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Velocity Micro Edge Z5 (Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 Overclocked) review: Velocity Micro Edge Z5 (Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 Overclocked)

Velocity Micro Edge Z5 (Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 Overclocked)

Rich Brown
Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
5 min read

Velocity Micro's $999 Edge Z5 is a worthy sub-$1,000 desktop, in particular for those looking for a capable--but affordable--gaming PC. Rather than relying on the off-the-shelf parts for this system, Velocity has applied its savvy as a performance PC vendor to this system, overclocking where appropriate and eschewing most nonessential components to keep the price reasonable. A recent system from Dell gives this Edge Z5 competition in certain kinds of programs, but it's a faster gaming box than anything we've seen in its price range.


Velocity Micro Edge Z5 (Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 Overclocked)

The Good

Best in-class gaming performance; strong day-to-day application performance; plenty of upgrade room; compact, attractive case.

The Bad

No Blu-ray drive option; outpaced on multithreaded applications and multitasking by a competing Dell of the same price.

The Bottom Line

By tweaking its internal components to achieve maximum 3D performance, Velocity Micro has made its $999 Edge Z5 one of the most impressive lower-end gaming desktops we've ever seen. As long as you don't mind sacrificing a bit of productivity speed to get it, we recommend this system to any PC gamer on a budget.

The Edge Z5 uses the smallest case in Velocity Micro's current lineup, the MicroATX MX-2W. Our review unit came in black, although you can opt for a silver version at no extra cost. Even though the case is compact, you still get plenty of room to upgrade. Our configuration had room for two more hard drives, two more memory sticks, a second optical drive, a PCI Express card, and a standard PCI card. Power users will appreciate all of that flexibility post purchase, and Velocity Micro also provides a fair number of options to add in before you buy, although interestingly there's no Blu-ray drive or TV tuner options. The Nvidia NForce 630i chipset is also not SLI or CrossFire compliant, so you're stuck with a single graphics card, although Velocity does offer a few dual-chip options if you're also willing to upgrade to an 850-watt power supply. Our review unit came with a 550-watt power supply, which is adequate for its current configuration.

  Velocity Micro Edge Z5 Dell Studio XPS-122B
Price $999 $999
CPU 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850
Hard drives 750GB, 7,200rpm 640GB, 7,200rpm
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 SP1 (64-bit)

Focusing on what you do get for your $999, you'll find that there's a lot to like about this Edge Z5. The Dell Studio XPS-122B provides a great side-by-side comparison for a few reasons. The prices are the same, but Dell also uses Intel's new Core i7 920 CPUs, where Velocity Micro relies on an overclocked Core 2 Quad Q9400 chip. Velocity Micro also has an overclocked graphics card. Dell uses the same Radeon HD 4850 as the Edge Z5, but running at stock speeds. We'll see the CPU and GPU differences play out on our performance tests. Otherwise, Velocity Micro gives you a larger hard drive then the Dell, but Dell has eSATA and FireWire jacks for more external storage and peripheral device flexibility. The Edge Z5 relies strictly on USB 2.0.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Velocity Micro Edge Z5

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z5
Gateway FX6800-01e

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z5

Cinebench test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Dell Studio XPS-122B
Gateway FX6800-01e
Velocity Micro Edge Z5
HP Pavilion Elite m9515y
Apple iMac (20-inch)

The application scores provide an interesting side-by-side for the Velocity Micro and Dell systems, in particular in relation to their processors and memory architectures. Traditionally, Photoshop performance ties in closely with raw CPU speed and memory performance. The Edge Z5 has a faster CPU clock speed than the Dell, but that's only enough to bring it up to par with the Dell's faster, more advanced memory architecture on Photoshop. The Dell's memory can't make up for its slower CPU clock on iTunes, and in the long run, we suspect the Velocity Micro will deliver stronger single-core application performance. The Dell isn't far behind, though, and its better multitasking and Cinebench multicore scores suggest that if day-to-day productivity and digital media applications are your main concern, the Dell offers a better performance bet than the Velocity Micro.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z5

Far Cry 2 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Edge Z5

As a gaming desktop, however, the Dell offers no contest to the Edge Z5. Thanks to a special overclocked edition of the ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card, Velocity Micro edges out its competition on both our Unreal Tournament 3 and our Far Cry 2 tests. We're particularly impressed by the Velocity Micro's 41 frames per second score on our 1,920x1,200 Far Cry 2 benchmark. We'd normally like to see 60fps, but 41fps is a big leap over the Dell's 26fps. Although the Velocity Micro might not quite provide ideal performance on a 24-inch LCD, we expect for those of you with 22-inch or smaller LCDs you will find fewer systems at this price capable of such smooth gameplay.

While it's well suited for gaming, the Edge Z5 doesn't give you many options for other kinds of functionality, in particular the lack of a Blu-ray drive or a TV tuner. We don't really miss the TV tuner, but we don't think it will be too long before Blu-ray drives become so affordable that they replace DVD burners in PCs as the most common optical drive option. It also doesn't seem that hard to offer at least a Blu-ray option. Still, Velocity Micro does give you options to add both 802.11g wireless networking, as well as a Bluetooth receiver, both of which are welcome.

Velocity Micro boasts in-house business hour phone support (4 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT on weekdays, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays) as part of its standard warranty coverage of its desktops, which protects your purchase from a year of parts defects and labor charges as well. Velocity's Web site offers a variety of support services as well, including driver downloads, FAQs, and other help. You might also find various price rebates in play, depending on what Velocity Micro has on offer when you swing by its site.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
Velocity Micro Edge Z5
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 (overclocked); 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card (overclocked); 750GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.

Apple iMac (20-inch, 2.66GHz, Winter 2009)
Apple OS X 10.5.6; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 2GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400m integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard. drive

Dell Studio XPS-122B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 640GB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive.

Gateway FX6800-01e
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 3GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 750GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.

HP Pavilion Elite m9515y
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz AMD Phenom X4 9850; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 9600 GS graphics card; 750GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.


Velocity Micro Edge Z5 (Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 Overclocked)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 7Support 8
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