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Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition review: Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition

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Editors' note July 11, 2008: Velocity Micro has expanded the configuration options for this PC to include 64-bit Windows, an older quad-core CPU, and other hardware upgrades that weren't listed during the course of this review.

6.1

Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition

The Good

Clean design inside and out.

The Bad

No 64-bit Windows Vista option; relatively poor application performance; limited upgradeability.

The Bottom Line

As much as we like the look and feel of Velocity Micro's Vector Campus Edition desktop, we can't recommend it. It suffers from poor bang-for-the-buck, a lack of configurable options, and a narrow upgrade path.

We normally have good things to say about Velocity Micro's Campus Edition back-to-school desktops. This year's model, the $999 Vector Campus Edition, leaves us disappointed because of its uninspired configuration. We still find Velocity Micro's desktop design among the best in the industry, and this system's visual appeal and craftsmanship are models for other vendors to follow, especially in this price range. But to anyone for whom performance matters most, we suggest you can get more for your money from other vendors.

The Vector Campus Edition is a configurable desktop available directly from Velocity Micro's Web site. Our review configuration will be available for purchase on July 14. If you play around with the configurator, you can improve this system's overall value (swapping out the TV tuner card for a large hard drive, for example), but with no options for 64-bit Windows Vista or quad-core CPUs, there's little to get excited about here.

We'll compare the Vector Campus Edition directly with Gateway's FX7026 from last quarter. Sadly, that system is no longer available, and we're working on getting our hands on Gateway's newer models. They also bear mentioning here.

  Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition Gateway FX7026
Price $999 $1,099
CPU 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300
Memory 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 384MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GS 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT (overclocked)
Hard drives 500GB, 7,200rpm (2) 320GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802/11g Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)
TV Tuner Yes Yes

The Gateway FX7026 costs $100 more than the Vector Campus Edition, but you can see from its specifications that Gateway gives you a lot more for your money. Most notable is the fact that the FX7026 has twice the memory. We also appreciate its more ambitious, overclocked 3D card, as well as its more generous allotment of hard drive space. The 2.5GHz quad-core CPU, compared with the Velocity Micro's 2.53GHz dual-core chip, also shows that you no longer need to sacrifice multitasking prowess for raw clock speed.

When we look to Gateway's current offerings in this price range, namely the $1,150 FX4710 and the $900 DX4710, we find that Gateway has expanded its midrange ambitions. The pricier FX4710 is the only model with a discrete 3D card, so you'll have to spend a bit more than either the Vector Campus Edition or the FX7026 to get competent gaming capabilities. But the fact that both of those models have 6GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows Vista make the 32-bit Vector Campus Edition and its 2GB of memory look out-of-date.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
ZT Affinity 7225Xi-35
145 
Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition
165 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition
143 
ZT Affinity 7225Xi-35
168 

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
ZT Affinity 7225Xi-35
548 
Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition
875 

CineBench test (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Gateway FX7026
10306 
3008 
ZT Affinity 7225Xi-35
8696 
2449 
Maingear Prelude
8210 
2153 
Acer Aspire M5100
6364 
1713 
Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition
5442 
2748 

We have no performance results for the newer Gateways, but the FX7026, a 64-bit Windows system with 4GB of RAM, demonstrates the impact of those benefits well enough. The simple fact is that the Gateway FX7026 is faster than the Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition on every single application test. The Photoshop results show the most dramatic performance gap, and that memory intensive test proves that a 64-bit Windows system that puts more memory to work has an advantage over a 32-bit PC, especially one with less RAM. And as our iTunes, CineBench, and multitasking tests show, the quad-core Gateway is also more capable than the dual-core Velocity Micro system on tests that depend largely on either raw CPU speed or multiple processing scores.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200  
1,280x1,024  
Maingear Prelude
163 
203 
Gateway FX7026
79 
123 
Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition
65 
119 

Crysis (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200  
1,280x1,024  
Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition
6 
43 
Gateway FX7026
12 
41 

The Vector Campus Edition's gaming prospects are a bit better. Its Unreal Tournament 3 score was slower than the Gateway's, but it's still plenty fast, even at higher resolutions. On Crysis, the Velocity Micro achieved almost 45 frames per second on our lower resolution test, an impressive feat. We'll give Velocity Micro credit here, but we'd rather it had better all-around performance.

If you notice the large gulf in game performance between the Maingear Prelude and both the Vector Campus Edition and the Gateway FX7026, it's because the Maingear is an SLI-based system that uses two 3D graphics cards. The Velocity and the Gateway PCs can only support one card. The benefit of multi-3D card motherboards are obviously mostly gaming oriented, and as such we can't ding Velocity Micro too badly here. Still, SLI motherboard prices have come down significantly. This is another feature for which we'd gladly trade the TV tuner card.

The Velocity Micro's upgrade possibilities are actually limited all around. Its motherboard only has two memory stick slots, which means you'll need to replace the two sticks it comes with if you wish to add more RAM. It only comes with two PCI expansion card slots as well. Ours were occupied by the TV tuner card and an 802.11g wireless networking card, and you can opt out of either component via Velocity Micro's configurator.

Even if we're less than thrilled with this configuration, we continue to admire Velocity Micro's system building philosophy. The clean interior maximizes airflow and accessibility, as much as the tidy exterior will fit neatly in any environment. The system is neither hot nor overly loud. We wish more vendors would follow Velocity Micro's lead in this regard.

Velocity Micro's support is also relatively robust, although a little confusing. Among other options, the Web site offers both 90-day and one-year plans for parts and labor coverage with depot repair service. The 90-day option is listed as the default, but both are free. Perhaps Velocity Micro would like you to choose the shorter 90-day plan to save its own costs, but to find out after the fact that you could have had one year of coverage seems like it would create unnecessarily upset customers. Go with the one-year plan, assuming it remains a giveaway. Velocity Micro's phone support hours run from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., weekdays, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. That's generous, even if it's not 24-7. We also like the thoroughness of the site's various support documents and other resources.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire M5100
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.19GHz AMD Phenom 9500; 3GB DDR2 667MHz SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 1250 graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive.

Gateway FX7026
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; (2) 320GB 7,200rpm hard drives.

Maingear Prelude
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.5GHz AMD Phenom X4 9850; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics cards; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.

Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.53Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo E7200; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 384MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GS graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive.

ZT Group Affinity 7225Xi-35
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive.

6.1

Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 5Performance 5Support 8