Small Introduction, Grand Entrance

Usually the review hardware we handle is offered to us, cherry picked by the OEM or dealer as something they want to draw some attention to. The Nano Gaming Cube from AVADirect is different: this one is personal. Our review unit has been shopped around to other sites, but no one bothered to really put it through its paces or even take pictures of the inside of the thing just to figure out what kind of prestidigitation had to occur in order to produce a Mini-ITX gaming system. I had to see it for myself. It may be a curio, it may be impractical, but it's also damn tiny for what's inside it.

AVADirect Nano Cube Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-750S @ 3GHz (166MHz Bclk with x18 multiplier)
(spec: 4x2.4GHz, 45nm, 8MB L3, 82W)
Chipset DFI Lanparty Motherboard with P55 chipset
Memory 2x2GB Kingston DDR3-1333 (expandable to 8GB)
Graphics Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X 1GB GDDR5
(1600 Stream Processors, 870MHz Core, 5GHz Memory, 256-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Corsair Nova 128GB SSD
Optical Drive(s) Pioneer Slim DVD+/-RW
Networking Intel Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC885 HD Audio
speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Front Side Optical Drive
2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top Nothing
Back Side 2x PS/2
S/PDIF and TOSlink digital audio jacks
6x USB 2.0
Gigabit Ethernet jack
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks
2x DVI-D
DisplayPort
HDMI
AC Power
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 8.7" x 13" x 5.1" (WxDxH)
Weight N/A
Extras AthenaPower 470W MiniITX Power Supply
Modified SilverStone Sugo SG06 Case
Overclocked from warehouse
Warranty 3-year limited warranty and lifetime phone support
Pricing Priced similarly to configuration (9/13/2010): $1,582

The configuration of the Nano Cube is a thoughtful one, starting from the low-voltage processor. An Intel Core i5-750S at stock runs at a low clock speed of 2.4GHz, but also has a TDP of just 82 watts. With two active cores under Turbo Boost, that speed jumps up to a respectable 3.2GHz; the 750S overall seems to sit nicely in between Intel's mobile quads and the higher wattage standard desktop chips. For this build, though, the 750S runs at an overclock of 3GHz, all the time. It won't turbo up to 3.2GHz, and this might not have been the right call as we'll discuss later.

This juncture might be a good place to mention that our review unit is a bit out of date, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The DFI board is less than ideal and hopelessly outdated as far as the I/O goes on the back, but newer boards available shore up its shortcomings. The Gigabyte board available brings USB 3.0 to the table along with all the ports you've come to know and require, and the Zotac boards integrate much needed wireless networking. Since we're in Mini-ITX land, though, we're still stuck with just two memory slots, which in our build are populated with a pair of Kingston 2GB DDR3-1333 DIMMs. AVADirect also offers a newer Silverstone SG07 chassis, which is slightly longer but comes with a 600W PSU, removing the need for the $60 AthenaPower PSU used in our test system.

The rest isn't that exciting. AVADirect continues their tradition of equipping review units with 128GB Corsair Nova SSDs, and we can't complain, though we might suggest going with a larger mechanical drive just to have the storage space required for gaming: 128GB just isn't enough. There's also an attractive slot-loading DVD writer, and a staggering 470-watt Mini-ITX power supply from AthenaPower. The company isn't exactly reputable but they're pretty much the only ones making small power supplies with enough juice to feed a Radeon HD 5870.

Oh yeah, there's a stonking big Sapphire Vapor-X Radeon HD 5870 in the case. That third-party cooling system is pretty much essential for cooling the 5870 inside the tiny SilverStone Sugo SG06 case; that, and the ventilation on the side that brings cool air from outside the case into the card. Fitting the Radeon into the case is really the crowning achievement of the AVADirect Nano Cube, and the case actually feels stuffed.

Exactly How Much Power You Can Fit in a Mini-ITX Case?
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  • acooke - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    In case anyone else is curious, I emailed Delta and they replied saying "yes":

    > Thank you for your e-mail to Delta Air Lines.
    >
    > According to FAA directives, Delta and the Delta Connection Carriers
    > allow each passenger to carry onboard one carry-on and one personal item
    > such as:
    >
    > - Male or female purse or briefcase
    > - Computer bag (computers cannot be checked and must be carried on)
    > - Camera case
    > - Diaper bag
    > - Any item of a similar or smaller size to those listed above
    >
    > These items must fit easily in our SizeCheck unit (approximately 22"" x
    > 14"" x 9"") and be placed under the seat in front of the passenger or in
    > the overhead bin.
    >
    > You may carry your computer bag as a carry on bag and a laptop as a
    > personal item. The computer bag must fit in our SizeCheck unit.
    >
    Reply
  • flipmode - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    Nice. Giving me the opportunity to ask two days in a row.

    Am I becoming annoying enough yet?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Ask and ye shall receive... after a while at least. :-) Reply
  • devlinb - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    I went to AVADirect's website and the only SSD they are offering in this config now is a "Wintec" 60GB.

    Their configurator is a bit of a mess in other areas, it offers a lot of impossible RAM configuration options (4x2GB for example).

    I love the look though, the entire thing looks great. Looking at those interior shot photos, it is worth paying someone else to cram all those cables in!

    Also, the article needs a product shot on the first page. Having to hit the fourth page to see what the case looks like was a bit confusing.
    Reply
  • jaydee - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    Here's a good comparison PC that legitreviews just looked at a couple days ago. For $400 less (stock), I think it's a much better deal. I would add a Vertex 2 60GB for ~$130.

    http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1400/1/

    V3 Gaming Move 3DS PC:

    SilverStone SG05
    Custom Asetek LC 120mm Liquid Cooling
    Intel Core I3 540 Dual core Processor w/HT @3.82
    Zotac H55-ITX WiFi Mini-ITX
    4GB(2x2GB) Patriot Viper II Sector 5 DDR3-1600MHZ @ 1333MHz
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB
    Seagate 500GB 2.5" ST9500420AS
    Sony Optiarc DVD/CD Rewritable Drive AS-7700S
    Windows 7 Home Premium 64Bit
    Price $1129
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    Playing with the AVADirect configurator, I put together much of the same specs only with an i5-650 CPU (no i3 options at AVA), 2x2GB OCZ DDR3-1600 RAM, EVGA Superclocked GTX 460, and without the Asetek cooler. Total price came to $980. You'd have to do the overclock yourself, and perhaps add a better HSF than what they offer, but it's in reach. Certainly there are a lot of options, and my own experiences with AVADirect have been good. Also note that they come with a 3-year warranty. Reply
  • miahallen - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    http://www.overclockers.com/forums/showthread.php?...

    nuff said ;-)
    Reply
  • pjladyfox - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    After taking a look at the link you referenced I have to agree. The AVADirect Nano pales in comparison to that beast especially with the H70 cooler and better overall layout that does not pack things in so tightly that taking it apart would be an issue.

    Thanks for sharing that BTW as well!
    Reply
  • acooke - Saturday, September 18, 2010 - link

    Thanks for that link. Reply
  • dmuk2010 - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    interesting idea. Why don't they just use a slight bigger SG07? At lease it come with 600W PSU, which can push 5870 and desktop core i7 without problem... Reply

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