(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Extreme (1,920x1080)||Performance (1,920x1,080, 16x AF)||Entry Level (1,680x1,050)|
The gaming scores are more complicated. I'm not entirely sure what to make of the Digital Storm's strong Far Cry 2 results, but with every system posting frame rates near above 200 fps, it's probably time to consider retiring that particular benchmark.
Metro 2033 and 3DMark 11 present a more relevant performance picture. Metro is a known graphics memory hog at high resolutions and with very high detail settings, which lets the Velocity Micro flex its muscles and hit top marks. 3DMark apparently focuses less on graphics RAM than it does on scaling performance across GPUs. While it's not a real game, the 3DMark results suggest that the Falcon Northwest system will provide better gaming performance on games that scale well.
The takeaway from all these results is that you really need to know the characteristics of the software you intend to run in order to achieve maximum performance for your gaming buck. That's not always possible for unreleased games, of course, so a lot of your buying decision will need to come from faith or other softer considerations. Fortunately, by any measure, all of the systems in these charts will provide suitably capable performance for their price.
Early motherboard supplies are usually limited to only a few new makes and models when Intel introduces a new CPU and chipset, which explains why the Mach V and the Raptor Z90 share the same Asus P9X79 Pro motherboard. Inside the Raptor Z90, Velocity Micro offers two free hard-drive bays, four free memory slots, and a single free PCI Express slot. To Velocity Micro's credit, it properly lined the data and power inputs behind both free drive bays, making the process of adding extra drives essentially seamless.
On the exterior of the case, the Asus motherboard offers a vast selection of inputs. You get eight USB 2.0 jacks, four USB 3.0 inputs, a set of 7.1 analog audio ports, a digital audio input, four DVI video adapters, and a pair of mini HDMI jacks. The only potential inadequacy we can see is that Intel is saving its Thunderbolt roll-out for its next-generation Ivy Bridge platform due out next year. If the Thunderbolt devices for Apple's newer Macs are any indication, the fast external storage options at least might suggest that professional content creators wait six more months before dropping $5,000 on a new system.
|Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 (Core i7 3930K, Fall 2011)||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||2.24|
|Sleep (10 percent)||7.87|
|Idle (25 percent)||149.49|
|Load (5 percent)||631.71|
|Energy Star compliant||No|
|Annual energy cost||$109.01|
I suspected that the Raptor Z90 would have better power efficiency than the Falcon Northwest system because of the differences in graphics cards, and it appears that is indeed the case. The $109.01 on the year will still add an extra $9 or so to your monthly power bill, which is noticeable, but not insurmountable, particularly for someone willing to buy a $5,000 desktop.
Service and support
Velocity Micro's service and support compare well with what you get from other boutique PC vendors. Velocity Micro relies exclusively on in-house phone support technicians, and though it doesn't offer 24-7 phone support, you can get in touch from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT on Saturday, which is a pretty fair window. The warranty on the system covers parts and labor for a year, as well as one year of depot repair service. And Velocity's Web site has all kinds of useful support resources.
I wouldn't buy any desktop with Intel's new six-core Core i7 3930K CPU for general gaming performance, since a Core i7 2600K will do the job on the CPU side just as well. If you want a gaming system that also offers strong multithreaded processing performance, both the Falcon Northwest Mach V and this Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 can deliver expertly built PCs that fit the bill.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Digital Storm ODE Level 3 (Core i7 2600K, Spring 2011) Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.8GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics cards; 128GB Intel solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit; 4.4GHz Intel Core i7-3930K (overclocked); 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (3)1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics cards; 128GB Crucial solid-state hard drive; 2TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive
Maingear Vybe SuperStock (Core i7 2600K, Summer 2011) Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-2600K; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti graphics cards; 1TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive
Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 (Core i7 2600K, Fall 2011) Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-3930K (overclocked); 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards; (2)128GB Patriot Wildfire solid-state hard drive; 2TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive