Review: Digital Storm's Virtue delivers superior power in a midsize tower
At a Glance
What’s in a name? HP goes for an emotion to describe its high-end computers: Envy. Acer conjures aggressiveness for its gaming PCs: Predator. And Dell uses a spelling-challenged acronym for its best PCs: XPS (Xtreme Performance System). What concept does Digital Storm seek to conjure with its pricey ($2200) Virtue midtower gaming rig—moral superiority?
The company’s actual goal isn’t quite that lofty. “We noticed there are not many PC manufacturers designing mid-tower gaming systems with the same ardor and attention that ultra-tower PCs receive,” Digital Storm’s director of product development, Rajeev Kuruppu, said when the Virtue was announced. “As its name suggests, Virtue represents a higher standard of PC gaming, both in terms of aesthetics and performance.”
To reach that standard, Digital Storm packed an unlocked Intel Core i7-4770K CPU from Intel’s new Haswell family of processors, 16GB of DDR3-1600 memory, and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 780 discrete graphics card into a compact steel-and-brushed-aluminum case. (The Virtue also comes with Windows 8.) The result is a compact gaming rig that delivered a very respectable Desktop WorldBench 8.1 score of 399. It fell just short of the cheaper Micro Express MicroFlex 47B’s score of 421, though the latter is a full-size tower and has a more powerful video card. Why? While neither manufacturer elected to overclock its system, Micro Express splurged with a 512GB SSD where Digital Storm provides just a 120GB SSD. As a result, the MicroFlex performed much better on our productivity benchmarks.
On the gaming front, the Virtue bested the MicroFlex 47B on both our synthetic and real-world benchmarks, delivering a 3DMark Cloud Gate score of 26214 versus the MicroFlex's 24864 at a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. With real games and visual quality set to Ultra, the Virtue just missed reaching the coveted 60-frames-per-second mark with Dirt Showdown at 2560-by-1600-pixel resolution (it hit 57.3 fps, versus the MicroFlex 47B’s 41.4 fps). The same goes for BioShock Infinite at those settings: Digital Storm’s system reached an impressive 55.4 fps compared with the Micro Express tower’s frame rate of 46.9.
If you’re considering a midtower system, you probably don’t want a plus-size PC sucking up a lot of floor or desktop space. And if you want something small, you probably expect it to be quiet, too. Digital Storm accomplishes that goal in part with a Corsair H100i liquid-cooling system that consists of a CPU water block and a 240mm radiator mounted to the top of the case. This machine won’t keep you up at night or interfere with movie-watching or music-listening sessions.
Despite its smaller case dimensions (17.7 inches high by 17.7 inches long by 8.3 inches wide), the Virtue has plenty of room for expansion inside. If you want higher frame rates with games, throw in a second graphics card (you can configure the Asus Gryphon Z87 micro ATX motherboard to operate with one x16 PCIe 3.0 slot or two x8 PCIe 3.0 slots, and it supports both Nvidia’s SLI and AMD’s CrossFire multi-GPU standards). The system’s 1050-watt power supply, Corsair’s Pro Series HX1050, provides more than enough juice to support such a configuration.
Our test Virtue came with a 1TB, 7200-rpm WD Caviar Black hard drive in addition to a 120GB Corsair Neutron GTX SSD, leaving room for one additional 3.5-inch drive and three more SSDs. A Blu-ray player/DVD burner resides in one of the 5.25-inch drive bays (the second bay is mostly blocked by the radiator mounted on the top of the case).
Two USB 3.0 ports as well as microphone and headphone jacks are conveniently located on the front of the machine. Four additional USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, gigabit ethernet, S/PDIF out, and the usual analog audio ports are around back. The video card’s mounting bracket has ports (one each) for dual-link DVI, single-link DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort.
The Virtue is jam-packed with quality components that enable it to deliver the performance of machines twice its physical size. Its dimensions and motherboard won’t let you go beyond two video cards, but it delivers solid performance on today’s games with the one card it has now. Gamers will love the Virtue, even if their wallets won't.