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The Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition is the midsize vendor's elite gaming PC. Company founder and CEO Randy Copeland helps build each unit, and they all come with his signature. This system is supposed to represent the best in modern PC hardware. Our review unit's configuration prices at $7,395, which is shockingly high, but also the apparent going rate for boutique-class systems of this caliber. On balance, the Raptor Signature Edition is as fast and as carefully assembled as we expect for an über-PC, but we have a beef with the high-end PC market in general right now, as the prices seem unreasonably high. That issue and the fact that its competition went the extra mile on software are our only significant issues with this PC.
Unlike Alienware, which has revamped its cases recently, Velocity Micro sticks with the tried-and-true Lian Li models throughout its product line. While they don't offer a fancy lighting system like Alienware's new chassis, Velocity Micro's cases retain a bold, sturdy look that we like quite a bit, and they have static internal lighting that adds a nice glow. All Raptor Signature Editions come with an extended-depth case that looks like a full-sized desktop tower turned on its side. The extra depth makes the inside of the PC easier to work with than the Widow PC IX2 SLI, which came to us with a standard midtower enclosure. The inside of the Velocity Micro isn't perfect, as the case's hard-drive cage points the drives toward the rear of the system, not out toward you, which makes the drives much more difficult to remove. We've criticized Velocity Micro for this minor issue in the past, so it's not a surprise, but we wonder how hard it would be for it to get Lian Li to tweak that part of the design in the future.
We should also add that this PC is very loud. The fans attached to the liquid radiator (part of the cooling mechanism) seem to be at fault for this. With the hot-running graphics cards (powered by a 1,000-watt power supply) especially, the thermals in this thing and systems like it require that the cooling hardware work overtime, but compared with the Widow PC and its smaller, more cramped chassis, the Raptor Signature Edition sounds louder than it seems like it should, given its large case.
Similar to the Widow PC IX2 SLI (and a Falcon Northwest Mach V we're currently working on), the Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition came to us with an overclocked Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 quad-core processor, and a pair of 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards. Velocity Micro set its CPU to 3.2GHz, higher than the standard 2.66GHz it typically comes with. Widow PC's 3.34GHz setting on its own quad-core chip helped it in our benchmark tests, but Velocity Micro will take customer requests to dial their chips' settings higher.
Combine the overclocked quad-core processor and the powerful graphics cards with an EVGA-branded nForce 680i motherboard, 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, and a fast and spacious array of four 150GB 10,000rpm hard drives (connected to Velocity Micro's own dedicated RAIDStorm PCI Express controller), and you get a remarkably fast PC suited for anything you want to do with it. It's not, however, the fastest PC around. That award overall goes to Widow PC, at least thus far.
As you can see from our benchmark results, the Raptor Signature Edition surpasses the Widow PC on only two tests, our multitasking test and our lowest resolution F.E.A.R. test. Velocity Micro told us that the RAIDStorm controller helps with media encoding, and since our multitasking test includes a video encoding portion, we're inclined to agree. Video editors, we hope you're listening.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
On the rest of our benchmarks, though, it seems that Velocity Micro would have benefited from cranking up the CPU a bit more. As mentioned, it's currently overclocked to 3.2GHz from its stock 2.66GHz setting. Widow PC went higher, dialing its quad-core chip up to 3.34GHz. That little uptick paid off. Velocity Micro says that it will set its CPUs higher if a customer requests it. These scores also make us eager to check out the Falcon Northwest Mach V, which came to us with a quad-core chip clocked to 3.73GHz. Again though, the Velocity Micro is still faster than most folks short of Pixar employees will need; for game play, it will handle anything currently on store shelves.
|2,048x1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)||1,600x1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)||1,280x1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)|
|2,048x1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)||1,600x1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)||1,280x1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)|
You can read our review of the Widow PC IX2 SLI for a full price comparison between a similar $7,000+ PC and a cheaper Polywell system that offers a similar configuration. We'll simply say here that we feel the same applies to the Velocity Micro, but less so. The reason is because Velocity Micro throws a lot of extras into this system that the Widow PC doesn't have. Whereas Widow PC includes only a standard dual-layer DVD burner, Velocity Micro added a fast 18x dual-layer DVD burner, as well as a dual-layer DVD burner with LightScribe capability, for putting custom images on your discs. Velocity Micro also includes a higher-end Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum with the front-panel audio connection plate, making it much easier to plug in headphones and connect external audio devices. Widow PC only includes the X-Fi Fata1ty Gamer model, which helps stock the software bundle with games but at the expense of audio port convenience.
If the Velocity Micro lacks in one area, it's software. We like the Widow PC's software bundle, but it consists mainly of freeware that you can download yourself. Velocity Micro includes a 12-year subscription to McAfee AntiVirus as well as various media-editing and disc-burning programs, so it's not exactly barren. But what we really like about the Widow PC is its customized application folders in the Windows Start Menu. It puts everything into logically organized groups that make them all easy to find. That and the custom desktop theme show that Widow PC paid attention to the complete experience. It's not the end of the world that Velocity Micro doesn't include such tweaking on the Raptor Signature Edition, but that's an easy-to-implement touch that many customers would appreciate. And considering the price tag, we think they deserve it.
Finally, similar to Widow PC, we're glad to see that Velocity Micro includes three years of parts-and-labor coverage as the default service plan with the Raptor Signature Edition, as well as 24/7 phone support and a year of onsite service. We wish that every PC more than $3,500 came with a three-year warranty, but we're at least glad to see it here. Velocity Micro's Web site is also one of the most robust for help resources, with a long list of help and explanation articles, as well as driver downloads and other support aids. There's no online support chat, but it does have e-mail support services.
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Alienware Area-51 7500
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.2GHz); 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; two 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA hard drives (RAID 0); 250GB Samsung 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive
Apple Mac Pro
OS X 10.4.7; 2x 2.66GHz Xeon 5150; 1,024MB 667MHz DDR2 FB-SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7300GT; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive
Polywell Poly i680SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; two 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0)
Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.2GHz); 2,048MB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (4) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0)
Widow PC IX2 SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.34GHz); 2,048MB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0); 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive