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Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 review: This plain black box fades into the background, putting VR center stage

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For anyone looking to keep their virtual-reality obsession on the down low, a gamer-centric desktop such as the massive tank-like Acer Predator G6 or the small-but-bold Falcon Northwest Tiki isn't going to fool anybody. That's why I was pleased to see an excellent collection of high-end components packed into a very unassuming chassis in the Velocity Micro Raptor Z55.

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8.1

Velocity Micro Raptor Z55

The Good

The Raptor has a subtle, discreet black design that fades into the background. It offers excellent high-end performance and a separate front panel for connecting VR headsets.

The Bad

It's still a little plain-looking for such an expensive PC, and it takes up a ton of space. The front-mounted VR connection panel isn't sturdy enough.

The Bottom Line

The Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 is a VR-ready desktop with a very conservative look, but excellent performance and plenty of configuration options.

The minimalist design of this VR-ready PC fades into the background, with a subtle black brushed-metal finish, no flashing lights or crazy angles, and fairly subtle branding. Its only concession to gaming chops are blue-lit fans on the side and back panels, each behind mesh grilles so they cast only a mellow blue glow, and a small Velocity Micro logo on at the bottom of the front panel.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Otherwise, the front faceplate of the tower is feature-free, except for an EVGA VR-ready panel, with one HDMI and two USB ports, allowing you to plug something like an HTC Vive headset into the front of the system, instead of snaking around to the back ports, which may be hard to get to. It's a good idea in theory. But the EVGA panel, which comes bundled with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti graphics card included with this configuration, isn't attached very firmly, and pulled right out of the front drive bay when I tried to use it. In both this system and the AVA Direct Avatar, I switched back to the rear ports right away.

This configuration, with the Nvidia GeForce 980Ti, an Intel Core i7 6700K CPU, and a 1TB HDD/256GB SSD storage combo is priced at $2,799 in the US, which works out to around £1,942 or AU$3,855. Prices and selection for custom PC configurations can vary quickly, and the new Nvidia GeForce 1080 series of cards already costs about the same to add as this very top-end 980Ti card.

Velocity Micro Raptor Z55

Price as reviewed $2,799
PC CPU 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6700K
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 8GB Nvida GeForce GTX 980Ti
Storage 256GB + 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Future upgrades should be easy. The side panel pops off after removing a couple of thumbscrews, and the case interior was tangle-free, with a ton of room for expansion. Even after the HDD/SSD combo included in this version, there were four full-size drive bays open and two addition PCIe slots.

01velocity-micro-raptor-z55.jpg

The VR-ready panel on the front didn't feel secure enough to use.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The high-end VR-ready PCs we've tested largely pull from the same small pile of available parts, and these Core i7/980 and 980Ti combos have all performed as expected. All have been very impressive at both application and game benchmarks, with the AVA Direct, Velocity Micro and Falcon Northwest systems -- all using Nvidia 980Ti cards -- being especially good at VR and game tasks. With both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the Raptor ran smoothly, which requires a steady 90 frames per second per eye.

Conclusion

The Raptor has enough configuration options for just about anyone who doesn't feel like building their own PC from scratch, and even on this high-end configuration, there's plenty of room inside the neatly wired interior for expansion, both for graphics cards and extra storage.

If you want something flashier, a great many boutique PC makers will happily sell you tricked-out cases with trippy lighting. But if you want to buy a killer VR-ready desktop, and need it to blend into the family room or your office, it's hard to find something less offensive-looking than the Velocity Micro Raptor Z55.

Multimedia multitasking test 3.0

Falcon Northwest Tiki 120Origin PC Chronos 123Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 125AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 133Acer Predator G6 143Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 143Origin PC Eon17-SLX 151Alienware X51 248Dell XPS 8900 257
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-core)

Falcon Northwest Tiki 24,461Origin PC Chronos 19,398Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 19,162Origin PC Eon17-SLX 18,083AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 18,041Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 16,753Acer Predator G6 15,678Dell XPS 8900 11,025Alienware X51 10,995
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

SteamVR performance test scores

AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 11Falcon Northwest Tiki 11Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 10.5Origin PC Eon17-SLX 8.5Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 8.1Acer Predator G6 7.6Origin PC Chronos 7Dell XPS 8900 6.5Alienware X51 6.4
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Falcon Northwest Tiki 4,421Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 4,011AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 3,960Origin PC Eon17-SLX 3,374Acer Predator G6 3,193Origin PC Chronos 2,867Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 2,812Alienware X51 2,548Dell XPS 8900 2,502
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Falcon Northwest Tiki 201.87Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 197.92AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop 183.77Acer Predator G6 163.23Origin PC Eon17-SLX 156.81Origin PC Chronos 153.97Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 150.27Alienware X51 131.97Dell XPS 8900 118.27
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

AVA Direct Avatar VR Desktop Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti; 500GB SSD + 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Acer Predator G6 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980; 256GB SSD + 2TB 7,200rpm HDD
Alienware X51 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970; 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Origin PC Chronos Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); OC 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970; 250GB SSD + 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980; 256GB SSD + 2TB 7,200rpm HDD
Dell XPS 8900 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970; 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Origin PC Eon17-SLX Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti; (2) 256GB SSD RAID 0 + 2TB HDD
Falcon Northwest Tiki Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 3GHz Intel Core i7-5960X; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHZ; 8GB Nvida GeForce GTX 980Ti; 512GB SSD + 6TB HDD 5,700rpm
01velocity-micro-raptor-z55.jpg
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Velocity Micro Raptor Z55

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 9