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Velocity Micro's Edge Z55 is the second PC we've seen with Intel's new Core i7 processor. This $2,499 gaming desktop is not quite as ambitious as the $8,000 or so Falcon Northwest Mach V, but thanks to the new chip and a smart configuration, the Edge Z55 holds its own against the elite PCs of just a few months ago. It's also demonstrably faster than a Core i7-based Gateway that costs half as much. In other words, you get your money's worth with this PC. We recommend it for someone who's looking for a fast gaming desktop, but a more expensive system is either out of reach or outside the realm of sanity.
Velocity Micro's case is an exercise in sturdy minimalism. You get no removable hard-drive trays or flashy front panel access doors, but in exchange, you get clean exterior lines, an expertly wired interior, and at least semitasteful blue LED lighting. The pair of double-wide Radeon HD 4870 cards take up a fair amount of room inside the case, and Velocity Micro could have been more efficient here by opting instead for a dual-chip Radeon HD 4870 X2. At least the airflow is as clean as it can be with the given hardware.
The Core i7 920 CPU in this PC is not the fastest of Intel's new processor family, but Velocity has made the most of it through overclocking, ramping it up to 3.0GHz from 2.67GHz out of the box. Along with the CPU comes a new chipset that needs memory in multiples of three, which explains this PC's 6GB of DDR3 SDRAM. Combined with 64-bit Windows Vista, this Edge Z55 is not quite the powerhouse as Falcon Northwest's all-stops-removed Mach V (although Velocity Micro offers a similar top-flight desktop), but it also carves out a name for itself in its upper midrange product group.
|Velocity Micro Edge Z55||Acer Predator|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel X58||Nvidia 780i SLI|
|CPU||3.0GHz Intel Core i7-920 (overclocked)||2.83GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550|
|Memory||6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||(2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4870||512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX|
|Hard drives||750GB, 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive||(3) 640GB, 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit|
We line the Edge Z55 up against the higher-end version of the Acer Predator, a fixed configuration gaming PC with a distinct design that came out just about a month ago. We suspect Acer will move to Core i7 eventually, but for now the timing of this product launch is hard to justify, especially as compared with the Velocity Micro system.
The Velocity's CPU in particular helps it surpass the Acer on our performance charts, as you'll see below. We must credit the Acer's nearly 2TB of storage space between three hard drives, but most gamers would rather crunch frames first and store data later, and would gladly trade at least one of those 640GB hard drives for an extra 3D card. Smartly, the Edge Z55 has two.
|Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)|
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
We find many interesting comparisons in our benchmarks results. The fact that the Velocity Micro was able to surpass or at least compare favorably with the $3,200 AVADirect and the $7,700 Alienware on a few tests is probably most impressive (both of those vendors will make the move to Core i7 as well).
The test that stands out the most for us, however, is our Photoshop benchmark. That test is particularly memory sensitive, and with 8GB of RAM and a 2.83GHz CPU, we thought the Acer Predator might give the 6GB, 3.0GHz Velocity Micro a fight. It seems that between the faster CPU and the Core i7's improved memory access, PCs like the Velocity Micro that use Core i7 and Intel's new X58 chipset are able to do more with less.
|1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)||1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)|
The gaming scores are no less impressive, and the Edge Z55 and its pair of Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards dominate the competition, topping even the Alienware Area-51 ALX, a former record holder on our Unreal Tournament 3 tests. The Falcon Northwest Mach V had already surpassed that score (and also posted the only 60 frames per second score on our high-resolution Crysis test we've seen to-date), but the Velocity Micro's performance is to be commended, especially since it costs more than $5,000 less than the Alienware. You might not be able to dial up every setting on every game at 30-inch LCD resolutions with the Edge Z55, but for the majority of gamers, this system will provide a smooth, great-looking gaming experience.
We'll also add that before we realized ATI's 3D drivers aren't quite ready for Far Cry 2, the Velocity Micro turned in an impressive 68 frames per second at a very high image-quality setting on our test-in-progress in that game. We can't guarantee similar results without a reliable driver, but we also sat down to play Far Cry 2 at 1,920x1,024 (via a 32-inch LCD TV over an HDMI connection) in DirectX 10 mode at the "Optimal" image quality setting and enjoyed near-flawless gameplay.
The Edge Z55 comes with two HDMI connections, one on each graphics card. You might not aspire to lug a full tower PC next to your television, but Velocity Micro at least gives you the option. More and more LCDs have HDMI inputs as well. You also get a pair of eSATA ports, ensuring fast external hard-drive connections. There's no wireless network adapter, which is fine. The Gigabit Ethernet port should do the job for most of you. You also get the typical array of digital and analog audio jacks, a multitude of USB ports, and the near-ubiquitous media card reader.
Velocity Micro includes no special software on the Edge Z55, except for the 3DMark Vantage benchmark tool, GPU-Z to display graphics card information, and a few other performance-oriented applications. The advanced users more likely to purchase this system may appreciate those program, and they also won't miss the lightweight, but useful, system information and troubleshooting applications that come with more mainstream PCs lately.
The default warranty for this system provides a year of parts-and-labor protection. Velocity Micro does not offer 24-7 phone support, but instead you get a reasonable six days of tech help, from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific on weekdays, and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Velocity Micro promises that its technical support staff is all in-sourced as well. You can also poke around its Web site for a variety of useful FAQs, driver downloads, and other support resources.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 2.83GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card; (3) 640GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drives.
Alienware Area-51 ALX
Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit; 4.0GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (overclocked); 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) Nvidia GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics cards; (2) 160GB 10,000rpm Western Digital hard drives, 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.
AVADirect Core 2 DDR3 SLI
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 (overclocked); 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card; (2) 500GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drives; 150GB 10,000 rpm Western Digital hard drive.
Gateway FX 6800-01e
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-920; 3GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 750GB Western Digital 10,000rpm hard drive.
Velocity Micro Edge Z55
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.0GHz Intel Core i7-920 (overclocked); 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards; 750GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive.