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Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX (Athlon 64 FX-55) review: Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX (Athlon 64 FX-55)

Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX (Athlon 64 FX-55)

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...)
Rich Brown
11 min read
Intro
Editor's note: We have changed the ratings in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Find out more here.
After more than six months of waiting, we finally get a look at a stable computer that uses two graphics cards simultaneously. Velocity Micro's $4,649 Gamer's Edge DualX came loaded with a pair of 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra PCI Express graphics cards linked together via Nvidia's new Nforce4 motherboard chipset that features two x16 PCI Express slots and a bridge chip that plugs into both 3D cards, harnessing their combined power. Thanks to SLI, or Scalable Link Interface, the Gamer's Edge DualX posted unprecedented 3D benchmark scores (although interestingly, they were not twice as fast as single-card PCs') that, combined with Velocity Micro's expert construction, make this PC an outstanding, if expensive, high-end gaming system. The dual graphics cards in the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX takes top billing with respect to this system's design. (For a complete breakdown of how Scalable Link Interface works, read our double-barreled 3D graphics explainer.) Using the new Asus A8N-SLI motherboard with Nvidia's Nforce4 chipset, Velocity Micro paired up two slightly overclocked 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics cards, bridging them together with the Asus-supplied SLI connector. A single 600-watt power supply drives both cards, and each comes with a pair of DVI ports. Even though you get so many video-out ports (a pair of DVI-to-VGA adapters come in the box, too) that doesn't mean you can connect four monitors: Nvidia's current drivers support only two simultaneous displays.

We had initial concerns that using two graphics cards would make some drastic cooling and wattage demands, especially these two fast-and-hot cards, which require a direct connection to the power supply. We also wondered whether all of those extra wires would clutter the inside of the case. Happily, even though the Gamer's Edge DualX uses a tightly packed midtower case, none of our concerns were justified, though you must be willing to tolerate some noise pollution. Most of the cables, including the extra graphics card power connectors, are wrapped, tied, or otherwise routed out of the way. The only area that might give you trouble is the hard drives, because with three (of a possible five) installed, the nest of serial ATA wires is rather dense and unwieldy. Fortunately, the hard drive cage is easy to remove entirely.

8.0

Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX (Athlon 64 FX-55)

The Good

Fastest-ever 3D gaming performance in CNET Labs; speedy optical drives; 7-in-1 media-card/floppy combo drive; Far Cry and Doom 3 included.

The Bad

Noisy; expensive; case wheels are a useless option.

The Bottom Line

If eye-watering 3D performance is your goal (and you can forget about the cost), we can recommend no other PC than the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX.


Packed to the gills as it is, the Velocity Micro still manages to keep things tidy.

Aside from an array of five cooling fans (three system, one CPU, and one power supply), no excessive cooling measures take away from the straightforward layout. With so many fans, you do get a significant amount of noise, though, which makes us think an SLI configuration in the new cooling-cognizant BTX form factor PC would be an interesting system. It remains to be seen though, whether AMD-based motherboard vendors will adapt to the BTX layout or whether Intel will come out with an SLI-supporting chipset.

As for the case itself, the Gamer's Edge DualX has some promising features, but others we'd leave behind. The front panel features two doors: one hides the drive bays, another conceals a mesh screen and a cooling fan. The fan door doesn't do much, other than create an interesting visual effect, thanks to the Velocity Micro logo design and the blue LED that shines through it--a refreshingly tasteful use of case lighting. Behind the upper door, there's access to four 5.25-inch drive bays (of which two are taken) and two 3.5-inch bays, with one of those occupied, as well. Two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire jack, and a pair of audio jacks line the bottom edge of the case. We'd opt out of the wheels on the bottom of our test system's case, thus saving $30; it's hard to roll the case on them without lifting the entire thing anyway.


We're not sure why youÂ’d want wheels on your PC, and the GamerÂ’s Edge DualX doesnÂ’t provide any answers.

The rear of the case holds a few surprises. YouÂ’ll find a healthy selection of audio options, thanks to the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS and its 7.1-speaker support. The case also has inputs to the motherboard audio chip, which, should you enable it, supports another set of 7.1 inputs, as well as both coaxial digital and Toslink digital audio inputs. The back panel serves up four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and a pair of Gigabit Ethernet jacks.

Inside the Gamer's Edge DualX, there are two free memory slots but no available expansion slots. You'll have to sacrifice the sound card or the wireless networking adapter if you want to add a PCI expansion card.

If you had an unlimited budget to configure a high-performance gaming PC, your spec sheet might look something like that of the $4,649 Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX. The highlight, obviously, is the SLI 3D card configuration, with two 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra cards. One of those high-end cards on its own costs roughly $500, which is telling of the total system price, but for gamers who demand the ultimate in 3D performance, an SLI configuration such as the Gamer's Edge DualX is currently the best way to have it. And while the 3D centerpiece will draw most of your attention, Velocity Micro didn't skimp on any of the other components.


Nvidia's SLI dual graphics card configuration revealed.

AMD's Athlon FX-55 processor has proven itself one of the most powerful consumer CPUs on the market, so it makes sense that Velocity Micro would include it in this spare-no-expense PC. AMD's top CPU is paired with ample memory: 1,024MB of 400MHz DDR memory. The hard drives on our test system are both fast (two 74GB 10,000rpm drives in a RAID 0 configuration) and large (a single 250GB 7,200rpm drive).

For removable media, the Gamer's Edge DualX gives you plenty to work with. A tandem of a 16X dual-format/dual-layer DVD-RW drive and a 16X DVD/CD-RW combo drive lets you burn CDs and DVDs quick and easy. We also liked the space-efficient 7-in-1 media-card/floppy combo drive, which takes up only a single front-panel 3.5-inch bay.


Behind door number one, you'll find a pair of optical drives and a 7-in-1 media-card/floppy combo drive.

Velocity Micro sent neither a monitor nor speakers with the Gamer's Edge DualX, although you can choose from a range of high- and low-end options for both. We did receive a keyboard and a mouse in the form of the Logitech Cordless Desktop LX 700, a slick set with plenty of customizable buttons that let you craft the perfect media or gaming interface scheme.

You also get plenty to do out of the box, including the means to put the 3D capabilities to the test. The system runs on Windows XP Pro and includes the Ulead Digital Creation Suite and Corel's WordPerfect Office Suite for media creation and basic productivity. But more exciting is the inclusion of both Far Cry and Doom 3, two demanding, up-to-the-minute 3D games that are perfect for showing off the SLI hardware.

Application performance
We expected great things from the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX, even from an application performance standpoint, given the fast AMD Athlon FX-55 processor, and we weren't disappointed. With an overall score of 217 on SysMark 2004 performance, the Gamer's Edge DualX beat out the Athlon FX-55-powered Cyberpower Media Center Ultra Edition, likely due to the Cyberpower's slower hard drive setup. The Gamer's Edge DualX didn't overachieve; two overclocked PCs with already-fast CPUs and a 3.8GHz Intel Pentium 4 570-powered Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 posted better overall scores. But regardless, at this level, standard PC usage poses no challenge, and you'll notice the differences only when you look at the benchmark charts, not when you're actually using the computer.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  
Note: * Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX and Alienware Area-51 ALX have overclocked CPUs. Both those and the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX have overclocked graphics cards.

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics and gaming performance
Now, the nitty-gritty. Our first look at the 3D performance of the Gamer's Edge DualX doesn't represent the most challenging 3D test, but it provides an accurate snapshot of the kinds of performance increase you'll see with older 3D titles. The results taught us quite a lot. Interestingly, at the 1,024x768-resolution test, the Velocity Micro didn't even finish in first place. At 284.1 frames per second (fps), the AGP-based Cyberpower Media Center Ultra Edition beat all of its PCI Express competition, single card or otherwise, although the Gamer's Edge DualX was the next closest with 269.6fps. The reason for this is simply because the 1,024x768 test is CPU limited, which means that it doesn't tax the graphics cards enough.

On the 1,600x1,200-resolution test, the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX absolutely decimated the competition. Its 204.5fps score is easily the fastest we've ever seen; it's 55 percent faster than the Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX, the next-fastest configuration. Clearly, the Gamer's Edge DualX can handle any older game you'd care to throw up against its pair of mildly overclocked Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultras, and it'll do so faster than any other computer we've seen to date.

3D gaming performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  
Note: * Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX, Alienware Area-51 ALX, and Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX CPUs and graphics cards are overclocked.

To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests and are set to 4X and 8X, respectively, during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal provides an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).

Far Cry Custom Demo Rebellion (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Far Cry 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  
Far Cry 1,024x768 4xAA 8xAF  
Note: * Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX, Alienware Area-51 ALX, and Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX CPUs and graphics cards are overclocked.

Far Cry presents a much harder challenge than Unreal Tournament 2003 and is a better indicator of how hardware will perform using newer games. The resulting frame-rate scores dropped accordingly, but the conclusion remains roughly the same. With a 93.3fps score, the Gamer's Edge DualX posted the highest 1,024x768 frame scores, but the next closest competitor, the Alienware Area-51 ALX, came close with 90.7fps. Again, because of the lower resolution, the CPU limits the upper levels of the frame rate. If we dropped the resolution to 800x600, odds are that the scores would be even closer, if not identical.

On the more demanding 1,600x1,200 test with all of the detail levels maxed out, however, the Gamer's Edge DualX shines. The percentage difference between it and the competition is narrower on this test than it was on the high-end Unreal Tournament 2003 test, with only a 28 percent performance jump over the Alienware Area-51 ALX's 63.9fps score. While this margin is significant, you'll want to ask whether the added cost of the SLI configuration is worth a 28 percent boost to 3D performance. We'll have a better idea about how these results represent SLI's overall performance benefits and its value proposition once we've tested a few more systems, but for now, it's clear that the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX and its implementation of Nvidia's SLI dual graphics card setup will let you play the latest 3D games at the smoothest frame rates and at maximum detail settings.

For high-end gaming PCs, we've added UbiSoft Entertainment's Far Cry to our benchmark arsenal. Far Cry is a DirectX 9.0-based game that uses a number of advanced rendering techniques, all of which combine to produce some of the most realistic scenery and physics we've seen in a game title to date. As such, it is very demanding on a graphics subsystem and, therefore, an excellent tool for evaluating high-end PCs. In our tests, we run a custom demo on the Rebellion level and run it two times each at a 32-bit color depth and at resolutions of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are set to 4X and 8X for both resolutions during our 1,600x1,200 tests. After installing the retail game, we patch it to version 1.3.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Alienware Area-51 ALX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two WDC WD360GD-00TNA0 36GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

Cyberpower Media Center Ultra Edition
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Via K8T800 Pro chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (AGP); Maxtor 7Y250M0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.8GHz Intel P4 570; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two Maxtor 6B300S0 300GB 7,200rpm, Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Nvidia Nforce4 Ultra SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe, SLI); two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; WDC WD2500JD-50HBB0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Silicon SiI 3114 SoftRAID 5 controller

Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX
Windows XP Professional; 3.6GHz Intel P4 560; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; Hitachi HDS724040KLSA80 400GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

Velocity Micro offers an admirable support package with the Gamer's Edge DualX, with a three-year parts-and-labor warranty and a single year of 24/7 phone support and onsite service. You can extend the service to up to three years of onsite and 24/7 phone support for $199. The Web site provides plenty of useful resources as well, with a glossary, an optimization guide, a FAQ, links to manufacturer Web sites, and other help.

Look in the box itself, and you'll find the Velocity Micro Owner's Portfolio, which has a neatly organized collection of component manuals, driver discs, and a quick-setup guide. You'll also find a Velocity Micro user guide for some extra but not system-specific help.

8.0

Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX (Athlon 64 FX-55)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Support 8