Digital Storm approached me a couple months ago about test driving one of their new Bolt gaming PC. Their timing couldn’t have been more perfect as I’d been playing Hawken on my adequate PC and wishing I could coax a few more frames per second.
The Digital Storm Bolt arrived in a surprisingly small box but its weight quickly dispelled the notion that this wasn’t a serious gaming machine. The case is solid and powder coated a nice shiny white with a cool black interior. It is also available with a satin black finish. All of the vents, save a few on the back, are styled and attractive. The slot loading DVD is also a nice touch, and avoids the flimsy drawer of the usual laptop models.
At 3.6 inches wide this is one of the smallest gaming PCs I’ve seen. Depth and height are similar to most normal tower cases. Digital Storm’s attention to heat flow, and very careful placement of vents allows for a compact design with enough room inside for a mini ITX motherboard and a full sized graphics card. This will make it a lot easier to upgrade in the future.
The guts under the hood can vary greatly depending on how you configure it, but even the minimum configuration with an Intel Core i3 and a 2GB GeForce GTX 650. The model I tested hits near the middle of the price scale at $1600.
Processor: Intel Core i7 3770K at 3.7Ghz
Memory: 8GB DDR3 1600 Mhz
HDD: 500GB SATA
Optical: 8x DVD read/write
Video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB
It’s possible to get the price down to $1000, and I stopped at $2500 on the high end. In my opinion the model I tested is more than adequate for a home gaming machine and should last a few years.
I didn’t run the Bolt through any serious benchmarks, or performance tools. Those numbers don’t mean much if anything to me, so I just loaded up a few of the games I play most to see how they ran.
First up was Skyrim. I put over 200 hours into the game on the Xbox, but was always a bit jealous of the HD graphics mods that my son experienced on the PC. Thankfully Steam made it very easy to install and download everything I needed to play using his account. I cranked the graphics all the way up and ran through the first few hours of the main story line. Not once did wish for a higher framerate, or feel like the game was lagging. Performance, even with HD graphics (which looked awesome) was significantly better than what I was accustomed to on the Xbox.
Second was Hawken. In case you’re not familiar with it, Hawken is a free to play Mech FPS that is pretty much everything I wished for when I was playing Mech Warriors back in the day. I’ve been playing Hawken off and on since an early closed beta, but had a hard time getting into it with my low end graphics card. Loading it on the Bolt was a different experience. The lag and low frame rate that I’d experienced in firefights was gone, and running and gunning were as smooth as playing Call of Duty on the Xbox.
My son and I both tried a few other games, watched movies, and generally had fun with it. Not once did either of us feel the machine lacked power for whatever we asked of it. The built in wifi worked great, even when downloading large games, or updates. Connected to my Asus RT-N66U router the connection speed was fast enough to download Hawken and Skyrim, and latency was low enough to play Hawken online.
The only complaint I have, and it is a minor one, is that the fan was just a little too loud for use a home theater PC, but for a living room gaming machine it rocked.