The iBuyPower Element CL Pro wants to tackle one of the most difficult challenges faced by PC manufacturers: liquid cooling. And after some time with the system, it's clear that this machine is up for the challenge.
The Element CL Pro is the updated and enhanced version of iBUYPOWER's Element CL Plus, which was an equally impressive build but one that was incapable of utilizing the RTX 3070 cards. The Element CL Pro, however, is here to make the most of new-gen GPUs while providing a seriously wild-looking build that utilizes a custom liquid cooling system and plenty of RGB. And all of this can be yours for less than $2K - seriously.
Pre-built, liquid-cooled gaming PCs are often a pipe dream for gamers, as the dangers of delivery mean manufacturers charge a premium to ship the fragile machines. One leak could mean the end of your PC, and iBUYPOWER sought to avoid these potential horrors with the Element CL Pro by creating a system that can be assembled and maintained by someone with minimal training and shipped pre-filled via standard shipping. My rig arrived and was packed incredibly well, with soft foam slotted in around the cooling lines and nary a leak in sight.
The liquid-cooling design and RGB lights mean Element CL Pro looks as cool as it sounds - and I'm happy to report it performs damn well, too, putting up numbers that could hang out with some of the best gaming PCs, and surpass those of the best gaming laptops (for what it's worth). Here's exactly how the iBUYPOWER Element CL Pro stacks up.
Design & Features
Here are the specs for the PC sent to GamesRadar for review:
Processor: Intel Core i7-11700K/KF
Graphics: RTX 3070 MSI Ventus 2x
Memory: 16GB ADATA DDR4-320 RGB
Storage: 1TB WD SN550 M.2 NVMe SSD
Ports: Front: 2 x USB 3.2; 1 x Headphone/Line Out; 1x Microphone/Line In
Rear: 4 x USB 3.1 1 x USB 3.2; 1 x HDMI; 1 x USB-C; 1 x Ethernet
Connectivity: RJ-45 Ethernet, Z590 WiFi
Dimensions (HxWxD): 18.1” x 8.5” x 18.1” (460 x 215 x 460mm)
Warranty: 3 years labor, 1 year parts
The iBUYPOWER Element CL Pro is a sexy piece of hardware - if hardware can be sexy. The case is matte black and simple, with a clear mesh panel up top that lets you peek down into the glowing RGB innards. The left side panel is entirely made of glass, which gives you an even better look at the incredibly cool custom-bent cooling lines, and the RGB lighting, which bounces off of the clear lines and creates a gorgeous little light show. The right side of the case is almost entirely solid save for a metal grid towards the front.
The entirely-glass side panel makes for incredibly easy access to the hardline tubing and the GPU and CPU if you're someone who likes to tinker. Loop care on this system is made to be easy and relatively idiot-proof (a necessity for me), with the drain ports easily accessible behind the front panel and completely outside of the system, so you don't have to worry about accidental spillage.
On the top, for ports, there's your typical audio in and out jacks, and two USB ports, as well as the power button. The rear ports will easily accommodate the best gaming mouse, the best wireless gaming headset, and the best gaming keyboard - even one that demands two USBs - and more. There are no ports on the face of this PC, but that's because there's a cool glass panel showing off some of the liquid-cooling in action.
I'm working with limited space in my NYC apartment, so my leg often bumps up against the PC tower, and I can say I've been shocked every time my bare leg touches the metal and it's cold, and there's barely any noticeable heat. It's very clear that the custom loop cooling system is working, as the machine has never run hot since I've tried it.
It's also a very stable, simple shape, with no lips or funny edges, and four small, stumpy legs keeping it steady. My cats often get in little playfights under the desk, and they've never even budged the thing.
All-in-all this thing looks great and fits easily under a desk - or on top of one if you've got the space and want to see the RGB lights in all their glory. Oh, and changing the RGB configuration is easy: there's an app pre-loaded onto your desktop called ASRock Polychrome sync that will let you customize your lighting setup.
How does the iBUYPOWER Element CL Pro fare on some industry tests? We've included these below to give you a feel of how it performs.
