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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)

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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.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

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.

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
Gateway FX6800-01e

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