At A Glance
Blazingly fast, aesthetically pleasing, and well made.
Front-panel bezels could be more firmly secured.
The Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 is the first production rig we’ve tested that boasts Intel’s new Core i7 microarchitecture—and it really cooks. Velocity cranked the 3.2GHz clock speed on Intel’s quad-core Hyper-Threaded Core i7-965 Extreme Edition to 3.6GHz with nary a hiccup, and cooled the dang thing with air. The machine also features 6GB of DDR3/1600 and dual 512MB Radeon HD 4870s.
The Z90 has a typical backup drive: a 1TB 7200rpm Hitachi Deskstar and a less typical C: drive: an 80GB X-25M Intel SSD mounted on a VelociRaptor IcePak heatsink. The drive enclosure in the front of the case isn’t screwless, but the whole bay can be removed by loosening two thumbscrews.
Velocity’s customized Lian Li aluminum chassis is long and low rather than tall (like most cases produced today), which leaves plenty of room between components and produces a clean, uncluttered look. And the wiring is equally fastidious, while still being accessible for component swaps. The Z90 is also one of the lightest rigs to enter the Lab: In an age of backbreakers, we thought Velocity had shipped us an empty chassis until we opened it up!
The Raptor Z90 blew through our benchmarks. It completed our Premiere Pro CS3 test in just 526 seconds. That’s nearly 30 seconds faster than November’s Digital Storm rig and nearly a minute faster than last month’s AVADirect system, both of which packed 4GHz-plus QX9770s. The Z90 was similarly speedy in every test we threw at it—our zero-point took nearly twice as long to complete our MainConcept test.
In fact, the Z90 failed to set records in just two benchmarks: Crysis and Photoshop, where it was bested by the AVADirect and Digital Storm rigs. The former, however, was running two 4870 X2s, while the Digital Storm ran three GTX 260s, so the Z90’s comparatively modest (though still respectable) Crysis performance is no surprise. The AVADirect and Digital Storm rigs were also clocked higher than the Velocity (4GHz and 4.2GHz, respectively), which explains their marginally better performance in Photoshop, a single-threaded app.
We have just one quibble with this rig. The snap-in front-panel bezels are hard to keep in place, and, in fact, were rattling around inside the case when we opened it for the first time. Fortunately, they’re so light, they didn’t cause any damage. We should also mention that the first unit Velocity Micro sent us suffered from instability issues likely due to shipping damage, but the second unit, the one tested here, was rock solid. Shoot, this $5,300 rig made mincemeat of much more expensive systems we’ve tested.