Digital Storm Bolt review: small package, small price, big performance

Credit: ROBERT CARDIN
At a Glance
  • Digital Storm Bolt

    PCWorld Rating

    Digital Storm's Bolt packs a lot of power into a very small space. It's an intriguing gaming machine with an attractive price tag.

Digital Storm's Bolt doesn't look as intimidating as those ginormous gaming PCs that glow and take up a third of your desk, but don't let this machine's slender profile fool you. This little monster is brimming with powerful components and stands ready to crush any game that gets in its way.

Design and ports

Measuring just 3.6 inches wide, 14 inches tall, and 15 inches deep, the Bolt is the Micro Machine of performance systems.

This sleek rig isn't plastered with decals, and it doesn't boast a fancy paint job or bright LEDs that can double as a nightlight. It's available in just two colors: white or gunmetal gray. The only decoration aside from the stylishly functional black air vents is the Digital Storm and Bolt logos. The design is fetchingly minimalist.

The front of the system houses only the DVD drive, and that's about all that would fit. Two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and the microphone and speaker jacks are inconveniently located on the bottom right-hand side of the case, which means you'll be dropping to your hands and knees each time you need to plug in a thumb drive or your headphones.

ROBERT CARDIN
The rear of the system has plenty of ports and video options.

Four more USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two ethernet ports, and two antenna connections are around the back, along with all the audio ports and more video outputs than you'll ever need. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 660Ti graphics card can drive up to four displays using any combination of DVI-I, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort. However, given that there's no room inside the case for adding storage, it would have been nice to have an eSATA port here.

It's what's inside that counts

No matter what type of desktop rig you buy, you're going to crack it open from time to time. Whether you're swapping out components or just evicting dust bunnies, you'll need to be careful dismantling this intricate puzzle.

ROBERT CARDIN
The inside of the Bolt is packed tight.

The cover is a pain to remove when cables are plugged into the back. Unlike the typical case, where the side panel comes off, the Bolt's entire shell slides off the back. Cables get caught up in the mix and snag along the way, so it's just easier to open it up when everything is unplugged.

Our eval unit came with a 120GB SSD and a 500GB 7200 RPM mechanical drive, and there was just enough space to accommodate one more SSD as an eventual upgrade. The setup can also be configured to house two full-sized drives if you opt out of SSDs.

Nearly the entire motherboard (a Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WIFI) is covered by the heat sink and a 120mm fan, which you'll need to remove in order to access the motherboard's single PCIe slot and its two DIMM slots.

Performance

Enough with the looks, this isn't a fashion show—so let's get to the number crunching. The Bolt's Intel Core i7 3770K and 8GB of DDR3/1600 RAM managed to crank out a whopping 201 on our Worldbench 7 benchmark suite. That's more than double the score of our baseline system from a package nearly half its size. If that isn't enough performance for you, the CPU's multiplier is unlocked and begs to be overclocked.

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 660Ti also produced some impressive benchmarks: We ran both Crysis 2 and DiRT 3 at 2560-by-1600 pixel resolution with settings on ultra to really put the system to work. It averaged 54.1 frames per second on DiRT 3, and 28 frames per second on Crysis 2. DiRT 3 looked silky smooth and nearly hit that coveted 60 frames-per-second target. Crysis 2 struggled just a bit, but remained thoroughly playable. Taking the game's settings down to high produced an average 44.6 frames per second, while dropping the resolution to a much more common resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels with settings at high produced average frame rate of 80.6 frames per second.

When you put high-end components in a small package and run them hard, heat usually becomes an issue. But the Bolt is dressed to the nines in fans and vents and manages to stay both cool and quiet. I had it running right next to me, at ear level, for an entire day and barely noticed its noise signature.

Bottom line

Digital Storm's Bolt packs beefy power into a slim, sexy package. It's a bit of headache to get inside, but you shouldn't need to upgrade this machine for some time to come. This is a great choice for a PC gamer with a smaller room and a smaller budget. It will fit anywhere, play anything, and it's priced right at $1599.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Digital Storm's Bolt packs a lot of power into a very small space. It's an intriguing gaming machine with an attractive price tag.

    Pros

    • Lots of power for its size
    • Compact and quiet
    • Stays surprisingly cool for being so cramped

    Cons

    • The cover is a pain to remove
    • Poorly placed front audio and USB ports
    • Will be a pain to upgrade
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