Boutique gaming PCs usually have a few things in common: enthusiast-class components, enthusiastically overclocked; state-of-the art enclosures, with over-the-top paint jobs at the upper echelons; meticulous wiring jobs, in which internal cables are camouflaged or hidden entirely; and high price tags, sometimes steep enough to induce a nosebleed. With its Raptor Z95, Velocity Micro hits most of those notes, but without the nosebleed pricing.
The Raptor Z95 is outfitted with one of Intel's best performance CPUs, which you might be surprised to learn is not based on Intel's Haswell microarchitecture. Despite the 4000-series part number, the Core i7-4930K is instead based on the chip maker's Ivy Bridge-E template.
Whereas Haswell parts top out at four cores (with hyper-threading to support eight simultaneous threads), Ivy Bridge-E components — including the Core i7-4930K in this machine — have up to six cores (with hyper-threading to support 12 simultaneous threads). Ivy Bridge-E parts offer other performance features, too. They deliver four memory channels to Haswell's two. They can address up to 64GB of memory, whereas Haswell maxes out at 32GB. And they support 40 PCI Express lanes versus Haswell's 16. Ivy Bridge-E parts can do all of that in large measure because Intel doesn't leave any room on the die for an integrated GPU.
An integrated GPU would be wasted in a machine like the Raptor Z95 anyway. Velocity Micro packs in two video cards powered by Nvidia's midrange GeForce GTX 770 GPUs running in SLI. The Asus P9X79 LE motherboard also supports CrossFire, in case you want to switch allegiance to AMD graphics hardware down the road.
Neither the Raptor Z95's CPU nor its video cards are the fastest available, but Velocity Micro's choices help to keep this rig's price tag out of the stratosphere ($3999 is not chicken feed, but the Z95 is a whole lot less than the $6555 Origin Genesis Z87 or the $8000 Maingear Shift Super Stock Z87). The next-best processor in Intel's Ivy Bridge-E line — the Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition — has a retail price tag of $1059. And the Raptor Z95 carries dual video cards based on the GeForce 770 GPU because dual GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards would have added another several hundred dollars to its asking price.
Velocity Micro overclocked the components it did choose, taking you part of the way toward the performance of those money-is-no-object rigs for a whole lot less cash. The company elected to water-cool the CPU with an Asetek 570LC cooling system (an integrated pump and copper water block connected to an aluminum heat exchanger) that's coupled with a pair of 120mm Corsair fans in a push/pull configuration (one fan pushes air across the radiator while the other pulls air across it). This cooling arrangement enabled Velocity Micro's techs to goose the processor's clock speed from a stock 3.4GHz all the way to 4.5GHz.
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