Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX
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), 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.
Housed in Velocity Micro's new lower-priced, royal-blue midtower case (the more familiarcase 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 the650-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 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.