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Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition (2012) Review
Whether it’s for home or school, the Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition (2012) is a fine general-purpose desktop at an attractive price.
(4 out of 5)
- Fine overall performance
- Includes discrete video card
- Arrives bloatware free.
- Limited hard drive space
- No front-panel USB 3.0 ports.
Design and Features
Like most Velocity Micro systems (such as the latest Raptor Z90 and last winter’s Vector Holiday Edition), this latest Vector Campus Edition uses a variation on the company’s classic MX2-W chassis: brushed-aluminum exterior, crisp edges, windowed side panel, and striking blue interior lighting. It’s a familiar look, but it’s one that quietly allures and one that works. The aesthetic doesn’t carry over to the included keyboard and mouse, alas—they’re both basic black plastic—but you can’t have everything.
On the component side, however, you can be forgiven for thinking you can. The Campus Edition is decently equipped with current midrange hardware that packs a punch without punching a hole in your budget. The processor is a 3.4GHz Intel Core i5-3570K, which has four processing cores but no Hyper-Threading support to give it control over eight simultaneous threads, but it’s been overclocked to a healthy 4.3GHz. A nice 8GB of RAM comes preinstalled, with two of the four RAM slots remaining free so you can add more down the line if you want. The video card uses the relatively powerful mainstream AMD Radeon HD 7750 chipset. You don’t get a ton of hard drive space—a mere 1TB—but there are two 3.5-inch bays free for future expansion. A DVD burner and multiformat card reader round out the external storage options.
Front-panel ports are fairly limited: the obligatory headphone and microphone, FireWire, and USB 2.0—unfortunately, no USB 3.0. You get a better selection on the rear panel, with two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, eight-channel analog audio, PS/2, and Ethernet joining the DisplayPort, HDMI, and two DVI ports on the video card. USB dongles granting 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity come pre-inserted as well.
One thing you don’t get: bloatware. Like most boutique manufacturers, Velocity Micro ships its systems clean, so when you boot into the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium, you won’t find any clutter at all on your desktop. Open Office 3.4 and Microsoft Security Essentials are available as no-cost upgrades so you can also have basic productivity and malware-protection functionality right out of the box.
The Campus Edition is covered by a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, and an extra $69 gets you a one-year VelocityCare warranty that also includes on-site service.
Regardless of why you need (or want) to use your system, the Campus Edition offers a compelling spread of performance across applications. It didn’t nab the top spots in our Futuremark PCMark 7 all-around-system or CineBench R11.5 rendering tests—those went to the Acer Predator AG3620-UR21P (4,551 versus 4,041 and 7.52 versus 5.17 respectively). But the Campus Edition managed the lowest time in its class in both HandBrake (56 seconds, with the nearest competition the 1 minute 3 seconds of the Asus Essentio CM6870) and Adobe Photoshop CS5 (2 minutes 40 seconds, with the Acer Predator a close second with 2 minutes 47 seconds).
In gaming, the Campus Edition was almost as good: It was the champ at Futuremark 3DMark 11, in both the Entry (5,222) and Extreme (1,098) presets, and at 1,280-by-720-resolution Crysis with Medium graphical details (108 frames per second, or fps). The Alienware X51 ruled the roost with Lost Planet 2 at 1,280 by 720 and middle-quality graphics (86fps) and 35fps at 1,920 by 1,080 with high-quality graphics (the Campus Edition competed with 72fps and 28fps respectively); the Alienware also surpassed the Velocity Micro at Crysis at 1,920 by 1,080 with Very High details (22fps versus 21fps), but that’s not exactly a crow-worthy victory).
Other systems out there might surpass the Velocity Micro Vector Campus Edition (2012) in certain areas—the Alienware X51 is slightly better at gaming, the Acer Predator AG3620-UR21P at some processing chores. But the Campus Edition earns its place as our new Editors’ Choice for midrange desktops because of its strong commitment to balancing all the disciplines. It’s an ideal well-rounded desktop for pursuing your well-rounded education.
By Matthew Murray, PCMag