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AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System review: AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System

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If you consider this upper midrange $3,220 AVADirect's Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System representative of the value and build quality available from this small custom builder, we can report that we were mostly happy with this PC, even if we found it loud and its gaming performance a bit slow. But like many PCs from custom shops, this one has no real identity aside from the generic specs mentioned in the product name. With literally hundreds of hardware options to choose from for this particular desktop, we do not recommend that tech novices venture anywhere near the AVADirect Web site. Tech-savvy users will appreciate the array of options, the overall value, and AVADirect's competent build quality. We'd just like to see this vendor embrace a more easy-to-use buying process.

8.0

AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System

The Good

Outstanding price performance; expert build quality; accessories for every component included in box.

The Bad

Loud; intimidating online configurator.

The Bottom Line

AVADirect has a very strong value proposition in its Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System. Assuming you can navigate the daunting shopping Web site, we recommend this system to tech-savvy shoppers who know exactly the components they want.

Even though the Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System has an intimidating array of options available, we'll focus on the system we were sent. This system is distinctive in particular because of its unique CoolerMaster Cosmos RC-1100 case. The futuristic design looks imposing without the usual gaudy gaming case extras. The body of the system floats off the ground thanks to the two underbody rails, and the intake fan on the bottom of the case even comes with a filter you can take off to clean. The touch-capacitive power and reset buttons on top are gimmicky, although harmless, and the roomy interior let AVADirect route the cables expertly, while leaving you plenty of room to maneuver.

From a comparison standpoint, this configuration stacks up well against Gateway's FX541XT.

  AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System Gateway FX541XT
Price $3,220 $3,500
Motherboard chipset Nforce 790i Ultra SLI NForce 680i LT
CPU 3.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 3.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650
Memory 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB GeForce 9800 GTX (2) 512MB GeForce 8800 GT
Hard drives (2) 500GB 7,200 rpm, 150GB 10,000 rpm (2) 750GB 10,000 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner, DVD drive Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo drive, dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit

A few features in particular stand out in AVADirect's favor. The NForce 790i motherboard supports faster RAM and higher-end Intel CPUs than the Gateway's 680i board. We also like that AVADirect sneaked in a 10,000 rpm hard drive for speedy access times. The 64-bit version of Windows Vista also pays off as far as general performance. Gateway has the gaming advantage with its pair of GeForce 8800 GT cards, but you can opt for the same configuration from AVADirect for roughly the same price, and get the better motherboard and faster hard drive as well. We also don't miss the Gateway's Blu-ray drive here in this full tower desktop, much less the TV tuner card.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3
77 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3
104 

Multimedia multitasking
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3
376 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3
15,090 
4,212 
Dell XPS 730 H2C
14,867 
4,173 
Gateway FX541XT
12,772 
3,737 
Maingear Prelude
8,210 
2,153 
Puget Deluge-i L2
7,517 
3,920 

What's impressive about the AVADirect system is that it outperformed the Gateway on every one of our application tests. Considering that the Gateway system has a faster Core 2 Extreme CPU, the AVADirect's speedier performance is a testament to the benefits of 64-bit Windows and its ability to use all 4GB of installed RAM. The AVADirect's faster hard drive and speedier RAM likely contribute as well, helping this $3,220 system even outperform a $6,747 Dell XPS 730 H2C on a few tests. Those looking for a powerful desktop for digital media editing will find exactly what they need in this system.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Dell XPS 730 H2C
223 
252 
Maingear Prelude
163 
203 
Gateway FX541XT
152 
210 
Puget Deluge-i L2
110 
160 
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3
100 
149 

Crysis (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high quality)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium quality)  
Gateway FX541XT
12 
51 
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3
21 
38 

The gaming picture is a bit different, and the AVADirect system finds itself on the bottom of the heap on both of our gaming tests. Its Unreal Tournament 3 score is still 100 frames per second on even the higher-end 1,920x1,200 test, so for the most part, this system will handle all of today's games with little trouble. But relative to the other systems, it's not as fast, which speaks poorly of its ability to play titles at high resolution that will come out later. Its Crysis scores make that point for us. Its slow 38 frames per second framerate at 1,280x1,024 is a less-than-ideal playing experience. Its 1,600x1,200 Crysis scores actually seem to benefit compared with the 32-bit Puget and Gateway systems, so you can see again that 64-bit Windows is helping this system, but it's still only able to manage an unplayable 22 frames per second. This system would clearly benefit from an extra 3D card, and that's the first change we'd make.

We also wish that AVADirect had found a way to make this system a bit quieter. Your reviewer actually has a different variation of the CoolerMaster Cosmos case (the RC-1000) at home. It's one of the most silent PCs he's used, and it took little effort to get it that way. Unlike that case, this Cosmos has a vented side panel with no sound-dampening foam. The result is that this PC sounds very loud, even at idle. AVADirect offers the Cosmos RC-1000, which also has outward-facing hard-drive cages, for $60 less.

That actually brings up our next point. As we mentioned, the AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System is a wildly configurable desktop. AVADirect offers literally dozens of different cases, CPU coolers, memory configurations, graphics cards, hard drives, and other components. The Web site says this system starts at $2,400, and we imagine you can ratchet the price up well into five-digit figures. In confirming the pricing for our system, AVADirect itself had to go back and check the configuration twice. We've said we like the build quality, and we stand by that. This system is neat on the inside, and as you can see from our tests, it's fast. AVADirect clearly knows how to build a PC. It also informs us that it's working on displaying a few user-friendly configurations. We'd really like to see that before we recommend a novice go shopping on its Web site. The vast array of options is far too confusing.

Still, we're happy with the overall polish of this system. AVADirect used a modular power supply to save internal space, and we found all of the spare cables, connectors, and other accessories for the PSU and other hardware components in the system packaging. Not all vendors do that, and we're glad to see AVADirect give you everything that you pay for. The system wiring is also very well done, with easy access to the spare motherboard expansions and the internal drive bays.

AVADirect's support is getting better since we last reviewed one of its systems, but it's still not as robust as other vendors'. You do get three years of parts and labor coverage standard, which is generous. The tech support phone number is not, as it's only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, and only from Monday to Friday. AVADirect has added an online tech support chat feature, which is a nice addition to the usual e-mail-based support. A new user forum also launched on May 1, and it seems fairly active so far.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 (overclocked); 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card; (2) 500GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drives; 150GB 10,000 rpm Western Digital hard drive

Dell XPS 730 H2C
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 3.8GHz Intel Core 2 Quad QX9770; 2GB 1,600MHz (overclocked) DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 graphics cards; (2) 160GB 10,000rpm Western Digital hard drives, 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.

Gateway FX541XT
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 3.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 (overclocked); 4GB 1,333MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics cards (overclocked); (2) 750GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drives.

Maingear Prelude
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.5GHz AMD Phenom X4 9850; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics cards; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.

Puget Deluge-i L2
Windows Vista Ultimate; 3.5GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Duo E8400; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics cards; 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm hard drive; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive.

8.0

AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 9Support 6