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

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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.

Visit for details.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Support 6

Review Sections

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.

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

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

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

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3
Dell XPS 730 H2C
Gateway FX541XT
Maingear Prelude
Puget Deluge-i L2

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
Maingear Prelude
Gateway FX541XT
Puget Deluge-i L2
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3

Crysis (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high quality)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium quality)  
Puget Deluge-i L2
Dell XPS 730 H2C
Gateway FX541XT
Maingear Prelude
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3

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.

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