Digital Storm Bolt II

Forget SteamOS, this is the best reason for Steam Machines

Digital Storm Bolt II review

It's hard to say enough good things about this boutique rig, and too easy to point out the one or two foibles. They're given equal weight in this review, but for the most part, this machine burns through everyday tasks and the most processor-intensive games without issue. When a system is 99% perfect, it's easier to notice the 1% that went wrong.

We liked

The stylish, burnished gold custom case on the ultimate configuration reaches a James Bond level of cool. It's sleek and adaptable in the sense that it can fit inconspicuously into any room in your house. Better yet, the Digital Storm Bolt II packs as much power as I've ever seen into the mini-ITX form factor.

It's perfect both for the PC gaming veteran and those just getting into the scene. And thanks to the water-cooled interior – and 3 years of dedicated tech support – pros shouldn't be afraid to push the Bolt II to the fringes of what's possible for a Steam Machine.

We disliked

Because there's only room in the box for one of each of the PC's major parts, you won't see almost any difference or variety between boxes. But more importantly, you won't be able to implement additive performance gains to the Bolt II, only direct upgrades – no SLI or CrossFire for this fragbox.

Worse than the limited case space, however, is that some components – i.e. the Blu-ray player and optical audio-out port – simply didn't work right. Sure, the free three-year support is sure to offer a quick fix, but there's no worse feeling than buying a brand-new media center PC only to find out you can't hear any sound or dig into your favorite TV series.

Sure, I was impressed with everything the Bolt II had to offer as far as gaming performance was concerned. But it's definitely possible to get similar performance from a custom rig for well under the two grand mark. Or you could just build one yourself and save even more.

Final verdict

As a habitual penny-pincher, there aren't many systems I think are worth over $2,000. The Bolt II, however, is definitely one of them. The "Best" configuration definitely delivers a machine with both performance and panache. And while it's not as customizable as I might've liked, the generally current components mean there's no real reason to start looking for better parts.

That said, the system's not flawless. I ran into a few issues with some of the ports on the Z97I-Plus motherboard and almost ran myself ragged trying to get the Blu-ray player to, well, play Blu-rays. Thankfully, many of these issues would be covered by Digital Storm's 3-year warranty.

The Digital Storm Bolt II is by no means the most value-packed PC on the market, but liquid-cooled, powerful performance in a stylish, small form factor comes at a premium. This doesn't best the Falcon Northwest Tiki in terms of what's possible in a console-sized system, but does incredibly well to get similar speeds for a fraction of the cost. If you're looking for a pretty pint-sized system that packs the performance of a full-size rig, the Bolt II is almost certainly the droid you've been looking for.