Introduction, Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Lomita, California-based V3 Gaming is a new boutique builder on the block. Founded in 2010 by a team of industry veterans (some of whom worked at now-defunct boutique Vigor PC), the company focuses on high-performance machines for the enthusiast market using the latest and greatest hardware available.
For this review, V3 set us up with the Avenger; a full-on 3D capable machine running a trio of ZOTAC GTX 480s and using NVIDIA's 3D Vision system.
Let's strap on the goggles and get gaming!
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Here's the Avenger's specs:
V3 sells all its systems through the company website, v3gaming.com. As configured, the Avenger goes for $3,599USD, including ground shipping in the US.
For 3D gaming, you'll need a compatible monitor and an NVIDIA 3D Vision Kit, which are available through V3 Gaming, but not included in the price of the Avenger.
V3 includes a three-year warranty for parts and lifetime labor and technical support.
Packaging, Internals and Set-Up
The Avenger rolled into town in a plain brown system box.
Underneath the top flap, we find a glimpse of the foam brackets that cushion the system during transit, as well as the MSI motherboard packaging, which has been repurposed as the accessories box.
As we dig deeper, we see that V3 has also reused the Antec "Twelve Hundred" chassis packaging for the inner box.
Freed from its cardboard and foam prison, we get our first look at the Avenger. Using a combination of matte and glossy textures along with a clear window, gives the system a sleek, monochromatic appearance.
V3 has applied vinyl logo decals on both sides of the chassis to spruce it up a bit.
The full ATX chassis has plenty of room inside and no shortage of fans, including the large 200mm one on top.
The Blu-ray drive occupies the uppermost optical bay. Just above that we have the front I/O, which consists of two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, and mic & headphone jacks.
Rear I/O consists of PS/2 keyboard and mouse inputs, optical and coaxial S/PDIF outs, 2xUSB2.0, 2xSATA, FireWire, 2xUSB3.0, Ethernet, and multi-channel analog audio outs. Each of the three GPUs have DVI and HDMI outs.
Inside we see the Asetek liquid CPU cooler and radiator, as well as the three ZOTAC GTX 480 GPUs stacked on top of one another. Even with four physical hard drives installed, there's still room for more. The components are all hooked up with a nice, tidy wiring job - something we definitely expect to see in a system from a boutique builder.
Documentation & Accessories
The accessories box contained a few cables and the manuals for several of the internal components.
A black binder contained a ZOTAC driver disc and a disc of DirectX 11 and CUDA technology demos, as well as an invoice and Steam download coupons for Mafia II and Napoleon: Total War.
For this review, V3 and ASUS provided us with a very nice ASUS VG236 23-inch 120MHz 3D-ready LCD monitor and an nVIDIA 3D Vision Kit.
The 3D Vision kit includes the rechargeable glasses, two USB cables, transmitter, documentation, and two extra nosepieces for the glasses.
General Hands-On Usage and Performance
General Hands-On Usage
Here's a CPU-Z screenshot showing some detailed specs of what's running under the V3 Avenger's hood:
And here's a GPU-Z screenshot showing the status for the graphics card.
With three GTX 480s in SLI, we definitely consider the Avenger a high-end system. Everyday computing tasks also proved pleasurable with this system. With not only a solid-state drive (SSD) for the operating system, but two SSDs in RAID 0, the Avenger makes Windows 7 feel lightning-fast. Programs opened and closed quite quickly, and our benchmarks reflected this supped up performance as well.
The overclocked i7 930 processor kept up with demand and did not experience any stability issues. A 40% overclock is no small feat, and V3 proved its tweaking mettle in this regard.
These configuration tweaks (the RAID-configured SSDs and OC'd CPU) provide a great deal of added value for the customer, and this "getting the most performance bang for the hardware buck" philosophy is one of the niches where boutique builders separate themselves from the mass-production outfits.
The Avenger comes with CyberLink's PowerDVD 9 installed, which is also 3D capable. We did not have one of the (rather limited) 3D Blu-ray titles available, but we did watch some 2D Blu-ray footage, which looked great on the 23" 120Hz capable ASUS monitor.
In a system built for speed such as the V3 Avenger, it should come as no surprise that it delivered a boot time of only 38 seconds.
The Avenger consumes 302 watts of power at idle, hopping up to 605 watts under load.
We ran this custom rig through the standard media encoding test regime here at TweakTown, which includes music and video transcoding.
All systems are tested "as is", which means operating systems and drivers can and do vary and some come pre-installed with applications that may or may not affect performance.
Any anti-virus or security applications are disabled and uninstalled before any testing is started, as they can affect test numbers.
For the iTunes encoding test we took the White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Lights album in MP3 format and encode it to AAC format using iTunes and time the results with a stopwatch.
The Avenger completed this task in 55 seconds.
For the movie-encoding test, we took the Microsoft Magic of Flight VC-1 WMV (1080p HD) video with six-channel audio and transcode it to XviD (1080p HD) with LAME MP3 two-channel audio and an MP4 container using MediaCoder 0.7.3.4616 32-bit edition.
The V3 took 67 seconds to complete this task.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 64-bit
CINEBENCH R10 64-bit
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
The V3 rendered a 3D model of a sports bike in 43 seconds.
Benchmarks - Super Pi
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5 Mod XS
Developer Homepage: http://pw1.netcom.com/~hjsmith/Pi/Super_Pi.html
Product Homepage: http://pw1.netcom.com/~hjsmith/Pi/Super_Pi.html
Developed by some folks from the University of Tokyo, Super PI is a small utility that does just as the name implies. It figures PI to a set number of decimal places. Since PI is an infinite number to the right of the decimal point, the utility measures the time it takes to figure a set number of places. It runs the calculations a set number of times and gives a time for the completion of the task. This is a simple and effective way to measure the raw number crunching power of the processor being used to compile the results.
