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CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500 SE Gaming PC Review
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Date: Jun 05, 2012
Section:Systems
Author: Seth Colaner
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Introduction and Specifications
A few months ago, CyberPowerPC unveiled a new line of custom gaming PCs under the “Zeus” moniker that promised impressive specs and features at a relatively low price. As it turns out, there are plenty of Zeus models available (nine at present, by our count), which provides a plethora of starting price points. For $1,125, you can nab a basic Zeus Thunder 1000, but a top-of-the-heap Zeus Thunder Max starts at $3,735.

Right smack dab in the middle of the Zeus family price ladder is the Zeus Thunder 2500 SE, a $1,899 rig that CyberPowerPC sent us to play with. Granted, there are plenty of nice systems out there in the $1,000-$2,000 range, but there’s often a feature or two you have to live without. Perhaps the CPU or GPU is a generation old, or you forego liquid cooling in favor of traditional air-cooling. There are no such concessions with the Zeus Thunder 2500 SE, unless you consider rocking a GeForce GTX 680 instead of a 690 or an Intel Core i7-3770K instead of perhaps a 3960X compromising.


CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500 SE
Specifications & Features
Model: 

CPU: 


Memory: 

Graphics: 

Motherboard: 

Storage: 


Optical: 

Cooling System: 

Operating System: 

Internet: 


Front Panel Ports: 

Rear Panel Ports: 


Sound: 
Power Supply: 
Weight: 

Keyboard / Mouse: 
Dimensions: 

Warranty: 

Price

ZEUS Thunder 2500 SE

Intel Core i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge), 3.5GHz
with liquid cooling

16GB DDR3-1600 (4x4GB) Corsair Vengeance

EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (2GB)

ASUS P8Z77-V

Corsair 120GB Force GT SSD (SATA III)
Hitachi 1TB HDS721010DLE630 (7200RPM)

LG UH12LS28K 12X Blu-Ray Player/DVD-RW Combo Drive

Asetek 570LX 240mm water cooler

Windows 7 Home Premium x64

10/100/1000 Ethernet
Built-in WiFi

2 x USB 2.0; 2 x USB 3.0; Memory card reader; headphone and mic

2 x USB 2.0; 4 x USB 3.0; GbE LAN; DisplayPort, HDMI, optical S/PDIF,
DVI-D, D-sub, PS/2; 6 x audio

Integrated 7.1 surround sound
850W Corsair CMPSU-850TX V2
42 lbs

Not included
235 x 595 x 585 mm (WxHxD)

3 years labor, 1 year parts

$1,899 MSRP (as configured)
 


Indeed, this CPU and GPU pairing is a fine starting point for a high-performing system, and the overclocked CPU (4.7GHz) is cooled by an Asetek 570LX 240mm water cooler. CyberPowerPC opted for an ASUS P8Z77-V motherboard upon which to build the system and slotted in 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 (4x4GB).

         

On the storage side, there’s a speedy Corsair 120GB Force GT SSD paired with a 1TB Hitachi (7200RPM) bulk storage drive, and the optical drive is an LG 12x Blu-ray player/DVD-RW combo.

We were glad to see that the Zeus Thunder 2500 SE had no bloatware at all; when we first started it up, all we got was the default Windows desktop background. Most custom builders these days seem to be ditching pre-installed junk, and that's a most welcome trend. Nothing's more annoying that dropping big money on a custom PC only to spend your first hours with it uninstalling a bunch of unwanted junk-ware.

What we have here is a nice list of components, but let’s dig in to see what kind of system the CyberPowerPC folks built from it.
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Overall Design and Layout
All the aforementioned tasty components are wrapped in a white NZXT Switch 810 case, and CyberPowerPC didn’t do much to the stock chassis except add a gray laser-etched logo to the side panel, just below the huge side window. NZXT used a mix of white plastic and painted metal for the Switch 810, but the paint job is high quality enough that it’s hard to tell which surfaces are which, and the glossy finish nicely sets off the black rubberized detailing around the top and front of the case.

     

The whole point of the NZXT Switch 810 is to offer users three cooling options: liquid cooling, fans galore with all the vents open, or quiet performance with all the vents closed. With the Zeus Thunder 2500 SE, CyberPowerPC opted for liquid cooling (for the CPU only) in addition to quite a few fans--one each in back, in front, on the bottom, and aimed at the drive bay as well as three fans on top aiding the radiator.



