Monday, July 31, 2006

AACDirect / All American Computers

AAC Direct, or All American Computers, custom builds each PC separately, with results that show up in Tom's Hardware as The Best: Beats Alienware, Falcon Northwest and CyberPower. Coupled with great (if comparatively few) reviews on, I realized they might be a good alternative to a Dell XPS, given Dell's recent pricing changes and lack of a cohesive plan to move to Conroe. AAC already has a plan, given they've been beta-building Conroe ATI Crossfire rigs already.

So I e-mailed them and asked for a quote for a computer costing no more than $2,800 with shipping & tax, that can run Oblivion fluidly. I specified no parts other than "I want a Conroe Crossfire capable setup."

AAC shot back:
  • MOTHERBOARD: 975XBX (handles Crossfire)
  • RAM: DIMM 2GB 800MHZ - GEIL 800MHZ DDR2 2X1024MB VALUE DIMMS (or something)
  • HD: SEAGATE 320 GIG 7200 RPM SERIAL ATA HD (double up for RAID 0)
  • SOUNDCARD: (built-in)
Damage? 2,599.00! Much less than the limit I specified.

But before I ordered from them, I had to know "what is their support like?" I had read that the owner, Kyle Felstien, will sometimes answer the phone and talk as long as is necessary (indeed, he gave me the above quote), but I had to call them for myself.

The Phone Call:
Well I got Dave, who got Kyle because he said Kyle would know my order, and Kyle and I talked for 1 hour and 45 minutes. First we went over each item in the PC build - does the onboard sound work well or load the CPU? Okay, Audigy SE "Suck Edition" takes the load off of the CPU and doesn't have any fandangled features, but does do 5.1. Great. What's the difference between X1900 XT and X1900 XTX? $100 and 3-4%? Okay. Thank you for not making a "ka-ching" sound and quoting me the XTX. What's a LIAN LI case? Oh it's that good? Okay. I want that.

Then we talked about Gainesville, Florida, because Kyle used to live here. He even knew Burrito Brothers, the famous burrito shop where my dad used to work. I told him the rat story. He kind of chuckled and didn't say anything, like he was wondering "Was I eating there, then?"

Then we talked about the state of technology today, and two things became obviously clear: much of my two weeks of hardcore research had proved me right on many points (from Crossfire Express 3200 - 16x to the old 8x standard and what that means) and Kyle knew of tons of topics I just didn't know about - such as why ATI's roadmap for the future is better than Nvidia's and a distributor's nightmares in dealing with Nvidia (though he offered me an Nvidia rig 5 times just as a manner of speaking), why Conroes are so freaking hot (he knows about the architecture), and why ATI cards made now will, to a degree, support the DX10 standard of using GPU's as CPU's.

Warranty? How about Custom Burn-In of Every PC to go with that?
Oh, and did I mention that every system shipped goes through a complete burn-in? Comes with a 3 year parts warranty (1 year labor) and phone support for the life of the system?

Well, obviously, I found out about their phone support, and though they are a small shop that isn't there 24/7, they sold me.

As Kyle said "We put our major costs into building the computers and making sure they work, rather than technical support down the road." He has the latter, but as he said "We've only got so many people, so you can only reach us at business hours." However, they seemed helpful and glad to discuss any questions about the computers they sell you.

Kyle talked about build quality - about CyberPower's cheap computers that aren't even tested to Falcon Northwest and Alienware's costly systems. He builds custom "show cases" to more gamer oriented PureXS systems (LiquidXS systems are for rich folks at around $4,000).

Kyle and I spoke about art and laying out beautiful computer cases, cabling and cooling, airflow; more about why Conroes are badass, lighting, why fan lights are better than lighting tubes (basically the tubes are so bright many people get annoyed after several months, while fan lights are more subtle)...

It was an incredible phone conversation and I was riveted the entire time. I never told him that dinner (I was already going to eat alone because my mother had taken my wife & kids out shopping) was ready at 6:30pm. We didn't get off the phone until 7:50 (I'd called just after 6pm EST, when their store closes). Kyle is also an expert at Mexican goodbyes - where Mexicans say goodbye to each other, and in doing so think of something else fun to talk about, and go back at it. I'm great at it because I live with a Mexican girl, but Kyle can hold his own!

I have not had a more exciting conversation about computers since I worked for Rusty Butler in 1998. Only conversations with Jock and Billy come close, but since we're not industry developers like Rusty and Kyle, there's only so far we can go.

