Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7781/avadirect-deluxe-quiet-gaming-desktop-pc-review
AVADirect Deluxe Quiet Gaming Desktop PC Reviewby Dustin Sklavos on February 23, 2014 12:01 AM EST
Building a quiet gaming system is something that takes a surprising amount of care, owing largely to smart choices in component selection and often careful tuning. The last time we checked in with AVADirect, they for the most part had the balance down with the exception of the NZXT H2 enclosure. We liked the system overall, and the revision of the H2 helped to alleviate some of the enclosure's airflow issues, but it wasn't what we were looking for in a high end, specialized configuration. With our third go, it looks like that problem has been eliminated. Sort of.
In the NZXT H2's stead, AVADirect has sent us the much beefier and more respectable NZXT H630 along with updated internals. They've also taken some care in not just configuring, but rigorously tuning this build, and as we go on we'll evaluate the fruit of that labor.
|AVADirect Quiet Gaming PC Specifications|
|Chassis||NZXT H630 White|
Intel Core i7-4770K
(4x3.5GHz + HTT, Overclocked to 4.2GHz, 22nm, 8MB L3, 84W)
|Memory||4x4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600 CAS 9 1.35V (max 4x8GB)|
Gigabyte WindForce 3X NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
(2304 CUDA cores, 954MHz/6GHz core/memory, 384-bit memory bus)
2x Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB 6Gbps SSD in RAID 0
Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB 6Gbps HDD
|Power Supply||Seasonic SS760XP 760W 80 Plus Platinum|
|Networking||Realtek RTL8111 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet|
7.1 surround jacks
|Front Side||BitFenix Recon Fan Controller|
Headphone and mic jacks
2x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
SD card reader
2x USB 2.0
4x USB 3.0
7.1 surround jacks
2x DVI (GTX 780)
HDMI (GTX 780)
DisplayPort (GTX 780)
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1|
80 Plus Platinum power supply
Heavily optimized for silent operation
Silenced 3.5" hard disk enclosure
Zalman Cube CPU Cooler
BitFenix Recon Fan Controller
|Warranty||3-year parts and labor|
Starting at $1087
Price as configured: $2,456
Honestly it's pretty hard to find too much fault with what AVADirect has done here, at least in terms of component selection. There are going to be aspects of this build that will be matters of taste, but this build has obviously skewed in favor of performance over absolute silence. That's totally fine; it's "Quiet," not "Silent."
The Intel Core i7-4770K is at this point a reliable workhorse, the fastest CPU you can get for most practical purposes. AVADirect has given it a modest overclock up to 4.2GHz with 1.28V on the core, and it idles down to 800MHz and ~0.72V like it's supposed to, so no complaints there. Strapped to its integrated memory controller is 16GB of low voltage DDR3-1600, CAS 9, courtesy of Kingston. This is pretty standard, but I'd've actually opted to make the move to DDR3-1866 for a performance system. Ian has handily demonstrated that DDR3-1600 is no longer really the sweet spot for Haswell.
Handling graphics duties is the Gigabyte WindForce 3X model of NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 780. A custom version of AMD's Radeon R9 290 or 290X would possibly be more ideal, but with cryptocurrency substantially disrupting prices on AMD's high end, the GTX 780 really does strike a strong balance, offering excellent performance.
I'm a little more fussy about the storage subsystem. I like the silenced enclosure for the Western Digital Caviar Black, but the price premium on that coupled with the drive itself suggests that just going with a 480GB SSD for not too much more money might have been more ideal. The two Kingston HyperX SSDs in RAID 0 are cute, but striped RAID on SSDs serves no real practical purpose except to boost benchmark scores. This probably could be more optimized; in the future I'd almost suggest opting for a single ~1TB class SSD.
As I mentioned previously, the overall component choices are fairly strong. AVADirect's engineers have done a lot to add little bits and pieces here and there to improve performance and reduce noise. I've mentioned before and will say again: several small fans running at low speeds can do the job of a couple of fans running at high speeds, and do it quieter. Yet I can't help but feel like this build is...overengineered.
The key to a quality quiet build is the right component choices. Cases like NZXT's H630 that have sound dampening materials are at their best when they take already quiet hardware and make it silent. Cooling a GTX 780 and an i7-4770K in a case of this size isn't actually a tremendously difficult task, yet AVADirect has complicated things in multiple places.
My biggest complaint has to do with the rubber fan mounts. Silent case manufacturers don't use these, and in my quietest build (comparable to what AVADirect has done here), I still used screws on all the fan mounts. In fact, these rubber mounts are borderline redundant with the Corsair fans included, as those fans already have vibration dampening built into their mounts. The problem with what AVADirect chose here is that the system shipped with half the fans out of the mounts. I went ahead and asked AVADirect for a statement regarding these fan mounts and received this:
The fans were mounted using rubber mounts, which may slip through the openings during shipping. They reduce noise, but they're not very sturdy. They should be replaced with mounts that have bigger backing, so that they don't slip through the holes of the case during shipping.
This is half true. They should be replaced with screws.
I'm also of the opinion that AVADirect should've forgone the BitFenix Recon fan controller in favor of in-line resistors on the fans. User adjustable fan control is nice, but the system doesn't actually need it, and certainly not something as robust as the BitFenix Recon. You'll see later on that thermals aren't a major issue outside of Haswell's inherent toastiness, the system is quiet, and there's very little tweaking left to be done, so the simplest approach would be the best one in my estimation. There's no reason to give the end user control over fan speeds, the system is already where it needs to be.
Finally, as a minor nitpick, I can understand why the Zalman Cube cooler was chosen, but a closed loop liquid cooler like NZXT's Kraken X40 could also conceivably do the job as well as or better with the same noise level. Pump noise is a non-issue in a case like this, and two slow 140mm fans sandwiching the radiator could hypothetically achieve better performance in the same external noise envelope.
