Hardware Review: Digital Storm Bolt

What do you visualize when you think of a gaming PC? Most of us picture a desktop, roughly the same size as your average piece of carry-on luggage, chock full of current- or last-gen gaming hardware.

Sure, you have Shuttle PCs, and a smattering of other small form factor options, but those are proprietary ecosystems (they aren’t using off-the-shelf motherboards, etc.). And you have the always-expensive gaming laptop option, too, but you run into the same proprietary issue, coupled with a prohibitively high price. Most gamers seem to be content with the mid- or full-tower ATX solutions that have been around for over a decade. You get plenty of room for internal storage, an overclock-friendly water cooling system or a massive air cooler, and as many video cards as your motherboard can support.

But let’s be honest — if you could shrink your rig down without sacrificing performance or the ability to upgrade components, you probably would, right?

Digital Storm, a company that knows a thing or two about big, custom gaming PCs, seems to agree. The Bolt, which debuted late last year, combines top-tier performance and upgradeable components in a small but potent custom form factor. Similar to the Alienware X51, the Bolt has one singular goal: Provide full-size desktop-quality PC gaming in a smaller package.

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7 Comments on Hardware Review: Digital Storm Bolt

Evernessince

On May 3, 2013 at 6:57 pm

I’m sorry but this seems more like an advertising piece instead of a review. One of my main concerns would be how this machine handles temperature. 1/5th the space has to have an impact on temperatures and they must of compensated in some way, like high noise fans.

This system also does not have the upgradeability of a regular desktop either. Any graphics card bigger than titan won’t fit and there’s no space for additional storage.

Realistically I would only recommend this system to my friends who are too lazy to make their own. Otherwise it isn’t really appealing. If I wanted a lan-party rig I would just grab an itx board with a amd a10 and an ssd.

Jay

On May 3, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Yeah, I have to agree. This is nothing but a basic advertisement of what the Bolt is and some half-hazard gaming “benchmarks” thrown in.

Devin Connors

On May 4, 2013 at 12:34 am

Sorry to hear you guys feel that way,” says Devin as he quietly stuffs all that Digital Storm money in his pockets.

As for benchmarks, I might add more bench games in the future. That said, keep in mind that this isn’t Tom’s Hardware, so we can’t do 20 pages of analysis and benchmarking on PCs. I chose those three games because they cover a pretty wide engine spectrum…Source is used by dozens of developers, as is CryEngine. Frostbite is a good barometer of where engine tech is today, while Source is older and CryEngine 3 is more cutting-edge.

Regarding…
Temps: CPU and GPU idle temps were in the 40s and 50s, respectively (tracked by CPUID Hardware Monitor). The CPU and GPU fans have their own vents (see the photos), so the smaller space is countered by the vent design. Heat is not an issue, as far as I can tell.

Upgrading: You could squeeze an 11-inch card into this case, although some wires would have to be moved a bit. You might not be able to use certain models with bigger non-reference coolers, but I’m confident a “vanilla” 7970 would fit.

Storage: It’s not the same as a mid- or full-tower ATX case, obviously, but room for one 3.5″ storage drive and two SSD’s is nothing to scoff at.

Thanks for the comments, guys.
-Devin Connors

Jay

On May 4, 2013 at 2:30 am

@Devin Conners

I knew it!…

Tongue & cheek aside… This really does feel more like a hardware “Spot-lite” than it does a actual hardware “Review”… There’s no score in place (subjective or not to the validity of a “review”, it’s still a part of hardware reviews today on popular sites), there isn’t as much detail as I’d like, and there doesn’t seem to be that much actual testing on the product itself. Quick gaming FPS averages isn’t really thorough for a $1,600 piece of kit. I do appreciate the the Newegg price comparison though.

The target audience for something like this is those who either don’t want to mess with building yourself and/or are short on space… Though the lack of total modularity to the system doesn’t appeal to me. The 3-year warranty isn’t to bad though.

P.S. I do find your idle temps to be rather high… My i7 930 @ 4.0 Ghz idles at 38c & my GTX Titan idles at 30c. Ambient air temp of about 20c (68F). I know Sandy Bridge runs hotter than the older generations but still.

Devin Connors

On May 4, 2013 at 2:48 am

Thanks for the feedback, Jay.

The hardware review process is evolving, for sure. Scores are a possibility, but scoring hardware isn’t the norm, like scoring games (some hardware-focused sites use scores, some don’t).

We’re taking everything into consideration, though…and we will try and strike a balance somewhere between the long-form of Tom’s and Anand and the shorter, blog-style posts you see elsewhere.
-Devin

JawaEsteban

On May 4, 2013 at 8:55 pm

They’ve managed to cram just about everything but the kitchen sink into that little case. If it gets any smaller it’ll be a console. Just with much better performance.

I’d be concerned about heat too, the venting and fans appear to be well-designed and placed from the images, but that’s still a lot of components in a really small space, and I agree with Jay that the idle temps are a bit high. For comparison purposes my current rig is actually the level 3 digital storm marauder, running at 39c/32c (CPU/GPU) right now with ambient of 78f. And it’s friggin’ humid.

If I’m going to spend the extra money for a pre-built, I’d prefer the thing not start falling apart a few years later from constant overheating.

Evernessince

On May 9, 2013 at 12:53 am

Thanks for the clarification Devin. It’s not that you didn’t cover enough, we don’t need tom’s hardware like articles. It’s that you just skipped over some of the important bits. It’s pretty nice what they are able to fit within the system and seems like it would be great for lans or a console substitute.

I would just like to say that you don’t even need those benchmarks really. Most of us know how that card would perform. We are already taking your word for the rest of the article, you could just state the gaming performance you experienced. I guess what I’m saying is that you should try to mold your reviews more toward the intended buyer. As you said this is not tom’s hardware, try something unique.