Introducing the DigitalStorm Virtue

One of the biggest benefits of doing system reviews from boutiques like DigitalStorm is the chance to see what talented builders do with brand new hardware once it's released into the wild. Single consumers/enthusiasts get used to and understand the range of performance typically available in overclocking retail kit, but boutiques have to contend with overall performance potential of a range of products on a larger scale. Whether or not you get a decent overclock on your i7-4770K isn't a huge deal; you bought the chip, you're good to go. But for a boutique it becomes a more serious issue, defining their advertising and ultimately helping us all paint a fairly broad picture of what we can expect or at least hope for from new kit.

If you're like me, you were probably incredibly underwhelmed by initial reviews of Haswell. Ivy Bridge proved to be a decent overclocker, but Intel's miserly switch from fluxless solder to thermal paste as a thermal interface material in their chip packaging put a hard limit on what we could really do with it, and they're continuing that aggavating trend with Haswell. One of the most frustrating results is a flattening of the overclocked performance curve from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge, and thankfully we can at least test and see today if Haswell does anything to change things.

With the recent refresh of our benchmarking suite (I carry over notebook benchmarking to the desktop and then add a surround test), I realized we had a perfect opportunity to test just how much progress we've made from one generation to the next. One of the perks of working in the industry is access to high end kit; my personal desktop workstation isn't just fun to have, it also serves as an extremely useful reference platform that I can now pit DigitalStorm's attractive new micro-ATX mid-tower, the Virtue, against.

DigitalStorm Virtue Specifications
Chassis Corsair Obsidian 350D
Processor Intel Core i7-4770K
(4x3.5GHz, Turbo to 3.9GHz, Overclocked to 4.4GHz, 22nm, 8MB L3, 84W)
Motherboard ASUS Gryphon Z87
Memory 2x8GB A-Data DDR3-1600 (maximum 4x8GB)
Graphics eVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 3GB GDDR5
(2304 CUDA Cores, 862MHz/901MHz/6GHz core/boost/RAM, 384-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Corsair Neutron GTX 120GB SATA 6Gbps SSD

Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Optical Drive(s) ASUS BC-12B1ST BD-ROM/DVD+-RW
Power Supply Corsair HX1050 80 Plus Silver PSU
Networking Intel I217-V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC892
Speaker, line-in, mic, and surround jacks
Front Side Power button
Reset button
2x USB 3.0
Mic and headphone jacks
Optical drive
Top Side -
Back Side 4x USB 2.0
DVI
HDMI
Optical out
4x USB 3.0
Gigabit ethernet
Mic, line-in, headphone, and surround jacks
2x DVI (GTX 780)
1x HDMI (GTX 780)
1x DisplayPort (GTX 780)
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Extras 80 Plus Gold PSU
240mm Corsair H100i CPU Cooler
Warranty 3-year limited parts and labor, lifetime customer support
Pricing Starts at $1,403
Review system configured at $2,563

DigitalStorm has four configurations for the Virtue, starting at $1,403. The entry level offers a basic quad core Haswell with no overclocking and a GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost; it's adequate for gaming, but informed consumers will want the second level model featuring an i5-4670K and GeForce GTX 770 for $1,735. Worth mentioning, though, is that DigitalStorm offers a 120GB Corsair Neutron GTX SSD and 1TB HDD minimum, across the board, in all configurations of the Virtue. The highest end model bumps the SSD capacity up to 240GB and the GPU to a GeForce GTX Titan.

There isn't too much to say about the Virtue as we have it, though. DigitalStorm was able to eke out a healthy 4.4GHz overclock on the i7-4770K, but the overclock range they offer is just 4GHz to 4.4GHz, which is underwhelming to say the least. That's not their fault, though; iBuyPower only goes up to about 4.2GHz, ~4.5GHz if you're using one of their signature custom liquid cooling systems. CyberPowerPC offers roughly the same "20% overclock" which works out, again, to about 4.2GHz. DigitalStorm's overclocking options are also essentially in line with AVADirect and other boutiques; Haswell just doesn't have a whole lot of headroom. Meanwhile, DigitalStorm does offer performance tuning on their graphics cards, but the GTX 780 in our review unit is left at stock.

