Introducing the AVADirect Compact Gaming PC

It's easy to build a powerful desktop if you take a big, beefy enclosure like SilverStone's FT-02 or the Thermaltake Level 10 GT and just fill it with the highest performance parts on the market, overclock them, and call it a day—and certainly we've seen our share of those. Taking all of that raw performance and shrinking it into a MicroATX case can be a little more difficult, though, especially when you're dissipating a cumulative TDP of at least 730 watts. Yet when we saw that AVADirect had produced another compact but incredibly high performance gaming desktop, we had to take a look. Gulftown may be on its way to bed soon with the advent of Sandy Bridge-E, but let's see if we can't give it one last hurrah in the process.

While this custom build isn't super compact, it's certainly a fair sight smaller than many of the gaming systems we've reviewed. It sure doesn't feel smaller when you carry it, though, and that may have something to do with the configuration.

AVADirect Compact Gaming PC Specifications
Chassis Lian Li PC-V354 Red
Processor Intel Core i7-990X overclocked to 4.4GHz
(spec: 6x3.46GHz, 32nm, 12MB L3, Turbo to 3.73GHz, 130W)
Motherboard ASUS Rampage III Gene Motherboard with X58 and ICH10R chipset
Memory 3x4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600 (expandable to 48GB)
Graphics 2x AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB GDDR5
(GIGABYTE GV-R699D5-4GD-B, Radeon HD 6990)
(2x1536 stream processors, 830MHz/5GHz Core/RAM, 256-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Intel 510 250GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) HL-DT-ST BD-RE
Networking Intel 82567V-2 Gigabit Ethernet
Audio VIA VT2020 HD Audio
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Optical out
Front Side 2x USB 2.0 (3.0 connected to 2.0 header)
Mic and headphone jacks
SD card reader
Optical drive
Top -
Back Side 1x PS/2
7x USB 2.0
Optical out
6-pin FireWire
Gigabit ethernet
2x USB 3.0
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
2x DVI-D
8x Mini-DisplayPort
Fan controllers
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 9.65" x 13.6" x 16.54"
Weight 9.2 lbs (case only)
Extras Custom air cooling design
BD-RE
Overclocked CPU
Warranty 3-year limited parts and labor
Pricing Starts at $1,334
Priced as configured: $4,983

These days one of the big questions for boutiques, at least as far as I've heard, has really been this: "Gulftown or Sandy Bridge?" AnandTech readers are a fairly informed lot, so for them it's (almost) a no brainer: Sandy Bridge. So why is the AVADirect system we have in house Gulftown-based? The answer turns out to be a bit complicated.

I don't presume to speak for AVADirect or really any of the boutiques, but this is a question that I've fielded a couple of times, because it boils down to the two extra cores on Gulftown plus the X58's dual full 16x PCI Express 2.0 lanes. In print, both of these just look better to the average consumer than the "limitations" Sandy Bridge poses. You may be able to get an NF-200-equipped motherboard to at least checkbox the PCI Express limitation, but Sandy Bridge doesn't presently offer six executable cores. Even though virtually no games will take advantage of them (and in fact, generally speaking Sandy Bridge is the superior gaming CPU), it's still an important checkbox for the more-money-than-sense market.

As an aside, I do want to point out that while the Intel Core i7-2600K is preferable to the i7-990X in 90% of cases, there are the 10% of us that do video editing on our PCs. In those instances, the i7-990X's two additional cores can make a tremendous difference that Sandy Bridge needs a heavy overclock to make up.

For the rest of the system, I'll just say that I saw AVADirect sending a similar build out to other sites and had to bring the tiny monster in house for a review, if only to satisfy my own curiosity. In the process they gave me some options for how to configure it, and the only request I made was the CrossFired AMD Radeon HD 6990s. This is a configuration I just haven't had the opportunity to test yet, something I've rectified here.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • TinyRK - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    That's right, because I am an ACTUAL engineer. With a degree in Electronics. English is not my mother-tongue, so my apologies, that I did not know what you consider an Engineer.
    I didn't want to piss on you leg as a Sanitation Engineer. Somebody has to clean up the trash, and I appreciate that you're doing that.

    Keep up the good work!
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - link

    I honestly don't understand these systems.
    Maybe .001% can make use of such a system in a reasonable manner (GPU-computing, while taking advantage of the 6 cores). For most other people, even SLI/CF configurations are too much for gaming and of course, SNB would have been better as well for gaming.
    This particular unit should have gone with water cooling in my opinion. Anything else is just..... As it stands now, this build is insane and nothing that the average person can't build themselves (at least I don't see specially made components). But I like to get something substantial for the money I spend, so I doubt I'm the audience for this unit. :P
    Reply
  • ph0masta - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - link

    If they're sending Anand a copy to review, why not send him the best build possible? I'm sure they expect the average customer to go with a more modest build. Reply
  • Thermalzeal - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - link

    it's pink? (Perhaps the colors are off on my disp) I guess this is the one computer that won't get stolen at a LAN party... Reply
  • s1175290 - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - link

    Maybe I missed it in the article, but what power supply did this ship with? Looks to be 100% modular. Reply
  • benrico - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    There was a Lian Li m-atx case review up a week or so ago that was cast it in a negative light- cant remember why. one reason was non standard optical bay or something .. Any thoughts on the comparison of the two. Also, any thoughts on look/feel of the case... Reply
  • KamikaZeeFu - Thursday, October 6, 2011 - link

    The spec table says that the front USB3 ports are wired to USB2 headers. I would like to know how this was done, as my online searches didn't bring up anything useful.

    I'm in the market for a new case atm, but my board only has USB2 (won't upgrade until Ivy) and all the cases that I like only have front USB3 ports.
    Reply

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