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

Pick Your Own Parts...And Have Someone Else Build For You

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.

  • Someone Somewhere
    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.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12209289 said:
    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
    Reply
  • bemused_fred
    12209289 said:
    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!
    Reply
  • Menigmand
    "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.
    Reply
  • vaughn2k
    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...
    Reply
  • vertexx
    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.
    Reply
  • vertexx
    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.
    Reply
  • Steveymoo
    So expensive >< Jesus Christ.
    Reply
  • MooseMuffin
    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.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    Love that case. The polished aluminum look should be on all high end builds regardless of chassis size, in my opinion.
    Reply