A small, custom chassis
Right before the holiday weekend we got an email from Digital Storm detailing some changes to the Bolt system based on ours, and other reviewers, feedback. Design changes include:
- "Quieter operation" after moving from a Bronze level 500 watt 1U power supply to a Gold level unit. I have put that part in quotes because I am hesitant to believe that much has changes on the sound levels of the system; we are still talking about a 1U unit here with two tiny fans. Until DS publishes some sound level metrics, we'll consider this a modest change.
- Digital Storm has also given the Bolt "a less glossy and improved external finish" to help prevent fingerprints and dust from reflecting in light.
In addition, there have been some hardware changes in the Level 3 unit that we were sent that are fairly significant:
- Upgrade from a 60GB cache SSD to a 120GB SSD dedicated to the OS installation.
- Storage drive lowered from a 1TB to a 500GB
- Upgrade from a Core i5-3570K to a Core i7-3770K CPU
That is a pretty hefty change in hardware specs, in particular the move from the Core i5-3570K to the i7-3770K. That increases the CPU performance of the Bolt pretty handily and they were able to do that without raising the price.
This definitely gives us a better opinion overall for the entire Digital Storm Bolt configuration as tested and makes it a much better option when compared to the other recent systems we have reviewed.
END UPDATE 11/22/2012
A couple of months ago Digital Storm contacted us about a new design they were working on that they claimed would easily become the highest performance, smallest custom PC on the market. The result of that talk was the new Digital Storm Bolt, a system designed in-house by DS to target PC gamers that want a powerful PC without the bulk of traditional desktop designs.
Digital Storm claims that the Bolt is the "thinnest, most powerful gaming PC ever designed" and we tend to agree. This is not chassis that you can buy off the shelf but instead was custom designed for this system and actually requires some very specific hardware for it to function completely. Items like a 1U power supply, 90 degree PCI Express riser extensions and slim-line optical drives aren't found in your standard gaming PCs.
Available in several starting "levels" of configuration, the Digital Storm Bolt can include processors from the Core i3-2100 all the way up to the Core i7-3770K and graphics cards starting at the GTX 650 Ti 2GB and increasing to the GTX 680 2GB. Our system came with the following hardware:
- Intel Core i5-3570K @ 4.2 GHz
- Low Profile CPU Heatsink
- 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz memory
- GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB
- 60GB cache SSD + 1TB 7200 RPM HDD
- Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WiFi motherboard
- 1U 500 watt power supply
- Windows 7 Home Premium x64
- Custom DS Bolt Chassis
Starting cost for this configuration is $1,599.
Check out our quick video review!
The box the Bolt ships in is pretty timid compared to some of the crates that have hit our office recently but that's just fine by me. Due to the small size of the case though I have actually had some laptop boxes (the Alienware M18x comes to mind) that were bigger!
There she is, the Digital Storm Bolt, a combination of custom steel case design and fingerprint-loving piano black paint. Measuring just 14-in tall and 3.6-in wide the case is going to be able to fit and blend in places other desktops simply could not.
Introduction and Specs
Courtesy of ECS
As part of their Black Extreme line of motherboards, the ECS Z77H2-AX pairs the promise of performance and a mile-long feature list with looks that could kill. We decided to put this board through the paces, throwing our normal suite of benchmark and functionality tests to see how well it lived up to its reputation. The ECS Z77H2-AX seems to be well priced at its $309.99 base price with all the higher-end features and bling built into the board.
Courtesy of ECS
From the initial unboxing of the board, I was dumbstruck. ECS literally gold-plated every heat-producing surface on this board, giving it a very unique look and feel. The board itself has no shortage of features with SATA 2, SATA 3, mSATA, and eSATA ports, support for 3 different networking types, and enough USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports for anyone.
Intro and Tech Specs
Courtesy of ASUS
Today we will be evaluating the ASUS P8Z77 WS motherboard on the test bench, evaluating its performance and functionality in various ways to ensure that the board works up to the standards we’ve come to expect from ASUS. At $339 a base price, this Intel Z77 chipset based board is part of the ASUS Workstation series, designed to meet the needs of the harsh corporate and server environments requiring optimal component functioning over a 24/7 timeframe.
Courtesy of ASUS
The P8Z77 WS is a feature-rich solution with dual Intel-based GigE NICs, an ASUS customized UEFI BIOS, and multi-GPU PCI 3.0 support offered innately through the Intel Z77 chipset as well as the integrated LicidLogix Virtu MVP chipset.
Courtesy of ASUS
Subject: Mobile | October 30, 2012 - 01:17 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: yoga 13, yoga, ultrabook, Lenovo, Ivy Bridge, Ideapad
Earlier today we got in the new Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13, an Ivy Bridge Core i5 Ultrabook with a very distinctive display panel that works as a laptop, a tablet, a tent and in a stand mode. Basically, think of the Lenovo machine you saw from CES with the screen that wraps around the back.
After getting the notebook in I recorded a quick 15 minute hands-on and overview video that I thought I would share in preparation for our full review coming later! Enjoy!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 28, 2012 - 03:18 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zenbook, windows 8, ultrabook, nvidia, laptop, Ivy Bridge, GT650M, GT620M, asus
Asus has announced a refresh of its Zenbook lineup of Intel-powered ultrabooks to accompany its new VivoBooks and VivoTabs running Windows 8. Available next month, the PC OEM is introducing six new laptop SKUs with Ivy Bridge processors and dedicated graphics cards from NVIDIA. Specifically, the Asus Zenbook UX21A, UX31A, UX32VD, UX42VS, US52VS, and U500VZ ultrabooks are coming soon with the refresh.
The UX31A Ultrabook with touch display
The new Zenbooks will have Ivy Bridge processors, up to 10GB of memory, and up to NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics. They maintain the aluminum chassis of Asus’ previous generation ultrabooks but up the hardware ante. The company has expanded the lineup to include models with 11.6,” 13.3,” 14,” and 15.6” IPS displays, backlit keyboards, and multitouch trackpads. The U500VZ and UX31A can even be outfitted with capacitive touchscreen displays.
The ASUS UX42VS Zenbook
The VX42VS further includes an optical drive, but otherwise the Zenbooks source of storage lies in solid state or hybrid hard drives. Interestingly, the UX32VD and U500VZ can even be configured with two 256GB solid state drives in RAID 0 (Ryan’s favorite kind of RAID).
The ASUS UX52VS Zenbook
The following chart outlines all the known specifications. Note that several of the ultrabooks are not listed on Asus’ website yet so exact dimensions are unknown for the UX52VS and U500VZ in particular.
|Dimensions||299 x 196.8 x 3 ~ 17 mm||325 x 223 x 3 ~18 mm||325 x 223 x 5.5 ~18 mm||14" tapers to 6mm||~15" tapers to 6mm||~15"|
|Weight||1.1 kg||1.3 kg||1.45 kg||1.5kg||2.2kg||2 kg|
|Processor||i5 3317U or i7 3517U||i5 3317U or i7 3517U||i5 3317U or i7 3517U||i3, i5, or i7 IVB||i5 or i7 ULV IVB||i7 std voltage|
|Storage||256GB SSD||256GB SSD||2 x 256GB SSD (RAID 0)||1TB Hybrid Hard Drive||1TB Hybrid Hard Drive||2 x 256GB SSD (RAID 0)|
*onboard + 1 x SODIMM
All of the new Zenbook laptops will be available in November and will come with Windows 8. Pricing will range from $699 to $1999 for the premium model (The U500VZ). Specific pricing details should become available closer to launch.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 19, 2012 - 05:14 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, tablet, saumsung, Ivy Bridge, Intel, clover trail, atom, ativ 700t, ativ 500t
Samsung is the latest company to announce its fleet of dock-able tablet computers running the full version of Windows 8. Launched under the ATIV Smart PC brand, the company is offering up two models depending on the amount of computing horsepower you need to get work done. Specifically, Samsung is launching the Series 5 ATIV Smart PC 500T and the Series 7 ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T. Both models will be available for purchase on October 26th for $749.99 and $1,199.99 respectively.
Samsung Series 5 Slate: ATIV Smart PC 500T
The Samsung Series 5, also known as the ATIV Smart PC 500T is a 11.6” tablet powered by Intel’s recently released Clover Trail-based Atom processor platform. It measures 11.6” x 7.2” x 0.38” and weighs 1.65 pounds.The tablet features a LED-backlit touchscreen display with a resolution of 1366x768. A 2.0 megapixel camera and dual 0.8W speakers are also included. The tablet itself can further be paired with a keyboard dock that has a full qwerty keyboard and touchpad.
Internal specifications include an Intel Atom Z2760 processor (running at 1.5 GHz and featuring dual cores with 256 KB each), 2GB of DDR2L memory, and a 64 GB solid state drive. Radios and networking gear includes 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. [The specifications sheet further claims Gigabit LAN support but there does not appear to be any Ethernet jacks on the tablet so I’m assuming it’s solely marketing to say that it supports connecting to a Gigabit LAN (over Wi-Fi)...] The 500T is powered by a two cell, 30 watt-hour lithium-polymer battery.
