Digital Storm x17 review: High-end PC gaming, midrange price

It's almost an afterthought to talk about application performance in a system such as this. The CPU is from Intel's most high-end line, so it's incredibly fast, although many other current laptops are in the same category. Even for processor-intensive tasks, it's more power than most users will need, although gamers will appreciate the overhead.

The real action here is in the GPU, in this case an AMD Radeon HD7970, which is the high end of AMD's current 7000-series graphics cards. The system ran our very challenging Metro 2033 test at full 1080p resolution, at 26.7 frames per second -- a very impressive score. The more forgiving Street Fighter IV test ran at 138.2fps at the same resolution. Anecdotally, I tried a few other games, including Just Cause 2 (59.6fps), and the new XCOM: Enemy Unknown , which ran smoothly at its highest settings.

One thing that occasionally drives me crazy about AMD graphics cards -- the switching between the GPU and the basic Intel HD 4000 graphics is not seamless. I had to manually assign many games to the AMD part, and then restart the game. Nvidia's version of this GPU switching, called Optimus, isn't perfect either, but works much more automatically.

Battery life and support
It's not going to come as a huge surprise that this big, powerful desktop-replacement laptop doesn't have amazing battery life. That said, the x17 ran our video playback battery drain test for 3 hours and 4 minutes, which is not terrible for a 17-inch laptop. It helped that the discrete AMD GPU wasn't needed for the test; playing games will drain the battery more quickly.

Hand-assembled gaming PCs from smaller companies rely on personalized service and support as a selling point. Digital Storm provides a default three-year warranty with the x17, which is an expensive add-on from companies such as Origin or Maingear. That includes "lifetime" access to a U.S.-based support team and free labor for upgrades you buy from the company. Phone support hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT, Monday to Friday.

Conclusion
Boutique gaming laptops are among the most expensive laptops you can buy, but ironically also the least impressive-looking, thanks to their generic Clevo bodies. That means it's up to the PC maker to pack in enough high-end components and offer the right level of hands-on support. The Digital Storm x17 isn't the prettiest machine on the block, even by those standards, but this $1,999 configuration performs great and is definitely less expensive than comparable builds from other boutique PC makers.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Street Fighter IV (in fps, native resolution, 2X AA, V Sync off)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (avg. watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Digital Storm x17
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7970M / 2GB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Razer Blade
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-3632QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Origin EON17-S (Ivy Bridge - Intel Core i7-3920XM)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-3920XM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; HDD No. 1: 1TB Samsung 5400rpm + HDD Nos. 2, 3: 240GB Corsair Force SSD (x2) RAID 0

Maingear EX-L 15
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-3820QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Samsung Series 7 Gamer NP700G7C-S01US
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M; 750GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Dell Inspiron 17R SE - 2051BK (7720)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 1TB Western Digital 5,400rpm

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Digital Storm x17 Gaming Laptop

Part Number: CNETX17

MSRP: $1,999.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Installed Size 16 GB
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