Moments after I pulled it out of the box, the Digital Storm ODE v2 Level 3 turned heads in the office, not with a gaudy flames-and-skulls paint job but with a large, classy, black-and-white Corsair Graphite 600T case that says sci-fi, not hot rod. I want to get like eight of these things, dress up like Darth Vader, and board a Rebel blockade runner. This is one of the best-looking cases I’ve ever seen, even if it is slightly enormous.
[Note: Moments before this review was posted, Digital Storm updated the ODE line with the new Ivy Bridge CPUs. Pricing remains the same, but if you buy today you’re getting a little more bang for your buck than we’re looking at.]
To be precise, this model is very similar to the stock Digital Storm ODE v2 Level 3, but beefed up with an extra 120GB Corsair Force GT SSD that brought the price up to $2,000 even (which is pretty much the max I’d recommend spending on a gaming PC unless you have money coming out of your face). Thanks to that SSD, the boot time into the pre-installed Windows 7 Home Premium x64 is just over 35 seconds, and game load times are appreciably speedy. 120GB is tight, but enough to hold Windows and a few frequently used applications and games. Though if you’re looking to trim a few bucks that’s a good place to start; SSDs are a luxury that have a big impact on loading times, but not on in-game performance.
Relative to the noisy Alienware Aurora that occupied my desk space before its arrival, the ODE is whisper-quiet, even when I cranked up the fan using the external knob on the front of the case — the one right between the four USB 2.0 ports and the single (new hotness) USB 3.0 and (old n’ busted) Firewire ports. Four more USB 2.0 ports and one more USB 3.0 port in the back make 10 total — but notably, no eSATA. It does have HDMI and SPDIF-out audio, though that requires some high-end speaker equipment to take advantage of.
|Digital Storm ODE v2 Level 3 Specs|
|Chassis Model: Digital Storm ODE Level 3 (White)
CPU: Intel Core i7-2600K 3.40GHz (Unlocked)
Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V LE, Intel Z68 Chipset
RAM: 32GB DDR3 1600MHz Corsair Vengeance Series
Power Supply: 800W Corsair GS
Hard Drive 1: 1 tb Corsair CSSD-F120GBGT-BK
Hard Drive 2: 500GB 7200 RPM/16MB Cache
Optical Drive: DVD Writer 24x / CD-Writer 48x
Video Card: 1x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 2GB
Cooling: Corsair H60 Liquid CPU Cooler
Internal Lighting: Internal Chassis Lighting System (Red)
OS: Windows 10 Home Premium (64-Bit)
Warranty: Lifetime Expert Customer Care with 3-Year Limited Warranty
Price of Reviewed System: $2,000
When I went to look inside, the windowed side panel popped off easily (it uses clips, not screws) and revealed an absolutely cavernous interior. Even with a 1.5GB EVGA GeForce GTX 580, 8GB RAM (two 4GB sticks), and a self-contained liquid-cooling system on the Core i7-2600K CPU, it’s like stepping into an empty, neatly wired cathedral. The ODE is a “room to grow on” type setup — a pre-built machine for someone who wants to do a little extra building on top of the foundation.
The motherboard uses socket 1155, which is compatible with the new Ivy Bridge CPUs if you wanted to upgrade — though that’d be a bit crazy, since this i7 is already more than beefy enough to last you until Intel decides to change the technology again. There’s room for five additional hard drives (with easily accessible side-loading bays), which is good, because the 500GB 7200RPM drive in there is a little stingy for storage. There’s also space for a total of four optical drives, though these days the included DVD-RW drive is plenty. The only roadblock is that the 800W power supply isn’t quite enough to comfortably support a second GTX 580 in SLI — unless you want to swap out the power supply as well, you’ll need to stick to single graphics cards (or an efficient dual-GPU card). For those who simply want to buy a PC and never crack it open, though, this is all kind of wasted space. You’d probably be better off getting something a little more compact.
Time to Max it Out
Because all anybody’s really interested in doing when they buy a new gaming PC is turning everything up to maximum, that’s what I did with the ODE: all sliders pushed as far to the right as they’d go — no compromises. All of this, by the way, is happening on my single 1920×1080 monitor. Nothing fancy.
Software-wise, like all Digital Storms, the ODE comes with absolutely no crapware pre-installed (unless you count Games for Windows Live), but it has been set up to the point where it’s ready to go right out of the box. I cluttered it up a little with Steam, FRAPS, and 3DMark 11, and then went about the business of gaming.
Batman: Arkham City
Completely maxed out and with Vsync off, the benchmark utility in Batman averaged 41 frames per second, but dipped to 20 momentarily. But the thing about Batman is that it’s one of the bigger PhysX games, and Nvidia doesn’t recommend turning that up to max without a second GeForce graphics card devoted to physics acceleration. Turning PhysX down to normal moved the needle up to 45 average and 27 minimum — a significant bump that, for me, puts it out of the danger zone. I spent about an hour playing a challenge map on normal PhysX, and certainly couldn’t blame my failures on the steady 45-ish frame rate.
Total War: Shogun 2
Shogun’s high-end graphics benchmark averaged 54fps, and I never saw it dip below 45. For laughs I tried the low-end benchmark, which produced triple-digit results. This is about all the power you’ll ever need for a Total War game — at least until someone figures out a way to make them load faster.
Forza Horizon 3
Averaged 83fps, dipped to 72 at the lowest. Yup, that’ll do.
If you’re into the arbitrary benchmark score thing, 3DMark 11 awards the ODE an X2201 on the Extreme setting. That’s not too shabby.
But is it a good deal?
Doing some quick shopping, I was able to track down roughly equivalent parts for around $1,600 (before tax and shipping). That, of course, doesn’t account for the three-year warranty and tech support you get with the ODE, but there’s definitely a premium for having it professionally assembled. I’d consider this on the pricey end for this hardware — which, with the release of Intel’s new Ivy Bridge CPUs and Nvidia’s GTX 680, is no longer top of the line — but with Digital Storm’s reputation and A+ Better Business Bureau score, I’d feel like that money wasn’t going to waste when it comes to support. If you’re not planning on running a 3D setup, triple monitors, crazy PhysX, or a 2560×1600 screen, this machine is going to max out just about any current game you can throw at it without complaint.