You were supposed to be staring at a production PC sporting nVidia’s quad-SLI this month, but you’re not. Truth be told, we actually had a Velocity Micro with quad SLI up and running in glorious ultra high-resolution until a last-minute critical bug caused nVidia to delay the launch of quad SLI just long enough to make our review of the machine impossible in this issue. Drat.
Fortunately, Velocity Micro did a quick one-two and replaced the quad setup with the next-best thing: a pair o’ eVGA GeForce 7900 GTX cards running in standard SLI mode. While we’re withholding judgment on quad SLI until we can formally review it, we will say that a dual-SLI config probably makes more sense for the majority of gamers who play at a 1600x1200 or lower resolution.
Dropping down to two cards by no means renders the Gamer’s Edge DualX chopped liver. And next to the Voodoo PC we reviewed last month, it’s almost affordable. The pair of GeForce 7900 GTX cards are coupled with an Athlon 64 FX-60 overclocked from the stock 2.6GHz to 2.9GHz. Also aboard are 2GB of Corsair DDR400, a pair of Lite-On dual-layer DVD burners, two Western Digital 150GB Raptor drives, and a 400-gigger drive for backups. Velocity Micro doesn’t pull punches in the power supply category either, shoehorning a PC Power and Cooling 1-kilowatt beast into the rig. That’s enough power to run a small home. Nestled between the two burly 7900 GTX cards is a Creative Lab’s X-Fi soundcard.
We’re especially jazzed about Velocity’s snazzy implementation of the X-Fi card. Many cases feature headphone and mic jacks in front, which unfortunately don’t work with the X-Fi. Velocity Micro gets around this with a custom harness that’s so cool it should be sold independently.
In the cooling department, Velocity Micro uses a Cooler Master AquaGate Mini R120 to keep the OC’d FX-60 from melting down. The company is also mindful of the potential overheating issues on motherboards that use passive heat, so it mounted a Zalman fan over the chipset heat pipe. While it’s a good idea, the fan and bracket look a little slap-dash to us.
We dig Velocity Micro’s custom Lian Li case, which is easy on the eyes and provides plenty of space. But we don’t dig the system’s noise factor. For a water-cooled PC, the Gamer’s Edge DualX is awfully loud. Sure, the chassis was originally configured for quad SLI, but someone’s going to have to come up with a quieter solution; the noise is unacceptable.
We were curious to see how the DualX would perform against our new zero-point, running our new benchmarks—after all the two rigs are kissin’ cousins in configuration. Of course, our zero-point rig lacks 10K RAIDed Raptors, an overclocked processor, and overclocked videocards—so maybe they’re more like hand-shakin’ cousins. Unfortunately, we ran into a snafu with our SYSmark2004 SE run. Amid the transition to our new benchmarks, we initially installed and tried to run SYSmark2004 on the Gamer’s Edge DualX; and once you’ve installed any previous version of SYSmark, you can no longer run newer versions, so SE was out of the question.
Our other benchmarks ran fine, however. In our Premiere Pro 2.0 benchmark, where we make a small movie starting with HD video and outputting it to WMV9 at 720p, we finally saw a difference between the FX-60 and Intel’s Pentium Extreme Edition 955. Previously, the 955 system delivered almost exactly the same time as our Athlon 64 FX-60. The overclocked DualX changed that. Even though the Gamer’s Edge has only a 12 percent clock bump over our stock FX-60, it finished our Premiere Pro 2.0 test about 22 percent faster. The machine was also an impressive 20 percent faster than our zero-point in the Photoshop CS2 script.
The most unusual score came in our new Nero Recode 2 test, where we encode VOB files from a DVD to an MPEG-4 format to play on a Sony PSP. We saw the DualX finish the test in an astounding 17 minutes (about 100 percent faster than our test rig). That doesn’t jibe with our tests during the benchmark build-out process, so we’ve contacted the developer to root out any possible bugs. In our two gaming benchmarks, the DualX’s overclocked CPU and videocards helped the rig achieve scores about 10 percent faster than our zero-point in both FEAR and Quake 4.
The DualX’s performance deserves applause, but its noise level doesn’t. We also have to ding the machine for its untidiness. While we don’t expect every system’s wiring to look Voodoo-clean, the DualX’s interior could be tighter. Still, these aren’t horrible faults, and when it comes to the benchmark numbers, this rig delivers.
Month Reviewed: May 2006
+ MICHAEL KEATON: Full-tilt SLI for almost two grand less than the competition.
- MICHAEL CHRICHTON: A Hoover-vacuum impression mars an otherwise nice PC.