The external IO ports include a micro HDMI port, one USB 2.0 port, a combination headphone/mic jack, a microSD card slot, and a docking connector.
The Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T will come pre-loaded with the 32-bit version of Windows 8. The tablet itself is $649.99 and with the keyboard dock, it will be $749.99.
Samsung Series 7: ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T
If you need more computing power, Samsung is offering up its newest Series 7 slate, the ATIV 700T. This tablet is slightly thicker than the 500T at 11.6” x 7.2” x 0.5”. It is also a bit heavier at 1.89 pounds versus 1.65 pounds with the 500T. That tradeoff in size nets you significantly better hardware, however. It features a LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1920x1080. It further includes the same 1.6W (2 x 0.8W) stereo speakers, but adds a second 8MP rear camera in addition to the 2MP front facing webcam.
Internally, the 700T is packing an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5-3317U processor. This chip is a dual core part with HyperThreading for a total of four threads along with 3 MB of L3 cache. The 700T features 4 GB of DDR3 at 1600MHz and a 128GB solid state drive. Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi also comes standard. The 700T also has a larger 4 cell Li-Po battery (rated at 49 Wh) to power the faster Intel processor.
External IO includes one micro HDMI, one USB 3.0, a combination headphone/mic jack, docking connector, and a micro SD card slot.
The Series 7 ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T comes bundled with a dock as standard and it has a starting price of $1,199.99. It will come pre-loaded with the 64-bit version of Windows 8.
Read more about Windows 8 convertible tablets at PC Perspective.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 13, 2012 - 02:55 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, tablet, sony vaio, sony, Ivy Bridge, Intel, convertible tablet
Not content to let the other OEMs have all the Windows 8 tablet fun, Sony has announced a new 11” convertible ultrabook – the VAIO Duo 11 – that uses a sliding hinge to transform from a notebook into a tablet.
The Vaio Duo 11 weighs in a 2.86 pounds and measures 12.6 inches x 7.8 inches. It features an 11.6” IPS display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and 10 point multitouch. Also, it has stereo speakers, a 2.4 megapixel webcam, full (backlit) qwerty keyboard, and pressure sensitive digitizer. Interestingly, the Duo 11 does not have a trackpad. Instead, it has a small touch sensitive trackball that resembles the pointing sticks on IBM/Lenovo PCs but on the Vaio Duo 11 the nub does not move. In that respect, it is more like the trackpad on some Blackberry Phones, but smaller. There are two mouse buttons below the spacebar, however. Other specifications include a magnesium alloy chassis.
Sony is calling the hinge the “Surf Slider” and the display slides forward to lay the display flat over the keyboard for tablet mode. As Ars Technica points out, when the computer is in notebook mode, there is a ribbon cable to the display that is exposed which is less than ideal.
Ports around the sides of the device include a VGA video output, card reader, and headphone jack on the left, and two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI output, and a power button on the right. Reportedly, there is also an Ethernet jack.
Fortunately, Sony did not have to compromise as much on the internal specifications to achieve the 11” form factor. The Vaio Duo 11 includes an Intel Core i3 (Ivy Bridge) processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, and a 128 GB solid state drive.
Image credit: CNet. See their full review here.
The convertible ultrabook will come pre-loaded with Windows 8. It will also include Wi-Fi that can establish ad-hoc wireless connections with other devices by tapping the NFC radios together.
Sony’s Vaio Duo 11 will go on sale October 26, 2012. Prices will start at $1,099.99, with more expensive models adding more storage or a faster processor. It is a bit pricey, but this PC is positioned as an ultraportable convertible tablet, and in that respect it is priced competitively with the competition.
You can find the full press release on Sony's website.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of ASUS
It's been a couple months since we've had a chance to evaluate a Z77-based motherboard, so we are taking this opportunity to throw ASUS's P8Z77-V Deluxe on our test bench to put it through our comprehensive real-world and synthetic benchmarks. This $279 board has been available for several months and supports the LGA 1155 platform that includes Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors.
Courtesy of ASUS
There are many features to drool over about the ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe, but my favorite ones include the board's unique power management features, Wi-Fi functionality with remote access, and customized UEFI BIOS. This board also includes other enhancements that focus on support for faster USB 3.0 and PCIe 3.0 integration as well as extra SATA 6GB/s ports that provide double the bandwidth of current bus systems.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 5, 2012 - 01:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, w700, tablet, ssd, Ivy Bridge, Intel, acer
First announced at Computex 2012, Acer is finally ready to share all the details (including pricing) on its upcoming Iconia W700 Windows 8 tablet.
