|The GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics card has its own heat sink. In the Raptor's case, it's branded with the system builder's name, Velocity Micro.|
|Bay watch: with four 5.25-inch drive bays, two external 3.5-inch drive bays, and five internal 3.5-inch drive bays, the system can carry a full complement of drives with room for more.|
But make no mistake; this is massive computing at its most perfected. Velocity Micro makes the parade of parts so visually appealing, you probably won't mind a bit of crowding. Tuck the onyx-black case under your desk, and you're still likely to catch a glimpse of the soft blue glow from the power supply and the twin neon tubes reflecting up at you from the acrylic window in the side panel. Out in the open, the black monitor and keyboard and the silver mouse complement each other right down to the silver trim.
Ah, but the Raptor's beauty is more than skin-deep. Inside the tool-free case, the craftsmanship of the braided wires carefully routed out of the way gives you clear access to the system's vast assortment of expansion bays: four 5.25-inch bays (two of which are free), two 3.5-inch external bays (one of which is free), and five internal 3.5-inch bays, (two of which are free--the rest are filled with hard drives). Of the motherboard's five PCI slots, one is occupied by a sound card, and another is blocked by the cooling fan on the graphics card. For external connectivity, the Raptor serves up six USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire connector, all of which, unfortunately, are located on the back panel.
|If there's a faster optical-drive duo, we'd like to see it.|
The Raptor's 1GB of memory is of the speedy 400MHz variety, and you'll find a cavernous amount of drive space: two 36GB Western Digital 10,000rpm SATA drives with 8MB of cache are arranged in a RAID array, alongside a 250GB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive. Velocity Micro tops off the internals with a slightly overclocked version (the core speed is 560MHz, up from the default of 475MHz) of Nvidia's newest card, the 256MB GeForce FX 5950 Ultra.
|Gamer's delight: big, beautiful ViewSonic CRT and the latest 5.1 set from Klipsch.|
But wait, there's more! Continuing the list of next-generation components is the Editors' Choice award-winning Plextor PX-708A, a multiformat DVD-rewritable drive that burns to DVD+R discs at 8X speed, double the speed of last-generation drives. And if the PX-708A's 40X CD-R write speed isn't fast enough for you, feel free to use the Raptor's second Plextor drive: a 52X/32X/52X CD-RW drive. Although the system bundles CyberLink PowerDVD and Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator 6.0 apps to support the drives, we expected more than the free-for-download Open Office 1.1 productivity suite. For the Raptor's price, the package should include Microsoft Office or Microsoft Works at the very least.
We found that Klipsch's new ProMedia Ultra 5.1 speakers, connected to the included SoundBlaster Audigy 2 sound card, reproduce audiophile-quality music at near distortion-free levels of intense sound. Add in the ViewSonic G220fb flat-screen CRT, with its 21-inch edge-to-edge viewing area and 0.21mm dot pitch, and the Raptor hands you home theater at its better-than-best. Application performance
Just as AMD was set to release its 64-bit Athlon 64 FX-51 processor, which happens to deliver divine 32-bit performance, Intel made the surprising announcement that it would soon launch a new chip in its Pentium 4 line. Targeted at the same audience interested in the FX-51 (read: gamers and other power users), the P4 Extreme Edition (EE) is a high-end chip that will be sold in limited quantities, bridging the gap for Intel until its next-generation Prescott chip is ready to go. What makes the P4 EE extreme? Not its clock speed of 3.2GHz; that's no faster than the reigning P4 speed champ. Instead, Intel borrowed from its Xeon server-chip design and added a third layer of cache. With 2MB of L3 cache, the P4 EE offers better performance because the processor can more quickly access some data from the cache rather than having to travel to the system's main memory each time to retrieve that information.
The chip's performance advantages are illustrated by the Velocity Micro Raptor Extreme Edition's strong showing on our benchmarks. Its SysMark 2002 score of 376 is the highest we've ever seen. Compared with the fastest Athlon 64-based system we've tested, the Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1, the Raptor is more than 12 percent faster. It also bested the Maingear F131, a speedy 3.2GHz non-Extreme Pentium 4-based system, by the same margin. We expected the P4 Extreme Edition chip to perform well but not this well. Needless to say, we were very impressed with its performance, which will suffice for any and all users.
Application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
3D graphics and gaming performance
The Velocity Micro Raptor Extreme Edition marks the first time we've seen Nvidia's latest high-end graphics card, the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, in a system. The Raptor's 3DMark03 Pro score of 2,177 was the third highest we've seen--trailing by 7 percent that of our top performer, which used Nvidia's older GeForce FX 5900 Ultra graphics card. Meanwhile, the system's Unreal Tournament 2003 score of 233.4 frames per second (fps) in the Flyby-Antalus test was slightly behind that of some 5900 Ultra-based systems, as well one PC using ATI's Radeon 9800 Pro XT card. We suspect that the 5950 graphics driver may have played a part in diminishing its graphics scores, but with a score of more than 2,000 on 3DMark03 and more than 200fps on Unreal, it's safe to say that the Raptor Extreme Edition is more than capable of running any of today's games.
3D graphics performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark03 Pro, an industry-standard benchmark. We use 3DMark to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 9.0 (DX9) interface at a 32-bit color-depth setting and at a resolution of 1,600x1,200. We also enable 4X antialiasing and 4X anisotropic filtering via Windows' Display Properties settings. A system that does not have DX9 hardware support will typically generate a lower score than one that has such support.
3D gaming performance (in fps) (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled. At this color depth and resolution, Unreal is much less demanding than 3DMark03 and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
ABS Ultimate M6
Windows XP Professional, 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-51; Nvidia Nforce-3 Pro 150; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800 Pro XT 256MB; two Seagate ST380013AS 80GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; WinXP Promise FastTrak 376/378 controller
Gateway 700XL Gaming PC
Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel P4; Intel 875P chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra 256MB; Maxtor 6Y160M0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Windows XP Professional; 3.2GHz Intel P4; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra 256MB; two Seagate ST3120026AS 120GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated WinXP Promise FastTrak 376/378 SATA controller
Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1
Windows XP Professional, 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-51; Nvidia Nforce-3 Pro 150 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra 256MB; two WDC WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; WinXP Promise FastTrak 376/378 RAID controller
Velocity Micro Raptor Extreme Edition
Windows XP Professional, 3.2GHz Intel P4 Extreme; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two WDC WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; one WDC WD2500JB-53EVA0, 250GB, ATA/100, 7,200rpm; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller Velocity Micro covers the Raptor Extreme with a generous three-year warranty and includes one year of VelocityCare that includes 24/7 toll-free phone support and onsite service. After that first year, you can send the system back for repair and Velocity Micro will split the shipping with you. You can extend the VelocityCare service for one or two additional years. Each is priced according to the configuration; our review unit would cost you an additional $149 or $249, respectively. Like Alienware and Voodoo, Velocity also offers hardware upgrades that allow you to return the system for an update and receive the new hardware at wholesale costs plus $99 for labor.
You're not going to get many specifics about the Raptor Extreme Edition from its user manual. It's well done but generic. A list of manufacturer links, a support e-mail address, and a three-question-long FAQ page comprise Velocity Micro's anemic online support.