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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)

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

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Rich Brown
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Rich Brown

Executive Editor / Reviews - Home and Wellness

Rich moved his family from Brooklyn to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 to start CNET's Appliances and Smart Home review team, which includes the CNET Smart Home, the CNET Smart Apartment, and the Appliances Review lab. Before moving to Louisville, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printed guns to Z-Wave smart locks.

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7 min read

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

Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition - Core i3 550 3.2 GHz
8.9

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

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.

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)

Cinebench
(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.

Aside from the ability to accept a second graphics card, the Vector Holiday Edition also offers a fair number of other internal expansion possibilities. The system already comes with 4GB of RAM by way of two 2GB memory sticks, but you also get room for two more, allowing you to double the memory easily. You also get two 1x PCI Express card slots, as well as two standard PCI slots. One has a wireless networking card in it, and you'd need to move it to add a second graphics card due to slot overlap, but either way we're impressed by the extent to which this PC is both feature-rich and expandable.

That diversity extends to the outside of the Velocity Micro as well. You get the usual array of USB 2.0 jacks, but the motherboard also provides two USB 3.0 inputs, as well as FireWire and eSATA jacks. That's should leave you free to connect the vast majority of external devices. Velocity Micro also provides a pair of PS/2 mouse and keyboard inputs for your old school input devices. Audio jacks come by way of an S/PDIF optical output, as well as jacks for 7.1 analog output. For video, the graphics card includes two DVI ports, as well as a Mini-HDMI output.

Annual power cost

Juice box
Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition Average watts per hour
Off 5.58
Sleep 6.41
Idle 119.14
Load 292.51
Raw kWh 599.0307
Energy Star-compliant No
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $67.99

Given its overclocked CPU, we're not surprised to find the Velocity Micro consumes more power than either the Acer or the Gateway. At least you get the extra performance. Expect to see a not-insignificant $5.67 or so extra each month on your power bill for this PC.

Velocity Micro's service and support compares well with that of other boutique vendors. Like Falcon Northwest and others, 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. Pacific Time Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 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.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire Predator AG5900-U3092
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 870; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card; 1.5TB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Digital Storm Special Ops
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.07GHz Intel Core i7 950; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics cards; 80GB Corsair Drive Force solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive

Gateway FX6840-15e
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 870; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5750 graphics card; 1TB, 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Maingear F131
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit; 3.87GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 960; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards; 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state hard drive; 1.5TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive

Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.62GHz Intel Core i5 760; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 768GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics card; 1TB, 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive

Velocity Micro Vector Holiday Edition - Core i3 550 3.2 GHz
8.9

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

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 10Performance 9Support 7
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