Velocity Micro's PCs are always easy on the eyes, and that trend continues with this midrange gaming model. We have some reservations about its performance for the cost, but if you're inclined towards upgrading you might be willing to forgive that it's a little slow today.
Velocity Micro's newest, least-expensive Best Buy PC is not a great deal, it's merely an OK one. Aimed at the entry-level 3D gamer, the $1,499 ProMagix E2035 has most of the hardware needed to have a satisfying gaming experience. It features Velocity Micro's typical build quality and an attractive case. If Velocity had gone with one of AMD's cut-rate CPUs in this system, it probably could have delivered more immediate performance. But if you're inclined toward making future upgrades, the E2035's motherboard gives you more possibilities than an AMD-based PC can deliver right now. We recommend the Velocity Micro E2035 if you're looking for a solid foundation to expand on later. If you'd rather have more raw performance now, you can find a better deal elsewhere.
Considering the E2035's core hardware, its price tag isn't that surprising. A 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, and a 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card make for a strong midrange performance system. A 320GB hard drive provides a healthy amount of initial storage space, and there's room inside the system for three more hard drives if you need to expand. The E2035 runs Windows Vista Home Premium for its operating system, which we understand might give people reason for concern. If you want to change that aspect, or any other part of the configuration, you check out Velocity Micro's ProMagix PCX, the configurable version of this system available directly through its Web site. And yes, Velocity Micro still offers Windows XP.
For this system's performance, the only other systems we've reviewed this year that are close to its price range are less expensive than the E2035, by about $500. That price gap makes the E2035's low test scores troubling. Both the Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE and the Dell Dimension E521 use AMD Athlon 64 X2 chips. Since Athlons tend to have higher raw clock speeds than Intel Core 2 Duos do, both of those AMD-powered systems did well on our on our iTunes-encoding and Cinebench tests. The Cyberpower, using the same GeForce 8600 GT card found in the E2035, also eked out a win over the Velocity Micro system on our Quake 4 gaming test. This is not to say that the E2035 is slow. It performs as we would expect, and it should give you no trouble when using most day-to-day programs or with mainstream level 3D gaming. But considering that both the Dell and the Cyberpower systems are much easier on your wallet, it's clear that the Velocity Micro E2035 isn't delivering the most punch for your money, at least off the shelf.
We make the off-the-shelf distinction because it's an important one. The E2035 might not be as fast, but thanks to its Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard, it gives you much more flexibility than those AMD-based PCs can offer. For one, the E2035's motherboard will accept an Intel quad-core processor. At the moment, AMD doesn't even make a quad-core desktop chip. That gives anyone looking to make a CPU upgrade later on much more flexibility with the Velocity Micro. Further, as its name suggests, the E2035's Asus motherboard is also SLI-compatible. That means it will accept two Nvidia graphics cards, for stronger gaming performance. The Cyberpower has SLI support as well, but Dell's Dimension E521 won't, nor will its higher-end XPS 410 desktop. Combine the Velocity Micro's build quality (which is miles ahead of Cyberpower's) with its expandability and suddenly the less-than outstanding performance doesn't look so bad.
Otherwise, the E2035 is a fairly run-of-the-mill desktop. It has both a LightScribe-enabled dual-layer DVD burner and a standard 16x DVD-ROM drive. Our biggest feature gripe, that is has a traditional 3.5-inch floppy drive instead of a media card reader, is something we've called Velocity Micro out on before. Velocity maintains that its restore process requires a floppy disk, but even still, a floppy drive and card reader combo would be cheap, much preferable solution. A glossy, attractive, keyboard-and-mouse combo rounds out the E2035's package.
Velocity Micro's warranty for the E2035 covers this system for one year of parts-and-labor protection. Phone service is available from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m on Saturdays. You can find plenty of helpful resources on Velocity's Web site, from a glossary to driver downloads and links to part manufacturer Web sites. Velocity Micro also introduced a concierge service, which acts as a go-between for the customer and any other part of the company, from sales, to shipping, to tech support. It also has online chat support, although when we tried to get someone's attention, we were told that all operators were busy. Understaffed or not (which we really can't say), we'd rather it was there than not at all.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
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Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE
Windows Vista Home Premium; 3.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+; 1,024GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card; 320GB 7,200 rpm hard drive
Dell Dimension E521
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+; 2,048MB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon X1300 Pro HyperMemory graphics card; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion a1740n
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6300; 2GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 224MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive
Velocity Micro ProMagix E2035
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card; 320GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive
Velocity Micro ProMagix E2230
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.67GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6700; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card; 400GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive