Where do you draw the line between aesthetics and ease of use? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining how you feel about iBuyPower's Revolt 2 systems. I've been using one for a few weeks, and there are some highs to the system and case design, but also some significant downsides if you're a constant tinkerer.
The system is designed with esports in mind, with a design that allows you to both show off your GPU and also slide up to two SSDs in and out. You'll have to power down the system when you swap out the hard drive, but it's a simple process once you remove the screws.
Since the window is located near the top of the case to show off your graphics card and SSD, and that window can be flipped up to allow access to the SSD, the sides of the case are left wide open for branding and stickers for your professional team, or team in training.
While the esports world may not be able to support an entire line of computers, the idea is everyone who likes watching professional gaming can have a system like they see on TV, complete with personal branding. It's like wearing a jersey from your favorite team even though you don't play in the NFL. (iBuyPower created custom Polygon sides for a system to show off this feature.)
Here are the stats on the system it created for us to test:
- CPU: Intel Core i7 6700k 4.0 GHz quad-core
- Corsair Hydro Series H55 120mm Liquid CPU Cooler
- Memory: ADATA XPG 16 GB DDR4 – 2400
- Storage: ADATA XPG 240 GB SSD
- Graphics: EVGA GTX 970 4GB SC Gaming card
- Motherboard: MSI Z170 Gaming Pro
- Power Supply: ThermalTake Sp 750W
The system crushed every game we threw at it, and is fully ready for both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, and when it comes to pre-built systems I'm much more worried about overall build quality and features of the hardware than I am about benchmarks; if you'd like to save some money — the system they sent for review has a $1,600 retail price — or want to add some performance you can adjust the specs yourself.
And the case is certainly striking, with a much smaller footprint than a standard ATX case and a much more aggressive angling. It's 18'' x 9'' x 15'' in size, and weighs between 18 and 25 pounds depending on components. To put it simply, this is a very small, comfortable case when it comes to moving it for LAN parties or even just displaying it in your home.
There's also no support for an internal disc drive, a detail I didn't notice until I went onto the official site and went through the customization options and saw the option to purchase an external drive. I'd like to say a disc drive would be nice, but after not even noticing its absence after playing so many games I'm not going to bother.
So what's the problem?
The system is a breeze to set up and use, and iBuyPower doesn't load the Windows 10 install with cruft. It's a lean, high-quality machine when closed and in use, but I was curious about what it would be like to work on it, so I popped the sides off and ...
The snag is immediately apparent. The plastic of the case is only cut out on one side of the screws, which makes it impossible to apply enough torque to remove the screw with your fingers, requiring the use of a screwdriver for the initial removal of the sides. You can likely replace the stock screws with larger thumbscrews and perhaps keep them a bit looser, but it seems like a strange oversight. Once the sides are removed you're presented with this:
The is the other side of that aggressively-styled case. The power supply rests on top of the mini-ITX motherboard when you look at the system from the side, meaning you have to remove that component before you can swap out your RAM or CPU. While this design may initially look like heating would be an issue, I'm happy to report that even after marathon sessions of graphically intensive games the system remained stable and, maybe as importantly, quiet.
The much-publicized ability to swap out SSDs easily is also kind of a pain in the butt. The drives come in a tray that is secured to the case via screws that are impossible to remove without a screwdriver, and you'll need to unscrew the drives from the tray itself. This may or may not be an issue for you, but I wish more of the case were able to be opened or removed purely by hand.
Cable management is also an interesting situation. There is a portion of the case set aside for the cables, but they're in kind of a jumble. It's easy enough to see what goes where, however, and with the window to the case located on the top of the system it's not like the cabling hurts the overall aesthetics.
There is also a lighting system controlled via a desktop app that allows you to select nearly any color to shine through the SSD and GPU area, along with a variety of effects. Do you want a rolling pulse? Do you want your system to look like it's "breathing"? How about a rainbow effect of varying speed or a single, always-on color? It can all be set up in moments, and matching the lights to your system's vinyl allows you to create a cohesive, attractive package.
Summing things up
Like many cases this unconventional, some people will love it and others will hate it. The company even mocked up an example case with an image of a piece of toast after someone remarked that the case looked like a toaster. iBuyPower is pretty comfortable poking fun at itself, and seems to understand that this styling won't be for everyone.
And the extra hassle when upgrading the system is also a concern, but whether or not that's a deal-breaker depends on how often you work on your system. As someone who tends to do full upgrades once every few years, removing the power supply to get to the motherboard isn't that big of a deal. You'll also be limited to single graphics cards however, as there is no room in the case for an SLI configuration.
The smaller size and radical aesthetics of the case go a long way to making up for the few annoyances when working inside the unit, and the lack of crap on the hard drive and showy nature of the GPU and SSDs are also attractive traits.
But if you're always in there tinkering? There are better options out there. For the LAN gamer or someone who wants a system that will attract attention? This is a pretty great fit, and with systems starting at $899 the price of entry isn't out of reach.
Want a chance to win this PC?
Here you go! The winner will be selected randomly, and we can't wait to send it to one of you!
The system, as configured, retails for $1,600 and was provided by the manufacturer for our testing. We'll be giving it away to a reader.