For the uninitiated, the W700 is the top-end tablet in its Iconia W series. It will be based on an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3 or Core i5 processor, 64GB or 128GB SSD, HD4000 graphics (intel processor graphics) and a battery that allegedly provides up to 8 hours of usage. That hardware is powering a 11.6” IPS display with 10-point multitouch and a resolution of 1920x1080. It further features a rear 5MP camera with autofocus and 1080p video recording and a front-facing webcam capable of recording 720p video.
The tablet also includes 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi as well as various sensors for map applications including a(n oddly named) “G-sensor,” accelerometer, and an E-compass. [No mention of a GPS chip though, so it’s unclear how useful the other map technology will be…]
External I/O includes three USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt port, micro HDMI port, headphone output jack, and DC power jack.
Because of the Ivy Bridge CPU, the tablet has ventilation slots along the top edge of the tablet. It is less than half an inch thick and weighs in at 2.3 pounds.
Also relevant is that the Acer Iconia W700 will have an accessory dock that will hold the tablet in portrait mode at 70 ° for reading or 20 ° for an angled touchscreen. The dock can also hold the W700 tablet in portrait mode for reading ebooks and the like. A Bluetooth keyboard and micro-HDMI to VGA adapter are also available as bundled accessories.
Engadget takes a tour of the Acer ICONIA W700 Windows 8 tablet.
As far as new information goes, the W700 will be available on October 26 (Windows 8’s release day). There will be several SKUs with different levels of hardware (ie. Core i3 vs Core i5). MSRPs of the W700 tablet will range from $799.99 to $999.99 depending on the particular hardware configuration. Further, if you are an Acer corporate customer, you will be able to get the W700 tablet with an extended two year warranty and Windows 8 Pro for $1,049.99. You can find read the full press release on the Acer website.
The prices do seem to be on the high end for a Windows 8 tablet, but ASUS’ leaked Windows 8 tablet prices are not far off.
Subject: Systems | October 2, 2012 - 07:38 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: maingear, kepler, Ivy Bridge, gtx 680m, gaming laptop
Maingear is a company that seemingly ascribes to the “go big or go home” motto, and nowhere is that sentiment made clearer than its latest gaming notebook: the Nomad 17.
Perhaps, the term “notebook” is a bit of an understatement here. The Nomad 17 is a 16.85” x 11.34” x 2.17” gaming notebook that packs the latest and greatest mobile technology into a package that is sure to give your back a workout should you attempt to use this beast as your daily driver (as someone that has attempted such a feat, I can attest to that heh). The Nomad 17 starts at $1,599 and goes up from there, but you do get a lot of hardware for the money.
An Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3840QM is the highest end CPU you can add, and it is also loaded out with either a NVIDIA GTX 675M or the GTX 680M graphics card and Optimus graphics switching technology. In addition, the Nomad can be configured with either two 512GB SSDs or two 750GB mechanical hard drives in a RAID O or RAID 1 array. The gaming laptop also does not skimp on RAM, allowing up to 32GB of DDR3 running at 1600MHz.
On the outside, you are getting a backlit keyboard, multitouch touchpad, and large 17” LED backlit display with matte anti-glare coating and a resolution of 1920x1080. On the audio front, it supports the THX TruStudio Pro audio codec and sports two speakers and a subwoofer by DynAudio. Connectivity options include a SD card reader, 6x Blu-ray burner/8x DVD writer optical drive, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. External IO ports include one HDMI, one DVI, three USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, one Firewire, one optical audio out (S/PDIF), one Gigabit Ethernet/RJ45 port, and one RJ-11 port (of all things). Also, it features analog audio outputs, eSATA, and a VGA output.
The Nomad 17 with come pre-loaded with the 64-bit versions of either the Windows 7 Home, Premium, or Ultimate operating system.
But, the big reveal for gamers wanting to show off their gaming hardware is this: the Nomad 17 will be available in one of six custom, hand painted designs using glossy automotive paint.
The Nomad 17 is available now, and starts at $1,599. When decked out with the Core i7-3840QM, 4GB GTX 680M, 32GB system RAM, and two 512GB Crucial M4 SSDs (in RAID 0) mentioned above, the system total came out to $3,802. At that price, serious gamers only need apply, but is still an awesome piece of gaming technology nonetheless. Maingear has definitely packed the 17” laptop to the max with hardware.
You can find more photos of the Nomad 17 over at the Maingear website.