Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (2021) Review

We consider Velocity Micro to be among the best performance-focused builders around after analyzing a number of their desktop builds over the years. With Intel’s new 12th Generation “Alder Lake” processors (a top-of-the-line Core i9-12900K chip in our machine) and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti graphics, the new Raptor Z55 (starts at $2,824; $4,599 as tested) reaffirms that assertion. The new Raptor Z55 is a chart-topping performer for heavy work and gaming at any resolution thanks to a super-clean construction, unique tune, and these high-end parts. The design may not be as showy as some boutique competitors, but it would work well in an office or professional setting, and it is well-made and supported. The Raptor Z55 is one of the greatest custom builds available for speed hunters with demanding data, content, or 3D workloads, thanks to Intel’s new-generation CPUs.

Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (2021) Review

Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (2021)

One roaring "Alder Lake" performance hound
PROS
Astonishing performance
Intel Core i9 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti choices for “Alder Lake”
Custom built to perfection
Professional appearance
Strong US-based assistance

CONS
Pricey, especially for the base model.
Gamers may be turned off by the conservative, professional design.

VELOCITY MICRO RAPTOR Z55 (2021) SPECS

Desktop ClassGaming, Workstation
ProcessorIntel Core i9-12900K
Processor Speed3.19 GHz
RAM (as Tested)16 GB
Boot Drive TypeSSD
Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)2 TB
Graphics CardNvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
Operating SystemWindows 11

Styling by a Professional

We’ve seen this (and very similar) Velocity Micro chassis for years, so we won’t go into detail. This PC manufacturer focuses on performance, and many of its computers are utilized for non-gaming purposes, resulting in this minimalist (but still elegant) design. Except for its distinctive side window, the tower is entirely made of aluminum, a high-quality construction that mostly blends in.

The interior perspective will alert you to the concentration on a clean and professional appearance if the outside did not. “Clean” is probably an understatement; Velocity Micro constructions are spotless, with silver and black fittings and no loose cables. For added flare, all fans feature some carefully selected bluish illumination. As we’ll see later, the attention to detail and tuning pays off in the performance, so it’s not all for show.

As a result, this desktop is appropriate for any setting—it might blend in at an office or government building unnoticed, and the almost austere appearance is a message in and of itself for gamers who like a less showy approach. The tower’s footprint is larger than some Raptor towers we’ve tested previously (this is the company’s GX6 case), but that’s not unusual for an ATX design. It is 20.25 by 8.25 by 20.5 inches in size (HWD).

Liquid Cooling

The windowed panel easily peels away; you may think there’s something to unscrew, but it simply pops off with a satisfying tug, held in place by a set of pegs. It’s as simple as matching the pegs up with the holes and squeezing it back into place, which makes maintenance a joy.

Because the front is flush, the front-panel ports are actually top-panel ports. Two USB 3.1 ports, a USB-C port, headphone and mic jacks, and the power button are all located on the top edge. Five USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.1 ports, two USB-C ports, an Ethernet socket, and audio lines are all located on the back.

Introduction to Alder Lake’s Components and Configurations

Of course, the main mystery is what elements are hidden behind the side window. As previously stated, this build is for Intel’s new 12th generation desktop CPUs, Alder Lake. This configuration uses the high-end Core i9-12900K processor, which we also tested in the Alienware Aurora R13. This provides a useful benchmark for the performance testing that follows.

The Core i9-12900K is a 16-core, 24-thread processor that boasts numerous new Intel efficiency. AMD had surged to a lead in the PC and processor markets in the last several years, building a series of pretty remarkable Ryzen processors across all performance tiers, something Intel has struggled to stay up with. The last few Intel generations have seen minor speed boosts, but Ryzen processors have been dominating productivity and media tasks.

We’ll delve into the system’s performance results later, but (spoiler alert) Intel has made a significant improvement this time around. Check out our overview explainer on the new chips, as well as our in-depth analysis of the Core i9-12900K, for more information on Alder Lake architecture and the efficiencies Intel employs. We also take a close look at the new Z690 chipset, which significantly improves performance.

16GB of DDR5-4800 memory, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti graphics card (specifically, EVGA’s FTW 3 Ultra with 12GB of VRAM), and a fast 2TB Samsung SSD 980 Pro drive round out the package. The liquid cooler is Velocity Micro’s closed-loop 360mm cooler, and we’re delighted to report that the system never became too loud under load, which is impressive given the amount of power it pulls. In addition to the traditional back vents, the power supply is located at the bottom, with top-mounted fans sucking air out of the system. The right-side panel houses a triple-fan 360mm radiator, bringing the total number of fans to six.

This combination is priced at $4,599, so don’t expect a bargain. As previously said, this computer is designed for heavy-duty tasks, with gaming being only one of many possible applications. This is a professional-grade system in terms of design and technology, and only those who require this level of power should consider this configuration. Also worth noting: Velocity Micro would have preferred to send 32GB (or more) RAM with this loadout, and would recommend it, but due to schedule constraints and a lack of DDR5 modules for this review machine, the 16GB quantity was chosen.

Z55 on display

The cheapest Intel-based Raptor Z55 GX6 starts at $2,824 for a far more basic configuration (12th Gen Core i5, GeForce GTX 1650 Super card), which is perhaps less of a good deal. To be fair, that still includes the cost of an expert build, in-house tuning, an aluminum chassis, domestic-location support, and a few other things, but it’s still expensive for that CPU and GPU combination. Despite the premium, the $4,599 build is more competitively priced, falling in line with the comparably equipped mass-market Alienware Aurora R13.

Yes, for the DIYers out there, building a system with the same elements yourself would be less expensive. Most professional users, as well as those purchasing in bulk for a company or the government, do not do so. Velocity Micro also includes a one-year part replacement warranty, as well as lifetime phone support and labor coverage with the system. (Support comes from the United States, as the corporation is situated in Virginia.) Of course, you’re paying for the clean build and special tuning that takes place before the system is given to you, which is part of the performance advantage these systems provide.

Let’s get to the anxiously awaited performance results without further ado.

Velocity Micro with Intel Alder Lake: A Performance Match Made in Heaven

We’ve only examined a few high-end desktops since moving to a more contemporary battery of benchmark tests, so the list of comparison devices is short. Nonetheless, they’ll make good comparisons here, so check out their names and specs below…

The AMD representation is the Maingear Turbo, which, with its high-end Ryzen 9 CPU and RTX 3090, provides a solid point of comparison. The Alienware Aurora R13 is another new Alder Lake system with somewhat different supporting components. For what it’s worth, the Aurora R13 is priced similarly to the Raptor Z55 at $4,679.99; despite the prior cautions concerning boutique vendor premiums, the Raptor is really the cheaper of the two.

Tests of Productivity


PROCESSOR
GRAPHICSRAMSTORAGE
VelocityMicro Raptor Z55 (2021)IntelCore i9-12900K (3.19GHz)Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (12GB)16GBRAM2TBSSD
AlienwareAurora R13IntelCore i9-12900K (3.2GHz)Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 (24GB)64GBRAM1TBSSD; 2TB HDD
MaingearTurbo (2021)AMDRyzen 9 5950X (3.4GHz)Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 (24GB)32GBRAM1TBSSD

UL’s PCMark 10’s core benchmark simulates a range of real-world productivity and content-creation processes to assess overall performance for office-centric operations like word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also perform PCMark 10’s Full System Drive test to evaluate a desktop’s storage’s load time and throughput.

Three benchmarks evaluate a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive applications by focusing on the CPU and employing all available cores and threads. Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro mimics popular apps ranging from PDF rendering to speech recognition to machine learning, while Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses the company’s Cinema 4D engine to produce a complicated scene. Finally, we convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p quality using the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4. (lower times are better).

PugetSystems’ PugetBench for Photoshop, which employs Adobe’s famed image editor’s Creative Cloud version 22 to score a PC’s performance for content creation and multimedia applications, is our last productivity test. It’s a Photoshop addon that does a range of general and GPU-accelerated functions, such as opening, rotating, resizing, and saving images, as well as adding masks, gradient fills, and filters.

