System Review: Digital Storm's Gaming Dominator

Test Settings

We compared Digital Storm’s 3.8 GHz build to the closest-matching custom machine we’ve tested, Maingear’s Ephex. A 73% price difference should make it easy for the Gaming Dominator to prove its value, but we can still see how much performance is really sacrificed.

Test System Configurations

Digital Storm Gaming Dominator Maingear Ephex
Intel Core i7-950 (3.20 GHz, 8 MB Cache)
Overclocked to 3.83 GHz (23 x 166.6 MHz)
Intel Core i7-920 (2.66 GHz, 8 MB Cache)
Overclocked to 3.80 GHz (14 x 200)
MSI X58 Pro BIOS 7.3 (04-17-2009)
Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366
Asus P6T
Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366
Mushkin 6 GB DDR3-1333 CAS 9
at DDR3-1333 CAS 8-8-8-19 (1T)
Kingston 6 GB DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-20 (1T)
XFX GeForce GTX 295 1.79 GB
576/1242MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-2016
3 x EVGA GeForce GTX 285 1 GB, SLI
648/1476MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-2484
Test Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB
7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s
Intel X25-M 80 GB SATA 3.0 Gb/s SSD
Integrated HD AudioIntegrated HD Audio
Integrated Gigabit NetworkingIntegrated Gigabit Networking
Windows Vista Home Premium x64 SP1Windows Vista Home Premium x64 SP1
Nvidia GeForce 186.18Nvidia GeForce 182.08

Sharp-eyed readers will notice the difference in graphics driver, which couldn’t be avoided since the Ephex had been tested a couple of months ago. The system’s current $3,869 price remains relatively high due to its SSD drive and 3-way SLI graphics configuration.

A few of our Maingear Ephex benchmarks are also a little outdated, but we retained these for today’s comparison.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: World at WarPatch 1.1, FRAPS/saved game
High Textures, No AA / No AF, vsync off
Ultra Textures, 4x AA / Max AF, vsync off
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
Far Cry 2DirectX 10, Steam Version, in-game benchmark
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 8x AA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo
Test 1: High Details, No AA / No AF
Test 2: Very HighDetails 4x AA / 16x AF
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunes 8Version: (x64)
Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min
Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98 64bits (07-04-2008)
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min
wave to MP3
TMPEG 4.6Version:
Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.5Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4
Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.2.1Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1
Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1
MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kbp/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Autodesk 3ds Max 2009Version: 11.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8Version: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.80Version 3.80, WinZIP Commandline Version 3.0, Compression = Best, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
WinZip 12Version 12.0, Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.01, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player
SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2Version 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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  • grog189
    I would have to say the last page of this review is the only reason i would ever tell a friend to buy one of these computer's. The warranty and tech support to me is worth the 250$ extra price tag to anyone that does not know anything about computer's but still enjoy's playing games to their fullest.

    I don't mind helping out my friend's but face it you are not always going to be there for them for the next 3 or 4 yrs they end up using the computer. When a problem arise's and you cannot be there they are bound to start messing with things and this is where they can really ruin their computer instead of just calling tech support and asking what they should do. Had a friend try to replace his cpu once, suffice to say he didnt know about different sockets and ended not only buying the wrong type but also tried forcing it onto the mobo and almost ended up breaking off quite a few pins but thankfully he decided to wait for my help before he proceded any further.

    That's my 2ct. Insurance is great for those that don't know how to fix their computer or don't have the money to fix it if something breaks and their factory warranty either doesn't cover it or has run out.
  • The_Blood_Raven
    I don't understand the conclusion, I'll build a faster, better looking, higher overclocked, and better setup (OS wise)PC than that thing for less. Yeah if you get the exact same parts then the price is not much different, but the parts I would include are.

    i7 920 = $300
    Good X16/X16/X8 X58 board = $350
    6GB of fast DDR3 = $100
    3x 4890s = $600
    Corsair 850TX = $150
    CM Haf 932 = $200
    1TB drive = $100
    Xigmatek dark knight = $50
    2 DVD burners = $50

    Total: $1900

    Once you shop around you can get this for around to $1600-$1700. Add shipping and a bunch of bad deals you will get around $1800. So for $433 less (atleast) you will get a far faster machine. While it is true that there is no support, I have built plenty of computers for people and I support them fully, if something goes wrong I'll fix it. As for replacements, that's what newegg and long or lifetime warranties are for.

