When you want a liquid-cooled gaming PC and you want it right now, iBuyPower is pretty much the only game in town short of DIY. Its Gaming RDY Element CL series straddles the line between using a cheap, quick and dirty all-in-one cooler for your central processing unit and a pricey, complex open-loop cooling system. (The latter can take a while to get custom built, by Maingear, Origin PC or a similar company, unless you do it yourself.)
iBuyPower’s latest models, the Element CL Pro and Element CL Pro Plus, bring support for new Intel Core 11th-gen CPUs and Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series graphics cards, along with the concomitant tweaks to support them. While I’m not crazy about some of the seemingly cut corners, its performance, design and build quality live up to the liquid-cooling promise.
- Doesn’t require a custom build
- Good price for the performance and configuration
- Easier to upgrade than typical liquid-cooled system
- Only a single USB-C port
- Old Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2 networking chipset
- Fans can get a bit loud
By limiting the configuration options and designing for modularity, iBuyPower can ship reasonably priced, prebuilt systems with real open-loop hardline (transparent tubing) cooling on both the CPU and GPU. This style of cooling is ultimately easier to maintain and upgrade as well. Though it may lack some of the flash of custom jobs like that of the stunning Maingear Turbo, the RGB lighting on the fans and waterblocks deliver sufficient visual zing, while the cooling does its job of keeping temperatures in line for best performance and overclocking.
Custom liquid-cooling designs usually require time-consuming tube bending and water blocks, which frequently have to be redesigned for new components. iBuyPower uses a standard configuration of prebent tubes that snap in to the water blocks and runs the coolant through the entire front of the case, which is also where you drain and refill coolant if necessary. Initially, at least, the tubing and blocks for the Pro and Pro Plus are designed to work with all Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series graphics cards — RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 — and Intel Core i7 and i9 11th-gen CPUs.
The Element CL Pro starts at $1,999 configured with an RTX 3070, Core i7-11700K/KF, 1TB NVMe SSD, 16GB DDR4 3,200MHz memory and a 650 watt power supply. Starting at $2,400, the Pro Plus bumps that to a Core i9-11900K/KF, 32GB RAM and a 700 watt PSU. They’re both available today; later this year the company plans to ship systems with RTX 3080 GPUs and more customizable models of the RTX 3070 GPU. (International prices weren’t immediately available, but $1,999 converts to roughly £1,430 or AU$2,570.)
iBuyPower Gaming RDY Element CL Pro
|Price as reviewed||$2,000|
|Size||46-liter ATX (17.9×8.3×18.5 inches / 460x214x470 mm)|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z590-C/ac and 650w PSU|
|CPU||3.6GHz Intel Core i7-11700KF|
|Memory||16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz|
|Graphics||8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070|
|Storage||1TB SSD (NVMe slot); 2 open bays|
|Ports||7x USB-A, 1 x USB-C; on GPU 3x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0b|
|Networking||1x 1Gb Ethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 5 Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home (2H20)|
The tubing’s simple layout means the available slots — two PCIe x16 and two x8, not including the GPU’s slot — leave enough room to accommodate full-height cards. The ASRock Z590-C/ac motherboard also accommodates four memory DIMMs. You get into the system via a single thumbscrew and by pulling down the glass panel, rather than sliding it out.
The system’s biggest disappointment turned out to be the networking. The motherboard includes Intel’s old Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168, which requires two antennas screwed in to achieve reasonable bandwidth while in the same room as the router. The system also has Bluetooth 4.2 rather than 5.x, which the motherboard supports. Even my cheapish MSI system has 5.1. And it’s got old gigabit Ethernet rather than 2.5 gigabit.
While the motherboard has a front USB-C header in addition to the rear, the case doesn’t support it; given how many headsets I’ve been seeing move to USB-C connections, an extra port in front with the two USB-A 2.0 and analog mic and headphone jacks would have been nice. And oddly, there’s no reset button on the case.
The Element CL Pro eked out slightly better performance from the RTX 3070 than my test system, but the CPU delivered the most pleasant surprise. Compared to the 10th-gen version of the CPU, the 11th-gen i7-11700KF delivered about 12% better multicore performance on Cinebench R20 and roughly 22% single-core performance on Cinebench R20 and Geekbench 5.
The RTX 3070 performance was almost identical on both the liquid-cooled and air-cooled systems, though it definitely ran cooler on the latter. (Although they weren’t terrible, the fans got surprisingly loud given the Element CL Pro wasn’t air-cooled.) In general, the difference translated to a few frames per second. But that’s without overclocking either the CPU or GPU, which I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to do, so expect a bit more of a gap if you do that.
IBuyPower’s prebuilt liquid-cooled systems lack some of the flash, finesse and fine-tuning you get with a custom-built model, but if you’re willing to do your own overclocking and spend more time looking at your screen than the see-through side panel of your desktop, you can save quite a bit of money with the Gaming RDY Element CL Pro and Pro Plus and never look back.
|iBuyPower Gaming RDY Element CL Pro||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (2H20); 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-11700KF; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070; 1TB SSD|
|MSI Aegis RS||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,000; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition; 1TB SSD|
|MSI Trident X||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); (oc) 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,932; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super; 1TB SSD|
|Origin PC Chronos||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (2004); Intel Core i9-10900K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200; 10GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (EVGA); 1TB SSD + 500GB SSD|