Digital Storm Bolt Small Form Factor Gaming PC Review

Article Index

Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Digital Storm Bolt Level 3 delivered slightly uneven performance. In some tests it absolutely dominated the rest of the field, while in others in limped in around the middle. Some of that was due to the act that a couple of our reference rigs had Core i7-2600K processors inside, which perform exceedingly well, even against a next-gen CPU like the Ivy Bridge Core i5-3570K inside the Bolt. In any case, gaming tests were where the Bolt was more impressive, delivering stunning scores in both DX10 and DX11 titles. The incredible amount of noise that this rig emits is a significant downside, but in terms of energy efficiency it delivers.

The Digital Storm Bolt Level 3

Although Digital Storm didn’t pack the Bolt Level 3 full of all the highest-end components--if you want to upgrade a notch and consider a Bolt Level 4--there’s plenty of good hardware inside.  On the whole the system we tested as configured performs well where it counts. One downside to the small form factor, though, is that upgrades will be tricky. Even though Digital Storm wisely built this rig with off-the-shelf parts so that you can upgrade any of the components, the space inside the chassis is so limited that you’ll have to work fairly hard to keep your cabling clean and tidy enough that it will all fit. Further, the PSU is only rated for 500W, which limits the upgrade potential we suppose.  That said, stuffing more power hunger components in a system this size may not be all that practical anyway.

Digital Storm did a brilliant job of designing the look of the Bolt’s custom chassis. The red accents pop against the glossy black finish, and you have to love an all-metal case with a flawless paint job. However, we weren’t keen on how both sides and the top of the case all come off as a unit. Trying to get at the interior components is an ungainly act, as you have to wrestle with it a bit all while the mesh grills threaten to fall off. However, we really like the placement of the USB ports and audio jacks on the side of the case instead of the front.

We’re always looking at the price-for-performance balance with these custom systems, and we’d say that the Digital Storm Bolt Level 3 is priced about where it should be at $1,599. Compared to the rigs we pitted the Bolt against, that’s a decent deal. Although there are some excellent full-sized custom gaming machines to be had for around the same budget level these days, The Bolt's footprint make it attractive where space is a concern or for blending into a home theater setup.

No doubt, part of what you’re paying for with the Bolt is that svelte small form factor and good looks. Don’t let the pretty face fool you, though; this system can game.

Update 5 Nov 12: Digital Storm reached out to us to let us know that they've "made changes to the design of the chassis to reduce the noise of the machine on full load drastically". Presumably, then, Bolt systems shipping now will not suffer from quite the same noise issues.



  • Excellent overall performance
  • Small form factor
  • Beautiful custom chassis design
  • No bloatware
  • Very loud under load especially
  • Limited upgrade possibilities
  • Minor annoyances when removing panels

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