iBUYPOWER Chimera 4SE Desktop Gaming PC Review

We take a look at iBUYPOWER's spectacular looking and high performance Chimera 4SE gaming desktop PC in our return to desktop reviews.

@tracehagan
Published Wed, Jan 2 2013 9:53 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: iBUYPOWER

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 29 IMAGES

iBUYPOWER is a well-known name when it comes to custom laptops and desktops. Today I have the joy of taking a look at its latest Chimera system, the 4SE. The design of the system is something you can only get from iBUYPOWER, as the sides of the Phantom are custom with a flame version of their logo.

The nice thing about buying from system integrators, such as iBUYPOWER, is the massive amount of customization that is available. The only other way to get this degree of flexibility is to build your own system, not a task everyone is up to.

iBUYPOWER was great and allowed us to develop our desktop testing methodology on the system. We feel that the tests ran should be able to separate the machines we test in the future based upon several different categories.

The entire testing methodology culminates with a benchmark we know you've been waiting for. That's right, with our return to desktop reviews, we're introducing Battlefield 3 as one of our tests.

With that introduction out of the way, let's take a look at our review machine.

Specifications, Configurations, Pricing

Specifications, Configurations and Pricing

The Chimera 4SE sent over to us by iBUYPOWER is armed to the teeth with the latest and greatest technology. It features the latest Intel Core i7-3770K, which is a quad-core part based upon the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture.

The CPU is coupled with the ASUS Z77 Sabertooth motherboard, a sleek black mainboard with numerous features. Loaded onto the motherboard are two EVGA GTX 680 video cards in SLI, making for a powerful gaming machine.

No gaming machine is complete without RAM, so iBUYPOWER loaded this system up with 16GB of DDR3-1600. It features a 180GB Intel 520 SSD, one of the fastest SSDs on the market for fast boot-up, with a 2TB 7,200 RPM drive for mass storage.

All of this is powered by a Corsair TXV2 850w PSU. Cooling is provided by a Corsair H60 all-in-one water cooling system. Most importantly, the system is loaded with Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8.

The cost for a system like this is $2,699, give or take a few dollars for sales and other discounts. The cost of this system, if I were to build it myself is not much less than that. When you consider the time it would take for the wire management present, along with the building and installing of all the drivers, the cost premium is negligible, and you get a custom case to boot.

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Configuration is available down to the component level allowing for the most extreme customization. Base price is $829 for the AMD FX-4100 powered model.

Packaging, Bundle, and System Pictures

Packaging

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Shipping a desktop PC is not an easy task, and you have to make sure that the system arrives at its destination intact. The Chimera 4SE was boxed up in the original NZXT Phantom box that the case arrived in, with the internals being secured with a vacuum foam block.

The system arrived with no damage, save for a video card that wasn't working. The damage to the card was not from shipping as far as I could tell, and likely was sent from EVGA defective.

Bundle

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Included with the system is an iBUYPOWER keyboard and mouse, both of which are pretty terrible. The mouse does come with adjustable DPI, but won't cut it for the serious gamer. The keyboard has mushy keys and shouldn't even be bothered to be plugged in.

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The extra cables from the modular PSU are included with the system, along with the other various "spare" parts that one collects when building custom systems.

Testing Methodology

Benchmarks and Testing Methodology

-CPU Tests

Cinebench R11.5 starts off our tests. The multi-threaded rendering test is ran and the score reported. wPrime is ran for both the 32M calculation and 1024M calculation with the number of threads available on the system.

-Storage Tests

CrystalDiskMark is run to put a number on how well the system hard disk drive / SSD runs. It measures five different metrics, of which higher is better for all. The higher the numbers, the snappier the operating system will feel, especially if the "4K" number is high, as most operating system files are small files.

HD Tune is run on any storage drives installed in the system. Maximum, minimum and average read and write speeds are reported in the charts.

- System Tests

PCMark 7 is run to get an overall idea of how the system performs as a whole. It tests all aspects of the PC and puts a score on how well it performs overall. In this test, a low scoring area can affect the overall score, so it's important to read the analysis. A higher score is better.

- Accessory Port Testing

Ports to which an external storage device can be connected to are tested using HD Tune Pro to obtain their maximum, minimum and average read and write speeds. USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and eSATA ports are tested using a Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD that is capable of saturating the theoretical bandwidth available.

