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Computer Review: The CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme GXi220
CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme GXi220
The Abbreviated Version
In a nutshell, the Gamer Xtreme GXi220 is a monster. Fast, powerful, I'm pretty sure it could run a couple of small countries and still play a game or two.
Okay, that's it. End of review. Go buy the darn computer, and let me get back to playing with mine.
… Guess that's not really sufficient, is it? Well then. If you just want the specs, skip to the bottom. If you want the full review, keep reading:
Current Gamer Xtreme Models on offer:
My Old Home-Built Computer
Suddenly, getting a year older isn't so bad
To put this review in proper perspective, I have to go back a few years. As an aspiring computer geek, about 6 years ago I assembled my own computer. For its time, it was a fast powerhouse that made me proud. But as the years went by, it lost its edge. As a matter of fact, by today's standards, my home-made computer has no edge whatsoever... it could do what I need, but only barely. And parts were starting to wear out.
Pride, loyalty... cheapness... all of those were reasons I didn't replace it.
Then I had a birthday, and Monique, my son, and his wife, teamed up to replace my old home-job computer with a sleek new powerhouse from CyberPower.
Kind of made getting older a bit easier to deal with!
How is it shipped?
What's in the really big box?
This specific model is the CyberpowerPC Gamer Xtreme GXi220. It's a desktop pc with Intel Core i5-2500K (3.30 gigahertz) quad-core processor. My family had to mail order it, and then keep it a secret from me. Monique's not very good with this kind of secret, but she had me completely in the dark. When the three of them brought it out, still in the shipping box, I wasn't sure what to think, or expect. The box was huge!
As far as shipping quality, Cyberpower did a great job. The outer box was well sealed, and the inner box was cushioned and centered. The computer was firmly held by fitted styrofoam, and covered in a clear bag. The keyboard and mouse must have been shipped in seperate boxes, because Monique, John, and Anita gave them to me first as 'gag' gifts, without showing me the big box.
Gaming Computers are the Best
Once I actually realized this was really a computer, certain aspects became very important. On the side of the box was a label describing the contents as the "Gamer Xtreme." If you're into computers, you'll be aware that gaming computers, as a class, are the most powerful group of computers. It's funny when you think about it, but gamers require more power than just about any other class of computer user.
The Internal Box
What's really big, and weighs 32 pounds?
So right away, I realized this is not your average off-the-shelf computer. Next clue was the size. Most off-the-shelf models are designed to be inexpensive, and part of that is smaller cases. Nothing wrong with that, saving money and saving room are often desirable. But I like a big case. That means there's room to customize, to add extra... things. And it's very suggestive of a quality system designed to handle the extra upgrades. Monique actually mentioned the size- she thought I'd finally have a smaller computer (my old Big Red Computer was a 43 pound monster), but the Gamer Xtreme GXi220 is a pretty good-sized beast itself, weighing in around 32 pounds!
Quality Parts like Asus, AMD Radeon, and CoolerMaster
My final clue was the name-brand motherboard, an Asus P8P67-M (P67 B3 Revision). They kindly included the box the motherboard came in (!), and documentation for different components of the overall system. John told me CyberpowerPC is in the business of making custom-builds, but that they also offer pre-builts. The nice thing about their pre-builts is the parts. They use the same quality parts in the pre-builts as they use for the custom jobs. Like the AMD Radeon HD 6850 Display Adapter for the graphics card. Or the 8 Gb of DDR3 memory, expandable to 32 Gb. It's all housed in a Cooler Master HAF 912 series mid tower case, which is absolutely huge for something that's supposed to be mid-sized.
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit really does make it easy!
The Gamer Xtreme came with Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit version) preinstalled… and an actual disc! It's very nice to get a real disc. They also included the discs for the Asus motherboard drivers and software, and the AMD Radeon graphics card drivers. That's a pretty class act if you ask me- Previous computers I've owned came preinstalled, with no discs. This is a welcome change.