The top panel is vented to allow users the choice to close up the case to reduce noise or leave it open for ventilation, and our rig came to us with the vents open. The front panel has a clean, uninterrupted look, hiding the optical drive and front panel ports until they're needed. There's a pair of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, a card slot, audio ports, reset button, and an LED toggle switch that can turn the white LEDs in the rear on or off under the front panel flap.


     

Around back is nine expansion slots, although just two are occupied by the graphics card, as well as the many ports afforded by the ASUS P8Z77-V motherboard. These include four USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports; HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, and VGA ports; and S/PDIF Out, a Gigabit LAN port, six audio jacks, a PS/2 port, and a low-profile WiFi module. Two of the USB 3.0 ports pull double duty as BIOS Flashback ports.

     

Inside, the included components barely take up any room, and it looks like the overly spacious apartment of a young rich guy who only needs furniture for one. Obviously, the lack of a CPU fan/heatsink opens things up a bit, but the Switch 810 could easily handle another graphics card or two with no trouble. A superb cable routing job keeps the space uncluttered, as well.


     

Other than the sizable radiator, the cooling loop itself is quite small and rather dull, actually. It consists of two thin opaque black tubes coming and going from a low-profile CPU cold plate and the radiator, and that’s it--no colorful coolant, flashy tubing, or shiny hardware connecting the parts of the system. That’s probably disappointing for those looking for a liquid cooling system that makes people stop and gawk, but the Asetek setup keeps that overclocked CPU nice and stable, so you can’t complain too much.
 
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PCMark and 3DMark Tests
To kick things off, we fired up Futuremark's system performance benchmark, PCMark Vantage. This synthetic benchmark suite simulates a range of real-world scenarios and workloads, stressing various system subsets in the process. Everything you'd want to do with your PC -- watching HD movies, music compression, image editing, gaming, and so forth -- is represented here, and most of the tests are multi-threaded, making this a good indicator of all-around performance.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7
Simulated Application Performance


Although our CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500 SE didn’t always do especially well against other systems in testing (as you’ll see later), this impressive PCMark Vantage score is indicative of an all-around strong system. The combination of an overclocked Ivy Bridge processor, top-notch NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 graphics card, and a good Corsair SSD (not to mention the liquid cooling) is a potent one.

As you can see, our system edged out every other save for the (insane) Maingear SHIFT SS. The Digital Storm ODE system posted a strangely low score in this one, though, which helps to bump up the CyberPowerPC’s place. Note well, however, that unlike most of the top-performing systems here, the CyberPowerPC is one of the only ones without at least two graphics cards.



In the PCMark7 test, it’s the iBuyPower system’s turn for a funky score. There’s no reason why it should have done as well as it did, particularly against the Digital Storm rig that has a better processor and twice the graphics firepower. (This is why we run a battery of tests instead of just relying on one or two.)

Regardless, the CyberPowerPC trailed them both, though by a slim margin. It didn’t come close to matching the score of 6654 posted by the Maingear system, however, although that’s not surprising.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11
Simulated Gaming Performance
The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, is specifically bound to Windows Vista and 7-based systems because it uses the advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 11, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. 3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark11's Performance preset option, as well as ran the system through a 3DMark Vantage run, which focuses on DirectX 10.


There’s a notable lead pack in 3DMark Vantage, and it’s comprised of the Maingear SHIFT SS, Digital Storm ODE, and CyberPowerPC systems; from there, the field drops off. The delta between the Digital Storm and CyberPowerPC systems is rather small, which is impressive considering the former has a slightly better CPU and two graphics cards.

(Yes, it’s also worth noting that the Maingear SHIFT SS killed the other rigs by a longshot. We’re just going to stop talking about how that monstrous system took the top score again; frankly, it’s going to be tops in pretty much every benchmark for the foreseeable future. When it finally falls to some system that costs half as much, we’ll address it again. Cool? Cool.)



Although in 3DMark 11 our CyberPowerPC system again took third, there was a bit more distance between it and the Digital Storm ODE system and much less distance between it and the Digital Storm Enix rig. The results from all the systems actually form a nice curve.



Even on the Extreme preset, the CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500 SE performs reasonably well, although the Digital Storm ODE Level 4 posted a score of X5384.
 
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SiSoft SANDRA and Cinebench
We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth, Physical Disks).

Preliminary Testing with SiSoft SANDRA
Synthetic Benchmarks



The CyberPowerPC system faltered here somewhat; while the Digital Storm rig went toe to toe with the Maingear system (a substantial feat), the Zeus Thunder barely hung with the iBuyPower system. All of these chips are heavily overclocked, so it’s odd that the CyberPowerPC’s Ivy Bridge (4.7GHz) processor would essentially mirror the performance on the iBuyPower’s Sandy Bridge (4.6GHz) processor.



In the Memory and Physical Disks tests, the CyberPowerPC rig delivered uneven results. Its Corsair SSD fared well enough compared to the Digital Storm’s Corsair SSD, but the memory couldn’t deliver the same bandwidth as the Digital Storm system’s.

Cinebench R11.5 64bit
Content Creation Performance
Maxon's Cinebench R11.5 benchmark is based on Maxon's Cinema 4D software used for 3D content creation chores and tests both the CPU and GPU in separate benchmark runs. On the CPU side, Cinebench renders a photorealistic 3D scene by tapping into up to 64 processing threads (CPU) to process more than 300,000 total polygons, while the GPU benchmark measures graphics performance by manipulating nearly 1 million polygons and huge amounts of textures.





There are some interesting results in the Cinebench tests. On the one hand, the CyberPowerPC rocked the single-threaded test with a score of 1.99, but in the multi-threaded test it was on par with a gaggle of older CPUs while lagging far behind the Sandy Bridge-E processors due to their additional cores/threads.

Chalk the OpenGL score up to the Digital Storm and Maingear systems’ more numerous graphics cards, although it’s worth noting that hitting 67.5 FPS is not exactly disappointing.
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Gaming Benchmarks: Far Cry 2, Just Cause 2, and Lost Planet 2

Far Cry 2
DX10 Gaming Performance
Like the original, FarCry 2 was one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC. Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the Ranch Map.



Despite the fact that the CyberPowerPC system fell to the middle of the pack, it gets bonus points for hanging in there despite being the only system without a multi-GPU setup.

Just Cause 2
DX10.1 Gaming Performance
Just Cause 2 was released in March '10, from developers Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive. The game makes use of the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the similarly named original. It is set on the fictional island of Panau in southeast Asia, and you play the role of Rico Rodriquez. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article using one of the built-in demo runs called Desert Sunrise. The test results shown here were run at various resolutions and settings. This game also supports a few CUDA-enabled features, but they were left disabled to keep the playing field level.



Today’s systems just scoff at these DX10 titles, but the Maingear and Digital Storm ODE rigs laughed much more dismissively than the rest of the field; although the CyberPowerPC system delivered a ridiculous 146.38 FPS score, that was only good enough for third place.

Lost Planet 2
DX11 Gaming Performance
A follow-up to Capcom’s Lost Planet : Extreme Condition, Lost Planet 2 is a third person shooter that takes place again on E.D.N. III ten years after the story line of the first title. We ran the game’s DX11 mode which makes heavy use of DX11 Tessellation and Displacement mapping and soft shadows. There are also areas of the game that make use of DX11 DirectCompute for things like wave simulation in areas with water. This is one game engine that looks significantly different in DX11 mode when you compare certain environmental elements and character rendering in its DX9 mode versus DX11. We used the Test B option built into the benchmark tool and with all graphics options set to their High Quality values.



You can’t ask for a prettier score curve than the above. Again, our test system came in third place, but that lone graphics card delivered excellent framerates at every resolution we tested, even with the settings cranked nice and high.
 
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Gaming Benchmarks: Metro 2033, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and Batman: Arkham City
Metro 2033
DX11 Gaming Performance
Metro 2033 is your basic post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. Unlike most FPS titles, there is no health meter to measure your level of ailment, but rather you’re left to deal with life, or lack there-of more akin to the real world with blood spatter on your visor and your heart rate and respiration level as indicators. The game is loosely based on a novel by Russian Author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Metro 2003 boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform currently including a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism.



Remember a couple of pages ago when we said we’d bring up the whole Maingear SHIFT SS X79 thing when there was something to discuss? That time is now.

The CyberPowerPC hit 117.63 FPS at a resolution of 1024x768, which bested the Maingear’s score of 83 FPS by a ridiculous margin. Then again, at 1920x1080, the CyberPowerPC rig pulled just 57.33 FPS while the Maingear and Digital Storm systems hit 73.67 FPS and 71.53 FPS, respectively.

It appears as though performance with single GeForce cards is scaling much differently than multi-card Radeon HD setups in Metro 2033. Note the Dell Alienware (with a GeForce GTX 555) scores we included; the curve there is similar to that of the CyberPowerPC system. The two Radeon HD-packing systems barely post performance differences between resolutions at all--not that it’s a problem to deliver upwards of 70 FPS at any resolution.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Call of Pripyat
DX11 Gaming Performance
Call of Pripyat is the third game in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series and throws in DX11 to the mix. This benchmark is based on one of the locations found within the latest game. Testing includes four stages and utilizes various weather conditions, as well as different time of day settings. It offers a number of presets and options, including multiple versions of DirectX, resolutions, antialiasing, etc. SunShafts represents the most graphically challenging stage available. We conducted our testing with DX11 enabled, multiple resolutions, and Ultra settings.



Once again, our featured system took third place, but even so it handled S.T.A.L.K.E.R. with aplomb. It’s also worth noting again the differences in performance scaling between systems with GeForce versus (multi-card) Radeon HD setups.

Batman: Arkham City
DirectX Gaming Performance
Batman: Arkham City is a sequel to 2009’s Game of the Year winning Batman: Arkham Asylum. This recently released sequel, however, lives up to and even surpasses the original. The story takes place 18 months after the original game. Quincy Sharp, the onetime administrator of Arkham Asylum, has become mayor and convinced Gotham to create "Arkham City" by walling off the worst, most crime-ridden areas of the city and turning the area into a giant open-air prison. The game has DirectX 9 and 11 rendering paths, with support for tessellation, multi-view soft shadows, and ambient occlusion. We tested in DX11 mode with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values, at various resolutions.



We’ve noted in the past that Batman: Arkham City struggles with CrossFire setups, and when we tested the Maingear rig, it was a downright mess, which led to that system’s comparatively dismal scores. Software updates in the meantime have helped, which is why Digital Storm is our highest scorer in this test and why the CyberPowerPC system did as well as it did against both of the other systems.

The benefit of a multi-GPU setup is more apparent the higher the resolution goes, as the performance gap between the Digital Storm and CyberPowerPC systems widens at each increase.
 
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Power Consumption and Noise
Before bringing this article to a close, we'll take a look at power consumption of the CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500 SE versus the other systems we tested. We let each system boot and sit idle before measuring idle power and then loaded down each system with both an instance of Prime95 (to load down the CPU) and Furmark (to load the GPU) before taking our full load power consumption measurements. Our goal was to give you an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling on the desktop and while under a heavy workload. Keep in mind, this is total system power consumption being measured at the outlet.



It’s somewhat startling to see how much juice those monster systems drink, even compared to high performers like the iBuyPower rig and our featured CyberPowerPC system. The latter pulls a bit more power than the iBuyPower system both at idle and under load, but the two are right in the same ballpark with similarly specifications and features.

We didn’t label this page “Power Consumption and Noise” for nothing; sometimes there are compromises builders have to make for achieving great cooling and performance. In this case, the compromise is noise. The CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500 SE has seven fans, and although they keep it down to a reasonable hum at idle, they scream at full tilt.
 
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Performance Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: In all of our tests, the CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500 SE performed very well. Even though it took third place in most of our benchmarks, it did so behind two much pricier systems. With that said, it also routinely outpaced some other rigs, including the iBuyPower Erebus GT (which costs about $600 more). That’s impressive performance for a machine that costs just $1,899.

With many of the cutting edge products we evaluate, there’s at least a little something that goes wrong or needs tweaking. And when companies send us something that’s new as well as overclocked (such as this system), the possibilities for trouble grow. We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that we had absolutely no issues with the Zeus Thunder 2500 SE. Once we fired up the unit the first time, it was smooth sailing all the way through to the last benchmark. CyberPowerPC should be commended for achieving that level of stability, and for anyone worried about the long-term effects of that monster CPU overclock, the company offers a 3 years labor/1 year parts warranty to back up its work.


The CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500 SE

The company also did a great job selecting the NZXT Switch 810 case in our opinion, which offers attractive looks without the added expense of a heavily altered or full custom chassis, and actually contributes something to the system’s overall performance, as well.

You could scarcely find a better price-for-performance ratio than $1,899 for the Zeus Thunder 2500 SE, although if you’re not in love with the price, CyberPowerPC has eight other Zeus Thunder gaming rigs available, starting at $1,125. If you’re looking for just a little more performance than this system offers, however, there are pricier versions with slightly more beefed-up specs too, all the way up to the $3,735 Zeus Thunder Max. As we saw with the other systems in our test bank, however, at some point ponying up more money for features offers diminishing returns. This system, as configured, will likely do most users just fine.

The only thing we can complain about is the excess noise the fans emit when the system is under sustained load, which is hardly a reason to avoid the CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500 SE.
 

 
  • Price
  • Superb performance for the cost
  • Excellent build quality
  • Great looks
  • No bloatware
  • Noisy when under load


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