The biggest names in gaming computers, Origin, Falcon Northwest, and Alienware, all build you a computer to order with a combination of OEM and consumer parts, carefully chosen for their compatibility. They assemble them into a custom, purpose-built case that can’t be found anywhere else.
A custom case doesn’t come free, though, which is why many gaming PCs have an eye-watering price. AVADirect takes a different approach, building systems to order from off-the-shelf parts. They’re like a friend who builds computers charging you to put one together, and delivering it to you when they’re done. An incredibly talented friend, with access to the sweetest components.
In theory, this approach offers more bang for your buck, and the X99 Gaming System we received was configured to prove that point. It arrived with an octa-core Intel Core i7-5960X, which has a base clock of 3.0GHz, and 16GB of Corsair DDR4 RAM. It also had a pair of EVGA Superclocked GTX 980s, which is what you’ll need if you want to game 4K. For storage, AVADirect included a one terabyte Samsung 850 EVO SSD, and a two terabyte Western Digital Black drive.
That’s pretty close to the Origin Millennium from late 2014, and the Falcon Northwest Mach V, though those machines boasted a third video card. The AVADirect system is cheaper than both of them, too, but whether it can hold its own in a world of beautiful custom-built PCs remains to be seen.
Fits in at a LAN party, but you wouldn’t want to carry it there
If you don’t mind being a bit of a show-off you’ll really like the look AVADirect went with for this system. The case was a stock Corsair Graphite 760T in Arctic White, which has lots of room for parts. One side houses an open space with places to tie down cables and grommets to run them through to the other side, where a large case window shows off the rig’s expensive hardware.
Because the case is intended for builders and not companies, the front fan grill easily clicks off, which isn’t ideal on a prebuilt system. There’s also a front-mounted fan controller with a touch screen that lets you use fan presets, but it can be difficult to understand, and the controls could be more responsive.
The case feels sturdy, with lots of room for expansion if you need more hard drives, or even a third GPU. Rather than thumbscrews on the back, small latches at the front allow the doors to swing open. They glide smoothly and sit where you leave them, and easily close again with a snap. The exterior of the case looks a little flashier than a lot of Corsair cases, with extra parts and curves that seem to only be there for aesthetic reasons.
You’ll find this PC makes a poor LAN rig, because it’s absolutely gigantic. The Corsair 760T case sits over 22 inches tall, and weighs just under 25 pounds before there are any parts in it. It’s much larger than your standard desktop tower, though it’s actually smaller and lighter than competing full-tower PCs from Origin and Falcon Northwest.
Connects to everything
Once again taking the kitchen sink approach to building a gaming rig, AVADirect has outfitted the X99 Gaming system with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 16 USB ports – four on the front, two of which are 3.0 capable, and 10 on the back, plus a dedicated BIOS flashback and a lone 2.0 on the rear – a Blu-Ray drive, and a 65-in-1 memory card reader, which happens to pack in a 17th USB port.
However, since every AVADirect machine is made custom to order, the number of ports on your machine will depend on the exact hardware you purchase.
It looks nice, but it doesn’t feel great
One of the big differences between a high-end system you buy from Origin or Falcon Northwest, and one you have custom built, is how everything is laid out inside. Because the Corsair case is designed to accept a large number of motherboards and components for at-home system builders, things feel a little more thrown-together inside.
If you’re already willing to spend $5000 on a gaming PC, the price jump up to similar systems isn’t a significant one.
The 3.5” drive bays are tough to plug in from the back, and they’re pretty flimsy, which are issues you’ll have with a builder case that you might not with the proprietary cases from the other manufacturers. The Origin or Falcon cases have just the right amount of room for the parts that are included, with a little space for expansion, rather than being a blank slate with room for a large number of components.
That said, the interior of the case is well organized, and allows easy access to the RAM, CPU, and graphics cards. The bright blue braided SATA cables used by AVADirect in our build look great with all of the components (except the Nvidia cards, which glow fluorescent green) and interior lighting.
