Velocity Micro is something of a rarity in the world of performance PCs--a boutique vendor that has managed to gain a foothold on the mainstream retail market without excessively stripping down its products. The $1,299 ProMagix E2010 is the least expensive of a handful of fixed-configuration Velocity Micro systems you can find on the shelves of your local Best Buy. While power users will doubtlessly want to put together a custom system online, the ProMagix E2010's Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and roomy hard drive space make it a mainstream retail box that you won't be embarrassed to show off to your techie friends. Configuring a similar system online, we were able to get a comparable Dell XPS 410 for less than $100 more, meaning you won't pay a premium for shopping retail.
Velocity's higher-end systems, such as the ProMagix E2200, feature case windows and rolling casters, but the plain, industrial-looking aluminum chassis of the ProMagix E2010 has a certain understated charm. It looks especially good compared to the cheap-looking plastic cases commonly sighted on the shelves of big-box retail stores. The only hint of color comes from a blue LED cooling fan visible through a grille in the front.
There are four optical drive bays on the front panel, with two occupied by a DVD burner and a DVD-ROM drive--although the necessity of having two optical drives is somewhat questionable these days (unless you're pirating CDs). A small door at the very bottom of the system opens to reveal USB 2.0, FireWire, and audio jacks, with the connection names nicely etched right into the aluminum. An old-fashioned floppy drive occupies one of two 3.5-inch drive bays--a mostly useless extra we usually see only in retail systems.
Inside the case, there's plenty of room for expansion, with three PCI slots and thee PCI Express x1 slots. The single PCI Express x16 slot is filled by a midrange Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS graphics card, which should be adequate for casual gaming. The single 320GB hard drive is impressive for a mainstream system, and it leaves room for two additional hard drives later on. Two 512MB RAM modules take up two of the four available RAM slots. Even though this is an off-the-shelf, fixed-config system, it would probably be pretty easy to pick up some extra RAM or any other upgrades you want at the same time, being as you'll already be in a major electronics chain.
The ProMagix E2010 is powered by the 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6400. As expected, in CNET Labs' Multimedia tests it was significantly slower than its sister system, the ProMagix E2200, which has a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; the E2200 is also much more expensive, however, at $2,199. For $999, you can trade down to Velocity's Vector GX Campus Edition, available directly from the company's Web site. It has the slower E6300 version of Intel's Core 2 Duo but came in only slightly behind the E2010 on our Photoshop CS2 and iTunes Encoding tests, and it even edged out the E2010 in the Multitasking test. A Dell XPS 410 with the same CPU as the E2010 performed much faster on these tests, almost certainly because it has twice the RAM, 2GB.
The system's GeForce 7600 GS video card turns out playable frame rates in both Quake 4 and F.E.A.R. and should suffice for any current title, as long as you keep the resolution to 1,024x768 or lower. This is the component that's likely to age the quickest, but it's easily upgraded down the line.
A basic Velocity-branded wired multimedia keyboard is included, as well as a Microsoft optical mouse. No speakers or monitor are available, although since the system is sold at Best Buy stores, they shouldn't be too hard to find. Bundled software is minimal, but it includes the Nero Digital Creation Suite for burning discs and InterVideo WinDVD for playing DVD movies. The operating system is Windows XP Home.
Velocity Micro offers a standard one year parts and labor warranty, and it also maintains some excellent support resources on its Web site, including a FAQ page, driver and software downloads, and a system-optimization guide. Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)