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Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD review: Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD

Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
9 min read
Review summary

Thanks to AMD's screaming-new Athlon 64 FX-53 processor and an array of three hard drives, the Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD is well suited for its intended use as a digital video-editing machine. The FX-53 is AMD's speediest processor yet, and you'd be hard-pressed to find better-performing drives than the two Serial ATA 36GB Western Digital Raptors in a RAID 0 configuration. Plus, Velocity includes a third drive that provides 200GB of additional storage for drive-hogging video files. Our $3,960 test system included Nvidia's top-of-the-line card, which is great news for gamers but overkill for DV editors. We suggest scaling back the graphics card and putting that cash toward upgrading the bundled consumer-level DV-editing app. Either way, don't overlook the Vision FX AVD if moviemaking is your thing.
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The DX-W case gives the Vision FX AVD an understated, professional appearance.
Sold under Velocity Micro's digital video line, the high-end Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD provides you with a choice of quality cases. Our test system arrived housed in Velocity Micro's proprietary DX-W midtower case, giving the system an appropriate air of sophistication. The understated yet cool, silver-and-black case design eschews the geek-chic allure of flashing neon lights and alien-head motifs. The front panel boasts an LED that displays the internal temperature of the CPU and the GPU, as well as the ambient temperature inside the case. Above it reside buttons to speed up or slow down the front-mounted intake fan, should you need to adjust for temperature changes or noise level.
Peer through the Vision FX AVD's windowed side panel, and the Zalman heat sink sitting atop the FX-53 processor will instantly catch your eye. It costs $45 more than the system's default heat sink, but both the Zalman and the 430-watt Antec power supply, which we found on our test unit, are supremely quiet.

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The inside is kept tidy and the system runs quietly, thanks in part to the Zalman heat sink.

With ample power to take on additional components, Velocity Micro keeps the case interior neatly organized for future upgrades. Wires are all cinched and routed out of your way, providing you with unfettered access to the drive bays and the expansion slots. A mere two thumbscrews stand between you and the three free PCI slots, the two empty 5.25-inch drive bays, and the three open internal 3.5-inch drive bays--the last is an impressive number, considering our test system contained not one nor even two, but three hard drives. Below the system's floppy drive is a second external 3.5-inch drive bay, but the DX-W case's design covers up the opening, with only the floppy drive as the system's lone front-accessible 3.5-inch drive.
No digital video system would be complete without a FireWire port for connecting DV camcorders. The Vision FX AVD serves up two such ports--one integrated to the motherboard and another courtesy of the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sound card--but both are located on the back panel. We'd rather see at least one FireWire port on the front panel along with the two USB 2.0 ports.
Move past AMD's just-released Athlon 64 FX-53 processor for just a moment (we'll get into more detail about its performance on the next page); the component that really makes the Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD system a DV editor's dream is its array of hard drives. Our evaluation unit had three in all, two of which are high-performance Western Digital Raptor 36GB 10,000rpm drives in a RAID 0 (striped) configuration. Pair the impressive speed of these Serial ATA drives with their 8MB cache, and you get just what the director ordered for serious DV editing. The system's third hard drive, a 200GB 7,200rpm ATA/100, gives you the needed storage space for large video files. (Western Digital's new 74GB 10,000rpm drives are also available as an upgrade option on the Vision FX AVD.)
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The top two hard drives are speedy 10,000rpm Serial ATA Raptor drives, and the bottom drive gives you an additional 200GB of storage space.

The Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD's pair of Lite-On optical drives--a multiformat 8X DVD-recordable drive and a 52X CD-RW drive--make it even more appealing for DV editing. Although our test system's 256MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 will give DV editors the pleasure of playing the latest 3D games when the workday is done, the card is overkill for the task of editing video. Gamers will want to take advantage of Velocity Micro's 3D video-performance tuning; our test system's 5950 Ultra included the basic tuning, which raises the GPU's core speed to 557MHz at no extra charge. The moderate tuning option will raise the core speed even higher, and it adds $35 to your bill. Both options are covered under Velocity Micro's warranty.
If gaming isn't your thing, you can knock a few hundred dollars off the price of the system by choosing a midrange graphics card, such as the GeForce FX 5600 or the ATI Radeon 9600. Of course, if you're a professional DV editor, you can go the other route and select one of the workstation-level graphics cards that Velocity Micro offers on its easy-to-use online configurator.
For all but the most serious DV editors, the bundled ViewSonic P95F+B 19-inch CRT gives you the clean image and screenspace you'll need for working on your video projects. Your creations will quickly spring to life when you pump the audio to the bundled Creative GigaWorks S750 7.1 speakers.
The software bundle included with our Windows XP Pro-based test system was robust, especially when you consider that Velocity Micro throws in what it calls the Ulead Digital Creation Suite at no charge. The suite includes PhotoImpact 8.0 for editing your digital photos, VideoStudio 7.0 for editing your digital videos, and Ulead Movie Factory for creating DVDs. VideoStudio is fine for home use, but hobbyists and professionals should choose a more powerful DV-editing app; Velocity Micro offers prosumer-level apps, such as Pinnacle's Liquid Edition Pro and Canopus's DV Storm2. Although we wish that our nearly $4,000 test system included a productivity suite that was a step or two above the free OpenOffice 1.1, the system did ship with two games, Tomb Raider and Ghost Recon, that let you take advantage of its high-end GeForce FX 5950 graphics card.
Application performance
The two most important features to consider when purchasing a machine for digital video creation are the CPU and the hard drives; you'll need a fast processor and a lot of drive space. The Velocity Micro has you covered in both regards, with AMD's spanking-new 64-bit Athlon 64 FX-53, which it pairs with 1GB of fast 400MHz registered memory. The processor is the successor to the Athlon 64 FX-51, and it clocked 200MHz faster than the FX-51 at 2.4GHz. Our test system's three hard drives, which we detailed on the preceding page, give you the speed and the capacity that DV editors want and need. All of this adds up to one fast system, which the Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD's application scores illustrate.
The Athlon 64 FX-53-based Velocity Micro FX AVD more than keeps up with the Falcon Northwest Mach V, which uses Intel's most high-end chip, the 3.4GHz Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. The Mach V holds a slight lead in Internet content creation but nowhere near what it had in SysMark 2002. The systems' overall scores were very impressive and only 1 percent apart, well within the test's margin of error. The same holds true when you compare the Vision FX AVD with the Polywell Qbox 865T, which uses Intel's next-generation Prescott chip, the 3.4EGHz Pentium 4.
Editors' note: This system marks our switch to SysMark 2004, the most recent benchmark release from BAPCo. In SysMark 2002, the common perception was that the Internet-content-creation (ICC) test favored Intel processors. If the test results we've seen to date on SysMark 2004 are any indication, the ICC results in SysMark 2004 appear more fairly weighted across AMD and Intel platforms.
Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop, 3D Studio Max, and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
3D graphics and gaming performance
Velocity Micro used its own 3D-performance tuning process to overclock the graphics card in our Vision FX AVD test system, raising the Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra's core speed to 557MHz (up from 475MHz) while keeping the memory running at 950GHz. Consequently, its frame rate of 270fps on our low-end 1,024x768 Unreal Tournament 2003 test is the fastest we've seen to date. Given the level of overclocking on the card, we were a bit surprised that it didn't score slightly higher on our high-end 1,600x1,200 Unreal test, but 87fps is still more than enough pixel-pushing power at that resolution. Gamers will be more than satisfied with the Vision FX AVD's 3D performance.

3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4XAA 8XAF  
Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD (Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra)

To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests, and are set to 4X and 8X respectively during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal is an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
System configurations:
Elite PC Titan 64
Windows XP Professional; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+; Via K8T800 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800XT 256MB; two WDC WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; one WDC WD2000JB-00DUA0, 200GB, ATA/100, 7,200rpm; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller
Falcon Northwest Mach V
Windows XP Home; 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two Seagate ST3120026AS 120GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller
Polywell Qbox 865T
Windows XP Home; 3.4EGHz Intel P4; Intel 865PE chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB; WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA
Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD
Windows XP Professional; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-53; Nvidia Nforce-3 Pro 150; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two WDC WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; one WDC WD2000JB-00EVA0 200GB ATA/100 7,200rpm; integrated WinXP Promise FastTrak 378 controller
Voodoo Rage F-50
Windows XP Professional; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+; Via K8T800 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800XT 256MB; two Hitachi HDS722512VLSA80 120GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm; integrated Via Serial ATA RAID controller
Velocity Micro's generous warranty is appropriate for such an expensive system; it provides three years parts-and-labor and one full year of onsite service. The company also supplies toll-free, 24/7 phone support. You can add an additional year or two of onsite service for more money.
The manuals included with the Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD come in a well-organized binder. In it, there is a manual that primarily discusses troubleshooting tips. Advanced users will find this guide superfluous, but the box also includes individual manuals for everything from the power supply to the motherboard and the sound card. System-restore CDs come with the system. You'll also find helpful information at Velocity Micro's site, including a support e-mail address, manufacturer links, driver downloads, two glossaries, and useful tips on how to optimize your system's performance.

Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 9Support 8