Gaming PC Review
Since I usually build my own, I was hesitant to order a custom-built PC. But with a busy life and a LAN party coming up, I was out of time. I broke down my fears and ordered the Digital Storm Vanquish Level 3. Read on for why I picked this one, and for the unboxing experience.
- The FragBox is too expensive.
- The Alienware X51 is a good deal, but couldn't ship in time. They have a reputation for being overpriced, but that is not the case based on what I saw.
- Cyberpower is very customizable, but confusing and unfocused. They have pages and pages for customizing the lighting, case, and accessories. After spending an hour researching different kinds of memory coolers and fans, I realized that they just don't focus on the core stuff.
- Digital Storm had good pre-built options, the best price, and guaranteed 72-hour delivery. Sold!
NewEgg has some bundle orders that basically wound-up the same price as the Digital Storm machine, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to build it in time, and that if I forgot a part or something went wrong I would be stuck. Overall, this is probably my #2 choice. If you can build your own (or know someone who is willing to help) then nothing beats NewEgg.
I decided to test them out a little bit... Since I had a LAN party next week, I knew I needed the rig ASAP. With the estimated 5 business days of shipping, it would arrive the day of the LAN party, leaving me no time to setup. I could opt for 3 day shipping, but that adds a lot of money. SO I decided to give them a call. They were on Pacific time which works great for me. I called them and easily got a salesperson right away. I explained the situation, and he put me on hold to check if they had a Vanquish "out on the floor." When he returned, he told me he might be able to get it out early, but they couldn't take responsibility for the actual amount of time it spent shipping. I agreed that was fine, and I placed the order over the phone with them.
Over the next two days I got a few progress emails stating that my machine was built, or configured, or tested. As promised, they shipped the machine in 2 days rather than the requisite 3 days! The system arrived in plenty of time, giving me 2 full days to configure it! Yaaay! Considering that most other custom outfits wanted 1 - 2 weeks to ship, this puts Digital Storm waay ahead of the game.
The box was amazingly well packaged. It was sandwiched between two vinyl "trampolines" rather than mere foam. The inside was braced with expanding foam to prevent the cards from wobbling out of place. Very nice!
Clearly they take pride in their work, since they even created a Digital Storm binder and certificate of authenticity.
The certificate boldly claims:
"Your specialized DIGITAL STORM machine has been hand-crafted with extreme precision using the industry's finest components by our exclusive skilled professionals. It's enhanced with our unique innovation to generate record-shattering benchmarks and absolute rock-solid stability. This piece of high-end technology now separates YOU from the rest of humanity."
I'm glad to know they have a sense of humor as well. I like that they included the original Windows 7 Home CD, unlike some other OEMs who merely give you a restore partition or the option to make the CDs. The Windows keys and Microsoft's certificate of authenticity are stickered onto the side.
The case design rivals some of the high-end Dell servers I've seen, although it is more plastic than aluminum. Fortunately that makes it much lighter though.
The case is 8.5" wide x 18 3/4" tall by 19" deep. That is larger than I expected, and it barely fits in my desk. If space is a problem, the Vanquish is not for you.
The hard drives can be removed without screws, and the case can be opened with just two thumb screws.
Now I see why the case is so large - the cables are routed neatly under the motherboard. I never even knew you could do this. I wouldn't have bothered. I guess that is a plus for neatness and airflow, but a minor inconvenience for maintenance. It has a nice big honking fan, but they were quite loud until I changed the BIOS setting to allow the mobo to vary their speed. I can't imagine why anyone would turn this off. Personally, I think the airflow is overkill.
The power supply is located at the bottom, and is smaller than I expected for a 600 watt supply. Since it is at the bottom, the air intake is also at the bottom
and features a removable filter.
Some people might prefer a larger supply in a gaming rig, but I find if the video card needs more than that then you are into extreme territory and don't expect that card to last long. I prefer quieter and greener.
I have never seen a case with an air intake at the bottom
The Windows Experience index is slightly out-of-date but it confirmed that everything was working as expected. The Passmark scores for the video card and CPU were about 5% higher than average, which is nice to know! It just validates that Digital Storm didn't do something strange in the build or skimp somewhere. Use caution when comparing Passmark's overall score because their simple weighted average approach can be skewed by SSDs. Since the drive score can go up 10-fold with an SSD, even if Passmark weights the drive benchmark as only 30%, that means the score triples.
Notice that I forgot to take a picture of the lights! Sorry, that isn't my thing. Every gaming tower has to have lights, but thankfully they provided a switch in the bottom expansion bay to turn them off. It left it on during the LAN party but it is just an extra source of heat so I turned it off after that. Through the requisite see-through window it met the required specs for coolness.