3D graphics and gaming performance
Now, the nitty-gritty. Our first look at the 3D performance of the Gamer's Edge DualX doesn't represent the most challenging 3D test, but it provides an accurate snapshot of the kinds of performance increase you'll see with older 3D titles. The results taught us quite a lot. Interestingly, at the 1,024x768-resolution test, the Velocity Micro didn't even finish in first place. At 284.1 frames per second (fps), the AGP-based Cyberpower Media Center Ultra Edition beat all of its PCI Express competition, single card or otherwise, although the Gamer's Edge DualX was the next closest with 269.6fps. The reason for this is simply because the 1,024x768 test is CPU limited, which means that it doesn't tax the graphics cards enough.
On the 1,600x1,200-resolution test, the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX absolutely decimated the competition. Its 204.5fps score is easily the fastest we've ever seen; it's 55 percent faster than the, the next-fastest configuration. Clearly, the Gamer's Edge DualX can handle any older game you'd care to throw up against its pair of mildly overclocked Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultras, and it'll do so faster than any other computer we've seen to date.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF||Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768|
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests and are set to 4X and 8X, respectively, during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal provides an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Far Cry 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF||Far Cry 1,024x768 4xAA 8xAF|
Far Cry presents a much harder challenge than Unreal Tournament 2003 and is a better indicator of how hardware will perform using newer games. The resulting frame-rate scores dropped accordingly, but the conclusion remains roughly the same. With a 93.3fps score, the Gamer's Edge DualX posted the highest 1,024x768 frame scores, but the next closest competitor, the, came close with 90.7fps. Again, because of the lower resolution, the CPU limits the upper levels of the frame rate. If we dropped the resolution to 800x600, odds are that the scores would be even closer, if not identical.
On the more demanding 1,600x1,200 test with all of the detail levels maxed out, however, the Gamer's Edge DualX shines. The percentage difference between it and the competition is narrower on this test than it was on the high-end Unreal Tournament 2003 test, with only a 28 percent performance jump over the Alienware Area-51 ALX's 63.9fps score. While this margin is significant, you'll want to ask whether the added cost of the SLI configuration is worth a 28 percent boost to 3D performance. We'll have a better idea about how these results represent SLI's overall performance benefits and its value proposition once we've tested a few more systems, but for now, it's clear that the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX and its implementation of Nvidia's SLI dual graphics card setup will let you play the latest 3D games at the smoothest frame rates and at maximum detail settings.
For high-end gaming PCs, we've added UbiSoft Entertainment's Far Cry to our benchmark arsenal. Far Cry is a DirectX 9.0-based game that uses a number of advanced rendering techniques, all of which combine to produce some of the most realistic scenery and physics we've seen in a game title to date. As such, it is very demanding on a graphics subsystem and, therefore, an excellent tool for evaluating high-end PCs. In our tests, we run a custom demo on the Rebellion level and run it two times each at a 32-bit color depth and at resolutions of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are set to 4X and 8X for both resolutions during our 1,600x1,200 tests. After installing the retail game, we patch it to version 1.3.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Alienware Area-51 ALX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two WDC WD360GD-00TNA0 36GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller
Cyberpower Media Center Ultra Edition
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Via K8T800 Pro chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (AGP); Maxtor 7Y250M0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.8GHz Intel P4 570; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two Maxtor 6B300S0 300GB 7,200rpm, Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller
Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Nvidia Nforce4 Ultra SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe, SLI); two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; WDC WD2500JD-50HBB0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Silicon SiI 3114 SoftRAID 5 controller
Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX
Windows XP Professional; 3.6GHz Intel P4 560; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; Hitachi HDS724040KLSA80 400GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller
Look in the box itself, and you'll find the Velocity Micro Owner's Portfolio, which has a neatly organized collection of component manuals, driver discs, and a quick-setup guide. You'll also find a Velocity Micro user guide for some extra but not system-specific help.