Since I have not seen many reviews of AVADirect's Custom PCs floating in the Internet, I thought I might as well create one. After years of using PCs from companies like Dell and HP, while I had my fun with them, the thing that really annoyed me was that, especially with Dell, many of the computer components inside are proprietary, from the motherboard to the power supply, and it leaves little room for upgrading. So I thought I might try out a custom boutique. After browsing through sites like CyberPowerPC, Velocity Micro, and IBuyPower, I found that many sites looked "too good to be true" or offered too little options for customization. Finally after hours of scouring the Internet for a reputable boutique, I finally stumbled upon AVADirect, and so my story begins...
2. First Impressions of the Site
So, upon stumbling upon the site, the first thing I saw was the lack of any big, flashy banners advertising their "Ultimate Gaming PC" or whatnot. Instead it was a simply formatted site showing accolades on the side from MaximumPC, G4, and even Tom's Hardware. Also there was a sticker showing it as a BBB Accredited Business, and after verifying it on the official BBB site, the company had an A+ rating. While these ratings are not a surefire way of verifying the legitimacy of the business, it certainly made me want to look more into the site.
Going more into the options (Desktop Computers), I was met with selections of almost every single shape of computer, from standard, mini, all-in-ones, servers, and HTPCs. Of course, I selected the standard option. The next window I was met with 4 different options based on the CPU Socket, LGA 775/1156/1366 for Intel, and the lone AM3 for AMD.
In short, AVADirect from all of its options, seems to separate itself from other sites by catering to not only gamers, but almost any PC user out there. While its many options may seem daunting to some users, it is certainly a great layout with millions of different options for every user.
3. My Build
So, after deciding to choose AVADirect to build my computer, I decided to choose an AMD/AM3-based build.
CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T @ 2.8 GHz
In addition to this I added some OCZ Freeze thermal compund, and separately, bought a 120mm Antec TriCool Blue LED fan from Staples and an OCZ Vertex 2 60 GB SSD from Amazon to use as a boot drive. Though AVADirect tests the compatibility for all of the components, I personally checked it myself just to give that extra peace of mind.
With these extra components, it totals around $1200.
4. Purchasing and Shipping
I will be brief in this section, as it really nothing out of the ordinary. Since it was an order over $1000, AVADirect required a Credit Card Authorization Form faxed to them. No big deal, it was filled out, faxed to them, and accepted in less than 5 minutes. Annoying, but not a problem.
I ordered it on 8/11/2010.
It started processing the same day.
It finished processing on 8/24/2010.
It will arrive via UPS on 8/26/2010.
Yep this sounds monotonous, but it gives a timeline of how the order is processed. It took about two weeks for the whole processing, which is relatively long to my standards. But overall not such a big deal on AVADirect, since it is not a huge business like Dell and thus cannot have the same efficiency of production.
Sorry guys for not updating this on time, but when I first received my system on 8/26/2010, it would not POST. And so, I went with the usual drill of calling AVADirect's Technical Support, and met a man named Wayne Danielczyk. He was a cool, calm man and worked with me to isolate the problem that caused the PC to fail to POST, and as we found out, it was the processor. I was initially skeptical about the processor failing, because it really should not have any damage in shipping, or the testers failed to check properly. Nonetheless, he gave me the RMA number and sent it back the following day via USPS, wasting $38.00 of my time. However, I do appreciate Wayne's hard work and determinance to find out the problem with my PC, and the lack of any time to hold; he was right there with me, and would not leave until the problem was solved.
After I shipped it, AVADirect received the PC on 9/1/2010 and called my home. On the phone was a man (name unknown) with a deep Russian accent. He told me that the processor was damaged by shipping, which I knew, but he then told me that it was my responsibility that it was damaged, and warned me that it might not be covered under warranty. I was not only alarmed, but very angry at this, and while I did not express my anger toward him, I did not take well the accusations he made against me damaging the processor. Moving on, later that day, AVADirect called me again and fortunately, told me that it would be covered under warranty and would ship on that day back to my house.
And so I waited, until 9/13/2010, and still no package at my house, so I e-mailed AVADirect Technical Support and a woman by the name of Katie McIntyre explained the following:
Thank you for contacting customer service. I apologize for the delay in
this response. The current status of your RMA/repair ticket was updated on
September 8, 2010. The replacement from the manufacturer has arrived as is
currently undergoing diagnostics and testing before it will be approved and
the unit returned to you. If you have additional questions, please contact
our Support Department directly via telephone at (phone number withheld) and
your question can be answered with more detail.
We appreciate your business and your patience as we repair your machine.
AVA Direct Customer Support
(phone number and e-mail withheld)
I was relieved a bit when I got this email, as she did care about service and was not trying to pull a fast one on me. I do appreciate this very much. Back on topic, it did finally ship on that day and two days later, on 9/15/2010, it was on my doorstep!
Finally the moment of reckoning! I finally tested out my machine, adding a 60 GB OCZ Vertex 2 SSD and a Antec LED Tricool 120mm fan, with the stock parts, and wow I am amazed. Since I had to reinstall the OS because I wanted it on the SSD, no more "Valued Customer" username or AVADirect background . However, when I initially started up the OS, I found that I could not connect to the Internet. Since I was using a Linksys PLK-300 Powerline Networking Adapter, I suspected a driver update could fix the outdated LAN drivers. So I popped in the Driver CD provided, and installed all the (outdated) drivers and finally fixed the internet issue. Next, I started to get the latest drivers from ASUS and AMD/ATI for my motherboard and HD 5770 respectively. While that took a long time (a few hours), after everything, my computer was as fast as ever! While I don't overclock (I don't think that it is worth it), I toyed around with TurboVEvo and ATI Overdrive and played with the fan speeds. Surprisingly, I got the CPU to 20 C (according to CoreTemp) and I was simply amazed by this.
7. Final Notes
Overall, there were a few shortcomings when purchasing with AVADirect. One is the somewhat lengthy processing time before it ships, about two weeks, but if one is patient, waiting that long should not matter, and I cannot hold that against the company. Other than that, the fact that I had to pay to ship the PC back for RMA was annoying and time-consuming, and would have preferred if they covered shipping costs under the warranty. My other final and most important concern was the Russian-accented man. It did not seem like he was representative of what AVADirect stands by, and instead, caused me much stress in the fact of his accusations.
But do not let that stray you from purchasing from AVADirect. Besides that isolated incident, I was very pleased with the work of Wayne Danielczyk and Katie McIntyre in helping me with my issues with my computer, and I commend them for truly being representative of AVADirect. Also, I love the amount of customization one can get with AVADirect, with almost infinite combinations of motherboards, CPUs, graphics cards, etc. So far, as of 9/17/2010, my computer is stable and very good performance wise, with a 7.2 WEI Rating (total).
To conclude this: I give AVADirect an overall rating of 7.9/10 and a Savvy Choice recommendation!
P.S. If anyone can tell me how to upload pictures onto the forums, that would be nice, since I want to show the unboxing pictures.
Actually, you can find AVADirect reviews at: http://www.resellerratings.com/store/AVA_Direct though I question the impartiality of the site after seeing a slightly less flattering review of another vendor I posted removed within 8 hours. That suggests the seller(s) have control on what is allowed there.
But AVADirect looks very positive there. Their BBS rating is now A rather than A+.
I'm awaiting an order from AVADirect now and will share my experiences later when I get the computer and put it through its paces. However, I can tell you that my current experience with them is positive. A guy named Joseph Mundy responded to my email and answered my questions, even when I pushed a bit a for specific responses I wanted for assurance sake. I pushed because I've been burned by online vendors before so have a certain attitude called a grain bin load of skepticism. Joseph was very patient. My only objection to be frank is that his email address seems to bounce back often so messages need 2-3 efforts to get through. Will update my experiences later.