Dell, HP, and iBuyPower Back-to-School PC Roundup

iBuyPower Gamer Power BTS11 Design and Layout

Both Dell and HP sent us compact systems, as opposed to iBuyPower, which opted to build its Gamer Power BTS11 in a hulking NZXT Phantom chassis. It looks like a Storm Trooper and is nearly as tall as one, too. The BTS11 is an eye-catching machine with plenty of cooling potential, though we're not real geeked with the idea of swinging open a case door to access the optical drive. Despite its size, the BTS11 doesn't feel much heavier than the other two systems in this roundup. That doesn't mean you'll want to lug this around to LAN parties -- it's too big for that -- but you can move it from room to room without taking rest breaks along the way.

Behind the door resides a Lite-On 24X DVD burner and a bunch of unused drive bays with ventilated covers. There's isn't a media card reader or hidden USB ports like the other systems bring to the back-to-school party.

There are mesh grates all around the Phantom case, including the top panel where a fan exhausts hot air up and out of the system. You'll also find a pair of USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, mic/headphone inputs, and several fan control sliders on the top of the case.

Around the back are four USB 2.0 ports, a pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, a GbE LAN port, optical SPDIF, audio inputs, and a serial port. NZXT's Phantom case also features four water cooling in/outlets on the rear panel, and as we'll get to in a moment, there's ample room inside should you decide to upgrade to a full-fledged water cooling setup.

Three thumb screws hold the side panel in place, with the middle thumb screw noticeably longer than the top and bottom screws. You'll want to keep this mind when re-attaching the panel or you'll wonder why the screws are acting stubborn.

Once you yank the side panel off, you can park your car inside, right next to the motherboard. We're only slightly kidding; there's a ton of elbow room, and iBuyPower didn't mess it up by throwing cables around willy-nilly. Even though there's plenty of room for power cables to hang out, iBuyPower took full advantage of the Phantom's cable management amenities, and the end result is a tidy interior you wouldn't be embarrassed to show off.

The biggest advantage iBuyPower has over the other systems in this roundup is room to grow, both literally and figuratively. There's plenty of physical space to worth with, and also a generous 700W power supply. As configured, this thousand-dollar system won't knock your socks off, but there are plenty of affordable upgrade options. An additional $59, for example, trades the GeForce GTX 550 Ti graphics card for a GTX 560 Ti, or you can roll with an AMD Radeon HD 6870 for $58. Likewise, spending $12 more nets a 1TB hard drive.

Related content