AVADirect has done a fine job assembling a powerful system with excellent airflow and noise characteristics (sub-30dB under load), they just need to streamline it.
Since our last desktop review, I've overhauled the benchmarking suite for desktop systems. That means that AVADirect's build is getting a fairly fresh start. Futuremark has updated their PCMark 8 and 3DMark suites somewhat, making test results less comparable, and Cinebench has updated in the interim to R15. I figured now would also be a reasonable opportunity to trim down and focus gaming benchmarks.
Unfortunately, until I get more test systems in, comparison points are essentially lacking, but I can at least present the test results I do have for AVADirect's system.
Note that for PCMark 8, I'm running it with OpenCL acceleration. Since this is essentially the direction things are moving, it seems sensible to enable OpenCL.
|PCMark 8 (Home)||5399|
|PCMark 8 (Creative)||5091|
|PCMark 8 (Work)||5546|
|3DMark (Fire Strike Extreme)||4731|
|Cinebench R15 (Multi-Thread)||851|
|Cinebench R15 (Single-Thread)||166|
|Cinebench R15 (OpenGL)||162.13|
|Video Encoding - x264 5.0 (Pass 1)||68.31|
|Video Encoding - x264 5.0 (Pass 2)||18.38|
Scores are about where they should be, although the modest overclock and DDR3-1600 does hurt AVADirect a little. As far as the overclock goes, I'm not sure what can be done other than to try and cherry pick as many i7-4770Ks as possible; Haswell has a pretty wide range that I've experienced myself. 4.2GHz is conservative, but it's also about as high as I'd guarantee the majority of chips to be able to reliably hit and it seems to be what the SI industry has standardized on.
For gaming, I'm stuck on 1080p testing, so I've instead opted to just ramp settings as high as possible for each game. The reality is that our high end gaming hardware is stuck in a sort of limbo: too powerful for 1080p, nowhere near enough for 4K. Suffice to say, a single GTX 780 is mostly enough to handle the games in my revised suite.
|Company of Heroes 2||42.2|
|Metro: Last Light||44.3|
Keep in mind that Metro: Last Light and Tomb Raider are both running with SSAA, which is pretty taxing. So while we've got playable performance, it's not otherworldly just yet; we're not hitting the magic 60fps.
The bottom line is that AVADirect's system is more than adequate for handling most tasks and a fine gaming machine.
Where power consumption is concerned, AVADirect's build is in the ballpark of where it needs to be. The fans are all running at low speeds, so they're not liable to affect power consumption that much. Voltage on the Intel Core i7-4770K is a little on the high side, but still totally within reason and not cause for alarm.
The net result is an idle power consumption of 60 watts, jumping up to 402 watts under AIDA64's stress test with everything but "Stress Disks" enabled. This is in line with where it should be; DigitalStorm's Virtue idled 10 watts higher but drew 40 watts lower under load with the same CPU and GPU, but shipped with a reference GTX 780 instead of a factory overclocked card and frankly, much less hardware overall.
Despite its sub-30dB noise profile, AVADirect's Quiet Gaming PC also does a fine job of keeping thermals in check. The fly in the ointment is the i7-4770K, whose peak temperatures are a little on the high side. While Haswell's lousy TIM can be blamed for some of this, I can't help but feel like a 140mm closed loop liquid cooler would've been an improvement.
The GTX 780 is running downright frosty, owing to the build's excellent airflow and high quality aftermarket cooler that Gigabyte employs. The problem is that the 4770K is getting dangerously close to throttling; even under water, 1.28V can be a little onerous for Haswell's thermals in my experience, but the Zalman cooler still seems to underperform by about 10C.
Conclusion: Overall Strong, But Needs Refinement
AVADirect actually did a pretty solid job on this build. This is the third iteration of their quiet gaming PC that I've tested and the best of the three, and that's not just owing to the progress of the underlying hardware. The NZXT H630 is a night and day improvement over the old NZXT H2 and goes a long way towards doing justice to the efforts of the engineers behind the build.
What AVADirect needs now is to streamline it. The rubber fan mounts have to go, and with that, a serious re-evaluation of their shipping methods. I've long bemoaned their stuff as being overpacked: the case box, packed inside a larger box, surrounded by packing peanuts, because AVADirect is trying to kill my cats. The only SI that makes shipment more of a nuisance is Origin and their giant wooden crates. The fact that this overprotective shipping method still failed to keep the fans in their mounts (ignoring the general flimsiness of rubber fan mounts) suggests to me that the only thing stopping it from being overkill is that it's just not very good at its job.
The BitFenix Recon is also essentially unnecessary in this build. I suspect the fans are overkill, but I'm not going to complain since the system is so quiet anyhow and it's not like too much airflow ever killed a system. I'd revise the cooling system by replacing the Recon with in-line resistors and replacing the Zalman Cube with a 140mm closed loop liquid cooler, using two 140mm fans sandwiching the radiator and running at ~5V.
Finally, I think we're about ready to kill the mechanical storage entirely. The silencing enclosure for it is a nice touch if you must have mechanical storage, but it's not something I would go for in my primary system. That said, I do actually applaud AVADirect for opting not to include an optical drive. I barely use the one in my desktop, and it's easy enough to just get a USB one to plug in when you need it.
If it wasn't for the shipping snafus and slight overengineering of the interior, I'd say this is unequivocally the best quiet gaming machine AVADirect has sent us yet. They've done a fine job engineering it, now they just need to refine and streamline. I can't harp on the overabundance of part selection on their site; that's their business model and at this point unique to them. They just need to harness that abundance perfectly, and with this system, they're very close.