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AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI Gaming System (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700) review: AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI Gaming System (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)

AVADirect's newest Core 2 Duo SLI desktop would be a great buy for a gamer looking to dominate on a current-generation title. We wish it had a quad-core chip, and we'd also rather that tweaking this configuration didn't involve choosing from such a vast array of parts. AVADirect seems to build quality PCs, including this one, but you should definitely go to its Web site knowing what you're looking for.

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Rich Brown
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Rich Brown

Executive Editor / Reviews - Home and Wellness

Rich moved his family from Brooklyn to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 to start CNET's Appliances and Smart Home review team, which includes the CNET Smart Home, the CNET Smart Apartment, and the Appliances Review lab. Before moving to Louisville, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printed guns to Z-Wave smart locks.

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AVADirect's newly updated Core 2 Duo SLI system comes with a $3,600 price tag and a lot to like for a gaming PC. This particular configuration also has a few problems with it, mainly a dual-core rather than a quad-core CPU, as well as a seizure-inducing front-panel fan controller. You can easily configure it without the fan controller and its annoying row of flickering LEDs, so there's no real foul there. Swapping out a dual-core chip for quad-core is a bit more problematic because, although it's cheaper, it also changes the performance picture for this review. We understand the argument that dual-core CPUs currently have faster clock speeds and generally perform better on current games. But we're of the mind that if you're going to spend a lot of money on a gaming desktop, you'd be wise to go quad-core in preparation for coming titles that will increasingly benefit from multiple processing streams. If you have a particular game that you play now and you know you'll be playing for years to come (hard-core Counter-Strike: Source fans, we're looking at you), you will be more than happy with this system. But if you're more of a gaming generalist, we suggest you tweak this config, or look to another vendor, to meet your longer-term PC gaming needs.

7.9

AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI Gaming System (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)

The Good

Aggressive overclocking; strong configuration for the price; top-notch current-generation gaming performance; highly customizable

The Bad

Dual-core CPU not as future-proof as a quad-core chip; irritating front-panel fan controller; too many customization options isn't always a good thing; weak phone support hours and few online support resources

The Bottom Line

AVADirect's newest Core 2 Duo SLI desktop would be a great buy for a gamer looking to dominate on a current-generation title. We wish it had a quad-core chip, and we'd also rather that tweaking this configuration didn't involve choosing from such a vast array of parts. AVADirect seems to build quality PCs, including this one, but you should definitely go to its Web site knowing what you're looking for.
AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI Gaming System (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)

This AVADirect system is a more ambitious build than the $2,750 system we reviewed from this Ohio-based customizer a few months back. This time, AVADirect competes against recent Editor's Choice-winning PCs from Maingear and Velocity Micro, although those two PCs are just a little more expensive. Here's how the AVADirect system stacks up to the Velocity Micro Raptor DCX, its closest competitor of the systems we've reviewed recently:

  AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI Velocity Micro Raptor DCX
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E6700, overclocked to 3.67MHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, overclocked to 3.0GHz
Motherboard EVGA Nvidia Nforce 680i SLI Intel BadAxe II 975X
Memory 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics Two 768MB EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX Two 512MB ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT
Hard drives 150GB 10,000rpm hard drive, 500 GB 7,200rpm hard drive 150GB 10,000rpm hard drive, 400 GB 7,200rpm hard drive
Optical drives 20x dual layer DVD burner, 16x DVD-ROM drive 20x dual layer DVD burner, 16x DVD-ROM drive
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium Windows Vista Home Premium

Based on those specs, we suspected that on tests that benefit from raw clock speed, the AVADirect system would outperform the Velocity Micro, especially due to AVADirect's aggressive overclocking. We were right. The only test on which the dual-core AVADirect didn't beat the quad-core Velocity Micro was the Cinebench multitasking test, which puts every available CPU core to use. That illustrates our overall argument that the AVADirect is very fast on current applications, but it can't compete on programs that can use multiple cores. You might also notice that the AVADirect only barely ekes out wins on our gaming tests, so the Velocity Micro system really doesn't lose many frames due to its quad-core chip.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  
AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)
134 

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  
AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)
111 

Cinebench 9.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering a single CPU  
Maingear X-Cube
1,662 
527 
Maingear F131 SLI
1,427 
443 
AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)
1,124 
610 

Quake 4 performance (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048x1,536 (4xAA, 8xAF)  
1,600x1,200 (4xAA, 8xAF)  
1,280x1,024 (4xAA, 8xAF)  
AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)
113.8 
121 
121.6 
Velocity Micro Raptor DCX
112.1 
117.8 
120 
Maingear F131 SLI
101.4 
130.2 
136 
Maingear X-Cube
83.6 
108.6 
124.5 
ABS Ultimate X Striker Elite
67.2 
96.5 
118 

