It’s hard to talk about the Velocity Micro MultiPlex machine without thinking back more than 15 years ago, to the earliest days of “PC-TVs” and “PC Theaters.”
Back in the late 1990s, vendors such as Compaq and Gateway were pushing Pentium II–based PCs capable of watching DVDs, displaying electronic programming guides, and browsing the Internet, along with other futuristic capabilities, on gigantic 36-inch CRT televisions (we say that both literally and sarcastically).
The MultiPlex is a traditional HTPC, but fully capable of playing Big Picture Steam games, too.
In comparison to those early pioneers of living room PCs, the Velocity Micro MultiPlex is like a starship dropping out of warp speed while you look on from a covered wagon trying to get over Donner Pass without having to eat your fellow travelers.
The MultiPlex chassis harkens back to those early PC-TVs, but rather than sporting a 266MHz Pentium II, a whopping 2GB hard drive, 32MB of RAM, and an analog TV tuner, the MultiPlex is pretty much state-of-the-art: liquid-cooled Core i7-3770K clocked up to 4.3GHz, 16GB of DDR3/2000, a GeForce GTX 680, 240GB SSD, and 3.6TB of RAID 5 storage. Besides Gigabit and 802.11n, and the Blu-ray drive, Velocity Micro opted for a Ceton quad-channel CableCARD tuner to help fill that massive RAID 5 array.
That RAID array, for the record, is made up of three 2TB WD Caviar Black drives. If one drive fails, you won’t lose it all—we’re just not so sure we’d care if we lost it, though. Since the MultiPlex is intended to quietly sit in the living room sucking up television through the Ceton card, a drive failure wiping out, say, every episode of Glee or The Walking Dead, wouldn’t be as bad as losing 2TB of your family videos and pics. Frankly, we think that a straight 6TB JBOD array would be just fine on a PVR box, but if you do intend to store your memories on the machine, the RAID 5 is warranted.
Performance of the box was in line with our expectations. Obviously, up against our zero-point system’s hexa-core and dual-GPU setup, it’s no contest. But against HTPC/gaming boxes like Digital Storm’s Bolt and Falcon Northwest’s Tiki, it’s pretty much a tie, as all three feature overclocked 3770K parts and GeForce GTX 680 cards. Of course, you might wonder if it’s fair to compare the MultiPlex against those much smaller HTPC machines. That’s a good question. Both the Tiki and Bolt are more likely to be used as simple SFF gaming boxes in your office, or in your living room as “Steam Boxes” running Big Picture mode. Recording terabytes of TV isn’t likely to be high on the list of their usage scenarios.
That’s actually where the MultiPlex comes in. It’s far more traditional-HTPC shaped and sized for the PVR chores, yet has plenty of firepower to run games at 1080p resolutions. Our one complaint might be that it’s a tad loud for pure PVR duties. If you’re watching, say, a Michael Bay flick, you’d never hear the fan and drive noise, but if you’re trying to catch the nuanced acting in, um, Jane Eyre on Blu-ray, you could find those sounds distracting. This won’t be an issue in gaming, of course, but it’s worth noting.
Pricing for the rig is fair. At $3,200 it’s a full grand cheaper than the Falcon Tiki we reviewed last September. The Tiki did, however, pack a pair of 512GB SSDs, which adds up, but then the MultiPlex has three drives plus a CableCARD tuner.
Overall, the MultiPlex brings a lot to the table if you’re still living in a cable world—we’re just not sure how many of us there are in today’s post-cable environment.
x240GB Intel SSD, three 2TB WD Caviar Black drives in RAID 5
Blu-ray combo drive WH14N540
Custom / Corsair TX850
Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)
Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)
ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)
x264 HD 5.0 (fps)
Batman: Arkham City (fps)
Our current desktop test bed consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K 3.8GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.