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Velocity Micro Edge Z15 review: Velocity Micro Edge Z15

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Velocity Micro's Edge Z15 midrange gaming desktop is a perfect example of what this mid-sized vendor does best. The sleek, sturdy chassis houses an expertly assembled selection of hardware, and the price and performance compete well with systems from both mainstream vendors and smaller specialty shops. Velocity Micro doesn't attempt anything dramatic as far as system monitoring software or fancy case lighting, but this workmanlike $1,799 PC will deliver fast performance and digital-media applications. Because of its strong performance and value, it's easy to recommend this system to anyone in need of a classic, fast, midrange PC.

8.2

Velocity Micro Edge Z15

The Good

Fast CPU and 3D-card combo; immaculate build quality; lots of room to upgrade.

The Bad

Spare design may bore those looking for a flashy gaming PC; onsite support costs extra.

The Bottom Line

Velocity Micro's Edge Z15 represents one of the best deal's we've seen this year in midrange gaming PCs. It has all the power necessary to play current games (even <i>Crysis</i>) at smooth frame rates, and its clean, spacious interior gives you plenty of upgrade room. We recommend this system to any PC gamer looking for a sub-$2,000 desktop.

The Edge Z15 is just the latest in a succession of surprisingly powerful midrange gaming PCs we've seen this year. The difference in the $1,000 to $2,000 price range in 2008 is that ever since the fast-but-affordable GeForce 8800 GT graphics card emerged at the end of 2007, midrange gaming PCs no longer have to hold back on resolutions and image-quality settings. On all but the most demanding PC titles (Crysis being the typical exception), any respectable $1,500-or-so PC will play anything you can throw at it at high quality.

Of these powerful new systems, the Edge Z15 makes a strong case for itself as the best of its breed. Unlike the Dell's XPS 630, Velocity Micro has kept the Edge Z15's hardware selection current, including the latest graphics cards from AMD's powerful new Radeon 4000-series. And while smaller-scale competitors like Maingear and Falcon Northwest have opted for smaller chassis (perhaps in an attempt to capitalize on the larger trend of scaled-down PCs), the Edge Z15 is an unapologetically full-size midtower PC with all the expansion room that goes along with it.

Maingear's Prelude and Dell's XPS 630 are the most direct competitors to this machine, and because we reviewed the Maingear system more recently, we'll line that model up alongside the Velocity Micro system. The Maingear desktop is a $1,513 PC, which allows roughly $300 for upgrades to catch up to the Velocity system. If you play with the Maingear configurator, however, you'll find that you can't build a Prelude to match the Edge Z15 for the same price.

  Velocity Micro Edge Z15 Maingear Prelude
Price $1,799 $1,513
CPU 3.4GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.5GHz AMD Phenom X4 9850
Motherboard chipset Nvidia NForce 750i SLI AMD 790X
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics (2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 3870
Hard drives 750GB, 7,200 rpm 500GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
TV Tuner No Yes

We're particularly impressed that Velocity Micro includes an ambitiously overclocked quad-core chip in this sub-$2,000 PC. Otherwise, most of the Edge Z15's advantages over the Maingear are to be expected due to the Velocity Micro's higher price tag and the fact that we're reviewing it three months after the Maingear system. We have a hunch that within the next six to twelve months, Blu-ray drives, larger memory capacities, and perhaps solid-state hard drives will be commonplace at this price range, but for now, the Velocity Micro system is a strong representation of what to expect from an upper-midrange gaming PC.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z15
84 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z15
111 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z15
421 

Our application-benchmark results reveal a few interesting tidbits about the Velocity Micro system. First, while it's not so surprising that the Edge Z15 is faster due to its price, we can commend the size of its performance advantage. Between its overclocked CPU and its 64-bit Windows/4GB memory tandem, the benefits to all kinds of multimedia processing tasks are immediately apparent.

As the Velocity system is faster than those other two less expensive PCs, the even pricier $3,200 AVADirect PC is faster still. The most significant specification difference is the AVADirect's 10,000rpm hard drive. We suspect if you upgraded the Velocity Micro's hard drive to a 10,000rpm model, it would close the performance gap, and indeed Velocity Micro offers such a drive as an option for an additional $105.

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3
15,090 
4,212 
Velocity Micro Edge Z15
14,040 
3,948 
Maingear Prelude
8,210 
2,153 
Apple iMac
4,624 
2,599 

Unreal Tournament 3
1,920 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Velocity Micro Edge Z15
181 
205 
Maingear Prelude
163 
203 

Crysis
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1600 x 1200  
1280 x 1024  
Velocity Micro Edge Z15
27 
50 

Even better than the Velocity Micro's application scores are its gaming test results. On both Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3, the Edge Z15 outperforms both the AVADirect and the stalwart Maingear systems, and on Crysis by a wide margin. We attribute this speedy gaming performance to the Velocity Micro's pair of Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards, each with 512MB of RAM. That it flirts with the hallowed ground of 60 frames per second on Crysis is a testament to both the graphics cards and the system as a whole, which are extremely robust for PC gaming.

If you have plans to boost this system's capabilities after purchase, we have more good news. The first is that Velocity Micro uses an NForce 750i SLI motherboard to support AMD's ATI Crossfire dual graphics-card capability. That means you can upgrade to either AMD or Nvidia multicard configurations down the road. There's also plenty of room to add more internal hardware. The outward-facing hard drive bays make it easy to add more internal storage. You also get a pair of extra RAM slots in this configuration, as well as room to add two more PCI expansion cards.

Optional extras in our review configuration include the Velocity Micro mouse and keyboard, a media card reader, and 3DMark's Vantage 3D graphics-benchmarking software (test along at home!). Like all Velocity Micro PCs, you get a T-shirt thrown in, and our system also came with a variety of software, including Cyberlink PowerDVD, OpenOffice, and a BMW racing game. By virtue of the motherboard there's no external Serial ATA port for fast external hard drives, but it does at least have S/PDIF-audio output.

Velocity Micro's service and support does not feature onsite service like we're seeing again from Dell and HP. Otherwise, its standard coverage is on par with the rest of the industry. You get one year of parts-and-labor coverage. Phone service is toll-free, and it operates from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. You can pay extra for various upgrades, and the Velocity Micro Web site remains an uncommonly good resource for troubleshooting your PC yourself.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Apple iMac (24-inch, 2.8GHz)
Apple OS X 10.5.2; 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive

AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 (overclocked); 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card; (2) 500GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drives; 150GB 10,000 rpm Western Digital hard drive

Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Windows Vista Home Premium; 3.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics cards; 500GB 7,200 rpm Samsung hard drive

Maingear Prelude
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT graphics card; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive.

Velocity Micro Edge Z15
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards; 750GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive

8.2

Velocity Micro Edge Z15

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Support 7