Extremely fast gaming performance; booming audio.
Humdrum, uninspired design; pricey.
We get to test a lot of unusual laptops—overclocked, oversize, over-dimensional, and just altogether overdone. Digital Storm’s x17, from first impression to Lab testing to real-world evaluation, is just a normal 17-inch laptop. It has high-end components that make it an extremely fast 17-inch laptop, but we’re not sure that’s enough to justify its high price.
The centerpiece of this system is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580M graphics card with 2GB of memory. As the current top-of-the-line of Nvidia’s mobile offerings, it delivered unflinchingly fast performance in all of our benchmarks. For example, it rendered 86fps in our Far Cry 2 benchmark and 115fps in Call of Duty 4. That’s almost twice the speed of our reference system, leaving plenty of headroom for more demanding games to come in the future. That’s the advantage of shelling out extra money for a top-of-the-line gaming laptop—you stave off obsolescence just a bit.
The quad-core Intel Core i7‑2820QM chip running at 2.3GHz, with Turbo Mode to 3.4GHz, was also essential to the laptop’s good showing in our tests. Digital Storm’s x17 blasted through our CPU-intensive tasks, with special help from its 120GB SSD (SATA 6Gb/s) in the video rendering. We’re happy to see that solid-state drives have become almost standard in high-end laptops; they make perfect sense in terms of durability, energy use, and, of course, speed. Digital Storm also included a 750GB 7,200rpm mechanical drive for storing your prized collection of kitten videos.
Though we can’t complain about the guts of the system, we do have some quibbles with some of the design choices. For one thing, the laptop has HDMI and DVI ports for video output, but no old-fashioned VGA port. That’s nothing that a $3 adapter can’t fix, but for a laptop, which you might want to plug into random projectors and monitors, we’d prefer a VGA port always at the ready. The glossy surface of the 17.3-inch LED-backlit display is a bit too glossy for our taste; glossy means reflective, and we prefer not to look at ourselves while we sit in front of a laptop. We also prefer touchpad buttons that give a more definite click when you press them.
As for extras, the machine includes a fingerprint reader integrated into the touchpad as well as excellent speakers with THX audio. Many of the laptops we test have speakers that just aren’t loud enough, and the x17 offered both full-blast volume and a comparatively rich sound through its five speakers and built-in subwoofer.
Digital Storm’s x17 is about as fast a gaming laptop as you are going to find, short of an SLI configuration. In fact, it’s fast in anything you might want to do. The only real drawbacks are the price and its decidedly unexceptional appearance.