Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement | How we test computers
The $1,499 Velocity Micro Edge Z30 gives us a relatively affordable take on Intel's new overclockable Core i7 875K CPU. You don't get dual-graphics-card capability, and it's possible to eke more power out of Intel's new chip with watercooling, but even without those higher-end features, the Edge Z30 showcases the versatility Intel's new CPU brings to gaming desktops. Other vendors offer the same CPU, so you'd be wise to shop around, but with its fast performance, some savvy components, and Velocity Micro's customary attention to detail, the Edge Z30 provides a high bar for comparison at this price.
The highlight of the Edge Z30 is Intel's new Core i7 875K quad-core processor. This new CPU features more granular overclocking than available previously from Intel. Rather than the older Core i7 920, which required ramping up the system bus, and thus dragging ever other core component setting along with it, Intel's new K-Series chips let vendors and enthusiasts dial up the CPU core speed, the TurboBoost settings, as well as the memory frequencies independently. It also gives Intel an answer to AMD's line of affordable, overclocking-friendly Black Edition chips.
Thanks to Intel's new CPU, Velocity Micro sent the Edge Z30 to us with its Core i7 875K chip overclocked (or, "Hyperclocked," by Velocity's online configurator) to 3.3GHz from its stock 2.93GHz setting. That's not quite as "hyper" as the 4.0GHz Falcon Northwest achieved with the Core i7 875K in a Talon system we reviewed, but the Talon featured liquid CPU-cooling and a $2,499 price tag. The $1,499 Edge Z30 is a more modest build and uses only a standard desktop CPU fan.
|Velocity Micro Edge Z30||Gateway FX6831-01|
|CPU||3.3GHz Intel Core i7 875K (overclocked)||2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel H57DD||Intel H57|
|Memory||4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850||1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850|
|Hard drives||(2) 500GB 7,200 rpm||1.5TB 7,200 rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
Because of that price discrepancy with the Talon, the $1,299 Gateway FX6831-01Gateway FX6831-01 provides a more apt side-by-side comparison. We like the Gateway for two reasons. It's a competent gaming box for a reasonable price, for one. We also like its hard-drive design, which lets you hot swap extra drives through the front panel, without messing with any data or power cables. We appreciate Velocity Micro's always tidy build quality, but while the Edge Z30 and its outward-facing, internal drive bays aren't terrible, front-loading drive bays like those in the Gateway have won our loyalty. It might be time for Velocity Micro to give its tried-and-true case design an overhaul.
From a component standpoint, we'd expect the Velocity Micro to have an edge over the Gateway due to its higher price tag, and it seems the bulk of that extra expense goes to the processor. Velocity Micro also uses a tweaked version of the Radeon HD 5850 graphics card, with higher core and memory clock speeds than the model in the Gateway. It also has wireless networking. We suppose a new chip, a hot-rod 3D card, and Wi-Fi could account for an extra $200, but that still leaves the Gateway advantages in its hard drive capacity, as well as its system memory. That leads us to conclude that the Velocity Micro's value proposition is simply adequate.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
We can't be too hard on the Velocity's price because the faster CPU and graphics card provide the Edge Z30 with tangible performance benefits over the Gateway. Across all of our application tests, the Edge Z30 came in second, behind only the significantly more expensive Falcon Northwest Talon. You can expect that the Edge Z30 will handle most day-to-day applications and consumer-level multimedia editing tasks with little difficulty.
|1,600 x 1,200 (4x aa)||1,280 x 1,024 (4x aa)|
|1,920 x 1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)||1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)|
We're also happy with the Edge Z30's gaming performance. Its Far Cry 2 scores were not only well above 60 frames per second at both resolutions, but they also came in well ahead those of the Gateway system, by roughly 10 frames per second on both Far Cry 2 tests. You might hit a graphics bottleneck at very high resolutions and image quality settings with the Edge Z30, but otherwise we'd expect this system to provide a smooth gaming experience, regardless of the title.
Unlike the last iteration of the Edge Z30, whose ability to accept a second graphics card changed after a midlife motherboard switch, this version comes to us with only a single 3D card slot. We had sort of gotten used to the idea of adding a second card to a $1,500 or so desktop, but given the price, current performance, and 550-watt power supply in this build, we can't say we really mind the Edge Z30's single card limitation.
You don't get that much room to add other components to the Edge Z30, either. Two of the four RAM slots are open, so you can at least increase the system memory. You also get a single 1x PCI Express card slot free, which lets you add a TV tuner, a sound card, or some other low-intensity expansion card. You could always ditch the Wi-Fi card as well and gain a spare standard PCI slot.
The Edge Z30 offers roughly the same number of external connections. The graphics card gives you DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI outputs, and the motherboard covers your audio needs with 7.1 analog outputs and a single optical S/PDIF jack. For data you get a handful of USB jacks and a single eSATA input. There's also a single FireWire jack, along with a few more USB ports and a pair of analog audio inputs on the side of the case.
|Velocity Micro Edge Z30||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||3.78|
|Sleep (10 percent)||4.95|
|Idle (25 percent)||113.35|
|Load (5 percent)||250.45|
|Annual energy cost||$61.02|
The Velocity Micro's power consumption lands where we expected it would. It scales almost exactly with its performance compared with that of its competition. With fast CPUs and graphics cards, none of these midrange gaming desktops count as environmentally-friendly, but neither are any of them inordinately power hungry. You'll pay around $5 a month or so to keep the Edge Z30 in electricity.
We're relatively pleased with this PC, but we can't say we're enamored with the changes Velocity Micro has made to its service policies. Its weekday service operates from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Pacific time, but it no longer offers Saturday phone support hours. That means West Coast customers in particular have a fairly inconvenient phone support window. You still get one-year parts and labor coverage, lifetime business hour phone support, as well as discretionary onsite support. We understand that running a support operation can be costly for vendors, but given the more-convenient policies from Velocity Micro's competition, it is certainly possible to be more generous.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1986NBC
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770; 1TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive
Falcon Northwest Talon
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 4.0GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 875K; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 480; 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black 7,200 rpm SATA 3.0 hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850; 1.5TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.2GHz AMD Phenom II X6 1090T; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5830; 640GB, 7,200 rpm Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive
Velocity Micro Edge Z30
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.3GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 875K; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850; (2) 500GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive