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AVADirect’s Mini Cube Gaming PC: Good Looks, Price, And Performance

AVADirect’s Mini Cube Gaming PC: Good Looks, Price, And Performance
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Boutique builders employ an endless array of customizations to win over customers who don’t have the time or desire to piece together a PC. But enthusiasts in the know still want to feel like they're getting a fair deal. Can AVADirect demonstrate value?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could build your own PC with a few clicks of your mouse, with near-perfect precision? Tom’s Hardware's editorial team, made up of enthusiasts, spends most of its time writing stories for the do-it-yourself power user crowd. Sometimes we forget that a great many of our readers want to pick the parts for their next machine, but don't necessarily have the time or will to piece everything together. Shoot, I even know a professional IT guy who accidentally messes up several systems a month as a result of Intel's delicate LGA interface.

If you're looking for customization without the challenge, risk, or inconvenience of setting everything up on your own, than a boutique builder is probably your best bet. They're the folks who apply skilled hands to one-off configurations. And among those companies, AVADirect offers a vast array of top-end hardware and an extremely talented staff. But the company decided to go even further to prove that its custom-built machines could challenge both the quality and the value of our own efforts.

So confident is AVADirect in its quality and value that it even applied a chrome-like finish to the chassis holding the system we're reviewing today—that's a $99 AVADirect-exclusive option that doesn’t even show up in performance-to-price calculations—in addition to providing three years of parts and labor coverage and lifetime technical support.

AVADirect (Custom Order) Mini "Cube" Gaming PC
Configurable Components
CPUIntel Core i7-4770K (Haswell): 3.5 to 3.9 GHz, Four Cores, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
DRAMKingston KHX16C9T3K2/16X, DDR3-1600 C9, 16 GB (2 x 8 GB)
GraphicsAsus GTX780-DC2OC-3GD5, GeForce GTX 780 3 GB GDDR5
System Drive2 x Kingston HyperX 3K 120 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD, RAID 0*
Storage DriveWestern Digital Black WD2002FAEX 2 TB, 7200 RPM Hard Drive*
Optical DriveLG BH16NS40 Black 16x/16x/48x BD/DVD/CD Burner
MotherboardMSI Z87I, LGA 1150, Z87 Express, mini-ITX with Wi-Fi
ChassisLian Li PC-Q28B mini-ITX Tower
Custom FinishCustom "brushed metal" vinyl wrap
CPU CoolerCooler Master Seidon 120M closed-loop cooler*
Power SupplySeasonic SS-760XP2 80 PLUS Platinum Full-Modular 760 W
Chassis Features
Expansion SlotsTwo
Internal Bays4 x 3.5" / 2 x 2.5" Trays (Shared)
Power BayPS/2, Top Mounted on Rear Panel
External Bay1 x 5.25"
Front Panel I/O2 x USB 3.0, Headphone, Microphone, all on right-front edge
Fans1 x 140 mm Intake (front), 1 x 120 mm Exhaust (top)
Motherboard Features
External Peripheral1 x PS/2, 4 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 
External Audio6 x Analog, Digital Optical
External VideoHDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-I
Internal Ports4 x SATA 6Gb/s, 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0
Internal Slots1 x PCIe x16, 1 x mini-PCIe (Filled)
Maximum Memory2 x DDR3-800 to DDR3-2933 (all standard capacities)
Gigabit EthernetDual Realtek RTL8111G PCIe, with teaming
Wireless NetworkIntel 2230 PCIe 802.11n Single-Band, 300 Mb/s, + Bluetooth
Audio ControllerRealtek ALC892 DAC, 7.1+ 2 channels rear/front audio
Other Features
Dimensions12.1" (H), 8.9" (W), 14.1" (D), 21.2 Pounds
WarrantyThree Years Limited Parts/Labor
SoftwareWindows 7 Home Premium, CyberLink Media Suite 10
Price$2470
 *Call AVADirect for availability 

The PC we received was extra-custom, sporting three internal drives. That's notable, since AVADirect's online configuration tool only lets you pick two; you need to call in to add the third. At first, that 2 TB Western Digital Black repository didn't even appear on our parts list. Including it plus the two SSDs is what got us up to $2470. But we needed all of that hardware to make this setup comparable with the two machines we're using as competition today.

We also had to calculate the price using a different cooler of similar value, since the Seidon 120M in our sample wasn't yet available through AVADirect's online configurator. We used the slightly-more-expensive Noctua NH-L12, so the price of this specific configuration could drop a bit in your own shopping cart. Again, though, both configuration exceptions can be solved by calling AVADirect and ordering that way.

Display 17 Comments.
  • 1 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , December 17, 2013 9:36 PM
    Page four. The ASRock system has an i7-4770K. How is the CPU cooler an 'AMD Boxed Cooler"?

    Also, many of those seem somewhat unbalanced, especially for a gaming system.

    EDIT: Toss an R9 290X or 780 in the M8 and drop to a 4670K, and you'd have a real value winner.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , December 18, 2013 12:27 AM
    Quote:
    Page four. The ASRock system has an i7-4770K. How is the CPU cooler an 'AMD Boxed Cooler"?

    Also, many of those seem somewhat unbalanced, especially for a gaming system.

    EDIT: Toss an R9 290X or 780 in the M8 and drop to a 4670K, and you'd have a real value winner.
    Thanks for catching the pasting errors, it helped me fix two articles :)  As for the rest of the ASRock build, I used what was available. Remember that A WHOPPING 1/3 of the benchmark set does benefit from the i7's added cache and/or HT, and that ONLY 1/3 of the benchmarks benefit from a higher-model graphics card :p 
  • 2 Hide
    bemused_fred , December 18, 2013 2:13 AM
    Quote:
    Page four. The ASRock system has an i7-4770K. How is the CPU cooler an 'AMD Boxed Cooler"?

