Re-Introducing the AVADirect Quiet Gaming PC

The last time we reviewed AVADirect's Quiet Gaming PC was in January. I was mostly pleased with it, but it went awry in the places that boutique systems often do: a questionable choice of case and a sub-optimal overclock. Worse, under sustained load the system generated audibly more noise than my own desktop, at the time a 4GHz Intel Core i7-990X cooled with a CoolerMaster Hyper 212+ and a pair of Scythe low speed fans, inside a SilverStone FT02. Compared to the silent machines Puget Systems produces, I felt it was underwhelming.

So today, AVADirect is back for round two. They've tried to take our criticisms to heart and produce a silent (or at least low noise) machine that they're convinced is going to hit the sweet spot. While I remain a bit skeptical, they have the benefit of a new generation of more powerful, more efficient hardware. Is their second go a better performer than the first, or are they still running into the same problems?

Part of my skepticism stems from the fact that one of my biggest complaints has apparently gone unaddressed. There are good cases out there that run quietly, but the NZXT H2 is not one of them. I reviewed the H2 quite some time ago and found it wanting, and it was one of the points that I brought up in the conclusion of my last review. NZXT's design itself isn't flawed in any kind of unresolvable way, but NZXT hasn't resolved it, and none of the boutiques employing the H2 have resolved it either. My hope is that the rest of the build is able to pick up the slack.

What has changed in the interim, outside of the new generation of hardware inside the system, is that AVADirect went and had their build certified by Silent PC Review. Whether or not I or you think any review site should be certifying products from vendors (beyond the conventional editor's choice or recommendations) is up for debate (for the record, Puget Systems also has an SPCR-certified Serenity model which we reviewed), but the conditions of the certification at least are promising: the system has to idle at or below 20dBA, can't meet or exceed 27dBA under load, and essentially has to be a good acoustic (and thermal) citizen.

AVADirect Quiet Gaming PC (SPCR Certified) Specifications
Chassis NZXT H2 White
Processor Intel Core i7-3770K
(4x3.5GHz + HTT, Overclocked to 4.5GHz, 22nm, 8MB L3, 77W)
Motherboard ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt
Memory 4x4GB Crucial DDR3-1866 (max 4x8GB)
Graphics ASUS NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II
(1536 CUDA cores, 1019MHz/6GHz core/memory, 256-bit memory bus)
Storage OCZ Vertex 3 120GB 6Gbps SSD

Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) Optiarc DVD+/-RW
Power Supply Seasonic X-850 850W 80 Plus Gold
Networking Atheros AR9485 802.11b/g/n
Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC892
7.1 surround jacks
Front Side Optical drive
Card reader
Top Headphone and mic jacks
3x USB 2.0
1x USB 3.0
Fan controller
Back Side PS/2 port
Optical out
4x USB 3.0
7.1 surround jacks
Secondary internal fan controller
2x DVI (GTX 680)
HDMI (GTX 680)
DisplayPort (GTX 680)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Extras 80 Plus Gold power supply
USB 3.0
Card reader
Optimized for silent operation
Warranty 3-year parts and labor
Pricing Starting at $957
Price as configured: $2,755

At roughly $2,755 our second round is about as pricey as our first round was, but we have a couple of good reasons for it this time. While the Intel Core i7-3770K (with a very respectable 4.5GHz overclock) is par for the course on boutique systems, AVADirect has gone with a very high end air cooler (as most silent systems do) instead of the usual closed loop liquid cooler. The Prolimatech Megahalems is not a cheap cooler by any stretch of the imagination.

Another major expense is bound to be the ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt motherboard. Motherboards equipped with Thunderbolt are very gradually becoming more numerous, but the Thunderbolt controllers themselves are still pretty expensive, and the P8Z77-V Pro is a fairly premium motherboard to begin with before you start tacking on that kind of functionality. I can appreciate and admire that AVADirect decided to go whole hog on the board, though.

Finally there's the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680, specifically the ASUS model AVADirect is using. This card is actually even more monstrous than the GTX 580 version found in the last model we were sent, sporting a triple-slot cooler, five heatpipes, and two large fans to keep the card cool. While AVADirect elected not to overclock or tweak the GTX 680, performance should be plenty adequate.

The rest of the build is par for the course, which is why it continues to seem so bizarre that they're sticking with the NZXT H2. There isn't really anything else cheap about this design (you might argue the OCZ Vertex 3, which is one of the more affordable SF-2200 SSDs), so why drop the ball here?

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • StevoLincolnite - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    I would even argue that the CPU was a bit of a downgrade. especially going from a 6-core processor to a 4 core processor.
    Heck, for $2,700 I would hope for a Core i7 3930K or at-least an x79 motherboard paired up with the Core i7 3820, so you could at-least drop in an Ivy-Bridge E when they become available.
  • Paul Tarnowski - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    The last AVADirect PC had a 2700K. The reviewer was comparing the acoustics of that system to his then-current i7-990X. Although yes, that sentence is confusing if you don't follow the link to the review of the previous system.
  • Flunk - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    This is a gaming system, single thread performance is key so having 6 slower cores is a detriment.
  • cknobman - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    While I am not arguing 4 vs 6 core when it comes to gaming I agree with OP on the point he was trying to make.

    For the absurd price I would expect a 6 core processor in this thing and for everything else outside of games this processor is in fact a downgrade.

    I just built a very very similar rig to this one listed with an i7 3770k for far under $2000.
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    "and for everything else outside of games this processor is in fact a downgrade."
    Did you even read the review of the comments just above you? The predecessor had a i7 2700k @ 4.6GHz at its heart. No 6 core CPU!
  • infoilrator - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    You can argue the two points, you have to be doing very specialized computing to benefit from more CPU. Second, if you can afford this level of purchase, I suppose an entire new build is practical as a new tech toy.

    It is too bad you cannot transfer the bits into a case you like more.
  • Jambe - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    Speaking of pre-built computers you're likely to pay too much for; what are the chances you could get a Falcon Northwest Tiki for review? I remember seeing that some time ago and haven't looked to see if there are reviews of it from credible sources.

    I guess I might do a quick search for that.
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I'm actually wondering how the Tiki or Dell's x51 would hold up to being used as a "notebook", thrown in a bag every day and hauled back and forth. They don't seem that much bigger than a large notebook...

    Don't know if they'd physically hold up though.
  • iSayuSay - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    As usual, spec is okay. But come on, for the price, one would demand more, especially on the look. I never find any sexier case than MacPro, why? These PCs can be more costly than basic quad MacPro. And again, I'm not talking about spec, purely just about look and neat interior placement.
    Can't somebody out there design a great looking case for these boutique design tower?

    My office still have a few 2010 MP laying around and yeah, these babies are just IT tech-wonder, looks clean, easy to upgrade. Everything is in order and super organized. Specs are obviously suck for the money, as usual. But you gotta admit it's the sexiest tower around. Externally and internally.

    Now imagine something like MacMini, only bigger like MacPro. Smooth silver aluminum, less holes and screws and no unnecessary LED would be great. And I'm willing to pay $200 more for the case alone. Thank you.
  • Grzesiu - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    The only one I can think of would be the HP/Voodoo Blacbird 002 which was ridiculously expensive. I owned one up until a week ago. Fully equipped with C2Q qx9770, 8GB DDR3 1600MHz, SLI GTX280s and a 1300watt modular psu. I still own the hardware which will soon be up for sale on eBay, but I sold the case alone for $850!

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