Velocity Micro is a performance-first boutique PC maker that tends to forgo the flash of its competitors. Instead, the Virginia-based company squeezes all the juice it can from cutting-edge PC parts in unassuming cases. The Raptor Z55 (starts at $1,249; $2,999 as tested) epitomizes that, with its Core i9 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card leading the charge. It’s a workstation-grade performance beast that competes with or bests pricier gaming desktops, many of whose higher prices are thanks to fancier buildouts. The Raptor Z55 just about topped the charts in all non-3D tasks, and flexed its muscles for 1440p and 4K gaming. It’s easy to recommend, though Maingear’s Vybe remains our Editors’ Choice in this price range for threading the needle of tasteful design and performance at $2,499. (If you simply prefer the Raptor Z55’s design, you can bump down to an RTX 2080 to match the Vybe’s price.)
Velocity Micro Minimalism
If you’ve ever laid eyes on a Velocity Micro desktop before, the Raptor Z55 should look mighty familiar. If you haven’t, well, the design is very straightforward.
This year’s model is using the MX4 edition of the case, still a sleek all-black chassis made entirely of aluminum. Every side features a plain brushed-metal finish, save for the front-facing logos. The only real spot of flair can be seen on the top fan vents, which are lit with blue LEDs. It stands roughly 17 inches tall by 17 inches deep—hardly compact, but not a huge footprint.
This design appeals not only to professionals in offices who need high-powered systems (much of the company’s target audience), but gamers who care more about speed than about having an eye-catching tower. It’s a nice design, just a simple one. If you’re an individual buying a desktop for home, this more minimal air may be up your alley.
Access to the interior couldn’t be easier. The process is completely toolless, as all you need to do is pull off the left door. It’s held in place with some pegs that slot in to holes in the case frame, so a simple tug on the top and bottom will remove the door. Putting it back is only slightly more difficult, since you need to line up the pegs, but it’s easy enough.
The interior carries the same philosophy as the exterior—visual flair is not the priority. It’s clean and immaculately assembled, with nothing that goes for form over function.
Component Focus: What’s Inside?
As you may expect from the price point, this system is loaded up with premium components. That’s not to say the price is unreasonable, because it’s fair for what’s inside, just that we’re dealing with some obviously high-end stuff. It should also be clear that there are many more ways to configure this system when ordering, but this is what PC Labs was sent for review.
The test loadout includes a cutting-edge Intel Core i9-9900K processor overclocked to 5.1GHz, 16GB of Crucial DDR4-2666 memory, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, a 512GB NVMe Samsung SSD 970 Pro, and a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive. There’s also a liquid cooler for the CPU with a 120mm radiator to keep temps down. It’s all powered by a 750-watt EVGA bronze-certified power supply, and connected to an MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC motherboard.
As mentioned, it’s all assembled very cleanly; this is part of the reason you would buy from a boutique vendor. The cables are wrangled and tucked away as neatly as possible, better than most non-professionals could manage on their own. The neatness both looks better and should improve airflow, and it allows easier access to the components.
That’s good news, because there’s plenty of room for expansion in this system. It supports up to 64GB of memory, GPUs in SLI, five hard drives, and two M.2 slots. I/O options include two USB 3.1 ports on the top panel, with five more around back. The rear also holds a USB Type-C port, among the usual connector loadout.
Our unit’s storage capacity is a solid starting point, and you’re free to add whatever amount you’d like (or just add more when ordering). The graphics card is clearly a large chunk of the price here, and if the cost is putting you off, bumping down to an RTX 2080 will still give you considerable power for significant savings. Prices vary depending on the market, but the RTX 2080 Ti has a $1,199 sticker price, more than a third of this desktop’s total cost. While the RTX 2080 isn’t inexpensive, at $799 MSRP for the Founders Edition, it will save you several hundred dollars. In the specific case of this desktop and the EVGA version of the card Velocity Micro is using at current pricing, going from an RTX 2080 to the RTX 2080 Ti adds $550 to the Raptor Z55’s cost.
As mentioned, dropping to that GPU will put it on power and price parity with the Maingear Vybe, leaving the rest of the decision mostly down to preference. That said, this was the pricing at the moment this review unit was built, but the current tariff situation in the US is forcing the price of components upward—so don’t be surprised if this build ends up more expensive than when we configured it. Velocity Micro said it will honor our pricing as built, but as always with components, costs are subject to the changing market and may be different when you’re putting together a build.
There are more reasons to buy boutique than just the cable management, many of them revolving around customer service. Velocity Micro promises US-based support on every call from its in-house technicians (all of whom are equipped to answer your questions and won’t just pass you up the chain). The company also offers a lifetime upgrade plan: Once you buy a build from Velocity Micro, you can send the system in for maintenance or tuning and get discounted upgrades.
On the performance end, systems are tuned, tested, and optimized before being sent out. These perks are not necessarily unique to Velocity Micro, but because many DIY enthusiasts are skeptical of buying a pre-built system, these are some of the advantages that you’d pay a little more for.
Benchmark Testing: Topping the Charts
Many factors come into play around price, features, and performance for custom desktops, so it can be a bit difficult to make head-to-head comparisons. That said, to give context to our benchmark results, I’ve pulled together the most similarly equipped systems in the same general price range that we’ve reviewed. Below is a cheat sheet of these desktops and their specs…
With the exception of the Origin PC Neuron, which is our lone AMD representative, the CPUs are similar across the board. The same can be said for the graphics cards, which are all either RTX 2080s or RTX 2080 Tis, providing parity for the sake of comparison. The prices of these systems do vary, but of course there are more factors to the price than these components. These include design and build (the Corsair One Pro and Falcon Northwest FragBox, for example, are very compact), aesthetic flourishes, and room for expansion, so don’t judge the relative prices purely by the performance numbers shown here.
Productivity and Storage Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a Storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the storage subsystem. This score is also a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.
The Raptor Z55 ruled the roost on this test, posting the highest score of any system we’ve tested so far. As high-end desktops these are all quite fast for standard daily tasks, obviously, but more speed is never bad. This machine should crush through virtually any reasonable amount of multi-tasking with aplomb. As for the drive speed, the SSD was in line with the rest, though technically also the fastest among these systems. The margins are so slim, though, that it’s essentially a wash: They all boast snappy SSDs that will boot the system and load applications quickly.
Media Processing and Creation Tests
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. Lower times are better here. The Photoshop test stresses CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
The results get more interesting on the strenuous multi-threaded media tasks. Its PCMark 10 results were no fluke: The Raptor Z55 also posted the second-best Photoshop score and the highest Cinebench score. It was less dominant here as far as the results gap, but still, sitting at or near the top among other powerful PCs is a good place to be. If you’re looking to do serious media work or side projects on this machine, it can hang with the best of them. Only specialized workstation systems are likely to score much higher. (Bumping up to 32GB of memory would help, too.)
Synthetic Graphics Tests
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark, for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets.
With a couple of other RTX 2080 Tis and RTX 2080s in the mix here, the results aren’t too scattered. The other two RTX 2080 Ti-based systems roughly meet or slightly beat the Raptor Z55, while the RTX 2080-based desktops fall in line behind them. This is generally good news, as the system isn’t underperforming in any way, though I suppose it’s also not squeezing any extra juice out of the hardware. Those honors go to the FragBox’s overclocked version of the RTX 2080 Ti, which does earn a modest boost on both tests. In summary, yes, this machine is very 3D-capable because the card is so high-end. If you have need for a professional machine for 3D creation, this would fit the bill on that basis alone…but how does it fare on gaming?
Real-World Gaming Tests
The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance.
Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world video games at various settings. These are run on the maximum graphics-quality presets (Ultra for Far Cry 5, Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider) at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions to determine the sweet spot of visuals and smooth performance for a given system. The results are also provided in frames per second. Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11-based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do for the benchmark.
The Raptor Z55 performs very well on these tests, even if it doesn’t stand out or crush the competition. It performed noticeably better than the RTX 2080 systems, demonstrating why you’d pay up for an RTX 2080 Ti. (Whether or not that’s a jump you can afford is another story.) Full HD and 1440p are far more common gaming resolutions than 4K, and on those, the results are well beyond 60fps, and high enough to take advantage of a high-refresh monitor. I do commend Corsair and Falcon Northwest for squeezing so much performance out of much smaller form factors, but to the Raptor Z55’s credit, they are also much more expensive machines. On a pure performance-to-dollar basis, the Raptor Z55 gets two thumbs up.
Even at 4K resolution, the Raptor Z55’s 75fps and 80fps figures are solid, aligning with the Corsair One i160 and the FragBox. Frame rates like that should prevent many noticeable dips below 60fps, whereas the RTX 2080 machines that average at or below 60fps may be a little choppier. Still, 4K gameplay is very demanding, and if 75fps or 80fps is an average, more frantic moments may lead to some stuttering at maximum settings. Dial back the settings a smidge to reach higher frame rates, or (unless you’re already invested with a monitor) avoid the hurdle that is 4K gaming altogether with an advanced 1440p gaming display.
No Fuss for Top Performance
The Raptor Z55 is about as straightforward as it gets for a high-end desktop. The look is minimal, and the design is focused almost exclusively on performance. For the money, you get a machine that’s outfitted and tuned to compete with more expensive systems. Sure, some of those come with extras or flashy designs, but for many shoppers, performance for your dollar is the chief concern. Some may even prefer the simpler look, and the Raptor Z55 fits in professional settings and some home offices better than others.
It’s not a cheap PC, of course, but its high-end parts are effective for 1440p gaming and capable of 4K gaming. Add in the support and assembly from Velocity Micro, and it’s easy to recommend the Raptor Z55 to performance hounds of all stripes.