    Also that i7 950 could go FAR higher on air, so don't try that "maximum performance" stuff.
  • IzzyCraft
    I saw System i thought it was going to end with "builder's marathon give away" then my heart dropped as i read the rest :)
  • falchard
    The thing I don't like about modern cases is all the mesh they use. How are you suppose to blow out heat when all the cold air is blowing out the case before it reaches the heat source? Also needlessly expensive case. Everygame on the market can run on a single high-end GPU. Not many productivity software utilize crossfire or sli. The next time a game comes out that will be challenging to a GPU setup, its gonna take more then 3-HD4890 to run it. Just because when they are released they are usually too much for the most modern high end solution, a generation+ old setup won't have a chance.
  • ravenware
    A High-End gaming system should encompass a quality sound card.
    This portion of a build is omitted far too often.

    Other than that, not bad and the company isn't charging a ridiculous premium for build costs or support.
  • Crashman
    ravenwareA High-End gaming system should encompass a quality sound card.This portion of a build is omitted far too often.Other than that, not bad and the company isn't charging a ridiculous premium for build costs or support.

    They do if you want to pick your own parts. But if you like any of their pre-selected configurations, you can get heavy discounts that make it a good value for labor and support.
  • haplo602
    /me raising hand :-)

    I know this situation, however in my country such a premium price will not be accepted by the normal folks ... anyway one could build a good bissiness on this model I guess.

    Anyway the rig looks good as to the component config. However I did not find the PSU details in the article.
  • drealar

    LoL man, the conclusion is written in very simple English.

    Although I can't compare how well is Digital Storm's support compared to yours, I can roughly see that your support and services are F.O.C. That kinda indicates that you're doing something else for a living and not guaranteed to be there when I need you during the 3 years period.

    Although companies and retailers do messed up at times, there are legally written Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy that give customers assurance. In Maslow's Hierarchy, safety and assurance comes next after food-shelter-money-sex :D
  • drealar
    Talking about food-shelter-money-SEX, I kinda feel that the ads of Evony with the big boobs model is distracting :P . Most probably that's why recently, my non-nerdy friend like to visit Tom's and other out-of-his-interest sites :D
  • nonxcarbonx
    This sounds like an advertisement meshed up as a review (though I assume that it is still truthful), and the fact that a digital storm advertisement is in the upper right hand corner of this page (in my case anyways) doesn't quell that suspicion. I'd rather read an article about a normal system builder's marathon or some crazy overclocking or a huge raid array than this.
  • baddad
    This is suppose to be a high end gaming machine, why would anybody buy one and not use it with a screen resolution of 1920x1200/1080 or above? Why are you testing in 1024x768?
  • zehpavora
    One thing I think anybody talked about: Don´t you think that you should upgrade all possible drivers to do this tests? C'mon people... Drivers are NOT a special part of the machine because they can (and must) be upgraded by the user. I suppose that the comparison would make more sense if you tested the builds as equal as possible. I also put my opinion in the side that says that when drivers are different, they change the comparison drastically.
  • scook9
    corsair sells the h50, not cooler master

    Decent system though at a decent price (compared to other builders)
  • jcknouse
    Nice looking box. Decent build. Great support. Poor price.

    Why poor price?

    CoolerMaster HAF 922 Case $99.99
    Corsair 1000W PSU $239.99 + $20 MIR
    Asus Crosshair III Formula mobo/Corsair XMS3 4GB DDR3-1600 combo $289.98
    Sapphire Vapor-X Radeon 4870 2GB card $199.99
    2nd Sapphire Vapor-X 2GB card/2nd set Corsair XMS3 4GB DDR3-1600 combo $299.98 + 15 MIR
    AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition 3.2GHz Quad-Core $199.99
    ZEROTherm Nirvana NV120 HSF $49.99 + $20 MIR
    Kingston V-Series 128GB SSD $249.99
    2 Seagate 7200.12 500GB drives $109.98
    Lite-On 8x BD-ROM drive w/Lightscribe $109.99
    4 Scythe S-Flex 120mm case fans $55.96 (fully ventilate the case)

    Price w/shipping (not including MIRs): $1918.47

    So for $300 less, I can have the rig with SSD, more video RAM, faster disks in RAID, better gaming mobo, etc.