Money spent with AAC, I'm sure, will be well-spent.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers


DavePA said...

Heh... AACDirect is out of business now, resulting from a (and I quote) "sudden and catastrophic financial problem." I won't speculate as to what that means... I ordered my PC (a LiquidXS AM2 system) on 6/21, I received the system (finally) on 11/8. I guess they kicked the system out the door as they were being tossed out because the system isn't balanced (i.e. like a rocky chair with a short leg), has a crack in the case, and the RAM was missing. No word or heads up from Kyle and his band of slackers until (after 2 weeks) I started messaging him on a forum he frequents consistently. So I dropped $380 on the RAM, fixed the rubber "leg" myself, and thankfully the system is beautiful enough that I can sort of pretend the small crack (which is directly to the right of the DVD burner on the front) doesn't exist. Sheesh, makes me regret being too busy to do this stuff myself the last couple years.

Anonymous said...

I live in Terre Haute, In, just a block from All American Computers. They are completly out of business. The shop is closed, there website is down, and the owner Kile is M.I.A.

I work at a local computershop just down the road, Intergrated Computer Systems 812-235-6779, and we have had several customers bring their computers to us to get them worked on because they can't get a hold of AAC and there is no new address or phone number.

We have known the people at AAC since they have opened, we are sorry to see them go.

If anyone in the area needs there computer worked on they can contact us at 812-235-6779 or 110 north 25th street, Terre Haute, In


Tobey Waltrip

David said...

I have contacted Tobey. If you are a fellow proud owner of one of AAC's finely crafted PC's, be dead-fucking careful who you let touch your shit.

These PC's are finely crafted; their burn-in testing was so intense it was one of the several factors that put a hurting on AAC.

So, contact Tobey or someone who really knows what the heck they are doing if you own a LiquidXS or PureXS.

I am very sorry to see Kyle's business go under because of some lame-ass creditor pulling the rug out from under him. Kyle was close to getting AAC to "break out" with Internet and hardware enthusiast awareness, and now the poor man just wants to keep his house.

Pray for him. Kyle Felstein is his name.

David said...

Tobey doesn't have a freaking clue what to do with customers outside of his immediate area. He sounded as though he wasn't accostumed to getting any PC's shipped to him, as he had nothing to recommend, no idea about pricing, etc.

I guess us AAC guys are on our own.

Anonymous said...

Any word from Kyle? I have a LXS and the week he closed down he had just gotten me my replacement cards from xfx when i had a small water leak. luckily I didn't loose the whole system. A $6000.00 loss would have been horrific. I tried to call him to thank him for getting the cards and no answer on the phones.

David said...

I have, and I put it all together in this post:

Anonymous said...

I have read the entire incident now and see that it was a culmination of several issues that came to AAC end.
I hope that I have No more issues seeing how I'm in North Carolina. If I do it's going to hurt I think.

Anonymous said...

Good ol' AAC...
I used to run by there while attending ISU in case I needed thermal paste quickly or a fan etc...

Outside of that I don't think I would buy anything else from who my friends knew personally and nicknamed Kyle 'Fecalstain'.

This mainly had to do with stories and witnesses of their crew 'fixing' a person's PC, but noticing they had a video card they had not yet tested, so they would take out the customer's video card and see how far they could OC it in another PC. The same was done for 'unopened' and 'retail' video cards on the shelves.

I'll pass... I don't need an abused card bought as new, but then again I guess their shadey business practices have caught up with them from the way it sounds.

If they make a comeback, I would best describe their store as a sort of used car lot who has spun the odometer backward.

Purchase from newegg and find a local computer geek to help build it with/for you.

twitch said...

I was once a tech at AAC... actually the only one that worked in the shop other than Kyle, the fore-mentioned owner, that was there in the last months the shop was open. I was paid in reference computer parts my last week there... no paycheck, just parts he'd been given from asus and amd. Don't feel bad folks... it wasn't just customers that got fucked on this one.

one last thing. having been a system builder working on the LiquidXS and PureXS(including mr. Beoulve's) there are a lot of things i can say about the other computer shops in terre haute, most importantly that i wouldn't trust any of them to work on a LiquidXS.

Anonymous said...

I just read this again. I have a crack on the front case where the burner is. But my system is starting to get a few hick-ups. So I think I will reinstall the operating system and hope that will do it for a fix.