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Velocity Micro review: Velocity Micro

Not only does Velocity Micro prove it can build a powerful gaming system for less with the Gamer's Edge DualX, it also bundles an impressive monitor and speakers to make this a complete package. Best of all, with a beefy power supply and room for expansion, the Gamer's Edge DualX provides plenty of headroom for upgrades.

rickbroida
Rick Broida
rickbroida

Rick Broida

Senior Editor

Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").

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The dual in the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX (which starts at $1,470) refers to a pair of video cards, but this $1,999 model has just one. It's a good one, though (an Nvidia GeForce 7800 GT), and there's room for a second card if you aspire to SLI in the future. Aside from the dual graphics-card slots, you get dual DVD drives: one burner, one reader. That's one of several perks that give this machine a leg up on the competition. Here's another: even with its lone graphics card, the Gamer's Edge DualX is a screamer, taking first- or second-place honors on all performance tests in our sub-$2,000 gaming-PC roundup. That's likely due to its overclocked graphics card and CPU bus. The only real downside to this system is that it ships with a floppy drive instead of a media-card reader, but an extra $30 solves that problem. Aside from that one minor issue, if you're looking for an affordable gaming PC, this is our pick.

7.7

Velocity Micro

The Good

Excellent performer; dual DVD drives; 5.1-channel speaker system; good game included; exceedingly expandable.

The Bad

No media-card reader; no antivirus software.

The Bottom Line

With crisp performance and expert construction, the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX is a near-perfect gaming system that won't break the bank.
Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX

Housed in Velocity Micro's new lower-priced, royal-blue midtower case (the more familiar LX Black case will run you $35 more), the Gamer's Edge DualX has a matching blue LED cooling fan that's visible through a grille in the front--a nice touch that adds to the tower's cool, understated look. Speaking of cool, we found an almost silly number of fans inside the case: seven, not including the one in the power supply. (So that's why the case is blue: it's freezing!) Two are mounted on a PCI-like card, which has a speed-adjustment control on the backplate. Needless to say, the DualX is on the noisy side; we think you could safely pull the fan card and drop the noise level a bit. But don't do it for clutter's sake: the system is surprisingly spacious inside, with plenty of room for expansion.

We already mentioned the extra 16X PCI Express slot, which allows you to add a second graphics card. You can even upgrade the CPU, if you want, thanks to AMD's eminently flexible Socket 939 interface. But if you want to add more powerful components, you need to make sure you have the power supply to support them. Thankfully, Velocity Micro has provided its custom-built 500-watt model, which should support pretty much anything you want to add. It's not as powerful as the Alienware Aurora 3500's 650-watt supply, but as long as you don't plan on using your PC to jump-start your car, you shouldn't really need that much juice.

In the feature department, the DualX delivers just about everything a good gaming system should: a speedy processor (AMD's Athlon 64 3700+), plenty of RAM (1GB), a spacious hard drive (200GB), and the crown jewel, a 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GT graphics card. Welcome extras include the aforementioned pair of DVD drives, a customized Creative Multimedia Keyboard, and a Creative Inspire P5800 speaker system. Although the latter is an entry-level product, it delivers 5.1-channel surround sound--essential for movies and modern games. The similarly priced Alienware Aurora 3500 and Maingear Prelude 64 both come with 2.1-channel speakers. We found the Inspire P5800s to be loud, clear accompaniments to the DualX, though we didn't love the awkward wired remote.

The 17-inch, black Philips 170S6 LCD monitor also proved a good match, but we were disappointed that it lacked a DVI input. We found the picture quality better than average for an analog LCD, and the speedy 12ms response time kept ghosting and other slow-refresh artifacts at bay.

Speaking of speedy, there's no moss growing under the Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX. It scored top marks in our application performance test and stood toe-to-toe with the top-performing Aurora 3500 in Half-Life 2 testing. It came in second on the Doom 3 test, losing only to the SLI-equipped Maingear Prelude 64. Nothing wrong with that; the DualX is still one of the fastest systems in its class, in part thanks to the overclocking, a technique that Velocity Micro applies to nearly all its systems.

It's surprising how few gaming PCs actually come with any games. Kudos to Velocity Micro, then, for bundling the widely praised Far Cry. The DualX also comes with Corel WordPerfect Office 11 and Ulead's Digital Creation Suite, which consists of five solid photo, video, and DVD applications. All that's missing is antivirus software, which we consider essential for any new PC. You can add various McAfee packages from Velocity Micro, starting at $40 for a 12-month subscription.

Velocity Micro maintains some excellent support resources on its Web site, including a FAQ page, driver and software downloads, a system-optimization guide, and the company's toll-free support number plastered just about everywhere. There's even a live-chat help option, though the hours of operation weren't stated anywhere. Surprisingly, Velocity Micro doesn't provide a tech-support message forum, but that's a minor quibble. Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you upgrade the standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty to include VelocityCare ($30), you gain access to 24/7 "emergency" support, meaning a technician will call you back within 15 minutes after you leave a message.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

Half-Life 2 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Half-Life 2 1,024x768 4XAA 8XAF  
Half-Life 2 1,600x1,200 4XAA 8XAF  
* Indicates graphics and CPU are overclocked

Doom 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Doom 3 1,024x768, 4XAA and 8XAF  
Doom 3 1,600x1,200, 4XAA and 8XAF  
* Indicates graphics and CPU are overclocked

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
ABS Ultimate M5 Vortex
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3800+; Nvidia Nforce-4 chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT (PCIe); Seagate ST3200826AS 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Alienware Aurora 3500
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3800+; Nvidia Nforce-4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GT (PCIe); Samsung HD160JJ 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Maingear Prelude 64
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 3200+; Nvidia Nforce-4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 GS (PCIe SLI); two WDC WD2500KS-00MJB0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce-4 RAID class controller (RAID 0)
Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX (Athlon 64 3700+)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3700+; Nvidia Nforce-4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GT (PCIe); WDC WD2000JB-00GVC0 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

7.7

Velocity Micro

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Support 7
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