Now we come to the interesting part.
Given that the Velocity Micro Raptor 64 DualX and the Falcon Northwest Mach V are essentially the same system (with minor variations in clock speeds and hard drive configuration), we were surprised that the performance numbers were so different. We were also surprised that the Falcon PC crashed during our 1,600x1,200-resolution Doom 3 test.
Our investigation led us to simply play the game on each system, and to our surprise, neither system was able to play with 8X antialiasing turned on for more than 30 seconds before a complete system shutdown. We put it to both Velocity Micro and Falcon Northwest, and also to AMD and Nvidia, to help us find the cause. AMD replicated the problem and pinned it to the power supply.
To check AMD's theory, we pulled one of the GeForce cards out of each system and played Doom 3 again and found no instability, even with the antialiasing jacked to 16X. That indicates to us that the graphics cards were drawing more power on those high-detail settings than the 600-watt power supply in each system could handle (an EnerMax PSU in the Velocity Micro, a SilverStone in the Falcon Northwest). Velocity responded by sending the system back to us with a 1-kilowatt supply installed (it also added the $440 1kW supply to its online Raptor 64 DualX configurator during the course of this review). That cleared up the Velocity's crashing issues, even with the system overclocked. Falcon Northwest did a little digging of its own and came back to us with a report from SilverStone, noting it saw the same crashes, and that this was likely due to the distribution of power through out the system, rather than the total wattage.
By moving to the 1kW power supply, Velocity solves the issue with brute force. That's one way to do it. The other method is to dial down the antialiasing. Antialiasing set at 8X kills your gaming frame rate with little to no recognizable visual improvement, so that's not the biggest loss. The responsibility lies with both system makers to make sure their configurations work. Still, we're surprised that Nvidia's SLI Certification program didn't catch this issue ahead of time, since both of the power supplies in question are SLI-approved. We've been told that Nvidia and the power supply vendors are working on the issue, and we hope they resolve it soon.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Doom 3 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF||Doom 3 1,024x768, 4xAA 8xAF||Half-Life 2 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF||Half-Life 2 1,024x768 4xAA 8xAF|
Falcon Northwest Mach V
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.9GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60; Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI X16 chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (SLI); two Maxtor 68300S0 300GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA 150; integrated Nvidia Nforce 4 RAID class controller (RAID 0)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+; Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (SLI); two 74GB Western Digital Raptor 10,000rpm SATA; one Maxtor 300GB 7,200rpm SATA
Overdrive PC Torque SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.8GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-57; Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (PCIe SLI); two WDC WD740GD-00FLA2 74GB 10,000rpm SATA; one Seagate ST3200826AS, 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 0)
Polywell Poly 939N4 SLI 2/FX-60
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.8GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60; Nvida Nforce4 SLI X16 chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (SLI); two Western Digital WD946D 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA, one Western Digital WDC2500KS-00MJB0 250GB Serial ATA II; integrated Nvidia Nforce4 Serial ATA RAID Controller (RAID 0)
Velocity Micro Raptor 64 DualX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.9GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60; Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI x16 chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (PCIe); two Hitachi 500GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce 4 Serial ATA RAID controller (RAID 0)
The Raptor comes with Velocity Micro's three-year VelocityCare warranty program, covering parts, labor, and one year of onsite service. You also get one year of toll-free telephone support, available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you have an emergency during off-hours or on holidays that prevents you from using the system, you can leave a message, and a technician will return your call within 15 minutes. Velocity Micro offers onsite and emergency support extension plans for two years ($149) and three years ($249).