We didn't expect anything more than a standard tower case from a PC in this price range, but our iBuyPower Value-Pro came housed in a shiny black Trinity ATX midtower case with a small blue-backlit LCD in front and a big window on the side--the latter illuminated by a matching blue-LED fan. A large door hides the system's drives (but thankfully not its power button), making for a smooth, solid-looking face. Several other case options are available, adding or subtracting anywhere from $9 to $78 from the cost.
The stock Trinity ATX case plays hard to get, at least where access is concerned. Two screws hold the side panel in place; once you've removed them, you still have to disconnect a power cord from the panel's cooling fan. Once inside, there's plenty of room for expansion in this spacious tower: USB and audio connections are available on both the front and rear of the system. The front ports (two USB 2.0, one microphone, and one headphone) are helpfully mounted on the right side, keeping cables from sprouting from the front of your PC.
iBuyPower stocks the Value-Pro with a 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3500+ and 1GB of 400MHz DDR SDRAM--twice the amount of memory of other $999 systems we've reviewed. You also get a 160GB hard drive--not the largest in the group, but certainly better than the 80GB in the Sys MediaMax S2600. We were impressed to find a built-in Wi-Fi adapter as well, a feature we'd love to see on more desktops. Just connect the antenna, and you have easy access to a home or office wireless network.
The iBuyPower Value-Pro's video card is one of the few concessions to the $999 ceiling. Although the Nvidia GeForce 6200 comes with an impressive 256MB of onboard memory, we'd much rather have a GeForce 6600, which would better accommodate visually demanding games. iBuyPower offers a 256MB version of the 6600 for just $58 extra--a decidedly worthwhile upgrade. Both video cards pair well with the included ViewSonic VA712b monitor. The 17-inch dual-interface display (VGA and DVI) delivered commendable images despite its relatively low 450:1 contrast ratio. The VA712b's stellar 8ms response time makes it perfect for games and movies.
Speaking of games, our system included a coupon for the full version of Half-Life 2 (which must be downloaded). Although the video card isn't up to the task of running it at high resolutions with antialiasing and other visual effects turned up, the iBuyPower Value-Pro still ran the game at a respectable 58fps on our 800x600 resolution test, easily the best of the budget group.
Half-Life 2 is the only software iBuyPower provides with the Value-Pro, save for a handful of system utilities and Nero Express, a "lite" version of the robust Nero disc-authoring suite. But the no-name 2.1 speaker system is the biggest letdown. Leave it off your configuration, and iBuyPower will knock a whole $4 from the price, which should give you some idea of the sound quality. Actually, they're impressively loud speakers, but anyone who cares even slightly about audio fidelity will want to consider one of the company's numerous add-on Logitech or Klipsch speaker options.