The wait for PCI Express is over for AMD fans
Verdict: 9 Kick Ass
Oh, the ignominy. For months, Intel fans have been laughing Nelson Muntz-style at the AMD crowd over the lack of PCI Express on Athlon 64 FX mobos. It’s as if AMD users have been swimming in the “cement pond” and showing up to work without shoes on—that’s just how backwards their PC lifestylings have been of late. Well, prepare to say “ha ha” back, AMDers, because you’re now fully up to date.
The Velocity Micro Raptor 64 Dual X shows that waiting an extra six months has been worth it. In fact, the Dual X doesn’t just boast PCI Express, it also features SLI, and a pair of wicked eVGA GeForce 6800 Ultra cards. The Raptor 64 Dual X isn’t the first SLI system we’ve tested of course. Alienware sent us a water-cooled SLI rig last month. Unfortunately, however, that Alienware machine was running a Xeon processor, not to mention DDR2-400 RAM—registered memory being a requirement of the Xeon pedigree.
Velocity Micro’s Dual X is powered by AMD’s jack rabbit–fast Athlon 64 FX-55 processor, while storage duties are handled by a pair of 10,000rpm Raptors drives, a 250GB Western Digital drive, and a pair of Lite-On burners (one of which is a dual-layer DVD burner.) The entire package is wrapped in an aluminum case custom-made by Lian Li for Velocity Micro. It’s a snazzy number that simultaneously looks understated and sexy. It doesn’t scream crazy PC nut-job, but it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile either.
When it comes to 3D gaming, you’d expect two videocards to be faster than one—and they basically are, but not every test exposes the power of SLI. Take Jedi Academy. For us, this OpenGL gaming test has effectively become a CPU benchmark, especially at the 1280x1024 resolution we run it at for official scores. The Dual X kicked out 129fps in Jedi Academy, and while that’s an outstanding frame rate, it’s not a Lab record. The record goes to the Digital Storm Twister, which hit 133.8fps in December. The frame gap, though minor, is likely due to immature PCI Express drivers and the fact that SLI eats up a bit of rendering efficiency. Also keep in mind that Jedi Academy scores in the 130fps range are about 25 percent better than what we’ve seen Intel-based systems cough up. In Halo, even at a “low” 1280x1024 resolution, the Dual X set a new Lab record with a score of 114fps.
In general productivity apps, the Dual X didn’t disappoint us either, as the rig hit a respectable 207 in SYSmark2004 (the Lab record belongs to Falcon Northwest’s 3.6GHz P4 Prescott-based FragBox II, which hit 214). In MusicMatch and Premiere Pro, the Dual X schooled all other Athlon-based machines, but didn’t have the legs to defeat P4-based boxes. In fact, the record in MusicMatch actually belongs to a slightly overclocked P4EE-based Velocity Micro box we reviewed in June 2004.
The Dual X’s final victory came in our Photoshop test. We’ve seen the Photoshop performance pendulum slowly swing from Intel to AMD in our processor showdowns, and now this month’s system testing confirms the power shift once and for all—the Dual X is now the fastest machine in our Photoshop action script. It not only clipped our own Dream Machine (based on a 4GHz Prescott P4), but also bumped the ZT Group’s 3.46GHz P4 Extreme Edition rig from the winners circle.
Is there anything to bitch about? Well, while we love the case, the performance, and the looks, the system borders on loud. It’s not leaf-blower loud, and we’ve heard far worse, but you’ll definitely know when this baby is on. Of course, that’s to be expected with this amount of hardware stuffed inside, and it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a good set of surround-sound speakers and your favorite AC/DC album. --Gordon Mah Ung
+ Arby's Horsey Sauce: PCI-E and dual GeForce 6800 Ultra cards can make a dead man smile.
- McDonald's Special Sauce: Just bordering on loud. Water cooling might be a good option.