Boutique system builders tend to fall into three categories, there are the more custom or high-end offerings from some of the larger names like Dell/Alienware or HP/Voodoo (though you may or may not classify them as "boutique"), there are offerings from large e-tailers like Tiger Direct's SystemMax, and then there are independent companies as well, obviously. A few of the major names in this third category are MainGear, Velocity Micro and the company whose product we have on the bench for you today--Digital Storm.
Digital Storm as a company has been around since 2001. It has become fairly well known in the community for building solid computer systems, primarily targeted at the enthusiast, though they also have a workstation and server product line-up as well. The company has historically taken a design approach to their products that incorporates only top shelf, standard components in an effort to offer the consumer a high quality product that is both easily serviceable and upgradeable down the road. That said, even with top shelf components, quality systems with a reasonable value and price point are not always equal to just the sum of their parts. We'll step you through the salient features, performance, and value of Digital Storm's 950si custom Core i7 gaming system in the pages ahead and let you be the judge of what this boutique builder, with a history for quality products, has to offer.
Intel Core i7 920 (quad 2.66GHz cores, 8MB Cache, 4.8GT/sec) - Factory Overclocked to 3.97GHz
Actual clock speed set 1600MHz, CL 9,9,9,24
Lite-On Blu-ray / DVD Player
Flash Card Reader
1 x UltraDMA133
Warranty and Support
3-year parts and labor, depot repair (upgradeable to 5 years)
Lifetime phone support, business hours
Lifetime labor free upgrades for components purchased directly from Digital Storm
Price: $ 3,265.00 USD
(as configured with current discounts)
Our test system was powered by an Intel Core i7 920 processor (2.66GHz), overclocked to 3.79GHz and was built upon EVGA's X58 3X SLI motherboard that we evaluated for you here recently. Also installed was 6GB of Corsair DDR3 system memory set to 1600MHz with latency settings of 9,9,9,24. For graphics, the system was powered by a single GeForce GTX 285 card though dual and 3-way SLI configurations are also available. Finally, we had a single 1.5TB Seagate Baracuda 7200.11 hard drive installed in our system though smaller and faster 10K RPM drives are available as well as larger RAID setups.
Life-time Labor Free Upgrades:
Digital Storm was recently added as a Premier Intel Channel Partner in 2008, they are also an AMD Solutions Provider member, an NVIDIA PartnerForce partner, and an EVGA step-up program approved system builder as well. In addition to a relatively healthy warranty policy, Digital Storm also offers a life-time labor free upgrade service, for component upgrades in their systems, but only for components purchased through Digital Storm directly. We did a quick search through the company's upgrade store and though they don't have the widest selection of products to choose from, they do have a solid offering of great upgrades and more importantly pricing for those components is very competitive versus what you can find at various e-tailers currently. Regardless, this free upgrade service is a rather nice kicker for those who don't want to muck around under the hood as well as remain within warranty terms wherever possible.
Digital Storm’s standard warranty includes a three year full parts and labor warranty along with life-time phone-based technical support with staffed personnel. Four and five year warranties are available for an additional up-charge. Digital Storm will also cover shipping costs back to their depot for 30 days after receipt of the product. Beyond that, all labor and parts costs are covered for the warranty period but shipping costs for warranty work are the responsibility of the consumer. Digital Storm's full published warranty can be found here.