Reasonable price. Smooth gaming performance. Entertaining side-panel LCD. Clean, consistent aesthetic inside and out. Room for expansion.
Screen panel doesn't add much utility. No wireless capability.
- Bottom Line
With its customizable side-panel LCD and strong gaming performance, the iBuyPower Snowblind Pro is a fairly unique gaming desktop that offers style and expandability at a reasonable price.
The iBuyPower Snowblind Pro (starts at $1,599; $1,849 as tested) has plenty of appeal as a stylish, powerful gaming desktop, but there's one unique feature that helps it stand out. The left side panel of the case is a semi-translucent LCD, on which you can display images, video, and animations. While this doesn't provide a lot of true utility, it's an entertaining inclusion and an engaging conversation piece that doesn't add too much to the system's price. That reasonable price, unique design, and strong gaming performance make the Snowblind Pro an entirely viable choice for your next gaming PC.
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The case used for the Snowblind Pro is NZXT's Noctis 450 tower, which packs plenty of flair. The white tower has a steel frame and plastic flourishes, including some zigzagging fin cutouts along the top and front. It's more interesting than a generic, black rectangle, but steering clear of a distinctly "gamer" aesthetic, which is tacky to many. The desktop stands at 22.32 by 8.66 by 21.42 inches (HWD), so it takes up a good portion of desk space, particularly if you have limited vertical room. This size falls right in line alongside other gaming desktops like the CyberPower Gamer Master Ultra and the Digital Storm Velox (Core i7-7700K).
Another draw for this particular build is the innovative side panel that sets the Snowblind Pro apart from a standard Noctis case. Rather than a plain glass or plastic side window, the left panel is a customizable LCD. It serves as a second screen, extended from your main display, onto which you can drag or place anything you would on a standard monitor. A small internal pass-through box powers the display, and has VGA and DVI connections facing out the back of the tower. For the LCD to function, you connect these ports to the graphics card ports just above it, preferably with a short cable (one such DVI cable is included). This loop looks a bit silly because it sticks out a bit, but since it's in the rear of the tower, you probably won't see it again after initial setup.
The display itself is fairly translucent, since the glass is clear, which can make some images hard to see, but it's visible with the right background. The interior of the case has super-bright LED strips inside, which make the image appear more clearly since—as I tested by swinging the door opening and shining light through the display—the picture is stronger with direct backlighting. You can change your wallpaper and display it as the full-screen image, or pull over a media player and leave a clip, a show, or a movie playing. Furthermore, the system comes with Rainmeter software, which lets you put up widgets like CPU and GPU temperature, storage, RAM usage, and more.
So, how truly useful is this feature? It's tough to say you get much real function out of it, but it does feel pretty cool, which is a major reason to own any extravagant gaming system. According to iBuyPower, it adds about $150 to the cost of the desktop, which is far from nothing, but in the same ballpark as adding a custom paint job or decal. The data feedback is fairly useful, and it looks high-tech having your PC's internal stats displayed on the exterior, even if it's info you can get elsewhere. Since the screen is transparent, however, it's a little too hard to see to truly use as a second monitor.
The display can definitely be amusing. During testing, we had fun in the lab swapping out images, playing movie clips, and putting pictures of ourselves on the side of the desktop. It might be more of a gag or a neat party trick than anything else, but if you can't have fun playing the movie The Fast and the Furious on the side of your computer, you're doing something wrong. Bear in mind that to see it, you will have to leave the left side of your computer facing out or toward you—it'll be buried away if slotted down on the floor next to your desk. Some other standout designs we've seen recently include the Transformers-like Asus ROG GT51 and the cube-shaped HP Omen X, but the configurations that we reviewed of both will cost you a good deal more than the Snowblind Pro.
