Digital Storm ODE Level 4 System Review

PCMark & 3DMark Tests

To kick things off, we fired up Futuremark's system performance benchmark, PCMark Vantage. This synthetic benchmark suite simulates a range of real-world scenarios and workloads, stressing various system subsets in the process. Everything you'd want to do with your PC -- watching HD movies, music compression, image editing, gaming, and so forth -- is represented here, and most of the tests are multi-threaded, making this a good indicator of all-around performance.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance

We expected Digital Storm's system to come out of the gate fast and furious, but for whatever reason, it stumbled a bit at the start line. By itself the score isn't bad, but there's really no reason why it should trail the iBuyPower Erebus GT system with a similar solid state drive, less powerful CPU, and just a single videocard. We ran the benchmark multiple times to rule out any user-side hiccups, and it posted similar scores each time. As you'll discover as we walk through the remaining benchmarks, our PCMark Vantage run is an anomaly and not an indicator of things to come.

Here we see things start to stabilize. The Digital Storm system posted a score that's less than 1,000 points lower than Maingear's monster rig with three videocards, a faster clocked processor, and two solid state drives in a RAID 0 configuration. That system also costs more than twice as much as the ODE Level 4.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11
Simulated Gaming Performance

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, is specifically bound to Windows Vista and 7-based systems because it uses the advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 11, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. 3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark11's Performance preset option, as well as ran the system through a 3DMark Vantage run, which focuses on DirectX 10.

Here's the first glimpse of what will become a recurring theme. At $3,479, Digital Storm's ODE Level 4 puts up numbers within range of Maingear's $7,750 system, illustrating what's known as the point of diminishing returns. You can certainly spend far more on a system if you want to -- and Digital Storm will happily oblige, if that's your goal, with a Level 4 Aventum rig starting at $7,856 -- but in terms of bang-for-buck, the ODE Level 4 is at or near the end of the road where spending any more won't deliver the same leap in performance as upgrading from a lower-end configuration.

This is a faster score than most gamers are likely to see in 3DMark Vantage's Extreme preset for a long, long time. That's because the majority of gamers aren't running dual high-end graphics cards.

Here's a better demonstration of our point about diminishing returns. As configured, the iBuyPower Erebus GT we recently reviewed carried a $2,499 MSRP. Digital Storm's ODE Level 4 is $980 more expensive, or just shy of 40 percent, but offers a 100 percent performance gain in 3DMark 11, which is designed to measure gaming performance.

Now compare the Level 4 to Maingear's system. Digital Storm's setup costs half as much, yet is less than 33 percent slower in this benchmark.

3DMark 11's Extreme preset is pretty hard on systems, but the combination of an overclocked CPU, two graphics cards, and a fast SSD help the ODE Level 4 cruise right through the benchmark with a score of 5,384.

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