Hardware

Review: Digital Storm Black Ops Assassin Gaming Computer

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The Digital Storm Black Ops Assassin is a beast of a machine — inside and out. Housed in the massive Silverstone FT02 chassis are the makings of a top-tier gaming computer:  Core i7-950 and an Nvidia GTX 570. But since Digital Storm uses retail components, is this rig worth the added premium of going at it yourself? That’s the tough question here.

Features

  • Intel Core i7 950 3.06GHz (Quad Core)
  • ASUS Sabertooth X58
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 1.2GB
  • 6GB DDR3 1600MHz Corsair
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • Retail Price: $2,284
  • Product page

Pros

  • Beautifully built
  • High-end components
  • Shipped in massive and secure box

Cons

  • A bit pricey over DIY options even though it contains 100% DIY parts

Construction

Simply put, Digital Storm knows how to put together a nice computer. The Assassin is clearly assembled with the utmost attention to detail. Every wire is secured in an obsessive manner. Nothing is out of place.

Part of this beauty is thanks to the clever case that features inverted 3.5-inch trays that allow for the SATA and power cables to be hidden behind the motherboard. But that doesn’t take away from Digital Storm’s construction skills. It takes an obsessive amount of patience to assemble something as cleanly as this computer.

One of the system’s most advertised features is also one of the most clever you’ll see on the market right now: the motherboard is inverted 90 degrees and faces the top of the case. This unorthodox design puts all the connections and ports at the top of the case. A perforated cover than conceals them from the world but is easily removed thanks to quick-release clips.

It’s a bit strange, yes, but awesome at the same time. No longer do you have to reach around back of the computer to make a change. Just pop off the top and you can swap out a cable or control the fans connected to the power supply. The cover even hides the mess and all the cables exit the case through one location, which makes for an even cleaner installation.

The whole thing ships in a massive box weighing in at smug 70 lbs. Yes, a 70 lbs shipping weight. It’s beast.

Digital Storm also includes a nice binder that holds the warranty info, stress test results along with all the driver disks and a real Windows 7 disc — none of that image nonsense here.


Benchmarks

Pre-recorded time-demo benchmarks don’t do it for me anymore. Systems can be tweaked specifically to bump up the scores, which totally devalues their worth. Plus it’s no fun to watch someone else have all the fun. Instead, I focused more on real-world playable experiences. (I.e. Could I crank Direct X 11 games to the max and get zero lag)

Bad Company 2

I love this game and so does this system. Just crank it up. The NVIDIA GTX 570 handles it all: 32x CSAA Anti-Aliasing and 16x Anisotrphic Filter all at 1920×1080@120Hz. There’s zero lag or hesitation at. The amazing depth of field combined with a game as deep as Bad Company 2 makes for a seriously immersive first person shooter.

During the backstory opening level, the framerates bottomed out at 26 but ended up averaging 54 FPS — totally awesome. This is with every setting maxed at the aforementioned resolution. There wasn’t any noticeable lag or hesitation even when plowing through the Japanese base on the back of a truck mowing down baddies with a 50 cal.

Dirt 2


Sigh. I hate console ports. This must be the most frustrating menu system to ever be implemented in a PC game. Console gamers might like this real-life look, but PC gamers do not put up with this nonsense. Just give me a straightforward menu that doesn’t wisk me around to different parts of this dude’s trailer.

Anyway, once you actually get to race, the results are spectacular. Well, not my racing results — the framerate results. Once again, with the settings to the max, the system pumped out an average 75FPS with the a low point of 54 over three separate races. This results in a silky smooth racing experience. Now if I could only figure out how to win on any setting besides casual.

Medal of Honor

Such an important franchise with a horrible edition for the modern reboot. No matter, it does provide some amazing visuals thanks to Directx 11.

Crank up the settings; the GTX 570 can handle it. With all the in-game settings on their highest settings, the game averaged 61 FPS with a minimum of 54. More importantly, there was no noticeable effect on the graphics as it was smooth and lovely. If only the same could be said about the single player game.


However, some people crave the benchmarks so here we go with somewhat arbitrary numbers:

GeekBench

POV-Ray v3.7

Note: These benchmarks were performed immediately after unboxing the computer with a reboot between each one. Nothing else was done to system. I didn’t disable any system processes or remove anything from starting up with the PC.

Digital Storm also benchmarks and stress tests all of their systems and includes screenshots of the results in the system’s picture folder. That’s confidence. These are the results for our test systems.


Value

The Assassin is no doubt a killer rig. It danced around all the games and benchmarks I threw at it. But there’s a slight problem when it comes down to the price. You see, Digital Storm uses off-the-shelf components meaning you could construct this thing yourself — sweet case included — for a lot less than they charge.

This route obviously leaves you without the Digital Storm’s 3-year warranty safety net and relies on your computer building chops. Digital Storm also offers overclocking, case lighting, and can zip-tie internal cables and wires with the best of them. But if these issues don’t register as a downside for not buying one already assembled, the parts currently ring up for just under $1,800 right from Newegg with $40 for shipping.

They breakdown like this:

  • Silverstone FT02 Case — $249
  • Intel Core i7-950 3.06GHz — $294
  • Corsair 750W ATX12V PS — $109
  • ASUS Sabertooth X58 — $199
  • Corsair XMS3 6GB DDR3 1600 RAM — $114
  • Nvidia GTX 570 of unnamed vintage — around $350
  • Western Digital WD1002FAEX HDD — $89
  • Corsair Hydro H70 CPU Cooler — $102
  • Lite-On Blu-ray reader — $49
  • Sony Optiarc CD/DVD burner — $19
  • Windows 7 Home Premium — $199

That said, when this Assassin build is compared against similar models from Alienware or other premium gaming computer makers, it rings in quite a bit less with comparable systems starting around $2,600 and that’s if you can find someone currently using the brand new Nvidia GTX 570.


So should you buy it?

The above section kind of says it all, right? The computer is no doubt a powerhouse with a top-tier Core i7 and Nvidia GTX 570, but it’s nothing you couldn’t build yourself for a good deal less than the retail sticker price of this model from Digital Storm.

The premium over the DIY route is a bit steep but it does come with 3-year warranty and great customer support. Plus the insides were carefully assembled and overclocked by people that do this for a living. They even stress test it for 72-hours before packaging it up in a shipping container that would probably keep a nuclear bomb safe and secure.

So yeah, even though you could build it yourself, it doesn’t take away from Digital Storm’s end result of a very high-quality computer that can handle any game you can throw at it. Your call.

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