1: Personal Background
Since reviews are meant to assist other potential buyers, I figure my readers would appreciate a little personal background on me, to get an impression of what sort of buyer is giving this (glowing) review of Digital Storm. While I play videogames quite a bit, I’m actually not a “hardcore” gamer, I suppose. The most demanding games I play on my computers are things like Vindictus and Sins of a Solar Empire; I don’t play many games which require very high hardware specs. However, there are several new games coming out that I will probably buy, so I wanted an advanced but stable system to enjoy them when they come out. I am also not particularly computer literate, alas. I have no previous experience with customizing PCs and only a vague idea of how RAM, cooling systems, video cards, etc. worked and interacted. This was the first time I bought a computer where I could customize any of those components! Yes, I know, it might seem odd to look at a review from a computer “beginner,” but my lack of experience makes the excellent help I received from Customer Service even more impressive, as I will describe later. Also, if any of you are thinking of buying a machine for a younger person or someone even less tech-savvy than I am, my experience will probably give you a good idea of how DS treats such people; that is to say, very well indeed.
2: Quick Overview of the System I Bought from https://www.digitalstormonline.com/
Original Price: ~1600$
Price with 10% Promotional Discount: ~1480$
Bonuses: Free Steam download of Metro: Last Light
1 Extra Year of Warranty (Originally 3 year warranty, now a 4 year warranty for free, 99$ value)
1 Free T-Shirt 😀
Chassis Model: Special Deal Hot Seller – Pre-built Digital Storm Bolt – Level 3
Exterior Finish: Pearl White Matte Finish with Black Vents and Black Stand
Trim Accents: – Standard Factory Finish
Processor: Intel Core i5 3570K 3.40 GHz (Unlocked CPU) (Quad Core)
Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe (Intel Z77 Chipset)
System Memory: 16GB DDR3 1600MHz Digital Storm Certified Performance Series (Highly Recommended) (Hand Tested)
Power Supply: 500W Gold Plus Series Digital Storm Certified BOLT Edition (Enhanced Quiet Operation)
Expansion Bay: – No Thanks
Hard Drive Set 1: Operating System: 1x (2TB Hitachi/Seagate (7200 RPM) (32MB Cache)
Set 1 Raid Options: – No Thanks
Hard Drive Set 2: Multimedia\Data: – No Thanks
Hard Drive Set 3: Backup\Misc.: – No Thanks
Optical Drive 1: DVD/CD 8x Multi-Drive (Writes and Reads DVDs, CDs)
Optical Drive 2: – No Thanks
Internet Access: High Speed Network Port (Supports High-Speed Cable / DSL / Network Connections)
Video Card(s): 1x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB (Includes PhysX)
Add-on Card: – No Thanks
Sound Card: Integrated Motherboard Audio
Extreme Cooling: High Performance Cooler with Five Heatpipes
H20 Tube Color: – Not Applicable, I do not have a FrostChill or Sub-Zero LCS Cooling System Selected
Chassis Airflow: Standard Factory Chassis Fans
Internal Lighting: – No Thanks
Enhancements: – No Thanks
Chassis Mods: – No Thanks
Noise Reduction: – No Thanks
LaserMark: – No Thanks
CPU Boost: Stage 2: Overclock CPU 4.5GHz to 4.8GHz
Graphics Boost: – No Thanks, Please do not overclock my video card(s)
Memory Boost: – No Thanks, Please do not overclock my memory
OS Boost: – No Thanks, Please do not tweak the services on the operating system
Windows OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-Bit Edition)
Recovery Tools: Windows Recovery Toolkit (Bundled with Windows 7 CD)
Virus Protection: – No Thanks
Office: – No Thanks
Game: – No Thanks
Display: – No Thanks
Surge Shield: – No Thanks
Speakers: – No Thanks
Keyboard: Logitech Media Combo MK200 Keyboard and Mouse
Mouse: – No Thanks
External Storage: – No Thanks
Exclusive T-Shirt: FREE: Digital Storm T-Shirt – Black (Large)
Priority Build: – No Thanks, Ship Within 10-15 Business Days After Order Is Successfully Processed
Warranty: Life-time Expert Customer Care with 3 Year Limited Warranty
3: How I Found Digital Storm
I recently purchased a laptop from Dell and had a very bad experience with their customer service. I ended up getting my laptop, but it was meant for work, so I wanted to get a PC for myself. Now, I was determined to never buy anything from Dell again after all the trouble they put me through. I initially looked at Lenovo, as my brother had very positive experiences with them, but their website struck me as glitchy and inefficient, which quickly soured my opinion of them. Thus, I typed in “best gaming desktop” on yahoo.com, came to this site:
And saw Digital Storm at number two.
I initially considered the Cyberpower Black Pearl, but when I went to Cyberpower’s site, I didn’t like its configuration/selection screen, so I promptly made another choice. The other non-Dell companies on the top ten article, such as Origin, Velocity Raptor, and Maingear, were respectable, but their customer service was either not as good or not as easy to access. On the other hand, Digital Storm’s Brian Benoit (via chat) and John (via email) treated me like a king. I was very pleased by their service and while I didn’t need the Digital Storm Hailstorm (too expensive), I thought even the cheaper PCs Digital Storm had to offer would be best for me. Thus, I ended up choosing Digital Storm’s Bolt.
(I will expound on my experiences with Dell along with the other companies in section 5 of this review).
4: Review of the Customization, Buying, and Shipping Process: Website Layout and Ease of Use, Customer Service, and Wait Time—What I Liked, What Could Be Improved
Choosing, customizing, and buying my system was an easy and pleasant task. Checking it right now, they might have changed the layout slightly since I bought my machine in early June, but not by much. The webpage is easy to navigate, it’s not difficult to find the picture gallery and selection button, and then select the machine you want to configure. The configuration screen is also very easy to use. The options and their prices are laid out quickly and clearly when you click the edit button next to any part. It was easy enough even for a beginner like me to figure out what he was doing! I confess this is one reason I picked Digital Storm over CyberPower; their configuration screen struck me as more garishly-colored and difficult to read, and also had advertisement banners all over the place, which annoyed me. I also didn’t encounter any annoying glitches or pages failing to load, which put Digital Storm a cut above Lenovo for me.
As nice as their website was, the customer service, in my opinion, is what truly gives Digital Storm an edge. When I first came to the DS website, I clicked on the “chat with a representative” button the moment it showed up to ask some questions about my prospective purchase. I was connected with Brian Benoit, who deserves special mention here: In my opinion, he truly went above and beyond the call of duty in assisting me. His dedicated service more than anything else was what ultimately pushed me to buy from Digital Storm. In three separate chat sessions, he spent hours patiently asking all my questions, including obvious ones, giving me advice on components, and offering suggestions on what would be best. When I mentioned I needed a VGA adaptor, he told me it wouldn’t be certain one would come with the goodies back, but when the system arrived I got one anyways! I get the distinct feeling he put in a good word for me. I also had a lot of help from John, whom I emailed, but Brian Benoit definitely gave me the lion’s share of assistance. I hope Digital Storm gives him a raise, if my experience is anything to go by, he earned it.
I only have (small) complaints about shipping. My aforementioned bad experience with Dell revolved around delays to my laptop; when I purchased it in late May they promised I’d get it by June 10, but it was delayed to early July (!) and only after a lot of talking with them did it come on June 16th, 6 days late. They gave me few updates and talking to their customer service was aggravating. I managed to convince them to give me a 50 dollar rebate, but I only received that after a massive amount of haggling and being shuffled between multiple customer service representatives. With Digital Storm, on the other hand, I received the system within the expected timeframe, albeit at the higher end of it. I made the purchase on June 4, and it said it would ship within 10 to 15 business days—that is to say, two to three weeks, since weekends aren’t business days. On Friday, June 14, I was notified it had passed the final stage and would be shipped within a business day at most—i.e Monday the 17th. It ended up shipping later at night on the 18th, and finally arrived on the 24th. Thus, I waited a total of 20 days, or just under three weeks. While I do understand that, as many people have told me, waiting is the toughest part, 20 days is still a decent chunk of time. No longer than they estimated, but still. However, there are two considerations. First, from what I’ve heard, Digital Storm was moving to a new location at the time, so that may have caused a minor delay. Second, these are custom-built systems which undergo a goodly amount of stress testing (which seems to be worth it, as I’ll describe), so a bit of a wait is to be expected. From what I’ve seen, the Vanquish systems Digital Storm sells come pre-built and tested. Though they’re bigger than the Bolt, they should ship and arrive faster, if you need a system ASAP.
5: The System Arrives! Review of the Bolt Itself—What I Like, What Could Be Improved
The box was quite large, but in perfect condition. It had a lot of packing foam to protect the machine, which is good. My accessory, the mouse and keyboard, were boxed properly and in perfect condition as well, and my large Digital Storm T-Shirt was also in good condition and fit me well. I was particularly pleased to see my “goodies box,” more evidence of how Digital Storm takes care of its customers. Aside from the manuals, it contained a bunch of freebies, such as a whole binder full of documentation and an actual certificate of ownership, along with a small metal wrench, wires, screws, and most notably, to my delight, an adaptor which could attach my TV’s VGA connector to the one on the back of my machine’s video card. My only complaint about that is that one of the screws is tight and won’t go in entirely, which is a bit irritating. That is a small grievance, though, and Digital Storm still exceeded my expectations by giving me a free adaptor in the first place.
The machine itself was also in good condition. One thing I noted when I was moving the computer from its box and plastic packing is that it appeared entirely unharmed, but I could hear something rattling around inside it. I’m not sure what it was, but it doesn’t seem to interfere with the system’s operation, which is…absolutely wonderful! Make no mistake, this Bolt is the strongest computer I have ever owned in my entire life. I usually just play Vindictus, but on all my other machines I had to keep the game on its lowest graphics settings to enjoy it. Now, I can play it at its maximum settings and it’ll run even more smoothly than it did on my old boxes! As a PC, it also works very well. I’m surfing the Internet, writing documents for work, and watching Youtube videos without issue, and everything seems to be running much faster than on any other machine I’ve ever owned. I am very, very pleased.
Just as a note, I’ll be honest, the Bolt was slightly bigger and heavier than I expected. I saw videos of it on Youtube, but was still under the impression it would be somewhat smaller than it was (it’s approximately the size of my old Dell Optiplex GX280 desktop). Still, it’s a great deal smaller than most tower systems, which made it very good for my purposes, since I have a pretty cluttered desk.
I have only two other minor criticisms—heck, less criticisms and more suggestions, really. First off, the bolt is somewhat limited in terms of aesthetic customization options. For other customized systems, like the Dreadnaught or ODE, you can pick internal lightings, chassis design, and all kinds of stuff. For the Bolt, though, you can only choose between black and white colors. I obviously understand it is a unique, proprietary, and custom-made chassis which supports only limited customization, and that it’s not designed for things like etchings or internal lighting. Even so, for gamers who want a lot of power but don’t have a lot of free space, providing more decoration options for the Bolt could be very pleasing to them. Perhaps in the future, Digital Storm can make it in different colors like red and blue, or put more designs on the case, or things like that.
Secondly, Digital Storm didn’t sell a very wide variety of accessories. For instance, a monitor might have been nice, but the only ones they sold were 23 inches at the smallest. That was bigger than I needed and had space for; I only required a 20 inch monitor. Thus, I just chose not to get one and hooked it up to my TV screen, but DS might have been able to make a bit more money off of me had it offered a wider selection of peripherals. There wasn’t a whole lot of choice in keyboards, mice, speakers, etc. either. Selling more of these add-ons, along with perhaps other supplies like wires and adaptors, might be a very good decision in the future.
6: Why I Chose Digital Storm: Comparing DS to its Competitors
Let’s start with Dell first. While my ire has mostly subsided over the past few weeks, I still cannot, in good conscience, recommend them to anyone any longer. I expected my laptop to arrive on the 10th, but it only came by the 16th, which was annoying. When I tried to call them to see what was happening, I was put on hold for hours, cumulatively, and when I actually got a hold of someone they were all foreign and almost impossible to understand due to their thick accents. I don’t mean to sound racist here, I’m actually not white either (my parents are from South Asia as well). Still, dealing with them was almost impossible, and worse than that, they kept shuttling me between representatives constantly, even when I demanded to speak to managers. Needless to say they did not do a particularly good job of keeping up with me via email, either. After a great deal of aggravation, I finally wore them down and got them to give me a 50 dollar rebate, but only after wasting hours talking with them (and having several of them mix up my name and even my *gender*–I’m male, but one person referred to me as “Miss” before I corrected him).
Digital Storm, needless to say, was leagues better. Everyone was a native speaker of English and they kept me updated on the status of my system constantly. When it seemed to be stuck on Stage 7, I called a representative and received a very prompt reply; it shipped the same day.
So, we know why I chose Digital Storm over Dell. Why did I choose it over Lenovo? Well, I was thinking of buying a small desktop for my father (the m72e Tiny: http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/desktops/thinkcentre/m-series-tiny/m72e/ ), and was relatively pleased with Lenovo’s chat representatives. However, navigating through their site was a pain, as it seemed most of their links were broken at the time, and when I was finally ready to buy from them, their “pay with Amazon” button was broken as well! That frustrated me and was the last straw. Digital Storm’s website, on the other hand, worked like a charm. Navigation, customization, and payment was smooth and without issue.
Now, there were a couple of other highly-reviewed PC companies I looked at, such as Velocity Raptor, Maingear, Cyberpower, Falcon Northwest, and Origin. They all sold respectable machines, but didn’t quite match up to Digital Storm in a variety of respects—either customer service wasn’t quite as good (or accessible) as Digital Storm, or none of the systems they sold had quite the same combination of power and size I was looking for and found in the Digital Storm Bolt. Of all of them, Cyberpower PC comes closest to satisfying my demands, and if I hadn’t gone with Digital Storm I likely would have bought from them. They have a wide variety of powerful systems, and their Lan III Mini-A (http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/LAN_III_Mini-A) is compact and can be customized to be as powerful as my Bolt; it and Cyberpower’s systems in general also seem to be comparatively priced to Digital Storm’s, perhaps even somewhat cheaper. It also has some business PCs for home office use while Digital Storm seems to offer only gaming PCs, or large workstations. Cyberpower also offers free shipping on some PCs at the moment, which is very attractive.
DS still won me over for several reasons, though. Their website was easier for me to navigate; Cyberpower’s configuration page has annoying ad banners all over it, which put me off. Also, both companies have a 3 year labor +1 year parts warranty, but DS had an offer to extend the warranty. Lastly, from the reviews I’ve read, Cyberpower’s customer service isn’t quite as fast. Digital Storm representatives, on the other hand, got back to me almost instantly when I needed it. Combined with Brian Benoit’s helpfulness and expertise, DS still had the edge.
7: Conclusion and Synopsis
Digital Storm’s Bolt is powerful, efficient, and effective system for both gaming and typical PC work at a reasonable price and an attractively small space footprint. Their customer service, however, is what really sets them apart; it is nothing short of sterling. I have only a few minor caveats: Somewhat slow shipping (which may be due to the recent move), a somewhat flawed VGA attachment (that I got for free anyways), something rattling in the machine (which is probably nothing), and a somewhat limited selection of peripherals. All in all, I can recommend the Bolt itself with virtually no reservations to anyone looking for a strong gaming rig that doesn’t take up a lot of room. If my experience with Brian Benoit is anything to go by, I can recommend the company as a whole and its other products to anyone with equally few reservations. Indeed, my satisfaction with my new computer may be their biggest problem—I’m so happy with it I doubt I’ll need to replace it for years! However, if I need to replace my laptop from Dell, I will very likely get a new one from Digital Storm. The only other company which can compare to them, IMO, is Cyberpower.
+The Bolt has very impressive specs for its delightfully compact size
+Very nice “goodies box”
+++Top-tier customer service
-Somewhat slow shipping
-Somewhat limited peripheral selection, more customization would have been nice
-Not the cheapest
-Some rattling in the machine, minor issue with a free accessory
Overall rating of my experience with Digital Storm: 8.5/10.
8: Anything I Would Have Done Differently?
Firstly, I probably would have ordered my machine sooner, perhaps on June 1 or 2, rather than June 4, a Tuesday. That way, they would have got started on it right on Monday, which might have saved me more than just a few days if they managed to get a lot of work done on it before the next non-business day weekend.
Secondly, I think I might have been a bit too stingy. This graphics card is pretty good, but I’m not in particularly dire financial straits and could have easily gone up to 2500 dollars (though, unfortunately, the Bolt was not eligible for the 100 dollar off discount they were doing). I certainly could have afforded the horizontal stand, and I probably should have upgraded my DVD player to Blu-Ray, since one of my favorite animes, SPT Layzner, is getting released on Blue-Ray soon. I also should have gotten two hard drives, a 128GB system drive and a 3 TB data drive rather than just a 2TB drive, for extra space and speed.
Still, as I’ve expressed repeatedly, overall I am *quite* pleased. After my annoyances with Dell and Lenovo, my positive experience with Digital Storm has very much restored my faith in the computer industry. 😀