Velocity Micro's $4,644 ProMagix DCX and its Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840 dual-core processor deliver some of the fastest performance we've ever seen. But it might not hold the crown for long: AMD's recently unveiled Athlon 64 X2 4800+ holds up exceedingly well against this powerhouse PC, and the chip we tested didn't even come in a fully optimized desktop. For now, the ProMagix DCX is the reigning performance champion, at least with respect to application and (especially) digital content creation. Wondering about 3D graphics scores? It's fast, but not as fast as a system with two graphics cards. Then again, it's not designed for 3D gaming. Instead, Velocity Micro has put together a very strong digital design powerhouse. For advanced photo editing in particular, we recommend it. Everything about the Velocity Micro ProMagix DCX is big, from its mammoth aluminum chassis to its $4,644 price tag. Its extended-depth Signature LX aluminum case measures an imposing 24 by 18 by 8 inches (HWD), 4 inches deeper than the standard-size case that houses the Gamer's Edge DualX. Our test system came in black with silver trim, but if you want to lighten things up, you can order a silver case with black trim.
A large panel on the upper-front bezel hides four external drive bays, a floppy/multicard reader combo drive, and the power and reset buttons. A lower door with a Velocity Micro arrowhead cutout hides the blue LED-lit intake fan, and below the door, on the outer bezel, you'll find two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and two audio jacks. Rear side ports include four USB 2.0, one FireWire, one Gigabit Ethernet, and sound card audio jacks.
The ProMagix DCX has lots of expansion potential. You get room for two additional hard drives and two optical drives, you also get three open PCI slots, one of which is a questionably useful x4 PCIe slot, and two available memory slots. Although the case is mostly tool-free (storage and optical drives are screwed in), access to the spacious interior is somewhat limited. The heat exchanger for the liquid-cooling system is mounted on the side panel, and its tubes are connected to the motherboard. In order to work comfortably inside the case, we had to remove the six screws holding the heat exchanger in place, and even then, we had to work around it dangling inside the case. Since the processor is the only liquid-cooled component, the system uses a total of five fans, including the power supply, to keep everything else cool. As a result, the system is a bit noisy.At the core of the Velocity Micro ProMagix DCX you'll find Intel's new dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840 (PEE 840) processor and an Intel 955XBK motherboard, which is based on the new 955X Express chipset. The PEE 840 not only has the distinction of having two physical processors on one chip, it is also the first overclockable Intel processor in years. Velocity put that capability to great advantage by bumping the speed up to 4.0GHz per core (3.2GHz is standard). This is the highest CPU clock speed we've seen in CNET Labs on a dual-core or any other CPU.
Our review system came with 1GB of DDR2 memory running at 667MHz, as well as two 10,000rpm 74GB Serial ATA hard drives configured to RAID 0, and an additional 7,200rpm 400GB drive designated for storage. The two 10,000rpm drives give you fast access times to frequently used files, such as the operating system and other core software, while the slower, larger 400GB drive provides plenty of additional storage--a smart configuration for a design PC.
Although the Velocity Micro ProMagix DCX does not support Nvidia's SLI graphics spec for dual graphics cards, it does come with ATI's high-end 256MB ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition video card, a great single GPU graphics card for gaming and serious graphics. Other components include a double-layer, multiformat DVD burner, a CD-RW/DVD combo drive, and a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS sound card, making this PC very digital media-friendly. Velocity sent no speakers or monitor (you can add them both at the time of purchase), but it did throw in a Microsoft Internet keyboard and optical scroll mouse. Bundled software is sparse; in addition to Windows XP Professional, the system comes with Corel's WordPerfect Office 11.0 suite and Ulead's Digital Creation Suite for disc burning, photo editing, and the like.Application performance
When the Overdrive PC Torque SLI achieved an overall SysMark 2004 score of 242 a few weeks back, we sat up and took notice: it was the fastest SysMark score we'd ever seen. Imagine our shock, then, when the Velocity Micro ProMagix DCX came and topped it by 18 percent. With its overall score of 286 on SysMark 2004, the Velocity Micro is now the fastest PC we've ever seen, at least in application performance. It's interesting to note, though, how the SysMark scores break down.