The Corsair Neutron GTX is housed inside an Icy Dock external enclosure which features a SATA I/II/III to USB 3.0 and eSATA converter.

- Gaming Tests

3DMark Vantage is ran on the Extreme preset to get a feel for how the computer would manage gaming. The CPU, GPU and combined scores are reported. A higher overall score is the best and a high GPU or CPU score shows particular prowess with tasks that use that part of the computer.

3DMark 11 is run on the Extreme preset and the Physics, GPU and combined scores are reported. This test is only run if the system supports DirectX 11. A higher overall score is the target, though a high individual result shows prowess in a particular area.

Battlefield 3 is run at 1920 x 1080 resolution with the graphics preset set to "Ultra." The test is run three times due to higher variability than the other benchmarks. FRAPS is used to record 60 seconds worth of FPS data and recording starts when the character first picks up the gun at the start of the campaign and usually finishes shortly after the train explosion. The game is played in a similar manner each time.

-Heat, Noise, and Power Consumption

The system is fully loaded using Furmark and Prime 95. Component temperatures are recorded using CoreTemp and Furmark. Noise is recorded in front of the system, midway up, six inches from the machine using a decibel reader.

Idle power consumption is system consumption while sitting at the desktop, as recorded by a Kill-a-watt style meter. Loaded consumption is recorded during the load of Prime 95 and Furmark using the same meter.

CPU Tests

Cinebench 11.5

Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5 build CB25720DEMO

Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net

Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/products/cinebench/overview.html

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

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As you can see in the graph above, the Chimera 4SE performs strongly in the CPU-limited rendering test Cinebench. 8.54 is a respectable score and this CPU even outperforms older Intel models with more cores and threads.

wPrime

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.09

Developer Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/

Product Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/

wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.

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Numerical calculations are strong on the machine, due of course to the inclusion of the Intel Core i7-3770K. Achieving 6.376 seconds and 199.312 seconds in the 32M and 1024M benchmarks, respectively, is impressive.

HDD Tests

CrystalDiskMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

Developer Homepage: http://www.crystalmark.info

Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html

Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.

Key Features:-

* Sequential reads/writes

* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes

* Text copy

* Change dialog design

* internationalization (i18n)

Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.

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As you can see in the graph, the Intel SSD equipped in the machine is quite powerful and speedy. The 4k test is the slowest, coming out with 23.2MB/s, with the sequential read coming in at 375.4MB/s.

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The write speed isn't as spread, with the 4k test coming in at 80.3MB/s and the sequential write coming in at 159.3MB/s. Across the entire battery of tests, the results are impressive.

HDTune

Version and / or Patch Used: 5.00

Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:

Benchmark: measures the performance

Info: shows detailed information

Health: checks the health status by using SMART

Error Scan: scans the surface for errors

Temperature display

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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The mechanical HDD that iBUYPOWER installed in the Chimera 4SE is also quite speedy, though it can't hold a candle to the SSD. It comes in at an average read speed of 155.4MB/s.

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The write speed is equally impressive, throwing out an average of 149.1MB/s.

System Tests

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.4.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com/benchmarks/

PCMark 7 is a great utility for testing a PC's all-around capabilities. It tests all aspects of the computer, from graphics performance to hard disk performance and attempts to put a score on it, which is not an easy task.

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A respectable score of 6237 is garnered in the PCMark 7 test. This is about 2000 points higher than the fastest laptop we have tested, showing this desktop is roughly 50 percent better as an all-around system, which is to be expected.

Accessory Port Tests

HDTune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 5.00

Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:

Benchmark: measures the performance

Info: shows detailed information

Health: checks the health status by using SMART

Error Scan: scans the surface for errors

Temperature display

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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The graphs here really speak for themselves. USB performance is excellent across the board. The eSATA result is a bit off, and despite repeated testing, I could never get it to produce numbers that were a bit more reasonable.

I'm chalking it up to Windows 8, but if you're looking to utilize eSATA, you might want to choose a different motherboard just to be safe.

Gaming Tests

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmarkvantage

3DMark Vantage tests both processor and graphics performance and is a good indication of how systems compare. The results are generally more repeatable and consistent than other forms of benchmarking. Vantage uses DirectX 10 and can handle multi-core CPUs.