RTX 3090

The following are the primary takeaways from this set of findings: Velocity Micro knows how to make a fast computer, and Alder Lake is the real deal. On CPU tasks, Intel’s 12th-gen solution (finally) outperforms its Ryzen equivalent, scoring higher in every productivity test. That’s a significant shift from AMD’s dominance, and it’s because to Intel’s E-core and P-core hybrid architecture and Thread Director technology, which it’s been working on for this platform. It’s not the complete picture of Ryzen 9 vs. Core i9 (again, consult the chip review), but there is a clear difference here in a consumer PC.

In terms of performance, the Raptor Z55 outperformed the Aurora R13 on PCMark 10 and Cinebench R23, was nearly tied on HandBrake and Geekbench, and lost on Photoshop. Again, these two have the same processor, so expect a close race, but the Raptor Z55‘s memory is limited to 16GB. It performed admirably and has the fastest storage of the group. Before forming any firm conclusions, we’ll move on to the graphics exams.

Intel and Velocity Micro will benefit from all of this: For professional users, this is a simple, ready-to-use workhorse. After a period of AMD supremacy, the company wins its reputation for performance, while Intel reclaims power-hungry users, making for a more intriguing and competitive CPU market. The next AMD release will be fascinating to observe.

Gaming and Graphics Tests

We put two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark to the test: Night Raid (which is more modest and suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).

In addition, we run three real-world gaming tests utilizing F1 2021, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and Rainbow Six Siege’s built-in benchmarks. Simulation, open-world action-adventure, and competitive esports shooter games are all represented. Odyssey and Siege are run twice (once with and once without Nvidia’s performance-boosting DLSS anti-aliasing), while F1 2021 is run twice at maximum settings, once with and once without Nvidia’s performance-boosting DLSS anti-aliasing.

We usually run the latest Assassin’s Creed Valhalla instead of Odyssey, however several titles are having issues with the new chips, preventing them from launching. This happened to us with Valhalla on numerous 12th-gen systems. As far as we can tell, and after speaking with Intel about the issue, the issue stems from Denuvo DRM, which Valhalla employs. A patch should be coming soon, but for the time being, we can only give a warning that some titles may not run on Alder Lake builds. Now for the outcomes.

Z55

Because the Raptor Z55‘s RTX 3080 Ti leads every test save F1 2021, it’s easy to forget that it’s the only system out of the three that doesn’t use an RTX 3090. Granted, the RTX 3090’s benefits aren’t always in gaming, but the Raptor Z55 also wins in simulated tests (the 3090 is more likely to boost graphics-based professional workloads to greater heights).

Given their similarities, Velocity Micro’s efforts with the cooling arrangement, tuning, and internal architecture show up in these sustained gaming testing, with a not-insignificant edge over the Aurora R13 on several tests. Odyssey, the most demanding title here, averaged 11 frames per second higher than the R13 in full HD, 7 frames per second higher in 1440p, and 6 frames per second higher in 4K.

It also has the highest frame rates in Rainbow Six Siege across all three resolutions, and is the only system to exceed 200 frames per second in 4K. In F1 2021, the Maingear Turbo is the better performer, yet the Raptor Z55 defeats the Aurora R13 once more. Although gaming isn’t the primary reason most people buy the Raptor Z55, it does make a compelling case if it’s something you want to do with it.

Conclusion: If you’re looking for speed, go no further.

The new Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 has a sleek and appealing design, operates quietly, is simple to maintain and update, and produces industry-leading frame rates. Both the desktop and Alder Lake appear to be a success, reintroducing Intel to the performance race at this level. In terms of the Raptor Z55, all of this leaves little space for criticism. Naturally, the build is expensive, but you get what you paid for.

The Raptor Z55’s only flaw is that, when compared to more expensive, flashier options from Maingear, Origin, Falcon Northwest, and other boutique PC builders, the visual design may not scream “Nearly $5,000 Computer!” Nonetheless, it may be more aesthetically pleasing to you, fits well in any professional situation, and performs admirably. The Raptor Z55 sits atop the performance heap whether you’re shopping for work or personally more into sheer speed and would prefer leave the odd case designs at home.

Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (2021) Review

Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (2021)

One roaring "Alder Lake" performance hound
PROS
Astonishing performance
Intel Core i9 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti choices for “Alder Lake”
Custom built to perfection
Professional appearance
Strong US-based assistance

CONS
Pricey, especially for the base model.
Gamers may be turned off by the conservative, professional design.

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