Booting up and running was a snap. I took the opportunity for a mostly clean start, and only reinstalled software I actually use. Installing my software on Windows 7 was easy, with no compatibility issues. And going online... wow- Windows 7 makes it so incredibly easy. I plugged in the cable to my router, and I was online. As simple as that. No settings, no mysterious issues, no password problems. It simply read the settings already in use, and went online.
2 Terabytes of storage now!
Easy Expansion - Added another hard drive
I even added some 'stuff' to it with extreme ease. Took the hard drive from my old computer, and installed it in this one. Since it was a 1 Terabyte Sata drive, that doubled my hard drive space, and gave me access to all my old stuff to sort through at leisure. It also ensured no private data would be going along with the old computer when I sold it. (I always remove the hard drive when selling an older computer. From all my passwords, to financial data, to personal ID information, it's just safer to keep private.) Let me give credit where it's due- My daughter-in-law first suggested installing the old drive in the new computer. I was a bit slow to see the advantage, but it eventually came to me. My son did the actual computer work. He's a lot better at it than me.
Plus an extra fan
Easy Expansion Part 2: Another fan
The Gamer Xtreme GXi220 has a lot of room inside, and good air movement. But in the past, I've had overheating issues. I like my room extra-warm for personal comfort, and heat is always a concern. So one other change we made was to install a dual-port fan in the back. Easy as 2 screws and plugging a small cable in.
I know those are both pretty simple changes, but they highlight the ease of upgrading the GXi220. Another mark of quality. Lots of room, modular design, plenty of ways to personalize your hardware.
You may not want to add another hard drive, or a fan. The point is, if you want to expand, there's lots of room and nearly endless options.
Speed is Relative- For me, the GXi220 is a Scorcher!
Now we come to speed. With an Intel Core i5-2500K (3.30 gigahertz) quad-core processor driving the computer, you know it's going to operate at a pretty fast clip. I suppose fast is relative, but for me, compared to my old computer with a single-core AMD 38000+, it's blazing fast. Possibly the best example from my own experience would be the game Monique and I play online, Runescape. On the previous system, I had to reduce the resolution, put the in-game settings to near minimum, close all the software I could, and set process management priority (in Task Manager) to 'Above Average', or 'Real Time'.
Running with Ease
Runs circles around my old computer
Even with all those reduced settings on the old computer, Runescape still limped along with a very stuttery frame rate. On the CyberpowerPC Gamer Extreme, I've got the resolution much higher, and the in-game settings pumped up. I can run multiple programs and apps with no noticeable slowdown in speed. And when I check CPU use, it's only using about 25% of the CPU to run Runescape. Just by rough comparison, that's at least 4 times faster than I'm used to. More, really, when you consider the hoops I used to go through just to get it to work at all.
Gamer Extreme: Windows Experience Index Score
If you like to judge computers by the Windows Experience Index, the base score is 5.9. A little explanation; 7.9 is currently the maximum score possible. The base score is simply the aspect of a computer with the lowest score. NOT an average. The actual component scores were:
Processor speed: 7.5
Memory (RAM): 7.6
Gaming Graphics: 7.1
Primary Hard Disk: 5.9
Windows Experience Index Score Explained: Limited by the Hard Drive
What this means: This is a screaming fast computer, and ranks near the top in all categories except hard drive speed. So if anything is going to bottleneck, it's going to be the hard drive. Do you need a faster hard drive? This one subjectively feels far faster than any I've used before. It's 7200rpm, but feels far faster. Boot-up times are lightning fast, right at 35 seconds. Programs load and are running so fast it's like they were already there. I don't have any lag in watching movies from the hard drive. A hard drive score of 5.9 is still near the top. It's just the 'least fast' component in the computer. If you really need faster load and save speeds, just drop a faster hard drive in the box, do a mirror copy from the old hard drive, and make the new one your boot disk.
