Introducing the DigitalStorm BlackOps

I'll cut to the chase: the DigitalStorm BlackOps desktop we were sent for review is a hell of a lot of computer. How much computer is it? It's enough that when the FedEx guy arrived, he actually needed my help getting the box into my apartment. The tower, not to mention the box it came in, is huge, extremely heavy, and contains the most horsepower I've ever seen firsthand in a computer. The BlackOps configuration we were furnished with isn't the most ridiculous build you could assemble these days, but it's well past the point of reason. So how is it specced?

DigitalStorm BlackOps Assassin Edition Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-950 @ 3.84GHz (160MHz Bclk with x24 multiplier)
(spec: 4x3.06GHz, 45nm, 8MB L3, 130W)
Motherboard eVGA X58 FTW3 Edition Motherboard with X58 chipset
Memory 3x2GB A-Data DDR3-1600 @ 1600MHz (expandable to 24GB)
Graphics 2 x eVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 1536MB GDDR5 in SLI
(512 CUDA Cores, 772/1544MHz Core/Shader, 4GHz RAM, 384-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Corsair Force 120GB SSD (OS drive)
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gbps (Data drive)
Optical Drive(s) BD-ROM/DVD-ROM
DVD+/-RW
Networking Dual Realtek Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD Audio
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Front Side Optical Drives
MMC/SD/CF/MS reader
Top 2x USB 2.0 (case)
Headphone and mic jacks (case)
Power and reset buttons (case)
PS/2
6x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0 (blue)
6-pin FireWire
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks
4x DVI-D
2x Mini-HDMI
AC Power
Back Side Exhaust
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 19.57" x 24.25" x 8.35" (WxDxH)
Weight 33.1 lbs (case only)
Extras 1200W Power Supply
Corsair H70 Liquid Cooling
SilverStone Fortress Case
Switchable white illumination
Flash reader (MMC/MS/CF/SD)
Overclocked from warehouse
Warranty 3-year limited warranty and lifetime phone support
Pricing Quoted Price: $3,624
Price as configured (12/23/2010): $3,519

If anything, the configuration for the pricetag is almost a little underwhelming, but let's unpack that a bit and see what we're really paying for. The big ticket items are the processor, the SSD, the pair of eVGA GeForce GTX 580s, and the case and power supply.

The Intel Core i7-950 we have on hand has been overclocked to 3.84GHz using a 160MHz Bclk with a x24 multiplier, effectively identical to the CyberPower Gamer Xtreme 8500 we tested recently which used a Core i7-875K with the same clocks. The 950, on the other hand, should benefit some from having access to triple-channel memory and a motherboard with dual x16 slots. Theoretically this should be the fastest processor we've ever tested in a desktop review unit. That triple-channel memory controller is being fed by 6GB of DDR3-1600, courtesy of A-Data, and everything's plugged into eVGA's X58 FTW3 Edition motherboard.

Storage duties are being handled by a Corsair Force 120GB SSD that employs the popular SandForce SF-1200 controller, backed by what seems to be the industry favorite Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6Gbps hard disk. There's also a Blu-ray reader included standard, along with a standard DVD writer. This is actually a little disappointing: Blu-ray writers are starting to dip around the $100 pricetag (and can be had for less if you know where to look), and with the sticker price this tower commands a writer wouldn't be unreasonable.

Probably the biggest draw of this build is the pair of eVGA GeForce GTX 580s. These are stock-clocked, but the GTX 580 has proven to be the fastest single-GPU card on the market. A pair of these in SLI should produce a tremendous amount of gaming performance, likely beyond what most gamers are going to need unless they're running a surround gaming setup with three monitors.

Finally, everything's wrapped up in a SilverStone Fortress case. Given the pricetag of the DigitalStorm BlackOps it's nice to see such a high-end enclosure being used. The Fortress has a unique mounting design that you may have noticed from the spec sheet: the motherboard is rotated so that the port cluster and expansion slots open at the top of the case instead of the rear. Three 180mm fans intake cool air from the bottom of the case, then use natural convection (and a single 120mm exhaust fan) to push hot air out of the top. It's a brilliant design, and the case retails for $250 on its own.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • tim851 - Thursday, December 30, 2010 - link

    Who spends the premium of dual GTX 580s and then games in 1080p?

    I'd argue that NO game actually needs SLI 580s in 2560x1600. Thank you Xbox.

    And where did you pull the 1/8 from?
    My PC came in at just under 1000$ and I bought a 1500$ 30" on top of it. 'Cause I didn't feel like spending more on the PC just to fit your crazy a$$ logic.

    If people were following your "logic", only those who somehow manage to build a PC for 15,000$ would buy 30-inchers. Very likely...
    Reply
  • Zan Lynx - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Who buys a 30" monitor and doesn't know how to fix the DPI settings in the OS?

    Please don't be those people who buy 30" displays to run at 640x480 just to make the text bigger. Please.
    Reply
  • sethiol - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    "The A-Data RAM ran flawlessly in the machine, but you'd rather see a different brand? Does <Brand X> RAM do something besides run flawlessly?"
    "but I'd like to see a more reputable/performance oriented brand"
    You miss the point. There are several brands out there, Corsair, Crucial, and OCZ. that might be considered better choices because of track record, design, or more suited to a high end build. A-Data is seen as the choice for builds on a slim budget. This build is not in that category.