In the office-productivity (OP) test, the ProMagix DCX still set a record with its score of 227, but it beat the Overdrive by only 2 points on this test, making the results a virtual tie given our three percent margin of error. But on the Internet-content-creation (ICC) test, the ProMagix DCX and its score of 361 beat the Overdrive by more than 100 points. This performance gap speaks exceedingly well for the ProMagix DCX's suitability to task. Intensive graphics apps comprise the ICC test, including Adobe Photoshop and Premiere and Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, whereas the OP test uses more mainstream apps such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook. Our test system's SysMark scores also suggest that, as advertised, the Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor is designed to improve performance on multimedia applications.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating
|SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating
|SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating
Predictably, an SLI system outperformed the Velocity Micro ProMagix DCX in our 3D gaming tests. A score of 59.8 frames per second (fps) in our Half-Life 1,600x1,200 tests couldn't touch the Overdrive PC Torque SLI's 71.9fps. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but the results at least suggest that by not supporting SLI, the Intel 955X chipset can't really be taken seriously as part of a high-end 3D powerhouse system. You can of course still play new games smoothly on the ProMagix DCX and other systems that match the chipset with a high-end 3D card, but an SLI rig remains the best option. Gaming isn't the Velocity Micro ProMagix DCX's reason for being, however; as a design system--as long as you're not getting too involved in 3D rendering--it should be fine.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Half-Life 2 1,024x768 4xAA 8xAF
|Half-Life 2 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF
As we recently learned, a factory-standard Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840 is not as fast as AMD's new dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ CPU. That said, Velocity Micro did everything right in the ProMagix DCX in terms of getting the most out of Intel's chip. By bumping the clock speed up to 4.0GHz per core, the Velocity is the only system that beat AMD's white box PC and its early sample of the X2 4800+ on almost all of our dual-core benchmarks. What's interesting, though, is what Velocity had to do to get there.
The AMD white box came with its CPU running at its default clock speed with no special cooling mechanism other than its default heat sink and cooling-fan layout. The Velocity ProMagix DCX needed a restrictive $440 Vader-esque liquid-cooling contraption to stabilize its heavily overclocked CPU. The ProMagix DCX beat the AMD white box handily in our multitasking and Photoshop tests, by 17 percent and 13 percent, respectively. But the Velocity barely edged the AMD system on our Sorensen video-encoding test with a 5 percent performance differential, and the two were virtually tied on our iTunes MP3 encoding test. As a brute application performer, the ProMagix DCX seems like a clear choice, but we're wary of recommending it on its multimedia encoding performance, given that its CPU requires extreme overclocking measures for relatively little gain over a system using an Athlon 64 X2 4800+ chip. Be sure to take your workload into careful consideration before making a purchase. It's also worth noting that we still need to run SysMark 2004 on the AMD dual-core white box. It would be very interesting if that crown again changed hands so quickly.
(Lower times are better)
(Lower times are better)
(Lower times are better)
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Find out more about how we test desktop systems.System configurations:
3.2GHz Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840 Intel white box
3.2GHz Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840; Intel 955X Express chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Sapphire Radeon X850XT PCIe; 160GB Seagate ST3160827AS Serial ATA hard drive; Windows XP Professional SP2
3.73GHz Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840 Intel white box
3.73GHz Intel Pentium 4 Processor Extreme Edition; Intel 955X Express chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Sapphire Radeon X850XT PCIe; 160GB Seagate ST3160827AS Serial ATA hard drive; Windows XP Professional SP2
ABS Ultimate M6
2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Nvidia Nforce 4 Ultra SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT (PCIe, SLI); two Seagate ST3200822AS 200GB 7,200rpm, Serial ATA; integrated Silicon SiI 3114 SoftRAID 5 controller; Windows XP Professional SP2
Dell Dimension XPS Gen 5
3.2GHz Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840; Intel 955X Express chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon X850XT PE PCIe; two 250GB Western Digital Serial ATA hard drives in a RAID 0 array; Windows XP Professional Media Center Edition 2005 SP2
Overdrive PC Torque SLI
AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 overclocked to 2.8GHz; Nvidia Nforce 4 Ultra SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB two overclocked Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra PCI Express graphics cards using SLI; two 74GB Western Digital Serial ATA hard drives in a RAID 0 array; Windows XP Professional SP2
Velocity Micro ProMagix DCX
3.2GHz Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840 overclocked to 4.0GHz; Intel 955X Express chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon X850 XT PE PCIe; two 74GB Western Digital Serial ATA hard drives in a RAID 0 array; one 400GB Hitachi HDS724040KLSA80 Serial ATA hard drive; Windows XP Professional SP2
2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-55; Nvidia Nforce 4 Ultra SLI chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 500MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe, SLI); two Seagate ST3160827AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller; Windows XP Professional SP2 Velocity Micro provides the ProMagix DCX with a generous three-year parts and labor warranty, along with one year of onsite service. Although toll-free telephone support is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, the company promises a return call within 15 minutes during off-hours and holidays. You can extend onsite service to two years for an additional $169, while $329 gets you three years. The ProMagix DCX comes with an owner's portfolio containing user manuals and driver disks, and the Velocity Micro Web site provides driver and software updates, utilities for tweaking your components, and a guide to help keep your system running at peak performance.