Just how much power can you stuff into a small form factor rig? Ask that question of Digital Storm and the company will likely lay its fabulous Black Ops Enix on you.
Using Silverstone’s wickedly cool Fortress FT03 case, the Enix is like your typical small form factor lunch-box design, turned on its head. This gives it a couple of big advantages. The most obvious one is as clear as a skyscraper: a footprint that’s little larger than a piece of binder paper. The second advantage is thermals. Heat likes to rise, and with the GPUs’ exhaust ports pointed straight up, hot air quickly passes through the system.
The hardware itself is top of the line: Intel’s new 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K (more about that later), a pair of GeForce GTX 580 cards, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, a 120GB Corsair SSD, a 1TB WD Black drive, a slot-load Blu-ray combo drive, and a 1KW power supply. Cooling is provided by a Corsair Hydro H70. We already know the Sandy Bridge processors overclock like a mother on air, but the water-cooling lets Digital Storm push the 2600K from 3.4GHz to 4.7GHz. To get a little more oomph, Digital Storm also adds a little Turbo Boost 2 to the mix. What this does is clock the processor from roughly 4.7GHz to 5.2GHz.
Digital Storm’s tower of power can keep up with bigger, heavier desktops.
The extra boost in clock speed helps this rig squeeze by Falcon Northwest’s Mach V that we reviewed in the February issue. The Mach V had its 2600K clocked up to 4.7GHz but didn’t push the Turbo Boost 2 to 5.2GHz. Thus, the smaller Enix edges by the Mach V in our Vegas Pro, ProShow, and Reference benchmarks by about 5 percent. In fact, the Enix is now the record holder in our ProShow Producer 4.0 benchmark. Not too shabby for such a compact rig. It also achieved Far Cry 2 scores about 9 percent faster than the Falcon’s. The record, believe it or not, still belongs to the last Digital Storm machine we reviewed exactly a year ago. That rig, we must note, had three graphics cards.
Normally, small form factor machines are far from pleasurable for wrenching on. Usually, you’re just happy you got it built and you never want to work on it again. The Enix’s FT03 case isn’t that bad. Sure, it’s not as easy to work in as a full-tower case, but for a small form factor, it’s not too painful. Our main complaint with the FT03 concerns the placement of the reset and power buttons—right on top, where there’s a good chance of accidentally hitting them. The entire top of the case is one big exhaust grill, too, so if you’re the kind of person who likes to store discs and other PC junk on top of the case, you can’t.
Our final kvetch is noise. The processor is water-cooled but the GTX 580s run stock cooling. Push the CPU or GPUs hard, and it gets a little loud. Not shrill, small-fan loud, but you’ll know it’s on. Compared to the Falcon, which has more volume to dissipate the thermals, the Enix is definitely louder. It’s not a show-stopper, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it.
So let’s break it down: The Enix essentially offers much of the performance of the Falcon Northwest Mach V shrunken down into a box that will nearly fit on a piece of binder paper. Frankly, that’s impressive. Small form factor rigs are usually fairly compromised due to space and thermal limitations, but the Enix makes no apologies. This machine really blurs the line between what you get in a desktop gaming rig and a small form factor PC.
Digital Storm Black Ops Enix
Small, fast, and almost affordable.
WILD WILD WEST
Can get noisy; easy to accidentally hit buttons on top.
Intel 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K Overclocked to 4.7GHz
Asus P8P67-M Pro (Intel P67 chipset)
8GB Corsair Dominator DDR3/1600
Two GeForce GTX 580 in SLI
128GB Corsair SSD, 1TB Western Digital 7,200rpm
Silverstone Fortress FT03
Black Ops Enix
Vegas Pro 9 (sec)
Lightroom 2.6 (sec)
ProShow 4 (sec)
Reference 1.6 (sec)
STALKER: CoP (fps)
Far Cry 2 (fps)
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked to 1750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate.