|A missing hose clamp resulted in a coolant leak during shipping, but the vendor’s tech promptly replaced it.|
Our first thought upon opening AVADirect’s new Core 2 Duo SLI Gaming System was, “Wow, this is heavy.” Our second, “Oooh, but it’s pretty!” was followed shortly by a third, “It’s bleeding!” A cursory inspection revealed that the system was shipped without one of its two CPU-cooler hose clamps, and was indeed leaking AVA’s “bloody red” coolant into the machine. Disconcerting, to say the least. We notified AVADirect of the problem, and they dispatched a tech to fix it. Thereafter, despite some red residue on one of the 8800’s DVI ports, the rig worked perfectly.
Aside from this initial gaffe, the AVADirect impressed us with its build quality. The first thing we saw when we opened the SilverStone Temjin TJ07 case was a sprawl of water-cooling tubes running to both GPUs, the RAM, and the CPU. The aforementioned “bloody red” cooling fluid is augmented by four red cold-cathode tubes along the sides of the acrylic window, lending a fearsome aspect to the rig’s innards. Cables and wires were neatly routed along the inside of the case, but certainly not as neatly as in last month’s HP Blackbird. The modular 1,200W Thermaltake Toughpower PSU provides a ridiculous amount of power while remaining mostly hidden beneath a partition at the bottom of the case.
AVA certainly makes good use of the Temjin’s seven 5.25-inch external drive bays; the first two hold an AlphaCool white-on-blue LCD that displays system stats like drive space, CPU, and RAM utilization, as well as a faux-analog clock. The next bay holds a Pioneer Blu-ray reader/DVD burner combo drive. Two more drive bays contain the Koolance reservoir pumps that drive the liquid-cooling system and display per-reservoir fluid temps, leaving just two bays free.
Does this mess o’ tubes make a difference? Yep! The max idle temperature was 35 C, and during our stress tests no core got above 72 C. Not shabby. And other than our initial leakage issue, the cooling system is very neatly installed, routed, and configured. There are no wasted pipes, and the whole thing looks terribly impressive. Maybe too impressive. While we appreciate the thought, most folks would probably agree that water cooling is overkill for some of the components—we’re looking at you, overclocked RAM.
AVA overclocked this machine to the nines. The Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 CPU is running at 3.67GHz, up from 3.0GHz, the dual EVGA e-GeForce 8800 Ultras are “superclocked” to 655MHz, and even the OCZ RAM is ratcheted up to 1150MHz. We tested the rig with our Prime95 stress test, and detected no stability problems.
The overclocking shows, too. Despite shipping with Vista (a questionable choice), the AVADirect blazed through our FEAR benchmark at 184fps, faster than any other rig we’ve tested. Its Quake score was a respectable 205fps—nearly twice as fast as the Blackbird, and right up there with the fastest XP rigs we’ve seen. What can we say, except that Nvidia’s OpenGL driver, even in Vista, is still better than AMD’s.
Performance was top-notch and easily bested our new quad-core zero-point system (see page 70)—no surprise, as the AVADirect box sings along at clock speeds 1GHz higher. Our point of reference against other rigs is blank, as this is the first machine tested using our new benchmarks. We did, however, run our old Photoshop CS2 script on the AVADirect, and while it’s fast, the rig’s scores were a bit slower than those of the recently reviewed Dell and HP PCs.
The rest of the AVADirect’s hardware is just as high-powered, if not exactly what we expected. The Asus Xonar D2 soundcard sounds great and includes color-coded backlit inputs and plenty of ports, but no hardware processing. This is the first rig we’ve tested in a while that shipped with a dedicated soundcard other than a SoundBlaster X-Fi; most rigs, if they eschew Creative, opt for onboard audio. It’s a relief not to have to listen to RealTek audio.
The 150GB Raptors in RAID 0 are speedy but will leave system owners walking the high-wire without a net since there’s no backup drive. Would a simple terabyte drive have hurt, guys? And why not install XP while you’re at it? The AVADirect box is the first to impress us with its almost XP-like gaming performance, but let’s face it, gaming and Vista are still an odd couple. Another letdown: Where’s the Penryn? When the company said it was shipping us a “next-gen” box, we thought it would include Penryn and Nvidia’s G92, but the machine included a 1,333MHz Kentsfield CPU and GeForce 8800 Ultras. Hardly next-gen.
Despite these quibbles, we were generally impressed with the system’s stability and performance. The horror of a leaky water-cooling system was ameliorated by the quick corrective action taken by AVADirect’s optional on-site tech support.
While we wouldn’t necessarily buy this exact configuration, we’d definitely go to AVADirect for their nigh-infinite customizability, good build quality, and excellent tech support.
Solid build; great tech support; high performance.
Shipped with Vista; no backup drive; the leak hurts the final score.
|AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI
|CPU||Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad QX6850 (3.0GHz overclocked to 3.67GHz)
|MOBO||Asus Striker Extreme, nForce 680i SLi
|RAM||2GB OCZ Liquid Ready Edition DDR2/1150
|LAN||Gigabit LAN x2
|HARD DRIVES||Two 150GB WD Raptors (10,000rpm SATA) in RAID-0|
|VIDEOCARD||Two 768MB eVGA e-GeForce 8800 Ultras in SLI
|SOUNDCARD||ASUS Xonar 2
|CASE||Silverstone Temjin TJ07
|AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI|
|Premiere Pro CS3||1,000 sec
|Photoshop CS3||107 sec
|FEAR 1.07||184 fps|
|Quake 4||205 fps|
|Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard. We are running two EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, Western Digital 150GB Raptor and 500GB Caviar hard drives, an LG GGC-H20L optical drive, a Sound Blaster X-Fi soundcard, and PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad power supply. The OS is Windows Vista Ultimate.|