Ultra Settings- No Slowdown
When I first got the GXi220, I was curious to see what others said about it. Surprisingly, there were few real reviews about it. I couldn't actually find any dedicated reviews. Just some customer reviews from online purchases. Of those, they were uniformly thrilled. I saw statements such as "Lightning fast- excellent for gaming!". Or "World of Warcraft- Ultra settings- heavy population- no slowdown!"
Smashes other pre-builts!
Obviously others share my enthusiasm. Both in power, and in price. Or to share another quote, "Smashes other pre-builts at or near the same price to the ground!" There were a lot of games mentioned, like Lord of the Rings Online, Fallout, Star Trek Online, all of which ran with no lag on high or ultra settings. Not having played those games myself, I'm not sure how relevant the information is. But still, it's a point of reference. Obviously, this computer excels at gaming.
Do You Overclock?
It's also unlocked for overclocking. I've not tinkered with overclocking much. It sounded like a cool thing to play with, until I started to make some changes. Before allowing the changes, I was warned that overclocking can harm my computer, destroy my warranty, and upset the balance of the universe. Well, okay, maybe not that last one. But still, with all those dire warnings, I decided to NOT play with overclocking unless for some reason I needed an insane CPU speed boost. Considering I've not come even close to pushing the CPU's top end, that's probably not going to happen. But it's still a cool feature if you like to tinker.
AMD Radeon 6850
The Graphic Card: AMD Radeon 6850
The AMD Radeon HD 6850 graphic card has: 5 ports - 2 DVI, one HDMI (1.4a), and 2 Mini DisplayPorts. For those of us (like me!) who still have VGA monitors (Christmas thoughts, anyone?) a small adapter is included in the package. Recognized for improved efficiency, lowered heat generation, and reduced power consumption, this graphics card is the perfect match for the system. Going with my Runescape example, because I have direct comparative experiences there, the graphics are beautiful, frame rate smooth, and colors vivid. Lots of control if you want to tweak it. I've read that it's designed for direct compatibility with DirectX 11, but currently I'm still using 10. 10 does everything I need at the moment, and I've always believed, if it works, don't break it!
Catalyst Control Center- Easy Management
I'm very pleased with the AMD Radeon HD 6850. Especially the Catalyst Control Center that manages all it's features. One thing I've always wished for was an easy way to control the color and brightness I see on the monitor. You know how it is… some games or websites are very dark, and you need to lighten them up to see details. Others are too bright, and show washed out images. I've always used the monitor's manual controls, but what a pain! So, back to Catalyst Control Center. There are many detailed controllable features, but my favorite is the Desktop Color Control. This simple little screen lets me adjust the color, brightness, and gamma with three easy sliders. Now it's effortless to change the screen settings in a moment. I keep the icon on my taskbar, with the controls always easy to access.
Chassis: Cooler Master HAF 912 Series
I've mentioned, in passing, the case… a Cooler Master HAF 912 Series. Just so you know, HAF stands for High Air Flow, and is designed to keep your expensive components running cool. It comes with fans installed, but can accommodate a water-cooled system. There's plenty of room for extras. Like I mentioned, this one already has an extra fan and another hard drive that my son added. The chassis measures about 9" x 19" x 19.5". On the front, there's some very convenient ports. You have 2 USB 2.0 Ports, an audio out, mic in, a reset button, and the power button along the front face. Just below those is the dvd burner. On the back are 2- PS/2 ports, 6- USB 2.0, 2- USB 3.0, 1- 1394, 1 eSATA, 1 S/PDIF Out, and 6- Audio ports.
Front and Back Ports
Comes with 8gb of Ram
Cost efficient Ram Expansion
The GXi220 comes with 8 gigabytes of DDR3 SDRAM memory installed. There are 4 slots, and the motherboard is expandable up to 32 gb of ram. I've spent a lot of time looking, and can only find one 8gb memory module. It goes for $155.98 each (as I'm writing this). Hopefully as the 8gb modules become more available, the price will become more reasonable.
