With Dell and Alienware unveiling exciting new cases recently, we wonder if Velocity Micro is starting to feel a bit of a pinch. We continue to appreciate the clean lines of its high-end desktops, but the company has used the same case for a while now (the same can be said of Falcon Northwest and its Mach V cases). With all the high-end vendors offering Core 2 Duo parts and similar high-performance components, can the Velocity Micro Raptor DCX and its tried-and-true chassis compete against its new, flashier competition? Its performance is without peer, leading the latest high-end desktops by a significant margin on our benchmarks. You'll pay for it, though: its $5,995 price is $1,000 more than the next most expensive Core 2 Duo PC we reviewed. If performance is all you care about, whatever the expense, the Raptor DCX is your answer. But if you're looking to make a bolder visual statement, Velocity Micro is starting to look a little underdressed.
Our Velocity Micro Raptor DCX features Intel's top-of-the-line Core 2 Extreme X6800 chip, overclocked to 3.68GHz from its stock 2.93GHz. That's faster than any other vendor has pumped one of Intel's new Core 2 Duo chips, and it explains the complex water-cooled fan/heat-sink assembly that sits on the CPU. It also helps explain the benchmark scores. More on that in a minute.
Unlike the Dell XPS 700 but similar to the Falcon Northwest Mach V, the Velocity Micro Raptor DCX uses Intel's 975X chipset, which means you need to use ATI's CrossFire 3D graphics technology if you want to add two high-end graphics cards in tandem for gaming. Our Raptor DCX review unit used a 512MB Radeon X1900 XT and a 512MB Radeon X1900 CrossFire Edition. All the other Core 2 Duo gaming boxes we've seen so far have used Nvidia's SLI technology (Falcon used a single slot, two-chip GeForce 7950GX2). The Raptor DCX also came with 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, like all of the others.
Clearly, Velocity Micro made the right configuration choice and at the Raptor DCX's price, it better have. The only test where it didn't finish first was CNET Labs' new multitasking test, and then it lost by only a small margin. We suspect the loss is due to the Dell XPS 700 using an Nvidia Nforce 590 chipset in conjunction with an Nvidia graphics card, which can boost video performance, thus aiding the video-encoding portion of that test. On the rest of our benchmarks, the results weren't even close. From 3D gaming to office productivity, the Velocity Micro Raptor DCX is simply the fastest system we've seen.
Of course, it's also one of the most expensive systems we've seen. At least Velocity didn't skimp on the components. The Raptor DCX boasts a pair of 150GB Western Digital Raptor 10,000rpm hard drives, which are both speedy and offer a fair amount of storage space by themselves. A third drive is also onboard, a 400GB, 7,200rpm drive, and there's room for another hard drive if you really need it. The two dual-slot Radeon graphics cards take up a lot of expansion slot room, and you lose another expansion slot to the PCI-powered set of cooling fans. Velocity offers sound cards, PhysX cards, and the other standard expansion options, but you have room for two with this configuration, which is more than in most other systems in its class.
The front of the case includes a 9-in-1 media card reader/floppy combo drive. In the last month, we've reviewed PCs ranging from $499 to this $6,000 system, from both mainstream and lesser-known vendors. Velocity Micro is the only one that keeps sending us PCs with some kind of floppy drive. We'd ding 'em if the floppy drive weren't part of a media-reader combo (like we did on its budget Vector GX), but we also have to admit to a certain admiration for Velocity's stubborn loyalty to the dying format.
Velocity Micro's support remains among the best around. Its online support is especially easy to work with, as everything you need is easy to find and simple to understand. The default warranty covers parts and labor for three years, and you get a year of 24/7 onsite service through Velocity's emergency service package. Its phone support is not 24/7 but still widely available, with a toll-free line open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, ET.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|McAfee VirusScan and DivX 6.1 multitasking test|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test|