At the core of the AVADirect X99 Gaming System is a top-of-the-line Intel Core i7-5960X, an octa-core processor with a 3GHz clock speed, and 3.5GHz Turbo Boost. Backing it up is 16GB of Corsair memory, accompanied by a pair of super-clocked EVGA GTX 980s in an SLI configuration for a total of 8GB of VRAM. For storage, AVADirect included a one terabyte Samsung 850 EVO SSD, and a two terabyte Western Digital Black drive.
In fact, the only machines we’ve tested recently that come anywhere close performance-wise are high-end gaming systems from the end of 2014. They beat out the AVADirect X99 machine we reviewed by a noticeable amount, but were also better equipped. While the Origin Millennium` we reviewed late last year had an MSRP of about $6,300, Origin now sells a similarly equipped system to the AVADirect for only about $5,300. A Falcon Northwest Mach V that has similar specs comes in around $5,900; neither system is much more expensive than the AVADirect.
The exterior of the case looks a little flashier than most, with extra parts and curves that seem to only be there for aesthetic reasons.
The hard drives included a one terabyte Samsung 850 EVO SSD, on which the OS was already installed. It hit more than acceptable 524.1 megabytes per second read speed, and wrote at 506.8MB/s, which is fast enough for even the most demanding games. It wasn’t quite as fast as the drives in the Falcon Northwest system we reviewed, but those were in a RAID array, and the Mach V came with a higher as-tested price as a result.
For extra space, AVADirect included a two terabyte Western Digital Caviar Black drive, which at 174.2MB/s read, and 168.4MB/s write, won’t win any awards for speed. It’s perfect for stashing extra media, making a system backup, or storing less demanding games you don’t have room for on the main drive.
When it came to graphics, the advantages of the Falcon and Origin machines are a bit clearer, in large part due to the fact that both of those machines have three GTX 980s, as opposed to the pair of superclocked EVGA cards in the AVADirect X99 system. Other than that, all three systems have the same CPU and motherboard, with twice the RAM in the Falcon box.
That being said, all three machines performed excellently on our tests, with the AVADirect coming in a close third to the Origin. Although both trailed behind the Falcon Northwest by a bit on the Cloud Gate and Fire Strike tests, they all came in much higher than any other systems we’ve reviewed. A third Nvidia GTX 980 would have pushed the benchmarks on the AVADirect into the top tier of consumer computers, but even with two it pulled out a very high Fire Strike score, in the top one percent of tested computers according to Furmark. With scores like that, it’s bound to be great to game on.
Speaking of which – let’s get to the real-world gaming tests.
The least demanding game in our lineup, Diablo 3 has been around a few years, but is still a fan favorite. Even with the graphical settings turned up, maintaining high frame rates is no issues for the AVADirect.
Kicking it into 4K produces very little slow-down, keeping frames per second above 141 even with textures set to high, anti-aliasing on, and shadows on smooth. Again, the only competitors for performance are other systems with two or more GTX 980s, or a Titan X. The Falcon Northwest Mach V, which has three GTX 980s, beats out the AVADirect,, but by less than 20 FPS.
Civilization: Beyond Earth
The newest game in the Sid Meier franchise is surprisingly tricky to run at max settings, and we turned on 8x MSAA to really put this rig to the test. While running at 1080p the AVADirect is able to hold the average FPS at 177 even at the top settings. With the game running in 4K, things get a little rockier.
While the average at 4K holds at 76 FPS, the system drops down to a 41 FPS minimum, particularly struggling when the camera zoomed out and lots of tiles were on screen. That’s not terrible, and it lines up with most of the other systems we’ve reviewed in its price range, including the Falcon Northwest Mach V.
While running Battlefield 4 in 1080p, the AVADirect X99 is able to hit the game’s hard cap of 200 FPS at both medium and ultra settings. Under the highest settings, the game only drops to 169 FPS at a minimum, which isn’t anywhere close to a performance drop you would notice.
When we turned up the resolution to 4K, the AVADirect is still able to hold its own. With medium detail settings, the shooter holds a 145 FPS average. When we kick up the details to ultra, the AVADirect still doesn’t break a sweat, bringing home a smooth average of 75 FPS.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
The AVADirect proves very adept at running one of the most popular RPGs of 2014. In 1080p, it holds an average FPS of 196 on medium settings, and even on the most demanding settings it stays around 156 FPS, only dropping down to 99 at a minimum.