3DMark Firestrike: 26136
3DMark Firestrike Ultra (1440p): 15609
3DMark Firestrike Extreme (4K): 15565
3DMark Port Royal: 8002
3DMark Timespy: (CPU) 8937, (GPU) 12379
PC Mark 10: 7251
Cinebench CPU: 10291 (multi-core), 1513 (single-core)
CrystalDiskMark: SSD: 2449MB/s read; 1974.92MB/s write
Metro Exodus: 4K High: 49fps; 4K RTX: 56fps; 1440p High: 82fps; 1440p RTK: 60fps; 1080p High: 115fps; 1080p RTX: 80fps
Total War: Three Kingdoms: High 4K: 49fps; Ultra 4K: 33fps; High 1440p: 100fps; Ultra 1440p: 69fps; High 1080p: 142fps; Ultra 1080p: 106fps
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: 4K High: 74fps; 4K Highest: 63fps; 1440p High: 122fps; 1440p Highest: 114fps; 1080p High: 131fps; 1080p Highest: 129fps
Red Dead Redemption 2: (Highest settings): 4K: 60fps; 1440p: 60fps; 1080p: 60fps
I'm lucky enough to have a contender for best 4K monitor for gaming - which really are some of the best gaming monitors, by the way - so I really put the iBUYPOWER Element CL Pro through the ringer when it came to performance tests, running multiple games at top-end settings at across 4K, 1440p and 1080p resolutions.
This PC gets can't hit 4K 60fps for titles like Metro Exodus or Total War: Three Kingdoms, but it can easily reach that with Red Dead Redemption 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, offering an absolutely breathtaking amount of detail with fantastic frame rates. And if you drop the settings down a bit and go for 1440p gaming, it handily provides 60fps gaming at Ultra settings for The Division 2, Metro Exodus, and Total War. As a result - rather obviously at this point - this thing absolutely beasts it at 1080p resolutions, throwing out silly high numbers of frame rates.
The PC never struggled to run any AAA game I threw out it, giving me fantastic fidelity and smoothness whether I was running for gear in Apex Legends or galloping through the wild west in Red Dead Online. I even used this PC to stream on my Twitch while playing Call of Duty: Warzone and it didn't have even the slightest hiccup - it kept chugging along while I cursed through a three-hour-long stream.
Last year's Element CL builds were not built to support the 30-series cards, and while this model can only support the 3070 cards, iBUYPOWER has noted that Element CL Pro systems with 3080 GPU support will release "at a later time." So, if you're looking to strive for the holy grail of 4K 60fps across any games you might be playing, you might want to wait for the 3080 builds. However, I found the experience with this current build to be fantastic, with the RTX 3070 card probing to be one of the best graphics cards - at times I was speechless at how beautiful Red Dead Redemption 2 look. And, as always, you can turn down some settings to get closer to 60fps across 4K, 1440p, and 1080p, depending on your monitor setup.
I'm not a top-tier PC player who focuses on the differences between Ultra and High settings - I've got bad eyesight, and I'm honestly floored by either - so for someone who can appreciate a smooth gameplay experience with excellent graphics and good fps (especially in multiplayer matches), the Element CL Pro is an excellent option. And if you're a tinkerer and want to keep improving the build, you can easily access all of the machine's guts and make this thing run even better. The options are endless.
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Overall - should you buy it?
If you're looking for a pre-built, custom liquid-cooled desktop PC, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything better at the price point. While last year's model was equally impressive and affordable, the iBUYPOWER Element CL Pro is offering accessible liquid cooling for 3070 support. That means you'll be getting all of the performance you're looking for out of new-gen graphics cards, with all the flashy style and excellent cooling of an RGB liquid-cooled system.
And for those who aren't quite as well-versed in PC customization and maintenance, the Element CL Pro is also something that can be easily worked on, and enhanced, when need be. With easy access to the drain ports, I don't need to worry about a shaky hand or a hyper cat bumping into me and dumping liquid into my system. It was also an absolute breeze to take out and plug into my existing setup.
While the Elements CL Pro might not be a 'cheap gaming PC', it's certainly fantastic value for what it provides, and as a fully-fledged RTX 3070 PC, it's hard to see why you wouldn't want to spend your hard-earned money on this - even in the face of the more powerful RTX 3080 PC and RTX 3090 PC that will be increasingly available this year. However, if the 3080 is indeed more your speed, you might want to pass on this one - but only for now until that card is fully supported. The CL Pro is a great gaming machine in every sense.