Velocity Micro Edge Z55 – Compact but fast

IT’S NEVER GOOD TO WHIP OUT A NEW PC, plug it in, and click the power button, only to have absolutely nothing happen. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. The issue is only compounded when the problem box is a small MicroATX system packed with so much hardware that you can’t even get your hand inside.

That’s the problem we faced with the Velocity Micro Edge Z55. Like most review systems we get, it was expedited in shipping, which is a free license for the shipping firm’s employees to dribble it down the tarmac like Shaq going for a slam dunk.

Fortunately, that’s when we ran across one of the niftier features of the new MX3 case (a customized Lian Li case) that Velocity Micro uses: A swing-out tray for the liquid cooler. Remove two thumb screws and you can easily swing the Corsair 240mm radiator out of the way. Once we did that we did a quick re-seat of the machine’s power connectors and we were up and running with no issues. It was almost so conveniently fixed that we wondered—with eyes squinting like Philip J. Fry—if Velocity Micro hadn’t intentionally set it up that way just to show off how cool the case is.

On the inside, we found Intel’s Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” overclocked to 4.7GHz in a Gigabyte GA-Z97MX board with 16GB of Crucial Ballistix DDR3/1866. Storage duties go to a pair of 250GB Samsung Evo SSDs and a Tosh mechanical drive.

A pair of EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards in SLI handle graphics. The cards use the standard reference Nvidia coolers, which is one of our issues with the Edge Z55. The CPU is liquid-cooled by the Corsair closed-loop cooler, and even though heavily overclocked at 4.7GHz, the acoustics are extremely unobtrusive under a compute load. But crank up a gaming load for long enough, and the fan whir from the pair of 780 Ti cards lets you know this is no silent runner. What’s odd is we’ve long thought Nvidia’s reference design to be very decent considering the performance provided, but here it rains on the quiet performance of the PC under CPU loads. It’s not horribly loud, but we’ve come to expect anything larger than a small form factor box to be extremely quiet.
The Maingear Epic Force, for example, which we reviewed in our October issue, packed four GeForce 780 Ti’s in Quad SLI, but was silent thanks to its custom-liquid loop. That same machine, we should point out, cost nearly $13,000, making the Edge Z55’s price tag of $4,300 seem damn near a bargain. It isn’t, but at least the performance is good.

Our zero-point PC uses a six-core Core i7-3930K overclocked to 3.8GHz with a GeForce GTX 690 inside. The Edge Z55 surpasses it by more than 20 percent in our benchmarks that aren’t thread-heavy. In Premiere Pro and x264 HD 5.0—both very multi-thread-heavy workloads—the Edge Z55 was slower by only about 3 to 5 percent. That’s pretty good when you remember we re talking four cores versus six cores.

In gaming, however, a pair of 780 Ti cards easily roughs up a GeForce GTX 690. We’re talking about a 100 percent performance advantage in Batman: Arkham City and 69 percent in 3DMark 11 on the extreme setting.

But what about something more modem? The pricey Maingear Epic Force, with its CPU at basically the same clock, is just about even with the Edge, so score one for the system that’s a hell of a lot cheaper. In gaming though, the Epic Force’s four cards throat-punches the Edge’s mere pair.

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We re really looking at two kinds of computers, however, and two kinds of companies. Maingear is firmly in the boutique sector of PC building. It’s the kind of company that, if you’re a billionaire and want a gaming PC for your kid, you call up and drop $13,000 into a box like most of us put quarters in a parking meter. Velocity, meanwhile, sticks to its mantra that if companies such as Maingear or Falcon make Ferraris and Lamborghinis, VM makes BMWs. That kind of fits here. The Edge Z55 is a nicely adorned, pleasant-looking box, but it won’t get you the same “oohs’* and “aahs” as an exotic PC. It will, however, save you a serious chunk of change.

We’d prefer it if Velocity could tamp down the GPU noise, and even though it’s a steal compared to a boutique box, it’s still on the pricey side. Otherwise, it’s a solid all-round effort.

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