The bell may toll for LGA1366, but at least Intel’s premier performance socket isn’t going down without a fight. The fight, in this case, is the new hexa-core Core i7-990X, which is at the heart of Velocity Micro’s Raptor Signature Edition PC.
The new CPU boasts a slight clock bump up from the 980X’s 3.33GHz to 3.46GHz. With Turbo Boost, the 990X will take the cores up to 3.73GHz. So why even build on LGA1366 at all when its sibling, the LGA1155-based Sandy Bridge, offers such kick-ass performance for an ass-kicking price?
Despite its bland looks, the Raptor SE outpaces sexier boutique rigs.
Well, if you haven’t heard, there was a bit of a screw up with the P67 chipset that made it nigh impossible to get an LGA1155 motherboard for a couple of months. So it’s no surprise that Velocity Micro took this opportunity to drop the Raptor SE on us. Besides the 990X, the Raptor SE sports a pair of GeForce GTX 580 cards, a 120GB OCZ Revo SSD, a 2TB Hitachi HDD, a Blu-ray combo drive, and 12GB of Patriot DDR3/1600 RAM. The CPU is mounted in an Asus Rampage 3 Formula board, and cooling comes courtesy of a CoolIT Eco 2 liquid cooler.
It all makes for an impressive system—one that can go toe-to-toe with the Falcon Northwest and Digital Storm rigs we reviewed in February and April, respectively. Both of those systems used a Sandy Bridge Core i7-2600K paired with two GeForce GTX 580 cards.
In performance tests, the Raptor SE pulled in some good numbers. The most significant wins were in Sony Vegas Pro 9 and the MainConcept Reference encoder. Reference saw the Raptor SE achieve a 10 percent boost over the wickedly fast Digital Storm Black Ops Enix. In fact, the Raptor SE’s performance in the Reference encoder was damn close to that of the $10,000 dual-Xeon-based AVADirect that we reviewed in the Holiday issue and just edged out the Dream Machine 2010. Not bad.
More impressive still was the Raptor SE’s performance in Sony Vegas Pro 9, where it broke a record set way back in August by an Origin PC box—another hexa-core Core i7 rig.
In gaming, the Raptor SE also represents LGA1366 well. It turned in frame rates slightly faster than the Falcon Northwest and pulled even with the Digital Storm Black Ops Enix, which featured an even higher clock speed.
So what’s the rub? The price. Intel’s pricing of the quad-core Core i7-2600K near $300 makes it the steal of the century. Yes, the Core i7-990X has six cores and will hammer multithreaded applications with a vengeance. But it’s also $1,000. That pushes the price of the Raptor SE significantly beyond the $4,300 Falcon Northwest Mach V. Not to mention the $3,500 Digital Storm Black Ops Enix.
We shouldn’t downplay hexa-core performance, though. The truth is, the hexa-core chip will still run rings around the quad-core Sandy Bridge parts—but you’ll need applications that will exploit its 12 threads. If you’re someone who regularly uses a video editor, encoder, 3D modeling app, engineering app, or another workstation-level app, the hexa-core LGA1366 is worth the stretch. However, for all others, a quad-core Sandy Bridge is simply too much of a bargain to ignore. Despite this, we won’t rob Velocity Micro of its deserved kudos. The system is fast, stable, and can hang with the best boxes. $5,500, www.velocitymicro.com
Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition
Hexa-core performance; tri-SLI ready.
Pricey; understated looks.
Intel 3.46GHz Core i7-990X overclocked to 4.7GHz
Asus Rampage III Formula
Two GeForce GTX 580 in SLI
128GB OCZ Revo, 2TB Hitachi 7,200rpm
Lite-On Blu-ray burner, 22x DVD burner
Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition
Vegas Pro 9 (sec)
Lightroom 2.6 (sec)
ProShow 4 (sec)
Reference 1.6 (sec)
STALKER: CoP (fps)
Far Cry 2 (fps)
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked to 1750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate.