Many vendors have tried to sell higher-end midrange PCs in retail stores, but few have really done it right. Velocity Micro has had some success recently, though, bringing its strong build quality and a knack for configuring powerful, cost-effective PCs to the shelves of Best Buy last year. You'll find this $2,199 ProMagix E2200 model at 60 Best Buys nationwide, as well as on Best Buy's Web site. Compared to other recent Core 2 Duo-based PCs we've reviewed from Dell and HP, the ProMagix E2200 is a little more expensive, and unlike the systems from Dell and HP, you can't customize the Velocity Micro's configuration. Still, thanks to its good looks and the fact that you can play with it before you buy it, the Velocity Micro ProMagix E2200 will comfort anyone who'd like some hands-on time before making an expensive PC purchase. We recommend it especially for gamers in need of an immediate off-the-shelf fix.
Assuming Microsoft's Windows Vista system requirements are accurate, the ProMagix E2200 will not only serve you well now, it will also give you a strong platform for running Windows Vista should you decide to upgrade your operating system next year. The system's core specs--an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 processor, 2GMB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, and a 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT graphics card--exceed the recommended minimum for running Vista Premium with the Aero effects enabled. You can be confident that this config will be viable for a while.
Our only major gripe about the ProMagix E2200's core setup is that it comes with Windows XP Pro, not Windows Media Center Edition 2005. The system's main online competition, the Dell XPS 410 and the HP Pavilion d4600y both come with Media Center (and they're cheaper PCs overall). None of these tower desktops are home-theater PCs by design, but with Apple's Front Row included on all new iMacs and Mac Minis and with many new PCs coming with Windows Media Center, we're at the point where we expect some kind of digital media management software in even budget machines, let alone a system north of $2,000. And in this case you'd save money, because XP Pro is more expensive than Media Center. True, most power users would probably rather have Windows XP Pro for its advanced networking features, but then we'd argue that most power users are probably not buying ready-made PCs at Best Buy.
On our benchmark tests, the ProMagix E2200 shined best as a gaming PC. Its scores on the 1,024x768 resolution F.E.A.R. fly-by test were faster than both the Dell and HP systems', and it lost only to a gaming PC from Shuttle with a higher-end graphics card. As long as you keep your image-quality settings reasonable, the ProMagix E2200 should be able to play anything currently on the market. For day-to-day use, the systems from HP and Dell stood out more. Both outpaced the Velocity Micro PC on CNET Labs' Multitasking test. The ProMagix E2200 will still serve you well as a general purpose PC, but we'd recommend it most for mainstream gaming.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Apple iTunes encoding test||Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test||Multitasking test|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Quake 4 1,024x768, 4xAA 8xAF||F.E.A.R. 1,024x768 SS 8xAF|
But just because it fell a little behind in day-to-day performance doesn't mean it's lacking in useful features. Its pair of optical drives includes one LightScribe DVD burner and one CD-RW/DVD combo drive. It has a media card reader/floppy combo, as well as a 320GB hard drive. You also get a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 4 sound card, a wired keyboard, and a wired optical mouse. That's a generous combination of parts that leaves you well equipped for disc burning, playing movies and music, and moving data between various devices. If you need more, there's room for three additional hard drives, two more 5.25-inch drives, and two more sticks of memory. Only one of the PCI expansion slots is free, but you get three open x1 PCI Express slots, cards for which are slowly becoming more common. We should note that unlike many Velocity Micro PCs, the ProMagix E2200 is not SLI capable. The ProMagix E2200's motherboard uses the Intel 965X chipset, which features only one x16 PCI Express slot.
Velocity Micro's support for systems purchased at retail is similar to that of its online systems. You get 24/7 toll-free phone support, a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, and access to Velocity Micro's outstanding Web site, which has all manner of tips, driver downloads, and other useful information. The main differences are onsite service, which you have to purchase separately from Best Buy in this case, and extended warranty coverage, which also has to go through Best Buy. Velocity's standard upgrade options are not available for this PC.