Velocity Micro Edge Z40
We recently recommended Maingear's Vybe Super Stock for its performance and value as an upper-midrange gaming PC. Looking at the next lower price band, Velocity Micro's $1,199 Edge Z40 makes a strong impression of its own. We found no other boutique or mainstream vendor that offers the same components for the same price. The resulting speed, on top of Velocity Micro's typical build quality, makes this desktop easy to recommend to value-seeking PC gamers.
The Edge Z40 features Velocity Micro's familiar silver GX2-W case. We always appreciate this aluminum chassis' simple, sturdy design, and despite its age, this almost 3-year-old case makes a better visual impression than desktops from vendors with much deeper pockets than Velocity Micro has. You'll need to look elsewhere for amenities such as gadget trays, concealed ports, and front-panel drive bay access, but although we do appreciate those features, we'd willingly trade them for the overall value this system offers.
|Velocity Micro Edge Z40||Dell XPS 8300|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel P67||Intel P67|
|CPU||4.0GHz Intel Core i5-2500K (overclocked)||3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600|
|Memory||4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti||1GB AMD Radeon HD 5870|
|Hard drives||1TB 7,200rpm||1.5TB 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray/DVD-burner combo||Blu-ray burner|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
You can find other PCs that come closer to the Edge Z40's $1,199 price than the $1,600 Dell XPS 8300, but comparing these two PCs showcases how Velocity Micro has done more with less. The Edge Z40's most notable feature is its Intel Core i5-2500K CPU. That chip lacks the Core i7's Hyper-Threading feature, which means that the Core i5 has only four processing threads to the Core i7's eight. But because Velocity Micro uses the 2500K variant of the Core i5, the chip in the Edge Z480 is overclockable, and Velocity Micro has taken the opportunity to increase the Core i5's performance to 4.0GHz from a stock speed of 3.3GHz. The resulting speed boost helps the Edge Z40 compete well with the Dell on our application speed tests.
With only 4GB of RAM, the Edge Z40 falls short of the XPS 8300's 8GB memory allotment, but Velocity Micro has chosen its graphics card well. At stock speeds, the Edge Z40's Nvidia GeForce 560Ti graphics card comes in a few ticks below the XPS 8300's Radeon HD 5870 card, but with the EVGA Superclocked version of the GeForce 560 Ti, the Edge Z40's graphics card, in conjunction with the overclocked CPU, scores high on our gaming tests as well.
For all of the Edge Z40's overclocked features, we find its $1,199 price just as remarkable. We tried to match this configuration at Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, Origin, Digital Storm, and AVADirect, but weren't able to do so for less than $1,350, and in most cases the price was over $1,500. Simply, this PC is a steal.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
Our application tests show some interesting results for the Velocity Micro Edge Z40 in comparison with other systems, as well as with different kinds of software. Our iTunes and Photoshop CS3 tests, for example, tend to favor raw single-core clock speed, and here the Edge Z40 outperforms all but two high-end desktops, one being the Origin Genesis with its Core i7-2600K chip overclocked to 4.7GHz.
Systems do well in our Photoshop CS5 and Cinebench 11.5 tests when, in addition to fast clock speeds, they also have lots of RAM (for Photoshop) and many processing cores (for Cinebench). On these more modern tests, the Dell XPS 8300 is faster than the Velocity Micro, by a small but real margin.
The fact that the $1,199 Edge Z40 trades wins with the $1,600 Dell indicates what a good value it is. Anyone looking for a reasonably priced digital-media-creation or day-to-day performance system will be satisfied with the Edge Z40. We also suspect that upgrading it to 8GB of RAM would provide an appreciable performance boost, and for only an extra $90.
|1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)||1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)|
|1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)||1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)|
|2,560x,1,536 (DirectX 11, very high)||1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high)|
|Extreme (1,920x1,080)||Performance (1,920x1,080, 16x AF)||Entry level (1,680x1,050)|
If neither the Edge Z40 nor the XPS 8300 establishes itself as the clear winner in our application tests, the Velocity Micro system demonstrates a clear advantage in all of our gaming tests. Regardless of the game, the generation of DirectX, or the display resolution, the Edge Z40 overtakes the Dell on every benchmark. Neither system can match higher-end PCs like the Origin Genesis, and the Edge Z40 will not provide a smooth gameplay experience for more challenging games like the DirectX 11-based Metro 2033 at maximum image quality. We don't demand that capability from a PC in this price range, though. We expect that you won't find any game this PC can't play at more reasonable quality settings, and for its price the Edge Z40 delivers one of the best PC gaming experiences available.
If you want more 3D power from the Velocity Micro system, you can technically add two 3D cards to this PC, but you won't be able to use this configuration's GeForce GTX 560 Ti. The motherboard supports only AMD's CrossFireX multiple graphics card technology, and won't allow two Nvidia cards via SLI. Even if you do add two AMD cards, they will operate at reduced total bandwidth, and you can't use other cards in the system's 1x PCI Express slot. That still leaves you with three spare standard PCI expansion slots, but for those interested in a post-purchase graphics card update, we recommend tweaking this configuration by replacing the Nvidia card with an AMD Radeon.
Other internal upgrade options include adding up to two more memory sticks and four more hard drives. For the latter upgrade, we appreciate that Velocity Micro has stuck with the outward-facing hard-drive bays.
While the card expansion options for the Edge Z40 have a few limitations, we can't say the same for its external connectivity. You'll find both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports on the back of this system, as is common to every second-generation Core CPU-based PC we've seen so far. You also get eSATA and FireWire ports, along with optical S/PDIF and 7.1 analog audio outputs. For video, the graphics card provides two DVI outs and a Mini-HDMI output.
|Velocity Micro Edge Z40||Average watts per hour|
|Raw (annual kWh)||510.7956|
|Annual energy cost ($0.1135/kWh)||$57.98|
Like the other second-generation Core CPU systems, the Edge Z40 posts efficient power consumption for its performance, especially compared with the older Maingear F131 build and its first-generation Core chip. Because of its overclocking and fast graphics card, the Edge Z40 draws more power than the XPS 8300, but we expect most gamers will put up with the added monthly power charges in exchange for the Edge Z40's gaming capabilities.
Velocity Micro's service and support compare well with what other boutique PC sellers offer, though they don't match the "always-on" services of Dell and other mainstream vendors. Perhaps to its advantage, Velocity Micro relies exclusively on in-house phone support technicians, and though it doesn't offer 24-7 phone support, you can get in touch from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT on Saturday, which is a pretty fair window. The warranty on the system covers parts and labor for a year, as well as one year of depot repair service. And Velocity's Web site has all kinds of useful support resources.
The Velocity Micro Edge Z40 earns an Editors' Choice Award for its overachieving speed and value as a mainstream gaming desktop. We're also satisfied with its design and build quality. You can find faster PCs out there, but none in this price range that offer as much bang for the buck.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Acer Aspire Predator
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.93GHz Intel Core i7-870; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card; 1.5TB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive
Dell XPS 8300
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5870; 1.5TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GT440 graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit; 3.87GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 960; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards; 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state hard drive; 1.5TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics card (overclocked); 80GB solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Velocity Micro Z40
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.0GHz Intel Core i5-2500K (overclocked); 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti graphics card (overclocked); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive