Hardware Review: Digital Storm Bolt
Options and Configuration
Like other gaming desktops in the Spec Ops family of Digital Storm PCs, the Bolt has “limited customization.” This means some components (CPU, GPU) can be swapped out for other options, but certain parts of the build, like the motherboard and power supply, are static. “Static” does not mean proprietary, as the motherboard in the Bolt is a Mini ITX part from Gigabyte (you can buy the same board on Newegg for $120), and the power supply, while “custom built for Digital Storm” is a 1U model usually reserved for servers. All the cooling systems on the Bolt are custom-made, so you can’t sub in your favorite Noctua cooler, I’m afraid.
Digital Storm has four different pre-built levels, starting with Level 1 at $999. A grand buys a Core i3 CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti. Going up to Level 4 ($2,499) boosts the CPU to a Core i7-3770K, and you get an Nvidia GeForce TITAN GPU. Our review unit is based on the $1,599 Level 3 part list:
CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WIFI Mini ITX
GPU: eVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2 GB
RAM: 8 GB Corsair DDR3-1600
OS Drive: 120 GB Corsair Neutron GTX
Storage Drive: 500 GB Seagate 7,200rpm
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
The Gigabyte motherboard supports wireless, but our review unit came sans-antennae, so I wasn’t able to test the onboard WiFi (if you buy a Bolt, your system comes with the antennae, as well as all the discs and documentation you’d expect). Also, our unit has a 500 GB storage drive, while the normal Level 3 setup has a 1 TB drive instead. Finally, Windows 8 is an option on the Digital Storm site, but our unit (and all units) come with Windows 7 as the primary choice for the operating system — a wise choice, I think, since this isn’t a touchscreen machine.
The Bolt’s case is 100-percent custom, meaning you won’t find it for sale on Newegg or any other site. Instead of a door on either side, the Bolt uses the old school housing method (think back to your older HP desktops), and both sides and the top come off as one solid piece of aluminum. The housing is attached to the chassis via four thumbscrews on the back, and the housing comes off with a small dose of elbow grease (and mind the wires in the front when you’re taking it apart).
Once the housing is off, you’ll see just how much TLC Digital Storm has put into the Bolt. Everything is tightly packed into the case, while leaving access open to anyone who’s worked inside a PC before — so beginners might want to tread with caution. Everything uses Phillips-head screws, so if you have a screwdriver, you can go to town inside the Bolt.
The GPU is mounted above and behind the motherboard, using a special adapter to connect to the PCI express slot. I was able to unseat the video card, but after a few minutes of tinkering, I wasn’t able to get it out of the case. Others might have better luck, but it seems like you’ll have to unscrew and shift the position of the power supply to get the GPU out.
GPU aside, the hard drives are in a more upgrade-friendly position to the left of the motherboard. Our unit came with two hard drives — one solid-state drive for the operating system, and one storage drive — but you can have up to three drives in the Bolt (two SSD, one platter).
Ports are plenty on the Bolt, too, with four USB (two 2.0, two 3.0) and audio and mic in the front, and another four USB in the back (two 2.0, two 3.0). Other ports include the usual audio suite (digital optical out included), two Ethernet ports, two WiFi antenna connectors, and DVI and HDMI on the motherboard. The latter would be used with the integrated video on the Intel CPU, and the Nvidia card up top has its own suite of connectors, per usual.
A quick note about the audio inputs: They are very soft out of the box. Make sure you go into the Recording Devices options menu and crank the levels and boost before you hop in Ventrilo or Teamspeak.