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AVADirect Avatar VR desktop review: A big, powerful VR desktop that puts the VR ports up front

The Avatar is a bold statement of a case, with liquid cooling and a lighted side panel.

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman

Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a semi-regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

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Everyone seems to be marketing a gaming desktop with top-end parts as "built for VR." AVADirect, like a small handful of other PC makers, has actually put some thought into that idea, most notably including a front panel with VR-ready HDMI and USB ports. That should make plugging in easier, especially if the desktop's rear panel is facing a wall, under a desk, or otherwise hard to access -- but it's a better idea in theory than in practice.

01ava-direct-avatar-vr-desktop.jpg
8.1

AVADirect Avatar VR desktop

The Good

The bold-looking Avatar has VR-friendly features, including many front- and top-mounted ports. It's easy to access the interior for upgrades.

The Bad

The bulky chassis has a massive desktop footprint, and the front-facing VR connection panel doesn't feel sturdy enough.

The Bottom Line

The AVADirect Avatar is a VR-ready desktop with a striking design that puts the ports front and center -- just make sure you have enough room for it.

That front panel, with two USB ports and one HDMI output, is an optional piece from component maker EVGA that comes bundled with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti graphics card included with this configuration. Unfortunately, I found the front VR ports a little shaky and quickly switched back to the rear-facing ones. The VR front panel on the Velocity Micro Raptor was similarly flaky.

01ava-direct-avatar-vr-desktop.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Like most gaming desktops, AVADirect offers a choice of different processors, graphics cards, power supplies and storage on its configurator page. This high-end configuration, with the 980Ti, an Intel Core i7 6700K CPU, liquid cooling, and a 1TB HDD/500GB SSD storage combo is currently $2,549 in the US (the company doesn't ship internationally, but that works out to around £1,768 or AU$3,511), which is very reasonable for that set of components. Note that prices and selection for custom PC configurations can vary even week by week. Configurations of the Avatar start at $1,599.

AVADirect Avatar VR Desktop

Price as reviewed $2,549
PC CPU 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 6GB Nivida GeForce GTX 980
Storage 500GB SSD + 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

The chassis is really striking -- it's a matte-black box with a curved front panel, raised feet in the front and back, and very little distracting decoration, aside from a lighted side panel with the company's name etched into the plastic window. It's a customized version of the Dead Silence Black Edition from case-maker Aerocool, and promises both sound-dampening and extra airflow via a mesh top panel for airflow.

Gaming and VR performance was excellent, as one would expect from a desktop in this price range. The Avatar performed very closely with the Velocity Micro Raptor, which had a very similar configuration. This system managed to hit the top end of the SteamVR performance test from Valve, meaning it's more than powerful enough for the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, although that test is not as consistent as some other benchmarks we've used. In hands-on use, performance with the Oculus Rift was seamless.

01ava-direct-avatar-vr-desktop.jpg

The front-mounted VR panel had too much flex.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion

the AVADirect Avatar has a cool look that's a little different than most gaming desktops, as long as you have the space for it. The company may not have the same long-standing reputation for extensive hands-on service and support as a company like Falcon Northwest or Origin PC, but this test system certainly worked great and the tidy interior was neatly cabled. You can compare prices, specs and performance in our extensive guide to VR-ready PCs.

Multimedia multitasking test 3.0

Falcon Northwest Tiki 120Origin PC Chronos 123Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 125AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 133Acer Predator G6 143Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 143Origin PC Eon17-SLX 151Alienware X51 248Dell XPS 8900 257
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-core)

Falcon Northwest Tiki 24,461Origin PC Chronos 19,398Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 19,162Origin PC Eon17-SLX 18,083AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 18,041Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 16,753Acer Predator G6 15,678Dell XPS 8900 11,025Alienware X51 10,995
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Steam VR performance test scores

AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 11Falcon Northwest Tiki 11Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 10.5Origin PC Eon17-SLX 8.5Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 8.1Acer Predator G6 7.6Origin PC Chronos 7Dell XPS 8900 6.5Alienware X51 6.4
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Falcon Northwest Tiki 4,421Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 4,011AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 3,960Origin PC Eon17-SLX 3,374Acer Predator G6 3,193Origin PC Chronos 2,867Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 2,812Alienware X51 2,548Dell XPS 8900 2,502
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Falcon Northwest Tiki 201.87Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 197.92AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 183.77Acer Predator G6 163.23Origin PC Eon17-SLX 156.81Origin PC Chronos 153.97Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 150.27Alienware X51 131.97Dell XPS 8900 118.27
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti; 500GB SSD + 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Acer Predator G6 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980; 256GB SSD + 2TB 7,200rpm HDD
Alienware X51 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970; 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Origin PC Chronos Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); OC 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970; 250GB SSD + 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980; 256GB SSD + 2TB 7,200rpm HDD
Dell XPS 8900 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970; 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Origin PC Eon17-SLX Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti; (2) 256GB SSD RAID 0 + 2TB HDD
Falcon Northwest Tiki Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 3GHz Intel Core i7-5960X; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHZ; 8GB Nvida GeForce GTX 980Ti; 512GB SSD + 6TB HDD 5,700rpm
01ava-direct-avatar-vr-desktop.jpg
8.1

AVADirect Avatar VR desktop

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 9