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There's not much that needs to be said here. Dual GTX 680 video cards in SLI are a wonderful thing for gaming and can easily handle all of today's, and likely tomorrow's, games. A score of 35408 for the extreme preset is great.

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.3.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Here again, the Chimera 4SE shows its strength for gaming with a respectable 6790 3DMarks on the extreme preset. Once again, all games should be easily playable on this system with the highest of graphics details.

Battlefield 3

Developer Homepage: http://www.dice.se/

Product Homepage: http://www.battlefield.com/battlefield3

Battlefield 3 is one of the most requested benchmarks, so we have finally added it. Frame rates are recorded for 60 seconds starting in the first part of campaign when the character picks up the gun and is played through until just after the train explodes. The game is played three times in that manner with the results being averaged together and reported.

Settings are 1920x1080 for the resolution with the "Graphics Quality" set to Ultra.

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As you can see in the chart, the Chimera is perfectly capable of playing Battlefield 3 at the highest possible graphics settings. It averages 165 FPS, with the minimum not dropping below 120, which is perfect for 3D gaming.

Temperatures, Noise, and Power Consumption

Temperatures, Cooling, Noise

The system is fully loaded using Furmark and Prime 95, similar to our laptop testing. The sound recordings are made in front of the machine, about 6 inches from the center of the tower. Temperatures are reported as recorded by CoreTemp and Furmark.

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The Corsair H60 only does a decent job of keeping the system cool. A max temperature of 89 degrees Celsius is a bit higher than what I would normally like to see a CPU achieve. I'd definitely opt for a better cooler on this machine, given the chance. The video cards reached a max of 84 degree Celsius, which is within an acceptable range for a GPU to operate.

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The system put out a maximum of 52 decibels during this test, which isn't an ungodly amount of sound. It would be easy to hear your game over the noise of the machine. During normal use, the system would have trouble reaching this sort of sound output because it will rarely be as loaded as it is for our test.

Power Consumption

Power consumption is measured while the system is loaded for the temperature test and while sitting idle at the desktop. Measurement is taken at the wall, so it includes everything running in the system.

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At idle, the machine draws 96 watts. This means it's about the same as leaving two incandescent light bulbs running. During a full load, system energy draw spikes to 604 watts, which is a fair amount of energy to be drawing. Considering the system features a top-of-the-line CPU and dual GPUs, this draw isn't unheard of.

Final Thoughts

I'm really impressed with the iBUYPOWER Chimera. As the first of our desktop reviews, it's a bit hard to offer up comparisons of how it stacks up to the competition, but I do have my own desktop to compare it against.

Pitted against my desktop, the Chimera 4SE would crush it. Taking a look at the individual components is important, but it's more important in a review like this to take a look at the system as a whole. Benchmarks for individual components are everywhere on the web, including many on TweakTown.

What really matters is how the system comes together and what iBUYPOWER is offering as a systems integrator. What you get with this system is quality. The cables are tucked away and hidden for a beautiful look and better airflow.

You get access to iBUYPOWER's support in case something goes wrong. You don't have to spend your time putting the system together, installing the operating system, drivers, and other software, and most importantly, you don't have to do the cable management.

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The price premium for this system is only a few hundred dollars more than buying all of the individual components by themselves. For that extra cash, you get everything discussed above, plus the bonus of the custom case. There is no other way to get a cool case, such as the one the Chimera 4SE is housed in, other than to do it yourself. I'm not sure about you, but I know I don't have the skills with an airbrush to do what iBUYPOWER has done with this case.

You'll have the coolest system at the LAN party if you pick up the iBUYPOWER Chimera 4SE. Really, that's the bottom line. This system is cool, calm, and collected. It smashes the benchmarks and really knocks the ball out of the park in terms of looks.

I can highly recommend the iBUYPOWER Chimera 4SE if you're in the market of a pre-built custom desktop computer for gaming and great performance.

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Trace is a starving college student studying Computer Science. He has a love of the English language and an addiction for new technology and speculation. When he's not writing, studying, or going to class, he can be found on the soccer pitch, both playing and coaching, or on the mountain snowboarding.

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