There are dozens of places to purchase a custom gaming PC on the internet. Companies with colourful websites with flash-animated front pages and rotating images showing off their latest products in the best possible light. Then there's AVADirect, a custom PC builder on the outskirts of Cleveland with a website that looks like it was built a decade ago.
Had I been surfing the web for a custom PC for my own personal use, I might have passed AVADirect right on by. After working in web design for five years prior to my stint here at Kotaku, it's become an instinctual thing for me — the flashier the website, the better the product. After spending a month with an AVADirect Mini Gaming PC, I've realised that perhaps some companies are too busy making kick-ass computers to make pretty websites.
AVADirect makes a wide array of custom systems, from slim media machines to powerful gaming rigs; notebooks to all-in-ones. The build them from OEM and retail parts, test them extensively and send them to your door with little fanfare. The Mini Gaming PC I tested arrived on my doorstep in a brown cardboard box inside of another brown cardboard box. No giant wooden crates, no custom-made boxes; just "Here's your PC, go play." So I did.
AVADirect Mini Gaming PC Configuration • Case: Bitfenix Prodigy Midnight Black Mini Tower Case • Power Supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro M 850W Power Supply • Cooling: Cooler Master R4 200mm Case Fan, Cooler Master A14025 140mm Black Case Fan • CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K Quad-Core 3.5 - 3.9GHz • Heatsink: Prolimatech Megahalems Rev. C CPU Heatsink w/ Dual 120mm NB-Blacknoise SilentPro PL-1 Ultra Quiet Fans • Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe LGA1155 • Memory: Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) Ballistix Tactical Tracer • Video: EVGA GeForce GTX 680 2GB • Storage: Seagate 2TB Barracuda SATA, OCZ 240GB Vertex 3 SSD • Optical Drive: LG 14x/16x/48x BD/DVD/CD Blu-ray Disc Burner • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition • Warranty: Silver Warranty Package (3 Year Limited Parts, 3 Year labour Warranty) Price as configured: $US2143.74 Sold at AVADirect.com.
AVADirect put together quite the hardware lineup for $US2143 (configurations start at around $US850). We've got one of NVIDIA's top-of-the line cards in the GeForce GTX 680, the Intel Core i7-3770K running at 3.9GHz, a super-speedy 240GB SSD with a 2TB storage drive. 8GB of Crucial Ballistix Tactical Tracer memory with flowing red LEDs — that's just luxury right there. I can see them glowing behind the grill of the Bitfenix Prodigy case, behind the blue light of the 200mm Cooler Master case fan.
The choice of case in particular is an inspired one. The Bitfenix Prodigy is an excellent mini-ITX chassis, compact while still capable of hosting five 3.5-inch hard disks. Speed screws abound, making getting inside the case a breeze, and the whole thing is suspended by handles that maximise shock absorption while giving the system a truly distinctive profile. Between the excellent airflow the case provides and the fans AVADirect has packed inside, this is one cool-running machine.
It's not a system bogged down by bloatware either. The machine arrived with utilities to operate the Blu-Ray burner (another luxury), a few diagnostic tools and — I find this incredibly cool — the crowd-sourced medical research utility [email protected] preinstalled. Every PC needs to come with that last one.
Contrary to my early efforts in the field, building a custom PC is more than just assembling a random selection of parts and placing them into a box. It's choreography of components, making sure that each complements the other bits in order to create a unified being that'll sit on your desk judging you for years.
The AVADirect Mini Gaming PC I tested is just such a being, humbling the benchmark games I offered up as sacrifice, be they running at medium settings...
...or with all the bells and whistles dialled up to 11. Metro 2033 continues its trend of being a complete dick at higher resolutions, which is probably why its publisher just filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
With plenty of power and room for expansion, the AVADirect Mini Gaming PC is a wonderful choice for a PC gamer looking for a small footprint gaming with enough power to run today's more demanding games and the ability to keep up should those demands get even more demanding, all at a highly competitive price point.
As for AVADirect itself, its stands as proof-positive that a flashy web presence has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of product you produce.
I leave you with the cool blue glow of the AVADirect Mini Gaming PC. It will be missed.