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Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition (overclocked Intel Core i5 760) review: Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition (overclocked Intel Core i5 760)

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MSRP: $999.00

The Good Amazing bang for the buck in features and performance; expert build quality; capable gaming and general-performance box for under $1,000; room for a second graphics card.

The Bad Limited-time deal may not exist past January 1, 2011.

The Bottom Line Velocity Micro's Vector Holiday Edition offers one of the best deals we've ever seen in a mainstream PC. For under $1,000, this system provides a Blu-ray drive, overachieving speed, and room to grow in an attractive, well-built package. We enthusiastically recommend this system to anyone looking for a fast, affordable computer.

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8.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 10
  • Performance 9
  • Support 7

Editors' note: This review has been updated to indicate that this PC can support two graphics cards from ATI, not from Nvidia.

Velocity Micro's $999 Vector Holiday Edition might be one of the best desktop deals we've ever seen. For just under $1,000, this system provides impressive day-to-day performance from an overclocked, stable CPU, competent 3D gaming via its upper-midrange Nvidia 3D card, and a Blu-ray drive to top it all off. We wouldn't expect this deal to last beyond the holiday season, but for as long as it's available, this desktop is an amazing bargain, and easy to recommend to anyone looking for a reasonably priced do-it-all performance computer.

We've professed our appreciation for Velocity Micro's sturdy, clean-lined cases many times in the past. The overall build quality remains high, as indicated by the clean interior and expertly wrapped and secured cables. The case design is showing its age with its lack of front-panel hard-drive access, but we're willing to forgive that absence here due to the fact that this system is such a great deal.

Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition Gateway FX6840-03e
Price $999 $1,099
Motherboard chipset Intel P55 Intel H57
CPU 3.62GHz Intel Core i5 760 (overclocked) 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 870
Memory 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 768MB Nvidia Geforce GTX 460 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5750
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 1TB, 5,400rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray drive dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

How great a deal, you ask? Consider the $999 Vector Holiday Edition next to Gateway's $1,099 FX6840-15e. While the Gateway has a higher-end processor in its Core i7 CPU, Velocity Micro compels a remarkable performance boost from its Core i5 760 CPU through overclocking. We tested the overclock using the Linpack CPU stability test and the system showed no sign of variation in its clock speed or accuracy as it endured the heavy processing workload. Velocity Micro makes the overclocking option for this chip available for no premium over a standard Core i5 760, and given the Velocity's performance advantage documented below, the stability, and the price equality, we can think of no reason not to select the overclocking option.

In addition to the overclocked CPU, the Vector Holiday Edition also for the most part either matches or exceeds the Gateway in terms of hardware for the dollar. The Gateway has twice the system memory, but otherwise, the Velocity Micro system has the same 1TB-sized hard drive and a faster 3D graphics card, as well as a Blu-ray drive and wireless networking. Thanks to the Asus P7P55D-E motherboard, the Vector Holiday Edition also supports ATI's Crossfire multiple graphics card standard. The system as configured comes with an Nvidia card, but fortunately Velocity Micro offers an ATI Radeon HD 6850 for an extra $50. That card is roughly equivalent to the GeForce GTX 460 currently installed, and would provide a solid starting point if you wanted to add a second card later on.

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

Adobe Photoshop CS3 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  

The Vector Holiday Edition excelled in our application performance tests, especially when you consider that it's the least expensive system among our comparison units. The Maingear and the Digital Storm both come in above $2,000, but the Acer Predator is a $1,349 system, and the Vector beats that PC, as well as the $1,099 Gateway, on all but our Cinebench tests.

Those systems do indeed have an advantage on pure multithreaded performance tasks like Cinebench because of their Core i7 CPUs. That chip features four native processing cores, plus four additional processing threads via Intel's Hyper-Threading technology. With eight processing threads to the Velocity Micro's four with its non-Hyper-Threaded Core i5, the Core i7 PCs are better equipped for tasks like video rendering, at least with programs that draw on the CPU for that kind of processing. Newer versions of Adobe's Creative Suite, Windows 7 itself, and other applications are starting to use graphics cards more and more for their superior parallel processing capabilities. While some apps still rely on multicore CPUs, support for GPU computing is growing, which means you shouldn't necessarily write the Velocity Micro off for multimedia editing or other multithreaded tasks.

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

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

For gaming, the Velocity Micro system invites no caveats. It outperformed the Gateway and Acer systems on every test, and its 91 frames-per-second score on our 1,920x1,080-resolution Far Cry 2 test suggests that even at high resolutions you should be able to play any PC game out there at high image quality. You might see some lag on the most demanding titles if you get into 3D effects and high resolutions on multiple monitors. If that's your goal, adding a second GeForce GTX 460 card for another $200 or so should provide the solution.

Velocity Micro has sent us other lower-cost gaming PCs that support multiple graphics cards, but we were dismayed to find that one of the last ones we reviewed switched to a single-card motherboard shortly after we reviewed it. That can happen, especially to smaller vendors, but we're heartened this time around in that Velocity Micro is still offering the same motherboard a month or so into this PC's availability on its Web site. Velocity Micro says despite the "Holiday Edition" name, this configuration will be available through January 1, and it may be extended to a "Winter Edition" afterward if demand is high enough.

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