Build Quality

It's not entirely fair to DigitalStorm not to mention the generally excellent job they've done with the build quality of the Virtue. One of the ways a boutique can distinguish itself is in its component selection, and the stock component choices of the Virtue line are solid across the board.

Starting with the chassis selection, I'm actually a pretty big fan of the Corsair Obsidian 350D and I'm happy to see it being employed in a high performance system. Interestingly, DigitalStorm is also using Corsair's H100i to cool the CPU, but they're not employing Corsair Link software to control fan speed despite the system being wired to use it. Instead, the fans on the H100i (oriented beneath the radiator to pull in air from the top of the enclosure and then cycle it out of the rear exhaust) run at a fixed fan speed. I personally find variable fan speed to be distracting; I'd just as soon the whole system run silent all the time, end of discussion. DigitalStorm's choice here works for me.

The 350D also does an excellent job of showing off NVIDIA's reference cooler for the GeForce GTX 780, complete with the subtly glowing "GeForce GTX" logo. That's plugged into an ASUS Z87 Gryphon motherboard, and the system drive is a healthy 120GB Corsair Neutron GTX featuring an LAMD controller. Given all the Corsair kit in the Virtue, though, I'm actually surprised the memory is A-Data.

Where I'd be tempted to shake down DigitalStorm is in using a single stable voltage for overclocking the i7-4770K, but without more experience with Haswell and the quirks of its VRM I can't say if that's worth caring about or not. With the first generation chips (Nehalem, Clarksfield, Gulftown), this was a huge issue, but Sandy and Ivy were less problematic and it looks like Haswell is even less so. I do want to point out that DigitalStorm has traditionally been more aggressive about their CPU voltages than I'd like, but the i7-4770K's 1.28V is actually pretty common and totally reasonable.

Noise and Heat

Demonstrating a healthy amount of balance in their design, the Virtue isn't especially silent but is generally a touch quieter than enthusiast gaming desktops tend to be. Idle noise is around ~33dB, and since the CPU and chassis fans run at a fixed speed, the GeForce GTX 780 is really the only component that spins up or down. Unfortunately, while the 350D is an excellent case for liquid cooling, it does suffer slightly from Corsair's perpetual issues with middling air cooling performance.

Thermals on the GTX 780 are pretty par for the course, but it can jack noise levels up a couple of dB under sustained load. Meanwhile, the i7-4770K is really about where it needs to be. A more adventurous user might be able to eke a little more performance out of it with a little more juice, but I'd hesitate to push the H100i that much harder, especially without bumping the fan speeds up to a potentially uncomfortable volume.

Power Consumption

So how much power does a modern high end gaming system pull from the wall? The last couple of generations from Intel, NVIDIA, and AMD (Bulldozer/Piledriver notwithstanding) have all done an admirable job of continually reducing idle and load power consumption alike, so the DigitalStorm Virtue stands to benefit from those advances.

Idle Power Consumption

Load Power Consumption

And it does. While neither one is abnormally spectacular, they're both totally reasonable. I'm not convinced DigitalStorm couldn't shave 10W or so off the idle power, but load power is where it ought to be.

System and Gaming Performance Conclusions


View All Comments

  • techienate - Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - link

    No, a system warranty is worth more than individual component warranties. One example: Let's say you have a potential CPU OR motherboard problem causing occasional bluescreens or crashes, but you don't know for sure which it is. Do you have the spare parts to swap out the cpu and motherboard one at a time to determine what the problem is? Not unless you spend more money. Also, it can take considerable time to diagnose these hardware issues, and time is money. If you don't think it's worth $200 dollars, then don't buy it. But saying it only costs them $20 proves you know nothing about how much it costs to run a business. If it were my own computer, I would build it myself. But if someone offered to pay me $200 to build it for them (I am an IT professional and get requests for help all the time), I wouldn't do it. It wouldn't be worth the hassle, time, and risks. So in that way, I think the $200 is a totally reasonable premium. Reply
  • iamezza - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    It's always the same comment whenever a boutique is reviewed.

    They are offering a service for a certain price and people who want that service pay for it, simple.

    It's true most people with half a brain could assemble a computer themselves if they learnt, most people don't have the time or desire how to do it themselves.

    If I wanted to to I could do all the work on my own car, but personally I prefer to pay a mechanic to do it for me.
    Sometimes it's just easier to pay someone, especially if you could earn more money doing your own job then you would otherwise save by doing it yourself.
  • JimmiG - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    It took my just about one full weekend (Friday evening to Sunday night) to build and initially get my latest system running the way I liked, finding a good 24/7 overclock, finding the tightest memory timings that would work etc. and several more weeks until everything was running exactly how I liked it software- and hardware-wise.

    Since I actually enjoy that process, the time was worth it for me. However not everyone has that kind of time or enjoy building and tweaking computers. Time is money - If your regular job pays more than $200 for working a full weekend, you would actually save money by paying someone else $200 to build a computer for you.
  • JBVertexx - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    Here's the value... For a guy, say a CPA, who makes a decent amount of money. He's into tech, but not at an "enthusiast level". He hires a lanscaping company to mow his lawn, a financial advisor to manage his money, another CPA to do his taxes, and he's willing to hire experts to build a top-end PC.

    Maybe this guy likes to game. Maybe he just wants an awesome PC for his kid. But he's definitely not going to waste time learning all the in's and out's of motherboard/cpu/case compatibility, power requirements, GPU performance, cooling, and all that.

    He also wants something better than what most other people have. He likes to buy from boutique firms in general. He just got a nice $50k bonus, and he has no problem dropping $2.5k on a high-end PC.
  • Rvenger - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    Dustin, any chance you can run some IBT AVX on that Haswell and report your highest core temps? I noticed the high vcore and am wondering if the same binned CPUs are being used as the retail box ones we buy at newegg etc. According to that vcore, that CPU should thermal throttle within minutes when Prime95 small fft or IBT with AVX is ran. Reply
  • BrightCandle - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    You wont see much benefit running a 680 under a custom water block. It might in theory go slightly faster but its not normally much. In order to get at the extra performance potential you need to pump more voltage through the chip than an air cooler could cope with, and that level of voltage adjustment is not all that easy with todays GPUs, and the gains are often quite marginal even then.

    I typically say that a custom loop is worth about 5% at most. On a CPU its maybe 100-200Mhz as long as your willing to push more voltage (which could kill the chip regardless of the reduced temperature). On the GPU side I have typically only found water to offer around 25Mhz, its normally not much at all. Its real advantage is noise reduction.
  • wumpus - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    Odd. I'd expect a bit more. Even then you can certainly expect more quiet than you will get with airflow. From the comments in the article, the 780 may be a far better board for trying out water cooling. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    Ouch, harsh but true. Let's hope he didn't have his coffee yet and we can pretend to let it slide. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    I have a more sinister thought that it had nothing to do with cost and everything to do with artificially limiting the performance of the chips. They are so far beyond AMD right now on almost EVERY front that they have the ability to create a fantastic chip today and roll out a refresh of the EXACT SAME CHIP with a better interface material and reap a double sale.

    It's a nasty practice, but a very shrewd one.
  • airmantharp - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    The only confusing part is that they're not willing to offer 'properly TIM'd' CPUs as an additional SKU. I'd pay another $10-$20 to get a K CPU with it; hell, they could just use it on all K SKUs and make everyone happy. We're already paying more for something with less features but an unlocked multiplier, why not let us push it to the limit? Reply

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