Velocity Micro Edge Z30 (Intel Core i7) review: Velocity Micro Edge Z30 (Intel Core i7)

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MSRP: $1,349.00

The Good Best value among midrange gaming PCs; Velocity Micro's consistently high build quality; compact case makes few sacrifices; second graphics card slot previously uncommon at this price.

The Bad Might need to dial down game image quality on 24-inch displays at full resolution

The Bottom Line Velocity Micro's Edge Z30 is the best deal going right now for midlevel gaming PCs featuring Intel's new Core i7 chips. The overclocked Core i7 860, a fast Nvidia graphics card, and a solid selection of features all around make it easy for us to recommend this system to anyone looking for a capable gaming desktop.

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8.9 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8

Correction: This review has been updated to reflect that it does in fact have a second graphics card slot.

We've written about Falcon Northwest's new Core i7-based gaming PC, and now Velocity Micro gets a turn to showcase Intel's new mainstream-priced desktop chip. Our Velocity Micro Edge Z30 review unit comes in at $1,349 and features an overclocked Intel Core i7 860 chip. It also outperforms a pricier Dell system, and comes in with the best value so far of the handful of vendors that have adopted Intel's new CPUs. With strong and stable performance, no major sacrifices, and Velocity Micro's typical high build quality, we're compelled to give this desktop an Editors' Choice award. We'd recommend this system to anyone looking for a midrange gaming PC.

Velocity Micro has earned a reputation in our lab as one of the better desktop builders, and the Edge Z30 gives us no reason to change our opinion. The inside of the case is as clean as can be, and there's little about the overall design we would change. The Edge Z30 also strikes an interesting contrast to the Dell Studio XPS 435, a much larger tower system that Dell introduced a few months back.

We like the aesthetics of the Studio XPS 435, and it gives you plenty of room to expand, but with no second graphics card slot, Dell could get away with losing a bit of upgrade room and making the case smaller (its new Studio XPS 8000 seems to be going in that direction). The Edge Z30 cuts a more compact profile, measuring only 15 by 7.5 by 17.57 inches, and still manages to allow for a second graphics card slot, two more hard drives, a second optical drive, as well as an extra 1x PCI Express slots for card expansion.

It's worth pointing out that despite the second graphics slot, the new Intel P55 Express chipset in this system has some performance limitations with two 3D cards. A single card works as normal on a single 16x PCI Express slot. But adding a second 3D card gets you no extra bandwidth, so instead of two 16x slots, you effectively only get two 8x graphics data paths on a P55 Express-based motherboard like this one. You will probably still see a performance gain if you add a second graphics card, it just won't be as much as you'd get from a full dual 16x motherboard.

  Velocity Micro Edge Z30 Dell Studio XPS 435
Price $1,349 $1,579
CPU 3.2GHz Intel Core i7 860 (overclocked) 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard chipset Intel P55 Express Intel X58
Memory 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870
Hard drives 1TB 7,200 rpm (2) 500GB 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

Side by side the Velocity Micro and Dell systems look similar. The Edge Z30 has no Blu-ray drive, and its Intel P55 Express motherboard has only dual-channel memory support, as opposed to the Dell's triple channel interface by way of its Intel X58 chipset. Unless you're performing professional-level, memory-bandwidth-intensive tasks (large Photoshop treatments, for example), you likely won't notice the difference. If you discount the Edge Z30's lack of a Blu-ray drive due to its lower price, the features comparison comes out even, if not in Velocity Micro's favor due to the fact that it will overclock for you. Dell won't.

If you're concerned about the stability of the Edge Z30's overclocked CPU (set to 3.2GHz from its 2.8GHz base clock speed), you shouldn't worry. Thanks to the LinX benchmark, we found this system was able to maintain both its clock speed and its stability throughout the course of that testing. You can overclock the Dell system yourself, so it may hold a hidden performance bonus if you're willing to look for it. Still, we must credit Velocity Micro for doing the work for you, and for doing it reliably.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z30

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z30

Multimedia multitasking
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z30

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Falcon Northwest Talon
Velocity Micro Edge Z30
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Dell Studio XPS 435
Maingear Pulse

The advantages of the Edge Z30's overclocked Core i7 860 chip become apparent on our performance charts. Coming in second only to the $2,495 Falcon Northwest Talon, the Velocity Micro system easily surpasses the Dell Studio XPS 435 on our tests, and also outpaces systems from Asus and Maingear in its price category. To put the Velocity Micro in a larger perspective, its application scores are in the same ballpark as a $6,500 Alienware system we reviewed last November. There's no mainstream task you can throw at the Edge Z30 that it can't handle.

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  
Velocity Micro Edge Z30
Maingear Pulse

Far Cry 2
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
Velocity Micro Edge Z30
Maingear Pulse

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