:3 screen slapped onto the side of the case, then backlit (because there is no normal LCD LED backlight) by the internal case LEDs. White components are specifically used to create a high-contrast viewing port, meshing with the LCD panel in a way that allows video playback on the side of the case.
For the show, iBUYPOWER loaded a splash/advert video onto the side panel that scrolled through Intel and IBP logos. The future may permit more dynamic integrations with the panel, like loading PC monitoring software (e.g. NZXT CAM) with high contrast onto the display, then extending through usual Windows functionality. That's not possible yet, but is one of the considerations made by the team.
iBUYPOWER continues to show its support for the eSports community with a new tournament. The SI’s tournament series returns this fall with the CS:GO and Overwatch Invitational in September. From the 17th to the 18th, the top 8 teams in both games, as picked by iBP, will be competing for a combined $21,000 prize pool.
System integrator iBUYPOWER is furthering its commitment to eSports with the return of the iBUYPOWER CS:GO Invitational, accompanied by the newly introduced iBUYPOWER Overwatch Invitational. This weekend-long event begins on July 16th. Those in Santa Ana area can show up at eSports Arena to play in the free-to-play area and to compete in side events at the venue. Games will be streamed from the event floor.
CS:GO, League of Legends, Overwatch, and Super Smash Bros. will all be set up to play.
iBUYPOWER is once again empowering eSports. Now, the system integrator is teaming up with TBS to bring eSports to national television. This is a major move into the mainstream for eSports, with traditional broadcasters now expressing interest and posturing themselves as frontrunners for the emerging entertainment sector. When the new “ELeague” division of Turner Broadcast begins May 24th, it will be powered by iBUYPOWER's Revolt 2. The 24 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams competing in ELeague will all be using the rigs for training and competition, which will be hosted on stages and online.
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