    Plus if I was budget conscious, I could easily drop the SSD, move to 4-500GB drives in RAID 0 for high performance, plus move to 2x4890s and save another $150 or more.

    Sure the i7 950 is gonna be a workhorse, but I think the increased RAM, video RAM, hard drive speed, as well as a mobo customized for gaming makes a better choice for gaming especially in the high end.

    Don't get me wrong. That system is great for someone who knows nothing about building a rig. But if my mom (who is in her 70s) wanted to play video games, I wouldn't recommend that machine. That's too much money to shovel out, even if you are getting great support. Great support doesn't last forever. Look at Gateway. I used to use them both consumer and GSA side. Were awesome. Now, Gateway is a mess.

    Lifetime warranties are great for memory from a major maker. But when it comes to a pre-built system of parts from 15 different manufacturers, I don't put too much stock in a company honoring "lifetime" anything.

    But if you were someone with no time and plenty of money, that rig would be good. I think your concluding assessment is that the price is "reasonable" holds under those conditions.

    Good article tho. Thanks very much.
  • timby
    I would love to see a review of Vigor Gaming Systems PC with a similar setup. I priced out a similar system from them for around 2K delivered.
  • timby
    I would like to see a review of Vigor Gaming Systems PCs in a similar config.

    I have used their Configurator for a system with almost the same hardware for around 2K delivered.

    Just my 2 cents ...
  • bounty
    Would have been nice if this system started you off with a better power supply, then if you want performance that's faster than the Maingear system, you only need to buy another 295 and configure SLI. Replacing power supplies sucks, since you have to reroute all the cables again, or leave a mess.

    (p.s. I'm assuming you would need a bigger power supply to SLI 295's + OC'd 950 but I don't regularly build systems that draw that kind of power.)
  • gatto1000
    I see all you guys listing the parts and costs claiming to save an average of 300 dollars if you build it yourself, but none of you list the OS and it's price on it your real saving is 150 dollars or less, or you are willing to use pirated Os on it?
  • The_Blood_Raven
    drealar@The_Blood_RavenLoL man, the conclusion is written in very simple English.Although I can't compare how well is Digital Storm's support compared to yours, I can roughly see that your support and services are F.O.C. That kinda indicates that you're doing something else for a living and not guaranteed to be there when I need you during the 3 years period.Although companies and retailers do messed up at times, there are legally written Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy that give customers assurance. In Maslow's Hierarchy, safety and assurance comes next after food-shelter-money-sex

    I think you are all missing the point. While I can be there within an hour or a week at the latest, no holding times and no shipping fees if the problem is very serious, I am not a tech support but I can guarantee to keep the machine running between myself and warranties. Also there are tech supports for each component or software as well, if I tell a customer what the problem they are having sounds like to me they CAN call tech support or google it. Baring all that I will take my time to fix a problem or research any odd problem. I have never failed to fix any problems yet. Your right I am not a company, but just because you do not have a written warranty such as the one in this article does not mean that you are totally out in the cold.

    I also showed that a builder such as myself could have built a faster computer for less making that $250 figure atleast $400 if not more. My point is, at that point the support is very expensive.

    You also have to understand that I do this as a hobby and not a side income, I charge way too little. whether it be $350 worth of components or $2000 worth I just simply enjoy building computers and helping others.

    Because I got marked me down so much I guess some people mustn't really understand my point so I will spell it out for you: THE COST OF SUPPORT IN THIS INSTANCE IS GREATER THAT $250, MEANING THE CONCLUSION WAS OFF.
  • septagent

    I think you missed the introduction. A good majority of us would much rather provide a high end gaming machine to a friend WITHOUT having to provide the support for years. We have other jobs and plenty of things to do. In my case, the machines like this that i have tried to provide for friends were hundreds of miles away. When they have a major issue and lose a power supply or something, It's a pain to have to arrange a trip (or make them wait for a trip) up there to take care of it.
    It would be nice to be able to recommend a high end machine with full support and only a few hundred bucks more.

    Sounds selfish, but the amount of free service it would take for me to travel 150 miles to replace a power supply (or MOBO, or anything else) is worth much more than $400 you might save in parts. It would be worth it on just one trip, let alone 2 or 3 that might be necessary over the years.

    I think it's totally appropriate to recommend a vendor like this.