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

Looking for a fast midtower to take to school? Velocity Micro has you covered.

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home | Windows PCs | Cooking (sometimes) | Woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
8 min read

Velocity Micro puts out a competitive back-to-school desktop pretty much every year, and this year's Vector Campus Edition is no exception. Despite its traditional, arguably bland midtower case, this system boasts some of the best performance at its price. Alienware's X51 makes a smaller, faster pure-gaming PC at this price, and you can find other PCs with better all-around features, but if you need a PC with strong CPU performance and decent expandability, the Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition is perhaps the best option under $1,000.


Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition

The Good

The <b>Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition</b> is one of the fastest general-purpose PCs in its price range.

The Bad

The focus on CPU speed means this system doesn't have the most well-rounded feature set.

The Bottom Line

The Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition is a great fit for those who need fast, affordable CPU performance and midtower expandability.

I'm not sure any other vendor out there has stuck to the same basic chassis design as long as Velocity Micro. If it's not particularly exciting, at least the company's squared-off, aluminum case is inoffensive. Velocity Micro also still knows how to build a PC properly, and it continues to set itself apart from mainstream vendors with clean, organized case interiors, with all of the cables neatly routed and cut to fit.

Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition Asus CM6870 HP Pavilion Elite Phoenix h9z
Price $999 $999 $1,049
Motherboard chipset Intel Z77 Intel H77 AMD 970X
CPU 4.3GHz Intel Core i5-3570K (overclocked) 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770 2.8GHZ AMD FX-8100
Memory 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 SE 3GB Nvidia GT545M 1GB Nvidia GeForce 550 Ti
Hard drives 1TB 7,200rpm 2TB 7,200rpm 1TB 7,200rpm
Optical drive Dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray/DVD burner combo Blu-ray/DVD burner combo
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

With so much focus on all-in-one desktops, mainstream desktops like the Vector Campus Edition have become an unheralded category lately. I've seen two other PCs in this category this year, namely from Hewlett-Packard and Asus. Of these three desktops, the Vector Campus Edition offers the best pure computing experience thanks to its overclocked CPU.

That doesn't mean it's the best mainstream desktop overall. The Asus CM6870 has a strong Core i7 CPU, and also offers twice the hard-drive space and a Blu-ray drive for the same price. HP's AMD-based Phoenix is a noncontender because of slow performance and a higher price, but you might reasonably prefer the Asus' more well-rounded feature set to the Velocity Micro's performance play. On the other hand, math, science, or finance majors who need to crunch large sets of numbers, or maybe an art major who needs to render lots of photos, might make use of the Velocity Micro's faster CPU performance.

You can customize the configuration for the Vector Campus Edition if you'd like to make changes. You can add a Blu-ray drive for $55, a 2TB hard drive for $60, or a faster graphics card for an extra $100 or so. You might wish Velocity Micro had veered from its gaming roots and swapped out the lackluster Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 SE graphics card (does Nvidia's "GTX" moniker mean anything anymore, by the way?) for a more universally useful feature like a larger hard drive. But even if you don't like the specifics of this configuration, Velocity Micro at least appears to charge a fair price for what you get here.

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 test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Cinebench 11.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  

By overclocking its quad-core Core i5-3570K chip, Velocity Micro provides the Vector Campus Edition with some of the best application performance for its price range. It does well on pure, single-threaded workloads, like with audio file encoding, as well as in application environments like Photoshop CS5 that can rely on a mix of raw CPU horsepower, multicore threading, and graphics card computing. The one gap appears to be on pure multithreaded workloads. Here, a true eight-thread Core i7 CPU like that in the Asus system has an advantage. Digital video editors, take note.

Far Cry 2 (in fps)
(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 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high, 4x AA, 16x AF, DOF, Physx)  

3DMark 11 combined test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Extreme (1,920x1080)  
Performance (1,920x1,080, 16x AF)  
Entry Level (1,680x1,050)  

Velocity Micro pitched this system to me as an all-around desktop for the back-to-school buying season, and unlike its usual desktops, it did not focus as much on 3D gaming performance. Our gaming results show that, indeed, this is not the best gaming PC at this price. The $999 Alienware X51 and its GeForce GTX 555 card posted equivalent or higher frame rates across our 3D gaming tests. That system might not have an overclocked CPU, but the faster graphics card more than makes up the difference.

The Vector Campus Edition can still play games reasonably well, and I expect it will play any current PC game, provided you stay at 1,920x,1080 pixels or lower and medium-to-low image quality. For the same price, though, Alienware has a faster gaming system. Spend $200 more, and the Editors' Choice-winning Origin Chronos will provide even faster 3D performance, as well as similar CPU speed to the Velocity.

While the Origin and Alienware systems are both faster gaming PCs out of the box, they are both also small-form-factor desktops, which means a limited upgrade path due to size constraints and lower wattage power supplies. A traditional midtower PC, the Velocity Micro with its 700-watt PSU has no such restriction, and its upgradability might provide gamers some consolation. The MSI OC Genie II motherboard in the Vector Campus Edition also has room for a 1X PCI Express card, a full-size PCI Express card, two more memory sticks, and two more hard drives.

You should find the ports on the motherboard satisfactory. Unless you have more-exotic ideas in mind for this system, the USB 3.0, 7.1 audio, and DVI and HDMI ports should meet most of your data, audio, and video connection needs. Some of you might miss eSATA ports, and home audio enthusiasts will feel the absence of a S/PDIF digital audio jack. Neither of those is overly common at this price point, however.

Velocity Micro's service and support compare well with what you get from other boutique PC vendors. Velocity Micro relies exclusively on in-house phone support technicians, and though it doesn't offer 24-7 phone support, you can get in touch from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT on Saturday, which is a pretty fair window. The warranty on the system covers parts and labor for a year, as well as one year of depot repair service. And Velocity's Web site has all kinds of useful support resources.

The Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition is not the back-to-school home run the company has submitted in previous years, but this is still a capable-enough computer that it's worth some consideration. You might rather trade some of its speed for a more versatile feature set, but you will find few PCs that have this much pure CPU performance for this price.

Performance testing conducted by Joseph Kaminski. Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition (Core i5-3570K, June 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6850 graphics card; 1.5TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Alienware X51 (Core i5-2320, January 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3GHz Intel Core i5-2320; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 555 graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Asus Essentio CM6870 (Core i7-3770, April 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia Geforce GT 545M graphics card; 2TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

HP Pavilion HPE Phoenix h9z (FX-8100, February 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.8GHz AMD FX-8100; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 550 Ti graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Origin Chronos (Core i7-2550K, March 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.3GHz Intel Core i5-3570K; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 560 SE graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive


Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Support 7