    Also, many of those seem somewhat unbalanced, especially for a gaming system.

    EDIT: Toss an R9 290X or 780 in the M8 and drop to a 4670K, and you'd have a real value winner.


    A 290-X in a mini-ITX case?!? He wants a P.C., not a space heater!
  • 0 Hide
    Menigmand , December 18, 2013 2:35 AM
    "Good looks" are highly subjective... I would say that case is not pretty. If the AVA sticker can be removed, and there's an option without the optical drive, then it would be better.
  • 0 Hide
    vaughn2k , December 18, 2013 3:12 AM
    We'll.. this is another good example of implementing modular cables. But I really don't like the idea of blocking the inside of the computer with a power supply, unless it is designed the way like Thermaltake Elite 120 does...
  • 1 Hide
    vertexx , December 18, 2013 5:02 AM
    Nice article. I'm not for the fake chrome vinyl wrap look, and I would question how long that would last.

    Overall though, it's good to see these guys putting together a nice compact, high performing PC.
  • 2 Hide
    vertexx , December 18, 2013 5:17 AM
    The same parts plus OS can be purchased for ~$1,900. Still, for someone who doesn't want to mess with building a system, it looks like a decent value.
  • 0 Hide
    Steveymoo , December 18, 2013 7:34 AM
    So expensive >< Jesus Christ.
  • 0 Hide
    MooseMuffin , December 18, 2013 8:00 AM
    These guys seem pretty price competitive actually. I just ran through their configurator with a system I put together for myself recently and it came within $150. Not bad considering you get the warranty, and that every other boutique seems to mark up way more with fewer part options.
  • 0 Hide
    g-unit1111 , December 18, 2013 9:28 AM
    Love that case. The polished aluminum look should be on all high end builds regardless of chassis size, in my opinion.
  • -1 Hide
    ta152h , December 18, 2013 10:34 AM
    Just looked at the first page, saw the picture, and realized this ugly rubbish wouldn't have any place in my home.

    Ugly things don't sell well. PC makers, and case makers need to make attractive designs instead of wanting people to put these eyesores in their houses. Efficiency is great, but it's secondary to appearance.

    How many people go to the car dealership and base their decision mainly on the aerodynamics of the car? Next to none? Appearance? Lots, even if they refuse to admit it? Efficiency in a case matters even less, but they keep making these ugly monstrosities that we're supposed to pollute our workspace with.
  • 0 Hide
    Adroid , December 18, 2013 1:08 PM
    Not bad. A bit more money than I would spend on a PC, but it's a higher end model. Probably a good buy if you took it and adjusted the OC a bit.
  • 0 Hide
    mouse24 , December 18, 2013 5:54 PM
    Quote:
    Just looked at the first page, saw the picture, and realized this ugly rubbish wouldn't have any place in my home.

    Ugly things don't sell well. PC makers, and case makers need to make attractive designs instead of wanting people to put these eyesores in their houses. Efficiency is great, but it's secondary to appearance.

    How many people go to the car dealership and base their decision mainly on the aerodynamics of the car? Next to none? Appearance? Lots, even if they refuse to admit it? Efficiency in a case matters even less, but they keep making these ugly monstrosities that we're supposed to pollute our workspace with.


    See thats the thing about opinions, everyones got them. I quite like the case. Also I couldn't care less what my PC looks like as long as it runs. How often do you even look at your PC? Maybe once or twice a day when you turn it on and off.
  • 0 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , December 18, 2013 8:09 PM
    Quote:
    Love that case. The polished aluminum look should be on all high end builds regardless of chassis size, in my opinion.


    Quote:
    Just looked at the first page, saw the picture, and realized this ugly rubbish wouldn't have any place in my home.


    And this is why the choice of looks in cases is so varied.
  • 0 Hide
    g-unit1111 , December 20, 2013 10:30 AM
    Quote:

    And this is why the choice of looks in cases is so varied.


    What's that saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure"? :lol: 
  • 0 Hide
    dennphill , December 21, 2013 2:32 PM
    Very nice build. Great review, Tom. I like the case - and for reasons others might pooh-pooh - the size and form factor is just right for me. Don't quite need the performance here though, and just spent an hour or so trying to find a configurator on AVADirect that gets me to this case and mobo combo to configure at a slightly lower price and performance levels. Can't find the case available on any of their configurators, though they do list the Lian case as an available part. Schade. Guess I'll just have to contact them, but you'd think with this exposure and such a favorable review, they'd get ahead of the power curve. (Like, for example, an ad with link to the particular configurator on their site!)
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , December 21, 2013 5:55 PM
    Quote:
    "Good looks" are highly subjective... I would say that case is not pretty. If the AVA sticker can be removed, and there's an option without the optical drive, then it would be better.


    Quote:
    Very nice build. Great review, Tom. I like the case - and for reasons others might pooh-pooh - the size and form factor is just right for me. Don't quite need the performance here though, and just spent an hour or so trying to find a configurator on AVADirect that gets me to this case and mobo combo to configure at a slightly lower price and performance levels. Can't find the case available on any of their configurators, though they do list the Lian case as an available part. Schade. Guess I'll just have to contact them, but you'd think with this exposure and such a favorable review, they'd get ahead of the power curve. (Like, for example, an ad with link to the particular configurator on their site!)


    Yeh, it's a PITA to copy a configuration on their site, you just start out with the "LGA 1150 Mini Cube" or whatever they're calling it that day, pick the black version of the case and if you want the simulated chrome you add that, etc.
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