AVA Direct Core i7 GT3 Slim Looks Great, Performs Well
At a Glance
This beautiful desktop-on-a-diet is burdened with a $1327 cost (as of February 1, 2010)--a cost that seems a little high given what it ultimately delivers.
The GT3 is based on Intel's 2.66GHz Core i7 920 processor. It's a fine CPU in its own right, as it ultimately allows the system to reach one of the stronger plateaus of performance in the value PC category. However, competing systems like CyberPower's Gamer Xtreme 2000 offer a higher-performing (and, at $1100, less expensive) Core i5-based setup. The GT3's 6GB of DDR3 memory is certainly an above-average amount for this category, but its single 500GB hard drive trails the terabyte storage found on other, similarly priced value desktops.
The GT3's score of 125 easily places it among the top-performing value PCs we've seen of late. But the aforementioned Gamer Xtreme 2000 spanks the GT3 with a score of 142. And that's not the worst news. Even cheaper rigs (Dell's Studio XPS 435 or Velocity Micro's Edge Z5; both $1000 as of 8/23/09) match or beat the GT3's general performance, and tackle it in gaming, too.
The GT3 Slim Portable hit 48 frames per second in our Enemy Territory: Quake Wars test, and 53 fps in Unreal Tournament 3 (both 2560-by-2100 resolution, high quality). In contrast, the Gamer Xtreme delivers a 60-to-80 percent increase in performance, depending on the title. Velocity Micro's Edge Z5 matches the GT3 in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and overtakes it by 15 fps, on average, in Unreal Tournament 3. Dell's Studio XPS 435 delivers clean wins on both, topping the GT3 by 13 fps in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, and 17 fps in Unreal Tournament 3.
To AVADirect's credit, the GT3's case design looks downright awesome. The superslim PC doesn't take up much room on a desk, but more important, its gridlike exterior design and hidden front-panel connection bay create a refined, industrial look. Accessing the system's interior is as easy as working a handle on the top of the rig. After that, however, you're in for a battle.
The internal design actually flips a number of common internal components vertically to achieve its smaller width. That cuts down on your available connections and upgrade points, for starters. In fact, you have only one open PCI slot to play with--that's it. And even accessing that single connector is taxing enough. Good luck should you ever have to replace a hard drive, swap out an optical drive, or add more memory.
AVADirect helps offset this limitation with a wealth of connection options that should obviate most internal tinkering. The rear of the system is home to an impressive trifecta of six USB ports, one FireWire 400 port, and one e-SATA port. Coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs, a gigabit ethernet port, and integrated 7.1 surround sound rounds out the mix. Although the GT3's front does tuck away a pleasing four USB ports behind a little push-lock door, it would be nice to have some additional connector type join them.
An illuminated Saitek Eclipse keyboard came with our test machine; it has a pretty blue backlight and an attached, cushiony resting place for your wrists. The keyboard itself doesn't really have any extra keys, save for buttons that control volume and the brightness of the Eclipse's lighting. The GT3's included mouse, a Microsoft Arc, is as comfortable to use as it is elegant. A series of customizable buttons allow you to launch programs on the fly, and the mouse itself folds up to preserve space when you're taking it on the go.
It's unclear what justifies the price premium of this system. If it's just the reduced size of the rig compared with normal value desktops, well, the trade-off of extremely limited upgradability for a smaller girth is less than appealing, at best. The GT3's general performance would be great--for a $1000 machine.