When You Want A Little Gaming: The AVADirect Nano Gaming Cubeby Dustin Sklavos on September 16, 2010 10:55 PM EST
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
Intel Core i5-750S @ 3GHz (166MHz Bclk with x18 multiplier)
(spec: 4x2.4GHz, 45nm, 8MB L3, 82W)
|DFI Lanparty Motherboard with P55 chipset
|2x2GB Kingston DDR3-1333 (expandable to 8GB)
Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5870 Vapor-X 1GB GDDR5
(1600 Stream Processors, 870MHz Core, 5GHz Memory, 256-bit memory bus)
|Corsair Nova 128GB SSD
|Pioneer Slim DVD+/-RW
|Intel Gigabit Ethernet
Realtek ALC885 HD Audio
speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
S/PDIF and TOSlink digital audio jacks
6x USB 2.0
Gigabit Ethernet jack
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks
|Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
|8.7" x 13" x 5.1" (WxDxH)
AthenaPower 470W MiniITX Power Supply
Modified SilverStone Sugo SG06 Case
Overclocked from warehouse
|3-year limited warranty and lifetime phone support
|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This juncture might be a good place to mention that our review unit is a bit out of date, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The DFI board is less than ideal and hopelessly outdated as far as the I/O goes on the back, but newer boards available shore up its shortcomings.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.