MANUFACTURER: Velocity Micro
PRODUCT: ProMagix HD80A
PRICE: Base: $4,079; as tested: $7,999
When I decided to do a review on the ProMagix HD80A computer by Velocity Micro, I realized that it is tricky to do a review on a totally-customizable, high-end desktop computer. The review machine is just one potential configuration, which can be customized to the buyer’s needs, and because a desktop computer is in large part a sum of its parts, reviews are a bit more complicated. Since most of the potential buyers of one of these machines will do their research on which GPU to get and which processor, etc., I’m going to focus more on my general impressions and experience with the machine I was sent, and how it performs compared to how one would expect those parts to perform.
The HD80A review unit came with an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X 32-core processor, 64GB RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro VII with 16GB VRAM, a 2TB NVMe drive, and a 4TB drive. It’s a lot of computer, and runs incredibly fast, which you would expect based on the ultra high-end configuration.
I have built a lot of high-end machines over the years. I used to joke that I supported my film habit by building custom 3D graphics workstations, video editing machines and audio recording systems, but it was more of a reality than a joke.
What I’m getting at is, I know about building machines, and what it takes to build one right. Admittedly, machines don’t require the same amount of tweaking as they once did, but there are still a hundred decisions that have to be made when building them — and they all matter. But, if I’m honest, I really don’t have the same desire and excitement for building custom machines as I once did. So, when asked if I’d be willing to review a pre-built machine, I figured, why not?
The computer came really well packed. It had clean lines, water cooling, SSD drives and everything else you might expect. Not knowing what I was reviewing, I was a bit surprised to find a Radeon Pro VII card in it, which, when I was sent the machine, was one of the more expensive non-Quadro cards on the market. It also had a 32-core ThreadRipper processor, so this was a really fast and expensive machine. I still don’t know the exact price, because options have changed online, but it looks to be an $8,000-plus machine.
I ran some benchmarks, and it performed really well, as well as Passmark suggested it should, but I always take benchmarks with a grain of salt. They are very good at telling you raw crunching power, but that doesn’t always translate into the performance you are hoping for when grading 8K footage, for example.
So, how did it fare in DaVinci Resolve, with editing and grading 8K 50p Red footage? Well CPU usage never went above 40 percent and GPU never went above 60 percent, so the machine was easily up to task without using proxies. CPU usage is important because when 8K first came out, system bottlenecks were almost always on the CPU side with codecs maxing out even the highest-end CPUs, whereas this machine doesn’t even break a sweat.
This machine was just built right. In fact, I’m not sure I would have built it any different, except that I might have chosen a motherboard that could handle more than two pro graphics cards internally, with a larger power supply to power the additional GPUs, but that is because I actually use multiple GPUs. However, there is the option to get an even higher-end motherboard, power supply and additional graphics cards in the configuration tool on Velocity Micro’s website, so this is forgivable and easily correctable for those with specific needs. Interestingly, some of the graphics card upgrades are considerably less than the cryptocurrency mining inflated prices you will find elsewhere on the web.
Looking inside the case, there is a lot of room for expansion, and increasingly rare, was a built-in optical drive, which I appreciate since many new computers don’t even have the ability to add an internal optical drive. The internals are clean, with no cable clutter, and the case is nice, with the two-fan water cooler venting out the top of the case.
I compared everything to what I would do if I was building a machine. When you build your own machine, you have to get the components, install them, make sure you have the graphics card in the right slot that it is able to run at it maximum speed, tweak bios settings, and update all graphics drivers, as well as a bunch of other things. All of that was already done, and the machine was ready to go, out of the box.
When I started pricing the components of the machine, the computer’s list price wasn’t that much above what the parts would cost me. So it begs the question: “If I wanted a new, really-fast computer, would I want to build it myself?” Especially since, for not much more, I could just unpack a machine, turn it on, install my programs, and be off and editing. There is a definite draw to a well-made, pre-assembled machine.
By the time this article comes out, there will be newer graphics cards, faster processors, etc., but the specifics of this machine matter less than my experience with the product that the computer maker sent me. It is made right and I am confident that if I ordered another machine from them, they would approach the machine with the same care, and it would be done right. There is something to be said for that.
Heath Firestone is a regular contributor to Post and runs his own website, CinemaTechnica.com. He can be reached at: Heath@CinemaTechnica.com.