Kaya Systems Mar 20, 2013

Digital Storm Bolt Review

At A Glance

Usain Bolt

Relatively low priced for a custom rig

Self-sealing stem bolt

Paint job could be better; no horizontal mode.

Digital Bolt Storm confirms the PC is going small

One is an outlier. Two a coincidence. But three, as we know from News Media Statistics 101, is a crystal-clear trend.

The Bolt offers top-end performance in the slimmest gaming PC available.

And that’s just what we have with the Digital Storm Bolt , which follows on the heels of Alienware’s X51 and Falcon Northwest’s Tiki : proof that the PC is making an assault on the living room . Of course, the “assault on the living room” is our own private fantasy about the PC pushing the traditional game console overboard— Digital Storm just presents the box as a small PC (although we will note that the machine came with a wireless keyboard and game controller).

This isn’t some crazy conspiracy theory. Think about it: The timing is perfect for the PC to muscle out game consoles. Consoles are crawling along in the equivalent of a Model T while the PC speeds by in a 2013 Corvette 427.

For example: The Xbox 360 is rolling basically an ATI X1900 XT and a 3.2GHz tri-core Power PC using an in-order execution engine, and 512MB of 700MHz GDDR3 is shared between the CPU and GPU. Contrast that with the Bolt’s Core i7-3770K chip, 16GB of DDR3/1600, and a GeForce GTX 680 card.

Digital Storm doesn’t just settle for the 3770K’s stock 3.5GHz, either. The company pushed the Ivy Bridge processor to a stable 4.4GHz. That’s about 200MHz faster than Falcon Northwest’s similarly-spec’d Tiki.

There’s a cost with the performance, though. The prototype Bolt we reviewed would get too loud for our tastes under heavy gaming and CPU loads. Digital Storm said it has licked most of the noise issue with an additional PSU fan and proved it by showing us a second prototype unit with the modification. Indeed, the sound was quieter—but still not as quiet as the liquid-cooled Tiki or the X51. It’s not horrible, but you will need to crank up the volume while gaming.

At 4.4GHz, the IVB in the Bolt can’t out-muscle our zero-point’s hexa-core Core i7-3960K overclocked to 3.8GHz in the multithreaded tasks, but it does offer 8 percent and 9 percent benefits in the tests that aren’t reliant on mega cores to run. Against its contemporaries, however, the Bolt does far better. Given its 200MHz advantage over the Falcon Northwest Tiki, the Bolt had a small advantage in computing tasks. In gaming though, the Bolt bested the Tiki by an impressive 13 percent in 3DMark11 and 66 percent in Batman: Arkham City. Since both boxes use similarly clocked GeForce GTX 680s we’re a bit confused. The only plausible explanation is driver maturity, but even with that, it’s tough to explain.

The Bolt’s build is unique. Rather than contracting with a large vendor to put a new façade on an existing case, the chassis is built to DStorm’s design specs by a local shop. The custom case is but 3.6-inches wide, which Digital Storm says is the thinnest chassis out today. And like the FNW Tiki, the Bolt relies on an internal PSU rather than an external power brick like Alienware’s X51. The company says the chassis can fit a GeForce GTX 690 and run it on the 500-watt PSU but the acoustics would simply be too much. Our biggest complaint with the Bolt is the same complaint we had about the Tiki: We want a horizontal mode. The upright formfactor is not a deal breaker, but most people who run a PC near their TV will want to lay it flat.

Overall, we like the Bolt. It’s small, fast, and a relatively good deal compared to the FNW Tiki, which tips the scales at $4K. The Bolt comes in under $2k (sans the nifty liquid cooler, RAID, and granite base of the Tiki.) The Bolt, however, does support a RAID configuration and its case is locally sourced— and organic. OK, maybe not organic, but it locally made.

$1,950, Digital Storm

 Zero Point

Premiere Pro CS6 (sec) 2,0002,580 (-22%)
Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec) 831
ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)
x264 HD 5.0 (fps)
21.117.1 (-19%)
Batman: Arkam City (fps)76.066.0 (-13%)
3DMark 115,8473,571 (-39%)

Our current desktop test bed consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K 3.8GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth X79  motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional

Intel Core i7-3770K@4.4GHz
Mobo Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe
16GB DDR3/1600
GeForce GTX 680
Storage 120GB Corsair SSD, 1TB 7,200 HDD
DVD combo drive
Case/PSUCustom / Lite-On 500 Watt 1U PSU


Digital Storm Bolt

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