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
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This juncture might be a good place to mention that our review unit is a bit out of date, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.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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  • sprockkets - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    That stinks. All I can add is my SG40 works, but sometimes it won't boot up after the BIOS for whatever reason. Not bad for 5 years of heavy use.

    My current SG31G2 works pretty good. I can only say it looks well built.
  • archcommus - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    Excellent timing on this article, as I've been interested in replacing my big ATX system with a Mini-ITX. I game very little and not above 1680x1050 res, never use my DVD drive, and don't need much HDD space, so I feel my current system and its size that hasn't changed since the 90's is simply overkill. I wanted even smaller than this AVADirect system, though, and was considering the Silverstone Sugo SG05 with the PSU it comes with, a Gigabyte board, and whatever video card I could fit. However I think it would be better to hold off until I can put a Sandy Bridge CPU in it. Any thoughts from the Mini-ITX builders here?
  • fr500 - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    The Gigabyte board is great, I have both the DFI MI P55-T36 and a Gigabyte on an even smaller system. The Gigabyte has better OCP which is important if you are overclocking.

    The SG05 with the stock PSU should be enough for a dual core i5 (or an i3 of course) and a GTX460 if you're not overclocking, another good option is a 5770 since it consumes even less power. I ran a GTS250 and an i5 750 overclocked witht the stock PSU and never went over 250w while gaming.

    I'd recommend a Prolimatech Samuel 17 to cool your CPU and if you can manage to get some 1.35v DIMMs it would be better. Other than that it's pretty straightforward and the results are pretty impressive.

    If you need more info PM me (if such thing exists here) good luck!

    PS: a couple of pics of my build back then when it was a Core 2 Duo

    It was a hit and had to build 4 more for friends a month later:
  • archcommus - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the tips!
  • vol7ron - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    questions like these are why there's a forum
  • theagentsmith - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    Silverstone Sugo SG05, Gigabyte H55N-USB3, i5-750, 2x2GB Corsair DDR3-1600, 60GB Corsair Force, 1TB Caviar Green, VTX 3D Radeon 5770, stock FSP 300W PSU 80plus

    I think the case is done well especially if you consider it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Of course you need a little more time routing the cables while building, but hey, it's astoningshly small!
    The system isn't that noisy, except the CPU fan quickly change RPM when there is a sudden load and you hear it easily since most of the case is opened by grilles.

    I still have to optimize it yet. What do you suggest to do? I think about a small overclock while keeping CPU features on and maybe a little undervolt.
    I have no practice in overclock these LGA1156 systems though.
  • Folterknecht - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    I would suggest the following: Set all voltages concerning the CPU from "AUTO" to "NORMAL" and just try it out! You should reach a BCLK between 150 - 160MHz without raising voltages. The "AUTO"-Setting with GB-Boards is just crap when overclocking cause the board sometimes raises voltages like there is no tomorrow.
    You may have to adjust RAM-Speed ...

    RAM testing with Memtest86+ might also be a good idea. Overall system stability ... Prime95 (blend), coredamage
  • SimKill - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    Hey Dustin, this article surely needs some pictures of the cube. Get some shots with comparison to regular household objects (like phones, xboxes etc) but we need some pictures!
  • jaydee - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    A phone? It's not that small. Maybe next to a bowling ball?

    BTW, if small footprint is what you're going after, the announced, but not yet available, Lian Li PC-Q11 looks outstanding. Would love to see a review of it!
  • SimKill - Saturday, September 18, 2010 - link

    See, exactly why a comparison picture would be useful. A phone was just an example. A bowling ball seems perfect, or even other ATXes as suggested below but we need size comparison pictures. Giving the dimensions is fine, but a picture is well worth over a thousand words (and takes thrice as much space!)

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