(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)||1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)||1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)|
The gaming scores are less of a sweep, but they are still impressive. CPU speed can only get you so much game performance, and even the overclocked GeForce GTX 295 3D card in the AVADirect system can't overtake the Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 and its pair of GeForce GTX 285 cards on our Far Cry 2 benchmark. Granted, the FragBox 2 costs about $350 more than the AVADirect, and the Falcon system also falls behind on every other performance test. On the other hand, you can also purchase an identical config to the FragBox 2 for less in an X-Cube from Maingear that would presumably also outpace the AVADirect on Far Cry 2. Regardless, our takeway from the AVADirect's gaming performance scores are that its scores are where they should be given its hardware and its price, and if its 3D performance isn't as dominant as its application scores, this system will play anything you care to throw at it smoothly, and with high-detail image quality at high resolutions.
Should you want more performance from the AVADirect Custom Gaming PC, you have room to add a second graphics card and more memory. The system's Intel X58 chipset will support both SLI and Crossfire multi-3D card configurations, with two extra PCI Express graphics card slots (at reduced bandwidth if you opt for three 3D cards) as well as the 1,200-watt power supply to give you the flexibility and the power consumption headroom to upgrade the 3D configuration at will. You also get six total memory slots in this system, with three currently unoccupied. The hard-drive cage also has room for two more drives.
The ports on the motherboard also provide all of the inputs and outputs we expect in a modern PC. You get eight USB 2.0 inputs, FireWire, and eSATA for various peripheral device and external storage formats, as well as the traditional digital and analog audio outputs. There's no Wi-Fi networking on this system, although it is available as an option. Similar to Blu-ray and the HDMI port on the graphics card, wireless networking is convenient, but we don't find it a necessity on a full-tower system.
Service and support
If you search for AVADirect on Google, chances are you'll come up with a history of vocal online commenters complaining about its customer service, and accusing AVADirect of gaming the comments at ResellerRatings.com, earning it a favorable score. We can't corroborate much of what's been written about AVADirect online (and some of it is the usual Internet conspiracy theory nonsense), but we did find this thread from the ResellerRatings forum interesting.
If you read through it, you'll find that the staff and forum administrator of ResellerRatings make a well-sourced, well-reasoned argument that AVADirect is perhaps not as bad as the online community suggests. On the second page of that thread, the forum moderator "nomaxim" also points out that while AVADirect's customer service is generally well regarded, according to the ResellerRatings scores, there does seem to be a legitimate trend of dissatisfaction with AVADirect's return policies. If AVADirect is manipulating the comments on ResellerRatings, it apparently has an unfavorable opinion of its product return department.
We're sure every vendor has its customer service horror stories. In fact, according to a recent Forrester Research report, the entire PC industry falls behind such customer service darlings as airlines and credit card companies in overall customer experience ratings. This doesn't mean that AVADirect should feel free to treat customers poorly (we're also not suggesting that it necessarily does), nor does it mean that no PC vendors provide consistently exceptional customer service. But the Forrester report does suggest that, in general, customers don't love the way they're treated by the PC industry. If AVADirect has room to improve some aspects of its customer service experience, it's certainly not alone.
We should also point out that from a review standpoint, customer service is notoriously hard to quantify. We don't normally rate phone-based interaction with a vendor because of too much variation in potential problems and the person on the other end. And short of purchasing systems and following through with the return process (for which we lack both the time and the budget), we can't reliably account for a vendor's return policy claims. We do know that 100 percent refunds, including shipping, are rare from any vendor.
Within the level, if slightly rundown, service and support playing field of the PC industry, we find AVADirect's on-paper policies both better and worse than those of its competitors. The most compelling component is a three-year parts-and-labor warranty that comes standard with the product. Most PC vendors provide only one year of coverage up front. AVADirect also tells us that 24-7 phone service and onsite support are in the works, but for now you'll have to rely on either its spare Web site or the limited phone service hours, which run from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT on weekdays.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
AVADirect Custom Gaming PC
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.88GHz Intel Core i7-920 (overclocked); 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM (underclocked to 1,480MHz); 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 (overclocked); 1.5TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive; 147GB 15,000rpm Fujistu hard drive
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 (Intel Core i7 920
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.2GHz Intel Core i7 (overclocked); 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards; 1.5TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 3.7GHz (overclocked) AMD Phenom II X4 940; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870X2 graphics card; 1GB Radeon HD 4870 graphics card; (2) 750GB, 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drives
Velocity Micro Edge Z55
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.0GHz Intel Core i7-920 (overclocked); 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards; 750GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive