Hexa-coreâ€™s white knight?
Ever since the appearance of Intelâ€™s smoking-fast second-gen Core i7 processor in January, weâ€™ve been wondering if Intelâ€™s hexa-cores still have a purpose. When iBuypowerâ€™s Paladin XLC strode into town with a hearty Intel six-core inside its shining white armor, we expected an epic battle.
And we got one. Outfitted with Intelâ€™s priciest hexa-core, the 3.33GHz Core i7-980X, the Paladin XLC seemed destined to take on Falcon Northwestâ€™s black-clad Mach V system that we reviewed in February.
Using NZXTâ€™s excellent Phantom case, the Paladin XLC certainly strikes an impressive pose. Along with 12GB of DDR3/1600, a 128GB A-Data SSD, a 2TB hard drive, and a 10x Blu-ray burner, the Paladin XLC fields an imposing collection of hardware, and at a decent price.
White is the new black, which was the new beige.
But thatâ€™s the rub. Though stuffed with a hexa-core, the Paladin XLC is outfitted with a pair of solid, but letâ€™s face it, budget AMD Radeon HD 6870 cards. We werenâ€™t surprised because that jibes with iBuypowerâ€™s reputation of providing a crapload of hardware at a hell of a good price. Getting a water-cooled, CrossFireX hexa-core machine at $3,500 is a pretty good deal.
Unfortunately for the Paladin XLC, itâ€™s not enough to take out its closest competitor: the Falcon Northwest Mach V. Yes, itâ€™s a bit of a mismatch here. The Mach V is about $800 pricier, which gets you a crazy OCZ Revo X2 drive and a pair of GeForce 580 GTX cards. With the GeForce 580 GTX crowned as the new king, we didnâ€™t expect much of a competition in graphics and we didnâ€™t get one. In our STALKER: CoP benchmark at super-high resolutions, the pair of GTX 580 cards can match the performance of tri-SLI GTX 480 cards. The pair of Radeon HD 6870 cards, on the other hand, is about the equivalent of a single Radeon HD 5970 card. In Far Cry 2, which is less dependent on the GPU and more dependent on CPU, the competition gets closer. The Paladin XLC pushes out a very respectable 147fps. That far outstrips our zero-pointâ€™s HD 5970 and overclocked quad-core combo, but again, the two GeForce GTX 580s are far more impressive. OK, so GPUs that cost twice as much are faster. What about CPU-based benchmarks?
Thatâ€™s where it gets interesting. The Paladin XLC against our zero-point is an easy win. The six cores beat our four cores quite handily. But against the higher-clocked Sandy Bridge CPU, itâ€™s far closer than we expected it to be. The Sandy Bridgeâ€“based Mach V is actually slightly faster in Lightroom and ProShow Producer. The six-core fires back, though, by beating the Mach V in Sony Vegas Pro 9 and MainConcept Reference.
So, what can we determine from all this? There is still value in hexa-core chips. Perhaps not the advantage they had just two months ago, but in anything thatâ€™s heavily multithreaded, six cores can still prevail. Even with the Mach V clocked up 500MHz faster than the Paladin XLC, the hexa-core still has moxie.
And thatâ€™s really what the Paladin XLC represents. Itâ€™s a pretty good bargain when you consider the hardware loadout. The similarly outfitted Velocity Micro Edge Z55 system that we reviewed in our December issue tipped the scales at $4,300. iBuypower shaves $800 off of that and gives you faster graphics cards than that system, too.
So, while the iBuypower cannot defeat the black knight, it fights the good fight. And isnâ€™t that all any Paladin would care about?