The Avenger calculated pi out to the 1 millionth digit in 10.1 seconds.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
Unfortunately, we were never able to get a 3DMark Vantage score for the V3 Avenger. 3DMark would spit out an error message just as the first sequence was about to run.
We did some troubleshooting on Futuremark's website to no avail. We also did a clean reinstall of the ForceWare drivers (V3 had already shipped the system with the most recent 260.99 drivers). We then turned to V3 for assistance. A representative from V3 confirmed the system had been tested with 3DMark Vantage prior to shipping and had not experienced any issues.
V3 walked us through some additional troubleshooting to rule out hardware issues. Since we weren't experiencing any crashes or artifacting during actual gaming, we decided to just forego this test and blame it on the gremlins.
TweakTown strives to provide our readers with a reasonable expectation of what they can expect in terms of real-world performance in our gaming tests. Instead of testing all systems and titles at, say, 1280x768 with 4xAA and comparing framerates, we determine a particular system's maximum playable settings and report those settings along with the resultant framerates. Even though this makes direct comparison between systems a bit more difficult, we feel it best reflects how the typical gamer uses a system. Most players aren't interested in getting framerates in the 100s at 1280x768 if the title is still playable at 1680x1050.
Let's talk a little bit about 3D Stereoscopic gaming. 3D Stereoscopic gaming works by rendering two separate, slightly offset layers of the same image on a compatible monitor. With NVIDIA's system, the player wears a set of glasses that has a shutter in each lens. The shutters are synchronized with the computer via a small transmitter connected to the PC by USB. Each shutter rapidly opens and closes a set amount of times per second, allowing one layer of the rendered image to pass to one eye and then, a split-second later, allows the other layer of the image to the other eye.
These cycles happen faster than the human eye can register them (a phenomenon known as "persistence of vision"), which creates the illusion of motion. Each eye sees one layer of the image from a slightly different angle than the other eye (a phenomenon known as "parallax"). When done correctly, the human brain combines the two sets, creating the illusion of three dimensions.
As a result, for the most realistic 3D effect, these cycles have to happen at a precise rate (usually, 30, 60, or 120 cycles per second, or Hertz [Hz]). Therefore, when gaming in 3D mode, the GPUs attempt to keep the framerates as close to one of these rates as possible.
So, for the purposes of this review, we measured both framerates in 3D mode as well as framerates in regular gaming mode. This gives a more accurate summation of the system's stereoscopic performance, while still allowing us to compare the Avenger's performance to other, non-3D capable, systems.
When launching a 3D title, the system displays a text overlay describing which settings should be reduced, increased, or turned off completely for optimal 3D image quality. We've noted those settings below, when applicable.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Using Arkham Asylum's built-in benchmarking tool (included in Patch 1.1), we achieved maximum playable settings at 1920x1080 with 16xAA and "Very High" performance settings.
Frame rates in regular mode were as follows: 190 max, 81 min, with an average of 137.
In stereoscopic mode, with Motion Blur turned off as advised, the Avenger delivered a max of 60, with a low of 47, and an average of 57.
Of all our test titles, Batman: Arkham Asylum probably looked the best in 3D. It gave us the most convincing and immersive sense of depth of the games we tested. The Joker also looked quite cool in all his lanky weirdness rendered in 3D.
Far Cry 2
We ran Far Cry 2 with all the settings maxed out at 1920x1080, 8xAA, and Ultra High detail level.
It averaged 170 fps, with a high of 363 and a low of 101 in normal gaming mode.
For the 3D experience, we turned off Bloom lighting and knocked FX Post-Processing and Shadows down from "Ultra High" to "High." This got us an average fps of 59, with a min/max of 55 and 62, respectively.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
At 1920x1080, the Avenger delivered an average of 85 fps, with a maximum of 111 and a minimum of 58.
In 3D mode (this title didn't require any changes to the settings), the Avenger delivered an average of 50 fps, with a maximum of 63 and a low of 32.
This title was also quite enjoyable to play in 3D, although the new sense of depth was sometimes a bit jarring. For instance, zooming your rifle sight (right mouse button) made the rifle look super long - so long that the end of the barrel (and front sight) was somewhat blurry.
The system cranked out an average of 438, with a max of 727 and min of 257 at 1920x1080 and Very High detail level.
In 3D mode, it delivered an average of 29, with a max of 42 and min of 21. In addition to these low framerates, the recommendation to disable Shadow Maps, High Detail Post-Processing, and Distortion noticeably affected image quality. It looked better and was far more enjoyable to play in non-3D mode.
For an in-depth discussion of what an overclocked GTX 480 can do, see here.
In addition to supplying a very fun and immersive stereoscopic 3D gaming experience, the Avenger from V3 Gaming proved to be quite a performance powerhouse. Although we were never able to get a 3DMark Vantage score on it, the other benchmarks show that the Avenger performs well towards the head of the class, especially in regular gaming mode.
V3 gives us the type of machine we expect from a quality boutique shop, including value-adding tweaks such as significant, stable processor overclocking and RAID 0 hard drive performance. The build quality is rock solid and, as we learned during the review process, the guys at V3 are very easy to get a hold of and a pleasure to deal with. Had we absolutely needed to get 3DMark Vantage running on this system, we're quite confident V3 would have resolved the issue for us.
Even if you're not yet in the market for a 3D system, V3 offers a wide range of systems at reasonable prices and will work with you to configure a system that meets your needs both now and in the future. The Avenger is a great system that we don't hesitate to recommend.