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Boutique PC builders: When you want the very best

By Bill O'Brien
November 16, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Digital Storm

Digital Storm is a nine-year-old company whose name fits its mission: to cater to the extreme gaming crowd. It's what has helped catapult the company from start-up status to the 10,000-square-foot facility it occupies today.

Boutique Builders
Digital Storm Assassin

The basic inventory includes the high-performance Black|O.P.S. (which includes the Assassin and Hailstorm models) and the value edition Special|O.P.S. lineup of desktops. The Assassin offers an unusual heat flow/cooling design, while the Hailstorm is touted as one of Digital Storm's most upgradeable models.

I recently encountered an Assassin with a $3,400 price tag attached that Digital Storm was trying to pass off as a "mainstream gaming computer." And the Lincoln Memorial is just a statue of some dead guy. In testing, that PC bumped benchmarks with systems costing twice as much, and while it never quite bettered them, I wondered why anyone would pay so much more for just a tiny bit better performance.

If you're interested in the corporate version, Digital Storm also offers workstations. The Protus C20, C40 and CX (with starting prices of $2,699, $4,715 and $5,690, respectively) come in a variety of configurations; for example, the Protus CX is available with dual Intel Xeon processors and an Nvidia Quadro graphics card. While the sky is not quite the limit (depending on how high you think the sky is), I racked up enough upgrades on the CX (better Xeon CPUs, four times the 12GB available in the base configuration and a better Quadro graphics card) to supersize the price to almost $11,000.

Digital Storm's laptop array includes five models ranging from 15.6 to 18 in. Interestingly, the X18, an 18-in. gaming laptop with a an Nvidia GeForce GTX 480M, is not the most expensive laptop it carries -- the big-ticket item is the 17E, a $2,982 desktop replacement laptop with an Intel Core i7 980X six-core processor. Adding some more storage and memory will get that to $5,672 without breaking a sweat.

Digital Storm provides an online technical support resource that could easily qualify as the mother of all FAQs. Its desktop products, including its workstations, have three-, four- or five-year labor and one-, two- or three-year parts warranties, while the laptop group is offered with a one-year warranty. Lifetime phone support is the norm for all its products.

All this points to an older era of service when owners were expected to actually know something about the computers they purchased. It appears that Digital Storm adopts an old-school method of offering support by addressing the needs of the hard-core geek who wants the extreme performance PC experience.

At a Glance

Digital Storm

Phone: 1-866-817-8676
Business start date: January 2002
Desktop lines: Black|O.P.S. Assassin, Black|O.P.S. Hailstorm, HAF X, 690 II Advanced, DF-85, Elite 430, HAF 932, HAF 922, Ironclad, Maelstrom, Raven 2, Raven 1
Laptop lines: xm15, x15, x17, x18, x17E
Workstation lines: Protus C20, Protus C40, Protus CX
Warranty: Depending on system, three-year labor/one-year parts, four-year labor/two-year parts or five-year labor/three-year parts.
Refund policy: None

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