In 4K, we start to see the effects of the newest generation of gaming on the twin GTX 980s. With the graphics on the normal preset, the AVADirect keeps the average frame rate just below 90 FPS, and it above 52 the whole time. When we crank up the quality and turn on the high detail texture pack, the average comes down to 68 FPS, but at its slowest only drops to 44.
Those are very playable numbers, and pretty close to what we saw out of the Falcon Northwest Mach V when we tested Shadow of Mordor in 4K on that machine.
With the remastered version of GTA V having recently released on PC, we figure it’s time to see how it runs on our test systems.
The AVADirect holds its own. At 1080p resolution, it manage an average between 120 and 125, regardless of quality, although it’s worth nothing that during the stressful built-in benchmark, the minimum FPS was down in the 30s.
Turn it up to 4K, and the game looks really gorgeous. Under medium settings, the average frame rate is around 111 FPS, which is buttery smooth even when flying a turbo jet. With all the graphical settings turned up, average fps drops to about 64, which is still pretty smooth considering how nice the game looks at very high detail settings.
Power needs power
Gaming computers are notorious for drawing a ludicrous amount of power, especially under load. While the AVADirect X99 is no exception to that rule, it does manage to keep the power down when compared to other similarly equipped systems. While idling, the power floats around 133 watts.
The modular power supply helps keep clutter down, but it’s not as clean as the insides of competing systems.
With the processor stressed during the 7-Zip benchmark test, the power consumption comes up to around 210 watts, higher than the Origin Millennium, but well under the power use of the Falcon, which hovers around 362 watts during the 7-Zip test.
With 3DMark running, the system shows its true colors, pulling in about 431 watts with the graphics cards firing on all cylinders. The Falcon Northwest and the Origin were averaging 770 and 684 watts respectively under the same conditions, mostly owing to the third GTX 980 chugging away.
We’ve heard louder
One benefit to liquid cooling your CPU is keeping the noise level relatively low. Despite dual GPUs and a slew of fans on the front, back, and top of the case, the AVADirect cuts a relatively stealthy 38 decibels while idling. Even when working hard on rendering or processing files and the extra fans kicked on, it still manages to keep a quiet 42dB.
The digital fan controller built into the front of the box can define preset fan speed and configurations, and raise or lower the speed, as well as see the current temperature from a number of probes in the box attached to the CPU, SSD, and one of the graphics cards. In practice, we didn’t use it much, since the auto setting did a good job of regulating heat without getting too loud.
AVADirect offers one and three year limited warranties. The company will replace any component that fails under normal wear and tear during that time period. Because the parts are all purchased from third party manufacturers, they’re also covered under each company’s normal warranty policy.
No one ever said gaming was cheap, but as far as top-notch performance goes, the AVADirect X99 is a capable gaming computer at a relatively affordable price. If you know how to build a system you could put something similar together and save yourself a few hundred (or thousand) dollars, but you’d also have to spend extra time grouping and running cables, troubleshooting any issues that come up, and installing LEDs to bring it in line with the quality of the AVADirect X99 system.
On top of that, the as-configured price is about $5,000, only about $300 less than the competing Origin Millenium from late 2014. Another $600 or so up from the Origin, around $5,900, was the Falcon Northwest system we tested from late last year.
Of course, for the extra money, those companies give you cases, components, and setup that you couldn’t do on your own, including professionally tested overclocking and (in some cases) a really slick paint job.
Is skimping on originality, and buying something you could build yourself, really worth saving a few hundred bucks? That comes down to personal taste, and whether having something unique is worth the extra money. With that in mind, if you’re already willing to spend $5,000 on a gaming PC, the price jump up to the Origin or Falcon Northwest systems isn’t a significant one. This AVADirect is a nice rig, but not quite as impressive as the heavily customized hardware some competitors can deliver.
- Top-tier performance
- Easy to upgrade
- Comparatively low price point
- Off the shelf parts
- Humongous case
- Tough to access hard drive bays