For now, it's much more cost-efficient to buy 2 x 4gigabyte modules for around $40 each. Added to the existing 8gb, this would give you a very affordable 16 gigabytes of total ram in the computer.
When buying ram, be very careful to choose compatible memory. CyberPowerPC includes the motherboard User Guide in the packaging. My GXi220 has the P8P67-M, but things change and improve with time, always double check to be sure. The user guide memory section mentions, for instance, that Intell CPU specifications state a voltage below 1.65 is recommended to protect the CPU. I'd never have know if I hadn't read the guide!
Things change, filters miss things- Alway check to ensure compatibility!
Fan in the Door: The Prime Suspect
Intermittent Fan Noise- Running Silent Since I Tightened the Door
So far, I've raved about everything I love on my Gamer Xtreme. Just to show it's not absolutely perfect, I'm going to point out it's flaws. All 2 of them. First, is the noise. Most of the time it runs whisper-quiet. I can actually hear when the hard drive (my old one, not the system drive) spins up to speed. But. Once in a while, the side door fan develops a loud hum. Usually it quiets down on it's own. Sometimes it lasts until I touch the case, then it gets quiet again. It startled me at first, but to be honest, I'm pretty good at ignoring non-problems, and for me, that's just not a problem. I recently opened the door to take pictures of the inside for this hub. When I closed it, I seated the door firmly, tightened the screws, and since then, no more noise!
Keyboard and Mouse
Keyboard and Mouse
The other flaw? This one's more of a judgement call. It's the keyboard and mouse. Both are branded, and work just fine. But the keyboard is slightly stiff to type on, and the mouse is a bit too large to comfortably fit my hand. Again, these are non-problems, and as I use them, I'll get used to them. If it was a big deal, I'd just buy a new keyboard or mouse. On the plus side, they have a cool XtremeGear logo, and the mouse has a neat glowing blue vertical light.
Laugh if you want, but I like cool glowing things attached to my computer. I also like the functionality - in our slightly dim room, it makes reaching for the mouse a much more precise action.
At A Glance: The CyberpowerPC Gamer Xtreme GXi220
This is what my Gamer Xtreme GXi220 came with:
HAF 912 Series Mid-Tower Chassis
Intel Core i5-2500K (3.30 gigahertz) unlocked 64-bit quad-core processor
1 Terabyte hard drive, 7200 rpm, interface is Serial ATA/300
4 DDR3 SDRAM Memory slots, comes with 8 GB (in 2 modules of 4gb each), expandable to 32 GB max.
Comes installed with 64-bit Windows Home Premium and Microsoft Office 2010 Starter
700 Watt Power Supply
Graphics controller interface- PCI Express x16 (2 slots), Graphics Memory 1GB
Graphic card - AMD Radeon HD 6850
1 PCI slot
Motherboard ASUS P8P67-M Rev 3.0 - New P67 B3 Revision
DVD Burner: DVD +/-R and +/-RW
10 USB ports
Firewire / 1394 port
5.25" bays in chassis: 4
3.5" bays: 6
1 Year Warranty
The CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme GXi220 in All It's Glory
Final Thoughts on the Gamer Xtreme
Okay, let;s be honest. I'm biased. I personally own this computer, it was a fabulous birthday gift, and it makes my old computer look like a 4-function calculator. How could I NOT love it? I suppose it's subjective. If you're used to something slower, it's going to seem uber-powerful. Objectively, this is a LOT of computer for the money. Full of quality parts, plenty of ram, lots of hard drive space, and cpu power. Cyberpower is a quality company, and the Gamer Xtreme is a good solid computer.
Any time you buy a new computer, you should research it first. Find out as much as you can about what's under the hood, who makes it, what it can do. Then make an informed decision. As much as I love mine, I'm not pushing you to buy this computer. I'm just giving you the tools to make your own decision. For what it's worth, I do recommend the Gamer Xtreme GXi220, and I recommend Cyberpower. I like the company, and am Xtremely happy with my computer!!