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iBUYPOWER F-Series Chimera 2 Gaming ComputerI had the pleasure to break in iBUYPOWER s all-new F-Series Chimera 2 gaming computer over the weekend and have survived to tell you about it.

Having assembled many desktop computers in my days as a custom build expert for a regional computer shop, I was excited when I got the chance to see first-hand one of iBUYPOWER s flagship towers, the F-Series Chimera 2. Armed with a quad-core processor, RAID0 64GB solid state drives, the world s first DirectX 11 video card, 6GB of memory and liquid cooling, this machine has all the assets of a solid gaming rig.

COMPONENT LIST
Chassis: Customized NZXT Lexa S Mid-Tower
Processor: Intel Core i7-920 Quad Core 2.66GHz; 8MB Cache
Video Card: 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870
Memory: 6GB (3x2GB) DDR3 A-Data 1333 (PC 10666)
Motherboard: ASUS P6T X58
Power Supply: Corsair 750W 80 PLUS Certified
Cooling: Asetek CPU Water Cooling
Storage (OS): 2x 64GB Kingston V-Series SSD (RAID 0)
Storage: 1TB Hitachi DeskStar 7200RPM HDD
Audio: Integrated Advanced HARMONY SRS
Connectivity: 8x USB 2.0 ports, Bluetooth; Ethernet 10/100/1000; eSATA
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium

When we received the Chimera 2, it shipped in its original NZXT case box and included moldable foam on the inside to keep the internal components from moving or coming loose during shipping. Appropriate notices were placed on the machine over the power supply and on the side of the case so as to not accidentally power the machine on with this still inside. Additionally, this box was packed inside another box with foam inserts that provided an additional layer of protection.

Once out of its box(es), the flame-dressed Chimera on the case is the first thing you ll notice. It s extremely vibrant; and, while we hoped that it was airbrushed, the design is merely a print that wraps the NZXT Lexa S case. While some may appreciate the case graphics, we suspect many would have been fine with the already sexy NZXT Lexa S case.

Inside, we were immediately impressed at how clean and organized everything appeared. We first noticed the wires (or lack thereof) and the additional bracket where both raided Kingston V-Series SSDnow drives were mounted. The ATI Radeon HD 5870 video card has ample room surrounding its massive chassis and expansion slots, both 3.5  and 5.25  bays are aplenty. Should the need arise to add another card for CrossFire, you needn t worry about room. The ASUS P6T Motherboard has 6 available RAM slots, 3 of which are occupied with 2GB A-Data 1333 modules, totaling 6GB of RAM. The Asetek CPU liquid cooling system is small, unobtrusive, and best of all, quiet. It also ensures the powerhouse Intel i7-920 2.66GHz quad core processor runs cool and calm. Finally, ensuring a steady flow of power to the Chimera 2 is Corsair s award-winning 750-watt, 80 PLUS Certified power supply.

Once powered on, the Chimera 2 ran through the initial Windows 7 Home Premium startup guide where we input the Windows 7 license key were then greeted by a very clean, no-frills installation of Windows 7   the way ALL systems should boot the first time.

Next, we navigated immediately to the Windows Experience Index where we let Windows 7 test the Chimera 2 s mettle (7.9 is currently the highest score possible):

A bit surprised by the results, we didn t expect to see the video card as the bottleneck in the Chimera 2. The ATI Radeon HD 5870 is the world s first fully-compatible DirectX 11 video card and one of the fastest performing, single graphics cards, often out performing dual card solutions. Windows 7 is also relatively new, so we can only assume that the Windows Experience Index is not fully utilizing this newest graphical hardware and/or that drivers have not yet released to optimize DirectX 11 and Windows 7.

Besides the graphics card results, we also expected the disk data transfer rate of the dual Kingston 64GB SSDs in RAID0 array to be a bit higher. With all the hype about SSD speeds, we decided to investigate further. It turns out that the Kingston V-series drives, while delivering improved performance over even the fastest HDDs, still do not perform like the fastest SSDs, thus resulting in the lower score.

After the initial boot we took some time to install several gaming titles. Worth mentioning is the fact that a full install World of Warcraft patched to version 3.2.2 (not including download time) took approximately 50 minutes as compared to nearly two hours on my home PC, which, I d like to think is still a relatively new and powerful computer. I attribute the time saved primarily to the solid state drives, which my personal computer lacks.

The past several days have been spent inside the 3D-rich environments of World of Warcraft, Crysis, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2, FarCry 2, and H.A.W.X. Without hesitation we jumped to the graphics settings of each game and cranked them up to their respective, high, ultra, custom and insane graphics options including up to anti-aliasing, shadows, textures, particle effects, shaders, etc.

While we didn t have time for an in-depth review and full benchmark scores, our first impressions are favorable. Its gaming performance also reassured us that the graphics and gaming graphics scores from the Windows Experience Index have got to be wrong, as what we saw from the Chimera 2 was anything but sub-par  well, except the included keyboard and mouse. We ve mentioned this in previous articles, but it seems that keyboards and mice are included as a courtesy rather than an actual complement to the system.

Where the Chimera excels is its $1,980 price point. While some may gawk at its near $2k price, realize that you re getting RAID0 SSDs, brand new DirectX 11 technology, name brand components and a build quality that exceeds expectations. Even if you re a PC builder like me and want to build this yourself piece by piece, you ll be hard-pressed to build it for the price tag  which, brings us to support.

The system includes iBUYPOWER s standard 30-day money-back guarantee and a limited one year parts and three year labor warranty. Customer service representatives are available by phone Monday   Friday 8-5 PST via a toll free number: (888) 618-6040. Fortunately for us both, we ve had no need to use this number and hope that you won t either.

Overall we loved the performance boosts as a result of the solid state drives and the bleeding-edge DirectX 11 compatibility that will ensure increased longevity for the system. As seen with the Windows Experience Index scores, the Windows 7 software and drivers may have some catching up to do with the hardware but that isn t always a bad thing. In fact, in the case of the Chimera 2 and the obvious reference to the state of the economy, it s a great thing.

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