Extraordinary all-around performance. Overclocked Intel Core X processor and dual graphics. Slim, attractive case with easy access for maintenance and upgrades.
Expensive as configured.
- Bottom Line
This configuration of the Velocity Micro Raptor Z95 will cost you, but you get top-notch components and blistering best-in-class performance for media creation and 4K gaming.
With a sleek case, versatile features, and all-around efficient performance, last year's Velocity Micro Raptor Z95 rated among the top midrange desktops. The model we're reviewing this year is a much more expensive configuration (starts at $1,999; $5,099 as tested), but many of the same positives carry over, particularly because they share a case. This premium general purpose desktop can do it all, from playing games at maximum settings to serving as a home workstation. It'll cost you a pretty penny as configured, but the unmatched level of performance delivered by dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics and a 10-core Intel Core-X processor earn the Raptor Z95 our Editors' Choice for high-end desktops.
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This year's Raptor Z95 uses the same Velocity Micro GX4 case as the 2016 version, and I'm a big fan. It stands at 17.5 by 7.25 by 20.5 inches (HWD), all black brushed aluminum. The Raptor Z95 isn't a small-form-factor build by any means, but it's more space-concious than the average high-end desktop. While the case is fairly tall and deep, it's nice and slim, so it doesn't take up much desk width. It can also fit in a more narrow space between, say, your desk and a wall, if you want to keep it on the floor (of course still leaving some room for ventilation). A comparable gaming-focused desktop like the Origin Neuron is similar at 17.8 by 9 by 15.7 inches, not as deep but a bit thicker. They're both much smaller than the eye-catching, but gargantuan, Asus ROG GT51, which measures 23.11 by 10.31 by 22.99 inches.
Aesthetically it's sleek, attractive, and understated, with lighting reserved just for side and top ventilation cutouts. The left and top panel fans are lit with blue LEDs, cleverly placed in four spots around each fan to give the appearance of constant fan blades, even though they're spinning too fast to see individually. It's much more reserved than the MSI Aegis Ti3, which has a very aggressive design. Functionally, it's incredibly easy to access and maintain. The right panel opens with a simple tug on the top or bottom edge and pulls away cleanly from the rest of the case with no screws involved. The left, which faces the back of the motherboard and so doesn't need to be accessed very frequently, has one screw at the top and one at the base.
The side-mounted 204mm Corsair liquid CPU cooler greets you upon opening the case—its fans are the two you see through the side cutout. It's secured in place with two hand screws, and undoing those allows it to swing out and away from the motherboard beneath (an Asus Strix X299-E), letting you access the rest of the components. At the bottom of the tower are two EVGA Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards, their glowing names obscured when the case is closed. The cables are routed and managed about as neatly as possible, a nice bonus of buying a system rather than building (save for the best of the DIYers out there). Rounding out the components are 32GB of DDR4-2666 Crucial Ballistix memory and, last but certainly not least, a 10-core Intel Core i9-7900X processor, which I'll talk more about later. The bottom line here is that the Raptor Z95 is packed with high-end components, simple to access, and a breeze to maintain or upgrade.
As a multi-use and gaming-capable desktop, you'll likely have plenty of data to store on the Raptor Z95. Between videos and photos for any creative types, plus massive game installations, the system's 3TB 7,200rpm hard drive will come in handy. There's also a 512GB Samsung 960 Pro NVMe SSD on board that serves as the boot drive, and you can put other essential applications and games that particularly benefit from an SSD's speed there. There's room for five total hard drives, so there are still four open bays in this build if you need to add more storage. The Digital Storm Velox (Core i7-7700K) is one of the most similarly priced desktops, and offers the same storage setup and capacity (though fewer open bays).
There are a decent number of ports on board, starting with two USB 3.0 ports and headphone and mic jacks on the top panel. There are no ports on the front face, just an optical drive, so the majority are on the rear. There are seven more USB ports on the back, plus a USB-C port, as well as audio lines. The graphics cards each have four DisplayPort connections and one HDMI port. Velocity Micro supports the system with a one-year part replacement warranty, and a lifetime support and labor warranty.
The Raptor Z95's Core i9-7900X CPU features a whopping 10 cores, and is overclocked out of the box to 4.5GHz. It's this inclusion that really makes this system more than a gaming desktop, as the core count and multithread performance take it up to workstation-like performance for enthusiasts, media creators, and designers. It should come as no surprise that the Raptor Z95, with its CPU combined with 32GB of memory, scored among the best systems we've ever tested. Its PCMark score is much higher than the Velox and the Ryzen-bearing CyberPower Gamer Master Ultra's scores, and just slightly edged out by the Origin Neuron and MSI Aegis Ti3. It also led the way for the multimedia tests, on which it set several new best scores. Its 25-second Handbrake time blows the competition out of the water, and its CineBench score tops the charts as one of a few desktops to even cross the 2,000-point mark (a few had it beat on Photoshop). As expected, these results mean the Raptor Z95 is up to the task for power users looking to quickly edit and create media.
The story for 3D and gaming is similar, given that even one GTX 1080 Ti is a lot of power. With two, this is a fully capable powerhouse for any type of user, more than enough for even demanding 4K gaming. Its 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme result is the highest of any system in our database, edging out the Origin Neuron (these are only two systems to break the 20,000 point barrier).
Its scores on the Heaven and Valley gaming tests are also at the top of the pack, even powering past the very elusive 4K 60 frames per second (fps) target on ultra-quality settings. Single-card builds, even those that use the top-tier options, struggle to hit consistent 60fps, but the Raptor Z95 averaged 88fps on Heaven and 103fps on Valley. Having that much headroom at 4K is very rare, and demonstrates the proficiency of this desktop—no game will fail to run smoothly at 4K, and you don't have to think about upgrades for years to come (especially graphics). The Neuron, for the record, does have it beat with some extra frames, but both are more than anyone will need for contemporary gaming. Whether you're a performance enthusiast looking to squeeze the best out of every title, or need the 3D power for professional rendering, the Raptor Z95 proved up to the job.
Power User's Dream Desktop
At its exorbitant price, this PC as configured is obviously not meant (or necessary) for the average user, or even most gamers. Its targets are media professionals, artists, hardcore hobbyists, and enthusiast gamers, all of whom will need to have some serious cash to spend. It'd be ideal if you tick more than one of those boxes to get the best value out of your big buy, but as long as you can justify it, the top-tier performance is there. With every component being top of the line, its high cost makes sense, and you get it all in an expertly assembled package and slick, accessible case. For its class-leading performance and appealing form factor, the 2017 Velocity Micro Raptor Z95 is our Editors' Choice for high-end desktops. Bear in mind that if the build appeals to you, there are myriad configuration options for this system, so you can get a less expensive model for your needs. If you're looking in the same price range for a more gaming-focused system and don't need the extra juice, the Origin Neuron is our top pick for premium gaming desktops.
Other Velocity Micro Desktops
Matthew Buzzi is a junior analyst on the Hardware team at PCMag. Matthew graduated from Iona College with a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism. He interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming. He has written about technology and video game news, as well as hardware and gaming reviews. In his free time, he likes to go out with friends, watch and discuss sports, play video games, read too much Twitter, and obsessively manage any fantasy sports leagues he's involved in. More »
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