    "Is the Corsair more efficient, or quieter?" Point missed again.

    "Your machine runs circles around this because it lacks E-Sata? Really?"
    Once again, your either didnt read it all or missed the point. "shouldn't run circles around a computer like this in terms of connectivity."

    All in all it appears you have selective reading. I couldnt have agreed more with Dustin. This was a half ass effort in overclocking, parts selection, and build. They got a very nice case with good ventilation. If your going to build a high end machine, you use high end parts all the way through the build. Also, sharpen your reading skills, he qualified every one of your questions, you half assed your reading.
    Reply
  • Attic - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    Yes, well put sethiol. I thought Dustin did an excellecnt job of pointing out the bizarre drawbacks of a machine in this pricerange.

    A-Data Ram in a 3.5k system? Yes, tackled fine by author.
    Subpar PSU?, well I too would like to know what PSU the system was outfitted with, but i'm going to assume it was one of the highly regarded brands that should be used in a 3.5k build.
    No eSata, no digital audio? In a 3.5k build, yes this is absolutly worth sticking it to the builder for.

    I understand corners being cut to hit a sub 2k build, though you don't really need to cut many. But when you add a 1.5k cieling to that build I think the buyer deserves more than what we see in this Digital Storm offering and Dustin got that point across without being dismissive of the other solid qualities that made up this machine.

    For what its worth to anyone considering going with Digital Storm I have heard nightmare customer service stories from the only two guys I've talked to who decided to purchase from this boutique. Both got taken for a ride when their machines encoutered issues as opposed to just getting the issue resolved in an appropriate (read: quick and respectful manner)
    Reply
  • Robear - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't RAM a commodity item? AFAIK, they all run the same chips: the only difference is really warranty and bling (heat spreaders, etc). This is where OCZ really came up in the world...

    Nit-picking aside, I do agree with GeorgeH here that if you're going to criticize a component, that you provide a substantiated reason and an alternative. I couldn't find what PSU brand was in this thing: only that it "should have been Corsair." I mean I love corsair as much as the next guy, but I think you need to provide more than a personal preference if you're going to put a component on blast.

    Overall, not a bad article: i just think it needs more data and less 'opinion.'

    It would be nice to see more boutique reviews, and to compare them to similar custom builds. Every boutique build I've seen is pit against some build that's clearly inferior in spec, causing me to all but dismiss the article as a covert advertisement. Boutique buyers assume they're paying a premium. Why not define that premium?
    Reply
  • james.jwb - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    no, not really. What you get is speed binning, this is what you pay for. In a build of this price, it should have a higher end memory part, unless the adata has or is capable of tight timings etc etc... Reply
  • Slash3 - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    I've had some A-Data DDR2 over the years that overclocked like a cat on fire, and I've had Crucial and Corsair that wouldn't go a half inch past the stock speeds. Depends on the PCB used and the memory chips used. Reply
  • dustcrusher - Thursday, December 30, 2010 - link

    I'm an overclocking newb, so I have a question:

    A-Data's memory is advertised to run at voltages from 1.55-1.75. Assuming that it isn't just marketing hype (making a bullet point of something standard to most quality RAM), could this explain why DigitalStorm chose A-Data over more established brands?

    This of course assumes that A-Data didn't cut them a sweet deal on bulk RAM, of course.
    Reply
  • Nentor - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    So basically there are four reasons A-Data ram should not be used?

    1) "Track record." This seems unfounded to me. Please prove A-Data does not have a track record as great as OCZ or Corsair.
    Wikipedia (I'm no fan, but hey!) "A-DATA is the world's 2nd largest DRAM Module Suppliers with 7.1% market share." OCZ can't match that, sorry.

    2) "Design." Just looks eh? Means nothing quality wise, but since this case has a window it makes sense.

    3) "More suited to a high end build." This sure sounds nice, but in the end is just marketing speak. What does it mean actually. WHY is it more suited? If you answer timings, we need more benches first before we can decide.

    4) "A-Data is seen as the choice for buils on a slim budget." This is perspective only. An enforced marketing perspective mostly, because the other brands advertise more and have more image because of this. Maybe it is time for this perspective to change?

    Personally I think this whole build lacks everywhere (home premium?), keeping the price in mind and the reviewer has been INCREDIBLY soft on it.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    " There are several brands out there, Corsair, Crucial, and OCZ. that might be considered better choices because of track record, design, or more suited to a high end build. A-Data is seen as the choice for builds on a slim budget. This build is not in that category."

    More suited? For what? Apparently the A-Data RAM ran flawlessly, so why not use it? What objective difference is there between a Corsair gaming module and the A-Data RAM that was used?

    "Point missed again."

    No, you missed the point completely. Subjective brand impressions are fine for a forum post, but have no place in an objective review. Corsair got their reputation from objective reviews - if another product works just as well, then that product is just as good as a Corsair product and has just as much validity in a high end build.

    "shouldn't run circles around a computer like this in terms of connectivity."

    The only thing required to implement E-Sata is a cable and a bracket. That's not really missing connectivity (no, I didn't miss that part) so much as missing cabling. Furthermore, USB 3.0 is already much more popular (in terms of external hard drives available for sale), so really there isn't any missing performance or capability in this machine; there's only a minor inconvenience for those with E-Sata devices. A flaw? Sure. Running circles? Not even a little bit.

    Reply

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