Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
AVADirect produces and sells very high-end gaming machines using the latest top of the line hardware, and they are well known in the industry. Today I will take a look at an Avant Garde model loaded with upgrades that more than double its price over the base model. The dictionary defines avant-garde as, "New and unusual or experimental ideas, especially in the arts, or the people introducing them."
I have to admit; the machine looks like a piece of art, AVADirect makes the machine both stunningly beautiful and extraordinarily powerful.
Let's take a look what AVADirect has to offer with the Avant Garde gaming PC.
The Avant Garde we have in for review today uses an overclocked 7700K, 32GB of DDR4, two 256GB Samsung 960 EVOs in RAID 0, two GTX 1080 Ti Founder Edition GPUs in SLI, all in a beautiful Corsair Crystal Series 570X case. We have tested high-end gaming PCs, and for now, the best gaming CPU is the Intel 7700K because it's easy to overclock, has just enough cores, and offers higher single core performance than other CPUs on the market.
The 7700K is overclocked to 4.7GHz; cache frequency is fixed at 4.2GHz, memory XMP is loaded and runs at 2400MHz. The two 960 EVO M.2 SSDs in RAID 0 produce a 512GB monster that saturates DMI bandwidth when reading files, and there is a 1TB HDD that can be used to store larger files like games.
The AVADirect Avant Garde has a base price of $1,1849; our configuration costs $2,799.
Packaging and System
The Avant Garde is shipped fully built inside a huge AVADirect box, not pictured. The typical way to ship a system is inside the box of the case, and that is what AVADirect has done here. They also provide extra power cables for the PSU and the extra sleeved cables. To ensure that internals don't shift during shipping, foam is placed inside the PC, all you have to do is pull it out.
They do include a nice yellow warning paper with instructions for preparing the unit for use.
All the fans are Corsair SP120 high performance RGB LED fans; this is their default color. The case is just beautiful but extremely heavy. The front shows off three of the fans through tempered glass. The rear of the unit features the IO panel, an exhaust fan, and PSU.
The rear IO panel features a clear CMOS button, BIOS Flashback button, WIFI antenna ports, HDMI, DisplayPort, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, 1Gbit LAN, USB 3.1 type-C, USB 3.1 type-A, and 7.1 audio outputs with S/PDIF. Collectively the two GPUs offer six DisplayPort and two HDMI ports. The PSU also has an ECO switch, by default it's in the OFF position.
Both side panels use tempered glass and are very hard to photograph because of the glare, but in person, they look awesome. The default color theme here is red/pink and blue, and it looks rad. I am not a big fan of transparent back-side side panels as you can see the cabling, but AVADirect's builders did a nice job of routing and hiding wires, so it doesn't look half bad.
The top of the unit also features tempered glad. The unit offers two USB 3.0 ports, headphone jack, and microphone jack. Right above the power button are three buttons that control the RGB LEDs built into the six fans. One changes the mode, another changes time interval, and the last changes color. The bottom of the unit features a slide-out dust filter you can pull out from behind. Two large feet stabilize the case, which is extremely heavy.
The top of the unit also features an easily removable dust filter. Although the fans are Corsair SP120 fans, AVADirect has customized them with stickers; you wouldn't know they were from Corsair except that they work with Corsair's entire RGB LED system.
Teardown of the Avant Garde
To remove any of the side panels you just need to remove four thumbscrews. It looks like AVADirect did an excellent job of routing the cables, but I was a bit surprised they didn't use cable combs. The 1TB HDD is mounted on the rear of the chassis.
The two GTX 1080 Ti Founder's Edition GPUs use an EVGA high-bandwidth SLI bridge. The Maximus IX Formula motherboard has a ton of RGB LEDs built into the motherboard as well as a full body shield. It looks like AVADirect routes some required water cooling cables under the shield to the bottom ports.
The USB 3.0 internal cable is plugged into the right-angled USB 3.0 header beneath the bottom GPU. At the bottom we see the USB 2.0 internal cable attached to the Corsair H100i V2 water cooling unit, the HD Audio header is routed to the front panel, and both chassis fan headers are occupied.
Both the M.2 slots are used, one is vertical while the other is underneath an M.2 cover. We can see the wires routed under the shield, and that is no easy task to accomplish. Having reviewed this motherboard, I can attest to the difficulty of removing the shield as you have to remove the rear shield before you can remove the front. Corsair's RGB LED controller for the fans is mounted behind the motherboard tray, and all six RGB controller ports are occupied.
