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Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 (Core i7 3930K review: Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 (Core i7 3930K

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MSRP: $4,999.00

The Good With Intel's new six-core CPUs and a pair of strong graphics cards, the Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 delivers on its promise of fast gaming and multithreaded processing performance.

The Bad Intel's new six-core chips don't offer many benefits to gamers, who can still get a great deal from Intel's older quad core Core i7's.

The Bottom Line Velocity Micro's Raptor Z90 offers everything we expect given its high-end components, but Intel's latest CPUs lack the value of its older chips, making this system and others like it recommendable to buyers with niche performance needs.

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

On the heels of the Falcon Northwest Mach V, Velocity Micro's Raptor Z90 joins a raft of competing $4,999 luxury desktops bearing Intel's new six-core performance chip. Against the backdrop of the new chip, its new motherboard, and our own $5,000 price-tag limit, Velocity Micro has crafted a high-performance system that competes well with the Falcon on our gaming tests, but, like the Mach V, also offers more nuanced performance than you might see from a system designed purely for gaming. Even if I wouldn't necessarily buy this configuration, Velocity Micro has configured a powerful performance desktop that shows off the capabilities of Intel's new platform. Given its overall performance edge, I can recommend it over the competing system from Falcon Northwest.

Without belaboring this review with another long technical overview, the highlights of Intel's new Core i7 3930K chip include six physical CPU cores with support for up to twelve processing threads, dynamically balanced thanks to Intel's HyperThreading technology. The "K" designation in the CPU name means it is overclockable, and Velocity Micro has pushed the system past its maximum 3.4GHz stock frequency to a respectably ambitious 4.7GHz.

With the new chip also come new Intel X79 chipset motherboards. Like Falcon Northwest, Velocity Micro has used an Asus P9X79 motherboard to go with Intel's new chip. Also like the Falcon system, Velocity Micro has decided to stock its Raptor Z90 full of memory, plugging 16GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM, via four memory sticks, into the X79 motherboard's quad-channel memory slots.

Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 Falcon Northwest Mach V
Price $4,999 $4,995
Motherboard chipset Intel X79 Intel X79
CPU 4.7GHz Intel Core i7 3930K (overclocked) 4.4GHz Intel Core i7 3930K (overclocked)
Memory 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics (2) 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 (3) 1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570
Hard drives (2) Patriot Wildfire 120GB SSDs, 2TB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive; 128MB Crucial SSD, 2TB 7,200 rpm Samsung hard drive
Optical drive Blu-ray writer/dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray writer/dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)

Four different vendors submitted PCs for review with Intel's new CPU and chipset. Of those, only the Velocity Micro and Falcon systems withstood the scrutiny of our testing. Even the Falcon and Velocity Micro systems had the occasional crash, but both were stable enough over the long run of testing that I'm comfortable saying these systems represent what each vendor will ship out to customers.

Between these two surviving Core i7 3930K PCs then, the Velocity Micro and its fast 4.7GHz overclock, its pair of high-end, 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards, and two solid-state hard drives focuses on delivering performance computing at very high resolutions, with lots of fast data storage. Anyone with a high-resolution 27-inch or 30-inch display and a need for speedy data access should appreciate this Raptor build. Falcon's triple-SLI Mach V is also fast, but with three midrange GeForce cards, you may run into the occasional game like Metro 2033 that demands more video memory. Content creators should consider video memory allotments as well.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 (Core i7 3930K, Fall 2011)

The two Core i7 3930K PCs trade off wins on our application performance tests, but an older system from Digital Storm with a standard quad-core Core i7 2600K CPU also stays relevant. If you're choosing a system based on application speed, the proper choice will depend on the specific programs you depend on most.

Photoshop CS5 gave the Velocity Micro trouble, relative to the Mach V, at least. I suspect that's due to the GPU processing elements in our CS5 test and the Mach V's three GPUs. Take out the graphics card element, and on Photoshop CS3, Cinebench, and our multimedia multitasking test, and the Velocity Micro's faster 4.7GHz clock speed wins.

For single-threaded tasks, like our iTunes test, and our single-core Cinebench test, the 4.8GHz Digital Storm system wins the day. For that reason, the imminently overclockable Core i7 2600K can still make a strong case for itself among performance PC buyers, both for its speed, as well as its value next to Intel's new chip. Remember, that Digital Storm ODE Level 3 costs less than $2,500, making it a virtual steal.

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  

Far Cry 2
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  

Metro 2033
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,560x1,600 (DirectX 11, very high)  
1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high)  
Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 (Core i7 3930K, Fall 2011)

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