Jumping into the world of custom PC configuration can be daunting for people without a fair amount of technical knowledge. That said, especially for those looking for gaming capability or a powerful workstation, custom configuration is normally the best way to go. After looking at a number of different companies, HULIQ News settled on AVA Direct for its newest gaming rig.
AVA DIrect has less advertising exposure in the gaming world than CyberPower, iBuyPower, or even Digital Storm - but HULIQ found their pricing to be the most competitive of the major builders. The company offers an almost overwhelming number of configurators to start with, but HULIQ used the Phenom II AM3 CrossfireX configurator. The configurators are less GUI-intensive as the better known companies, but AVA Direct also offers a much wider selection of parts. Some categories, like GPUs, offer more than 70 options to choose from, which allows for maximum flexibility in selecting a build.
The goal was to deliver a rig capable of playing current and future games on high specs with a budget under $1,000. For comparison purposes, HULIQ has added retail pricing of every major part in parentheses - using retailer Newegg.com for the data.
- Cooler Master HAF 922 Mid-tower Case ($100)
- Antec Earthwatts EA650 650W Power supply ($59)
- ASUS M4A87TD EVO Motherboard ($100)
- AMD Phenom II X-4 955 Black Edition CPU (Quad Core, 3.2GHz) ($145)
- ASUS EAH5770 CUcore/G/2DI/1GD5 Radeon HD 5770 850Mhz, 1GB GDDR5 ($140)
- Kingston 8GB (2 x 4GB) ValueRAM DDR3 1333MHz ($100)
- Seagate 1TB Barracuda 7200.12 ($65)
- Sony AD-7261S 24x DVD drive ($20)
- XIGMATEK 75-in-1 3.5 in card reader ($15)
- Windows 7 64-bit Professional (OEM) ($140)
- Retail Price: $884 (before shipping)
- Built Price: $985 (before shipping)
This is a rather modest markup from retail pricing, and some of the prices on components have dropped since HULIQ originally ordered the computer (the difference at the time was under $50). The order was placed right before Christmas, with final delivery coming three weeks later - a period that would be closer to two weeks if the system had not been ordered around the holidays. The build quality is solid, with cables routed neatly and numerous zip ties keeping everything tidy inside the case (see the picture above).
Another nice touch is that all extra parts included with the case (like zip ties) and motherboard were included in the box. This includes the CrossFireX cable that our single-card build did not need.
The only odd thing about dealing with AVA Direct is that they require a signed Credit Card Authorization Form to charge the consumer's card ahead of time for orders over $1,000. This form must be faxed to the company, something that seems out of place in the Internet era. That said, every time HULIQ contacted the company, they were very prompt in responding.
Worth noting is that this particular build, while already offering a fair amount of computing power, offers several easy upgrade paths. The HAF 922 case offers plenty of space for another full-length video card in CrossFireX mode. The ASUS motherboard has 4 DIMM slots - but only 2 are currently occupied, since the 8GB of memory is on two sticks right now. Moreover, ASUS supports a special "dummy" overclocking mode for Black Edition AMD processors, though four cores at 3.2GHz is more than enough for games out now.
If issues crop up as HULIQ uses the system, this review will be updated, but right now AVA Direct has delivered a solidly built rig at a price that makes doing it yourself seem unnecessary.
Readers with their own custom PC experiences (AVA Direct or another company) or more than welcome to share in the comments!