The SP Lighting Controller is mounted on the rear of the motherboard tray, and it's a redundant system as the case has the same buttons mounted on top. The motherboard does offer an RGBW LED strip that encompasses the bottom, front, and top of the inside lip of the right side-panel, but you cannot control it. It uses an RGBW LED controller which only offers a rainbow/fade cycle. I did see an option for a different RGB LED strip scheme with a remote.
BIOS and Software
AVADirect's BIOS is the BIOS of the Maximus IX Formula. They have two stored profiles in case you mess up the settings; "AVADirect Default" and "AVADirect Overclocked."
The CPU is overclocked to 47x on all cores with adaptive VCore of 1.28, XMP is set, DRAM voltage is set to 1.21v. Fans are also all set to the silent profile. RAID of the M.2 drives is also part of AVADirect's profile.
There is no software from AVADirect, just Corsair's Link software that allows you to monitor the water cooler and over hardware components.
Test Setup and Benchmarks
She is so damn beautiful I almost don't want to let her go!
CPU, Memory, System, and Graphics Benchmarks
AIDA64 AES and HASH
HandBrake Video Encoding
PCMark8 Home Test
3DMark Cloud Gate
Ashes of the Singularity
Grand Theft Auto V
UNIGINE Heaven 4.0
Resident Evil 6
Rise of the Tomb Raider
AVADirect's Avant Garde offers superior performance over many of the other contenders, but it's a bit different than the Raptor Z55 PC which it goes head to head with in almost every benchmark. The Avant Garde's CPU is overclocked to 4.7GHz while the Raptor Z55 is overclocked to 4.8GHz, and that is why it doesn't win in all the CPU benchmarks.
The two GTX 1080 Ti Founder Edition GPUs shine brightly in real life gaming scenarios when we increase the resolution to 4K. Otherwise, the games are usually CPU bound at lower resolutions.
Storage and Network Performance
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The Avant Garde's RAID 0 960 EVOs takes the cake as the fastest in our charts, Intel's DMI is bottlenecking them, and that in itself says something. Network performance is top notch, but I expected as much since I have already reviewed the motherboard used in this PC.
Temperature and Power Consumption
The power consumption of the Avant Garde is high, but that is because of the dual GPUs.
The thermal performance of the unit is what one might expect. Airflow is excellent within the case, and the CPU runs very cool, and the GPUs have great access to clean, cool air. The PC runs very well and doesn't get loud. The six case fans are set to ASUS's silent profile in the UEFI as per AVADirect's tuning.
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Here are key points about the Avant Garde.
Hefty Hardware: The AVADirect Avant Garde is loaded to the brim with high-performance hardware. Two GTX 1080 Ti Found Edition GPUs in SLI, two 960 EVOs in RAID 0, the Maximus IX Formula, and an overclocked 7700K are a match made in heaven, and perhaps the best combination for gaming currently on the market.
Beautiful: The Avant Garde is perhaps the most beautiful PC I have ever reviewed. Something about the red/pink case fans matched with the blue cabling and RGB LEDs is an awesome color combination. The best part is that you have tempered glass on six out of the eight sides of the chassis so you can always enjoy the beauty within.
Clean Cabling: Whoever built this Avant Garde did an excellent job with the wiring. The build is clean, so clean that even the backside of the motherboard tray where you usually hide your wires is clean, so clean you won't be embarrassed showing off the backside of your rig.
No Bloatware: A lot of PC buyers get a nice helping of custom software from the vendors who built their systems. That isn't true for the Avant Garde, and you can install software for the motherboard, but there is no reason too, and AVADirect doesn't impose that on you.
RGBW LED Strip Control: The RGBW strip uses a controller that you can't control, it runs the strip in a rainbow configuration that cycles. Some people might not like it and might want more control, but it looked great to me. UPDATE: There is in fact a remote controller included with the system that we missed. Apologies!
The AVADirect Avant Garde is one of the best gaming PCs you can buy right now if you want to play the latest triple-A titles in 4K. Under 4K, you really don't need the second GPU since you will be CPU bound, but at 4K, we see some huge gains with the SLI setup. I was very impressed with the build quality and how well they hid the cables.
I really enjoyed the lighting, and while some people might be anti-RGB, I feel that if you use them tastefully like AVADirect does here, your PC can be displayed as a piece of art.
While the Avant Garde in our configuration costs as much as a really cheap used car, it's so much more fun and is an excellent weapon for 4K gaming.
The Bottom Line: AVADirect's Avant Garde gaming PC is both the beauty and the beast when it comes to high-performance 4K gaming.
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