F.E.A.R. performance (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048x1,536 (4xAA, 8xAF)  
1,600x1,200 (4xAA, 8xAF)  
1,280x1,024 (4xAA, 8xAF)  
Maingear F131 SLI
84.7 
125.3 
165 
AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)
82.7 
118.3 
152.3 
Velocity Micro Raptor DCX
77 
116 
152 
Maingear X-Cube
65 
96.7 
129 

Of course, this AVADirect configuration costs about $400 less than the Velocity Micro. Unlike the Velocity Micro system's, the price of the AVADirect does not include a mouse and keyboard, although it does account for a media card reader, which Velocity lacked. You can also configure the AVADirect with a quad-core chip and actually save $40. Further, this PC also has a second partition with Windows XP Professional installed, making it friendly for those still timid about switching to Windows Vista. Like the rest of these parts, the secondary operating system is a configurable option. And AVADirect offers so many different parts for each of its systems, it actually gives us some pause.

Similar to vendors such as ABS, Polywell, iBuypower, and Cyberpower, AVADirect takes an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to its configurator. That means you can add a Blu-ray burner, which we appreciate, but there's also a downside. For example, AVADirect gives you 10 different types of 8800 GTX cards to choose from, and 38 different GeForce cards overall, per PCI-Express graphics slot. While the two systems we've seen so far from AVADirect have been competently built, we're always wary of vendors that claim to be masters of literally billions of different hardware combinations. We're more confident in vendors who weed out their components to a select few, which eliminates buyer confusion and helps account for technical idiosyncrasies they might not catch otherwise. AVADirect offers a good deal here, and we haven't seen a major error in either of the two systems we've reviewed from it so far. Still, we're firm believers that too much choice is not always a good thing, and we'd feel more confident recommending one of these PCs if AVADirect thinned out its configuration options.

Of its myriad parts, however, AVADirect certainly made some strong selections with this system. The SilverStone Temjin TJ09 case, especially, has some attractive features. Our favorites are the hard-drive cages. Not only do they sit perpendicular to the system, allowing for easy access, they also have a well-designed, screw-free, plastic handle mechanism that lets you pull the entire cage in and out of the box with no hassle. And the well-designed layout also makes for solid thermal management, compartmentalizing the hard drives, the motherboard, and the power supply, all in a way that allows for tidy wiring and a clean interior.

The outside, however, has one issue, although it's easily solved. In addition to the DVD burner and the standard DVD optical drive, AVADirect also included a Zalman fan controller, which gives you a series of dials and switches for controlling your internal fan speed. The problem is the blue LEDs above each dial flicker like an old CRT monitor set to a low refresh rate. It's annoying at best, but we can easily imagine it inducing a headache. The controller is a $34 option that is far from necessary (we can't say we found the machine that loud, even with the five system fans turned all the way on), so we'd recommend simply leaving the "Fan controller" drop-down on AVADirect's configurator in its default state, which leaves that option blank.

While its configuration options may be expansive, AVADirect's support is more limited, but not necessarily in a good way. The three-year parts-and-labor warranty is, thankfully, again becoming the standard for high-end gaming PCs, and we're glad to see that AVADirect is as generous as Maingear and others in the length of its coverage. Otherwise, AVADirect falls behind in the comprehensiveness of its customer support. The tech support line is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., ET, but only Monday through Friday. And with no online technical support other than an e-mail form, AVADirect doesn't make it easy for its customers to find driver updates, let alone answers to common questions. And even if its e-mail support is superlative to others', online resources that let customers help themselves would be useful, especially on the weekends.

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System configurations:

ABS Ultimate X Striker Elite
Windows Vista Ultimate; 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drive

AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (overclocked to 3.67GHz); 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 150GB 10,000rpm Western Digital hard drive, 500 GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Maingear F131 SLI
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (overclocked to 3.0GHz); 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; two 512MB ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics cards; 400GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive; 150GB 10,000rpm Western Digital hard drive

Maingear X-Cube
Windows Vista Ultimate; 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 768MB GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics card; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive

Velocity Micro Raptor DCX (ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT)
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (overclocked to 3.0GHz); 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; two 512MB ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics cards; 400GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive; 150GB 10,000rpm Western Digital hard drive

7.9

AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI Gaming System (Intel Core 2 Duo E6700)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Support 7