Under the Hood
Besides the display, the build is fairly standard, but nicely put together. The general interior design and cable management are neat and organized, with silver-accented components complementing the white case. The MSI Z270 Tomahawk motherboard features silver accents, the MSI Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics card is a special Quicksilver edition with a metal plate, and the SSD and RAM are also silver. The DeepCool liquid cooler is also white, and the 800-watt power supply is hidden under a white shroud. These parts all play nicely with the white and black of the case and the bright lighting, for a crisp, clean aesthetic.
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For storage, there's a 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive installed, and the SSD has a 240GB capacity. You get a total of five 3.5-inch drive bays for adding more storage, and only one is in use as configured. The SSD is mounted in a 2.5-inch slot on top of the power supply shroud, and there's another slot open next to it. There isn't a ton of room to work between the space taken up by the shroud and the internal wall supporting the drive bays, but the motherboard and the graphics card can fit across without being obscured—it may just be tight to plug and unplug some motherboard headers.
Ports are located on the top and rear panel—there are no connectors on the front of the case. Up top, there are two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack, and a mic jack. Around back are five more USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports, a USB-C port, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort connection, two Ethernet jacks, and audio lines. The GTX 1070 card has three DisplayPort connections and an HDMI port for adding multiple displays. There's no wireless support on board, though you can add your own if you need Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The system is supported by a limited three-year warranty.
The Snowblind Pro isn't all flash; it has plenty of of power. A vast array of options are available when configuring this system; our test unit has a 4.2GHz Intel Core i7-7700K processor, 16GB of DDR4 memory, and the GTX 1070. For general productivity, it's quite snappy, scoring high in the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test. It handily beat out the AMD Ryzen-equipped CyberPower Gamer Master Ultra (AMD's chip is, of course, cheaper), though the latter was a better performer in the multimedia tests. Regardless, these components are more than fast enough for daily use, multitasking, and any media projects you want to crunch through on the side.
Gaming performance is the biggest focus here, and the GTX 1070 helps the Snowblind Pro excel as expected in testing. It's not Nvidia's top-of-the-line card, but it's a very strong performer for any system in which it's installed. The desktop maintained an average of 30 frames per second (fps) at 4K resolution in the Heaven and Valley gaming tests set to Ultra quality, and soared to more than 100fps at 1080p. 4K pushes even an Nvidia GTX 1080 card to its limits when gaming—the CyberPower Gamer Master Ultra uses one, and it scored 33fps in Heaven and 42fps in Valley at 4K.
If you're choosing a GTX 1070-equipped system, you're accepting that you'll have to turn down the resolution or some settings for smooth 4K performance, as more demanding moments during games will pull your frame rates below 30. I want to be clear that there are only some reservations at 4K, though: The Snowblind Pro cruises at 2K, VR gameplay is no problem, and 1080p is a cakewalk. This is in line with other GTX 1070-equipped PCs, and you can purchase this desktop knowing you can reliably play any new or near-future games at maximum settings, and some titles will also run smoothly at 4K with tweaks.
Let it Snow
The LCD side panel helps the iBuyPower Snowblind Pro stand out from the crowd, adding some whimsy to a PC built for fun. It's a bit gimmicky, but it's another attraction to what is otherwise a traditional (though well-built and well-performing) gaming desktop. The case offers more style than most, and room for upgrades, while the components are perfectly suited to gaming. You could do a lot worse for less than $2,000, and considering the Snowblind Pro's clean aesthetic and LCD panel, it's a pretty good deal. The midrange Editors' Choice CyberPower Gamer Master Ultra offers more gaming power, thanks to its Nvidia GTX 1080 card, and is a multithreading champ with its AMD Ryzen CPU, but the iBuyPower Snowblind Pro is an appealing option that will save you several hundred dollars.
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Matthew Buzzi is a junior analyst on the Hardware team at PCMag. Matthew graduated from Iona College with a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism. He interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming. He has written about technology and video game news, as well as hardware and gaming reviews. In his free time, he likes to go out with friends, watch and discuss sports, play video games, read too much Twitter, and obsessively manage any fantasy sports leagues he's involved in. More »
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