Representing the best and brightest of the last generation is my own custom workstation which will be referred to in charts as the "Reference PC." This is, in my humble opinion, about as good as it can get before you switch over to a custom cooling loop.

Reference PC Specifications
Chassis Nanoxia Deep Silence 1
Processor Intel Core i7-3770K
(4x3.5GHz, Turbo to 3.9GHz, Overclocked to 4.6GHz, 22nm, 8MB L3, 77W)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H
Memory 4x8GB Crucial Ballistix Sport Extreme Low Profile DDR3L-1600
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2GB GDDR5 modified with Arctic Cooling Accelero Hybrid
(1536 CUDA Cores, 1264MHz/6.6GHz core/RAM, 256-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Plextor PX-M5S 256GB SATA 6Gbps SSD

Samsung SSD 840 500GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Power Supply Rosewill Capstone 750W 80 Plus Gold PSU
Audio Realtek ALC899
Operating System Windows 8 Professional 64-bit
Extras Case modified with Noctua fans
CPU cooled by Swiftech H220
GPU cooled by Arctic Cooling Accelero Hybrid

When you get to the benchmarks, you'll see this is really about as fast as a last generation, single-GPU configuration with a mainstream CPU was going to get. 4.6GHz is healthy for Ivy Bridge, and the Arctic Cooling Accelero Hybrid allowed the GeForce GTX 680 to not only settle on a high boost clock, but maintain it consistently throughout prolonged gaming sessions. This is with the stock GTX 680 BIOS; a modified BIOS with higher voltage might have been able to push the silicon further, but I've heard exactly enough about modified BIOSes burning out GK104 to not tempt fate

System and Gaming Performance
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  • airmantharp - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    I'm wondering if it matters- all Realtek codecs in the last five or so years have had decent specs and middling performance; but it doesn't take much to make them work. Good op-amps are a start, and we're seeing those on various boards.

    And that would be important for an mATX build; it's begging for a second GPU (why the hell else would it have twice the PSU it needs...), which would negate the use of an excellent SoundBlaster Z.
    Reply
  • Subyman - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    I'm wondering why they put a 1050W PSU in a system with an ~80W CPU and ~250W GPU. Reply
  • JimmiG - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    Marketing..

    Anyway, 4.4 GHz is probably about as high as you want to go as boutique PC manufacturer, unless you want amass quite a collection of 4770K's that didn't make it to your target overclocked speed.
    Reply
  • kuraegomon - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    Upgradability, specifically SLI, and further overclocking. Add a second 780 (admittedly a tight fit in that case), and go for broke on the overclocking CPU, GPUs and RAM, and you could end up in the 700-800 W range. For maximum PSU life, running at least 20% under maximum rating is about right. Reply
  • JimmiG - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    If the system consumes 800W, that also means it would put out 800W of heat, which would be impossible to manage with that case. Besides, it comes with a m-ATX board which means those GTX 780's would be sitting right up against each other. It would be toasty, to say the least. PSU life would be the least of my concerns. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    Consuming 800W of power does not mean producing 800W of heat. Heat generated in a computer is "waste heat," it's heat produced by energy leakage.

    If you look at the board, too, you'll notice a second 780 would actually be installed in the bottommost slot. That means there would be one slot of space between the two 780s, which is typical of almost any build.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    Electricity is energy and heat is energy and energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transformed. Unless the energy the computer pulls from the socket gets transformed into electro magnetic waves or mechanical energy, it gets transformed to heat. Which is what happens to over 99% of the energy input into the PC.
    Not sure if you refer to something else.
    Reply
  • jtd871 - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    Dustin, the heat in a computer is a reflection of *total* power draw. All that energy, waste or not, eventually turns into heat. Thus at idle, this system generates ~70W; at load, ~360W. Reply
  • Meaker10 - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    So what useful work in energy terms do we get out? Mechanical lift? Come on dustin I ex0ect more from an anandtech reviewer knowing the fundamentals :/ Reply
  • wumpus - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    Airflow. 800W of airflow.
    [Actually this ends up being heat in the ambient room to, just not always in the case. No matter what work you do, adding 800W into a area means 800W of heat: EM waves just makes the area bigger :)].
    Reply

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