AVA Direct Custom GT3 SFF Gaming System Review

Introduction and Specifications


When building or buying a desktop gaming system, enthusiasts don't normally put much thought into how much it's going to weigh, or how hard it will be to carry around when attending a LAN party. Notebook and netbook end users are much more weight-conscious consumers than are folks looking at desktops, obviously.  And in the case of a gaming desktop, users tend to opt for power over form factor.  Then the day comes that you decide to bring the system to someone's house, or to a hotel ballroom, for a LAN party. That's when you realize your desktop, in its steel tower case, throws your back out when you try to load it into your car.

AVA Direct's custom GT3 series is aimed squarely at the LAN party gamer, and won't throw out your back with its diminutive size and weight. It's built with portability in mind; the case is small, it comes with a handle and the thing weighs less than 20 pounds. And because it's custom, you can build it up as you please at AVA Direct's Web site.  Finally, due to the fact that the GT3 is more a tiny desktop than a true SFF (Small Form Factor) machine, in theory, it shouldn't sacrifice much power for the sake of portability.

AVA Direct recently sent us a GT3 series system to check out. Overall, we were impressed with how much computer the company was able to cram into the smallish form factor, but we weren't quite as thrilled by its price / performance ratio. With an Intel Core i7 CPU and Intel X58-based motherboard at its heart, we wondered why the company would nerf the system with a relatively underpowered ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card...

 AVA Direct Custom GT3 Gaming System
 System Specifications - As Tested

Intel Core i7 920 (quad core, 2.66GHz, 8MB cache, 4.8GT/sec) at spec frequency


ASUS P6T X58 3-way SLI/quad GPU CrossFire motherboard

Operating System
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit Edition SP1; free Windows 7 upgrade coupon

6GB (3x2GB DIMMs) Kingston ValueRAM PC3-10600 DDR3 1333MHz CL 9, 9, 9, 24

Graphics Cards

1 x 1GB Sapphire Radeon HD 4850

CPU Cooling

Stock Intel Core i7 Cooler


Onboard (Realtek ALC1200 8-Ch. HD CODEC)

Hard Drive
1 x 500GB Western Digital Caviar Black (WD5001AALS)

Optical Drive 1
1 x Lite-On DS-8A2S Slim Black 8x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner, SATA

Flash Card Reader


GTR Tech GT3 SFF Black Case

Power Supply
350W FPS Group, Inc small form factor PSU

Expansion Slots
Motherboard features 3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 (at X16/X16/X4), 1 PCI Express X1, and two PCI slots; however, due to the small, cramped case, none are usable.

IO Ports

1 PS/2 mouse
1 PS/2 heyboard
10 USB 2.0 (6 rear, 4 front)
1 IEEE 1394A
6 standard audio minijacks
Digital audio (1 coax-out and 1 optical-out)
Front audio (1 headset, 1 mic-in)

Storage IO
Motherboard features 6 SATA 3Gbps on southbridge
2 SATA on JMicron JMB322 chip
1 UDMA 133; due to cramped case, very few are usable, and there is no room for additional internal storage devices.

Bundled/Installed Software

Ulead Burn.Now 4.5 SE

Warranty and Support

3 year warranty ("limited" parts, plus labor)

$1,382.04 USD
(as configured and tested)

The Warranty:

From the Web site: "All of our computers are designed for maximum reliability and performance. We understand that your computer system is important to you; therefore, we have taken all the necessary steps to provide the best service and support possible."

The Silver Warranty package included with this system offers three years "limited" warranty on parts, three years on labor, and lifetime toll-free tech support. It goes on to explain that the parts are pre-tested by both their manufacturers and AVA Direct before they're put into service, that the PC is assembled and burned in over 24 to 48 hours, and that it's shipped within three to five business days after order.

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