Build Quality and Noise

While I don't find the Bolt flimsy or chintzy by any stretch of the imagination, I do feel it's somewhat lacking both in aesthetics and in serviceability compared to Alienware's X51. The red stand and black shell are appropriate to DigitalStorm's styling, but the hard angles make the unit feel more boxy than anything. Aesthetics are going to be largely up to the individual user, though. I don't think it's unattractive, but I do think the glossy black finish was a poor choice.

Where I feel like the Bolt may have gotten away from DigitalStorm, however, is in serviceability. The shroud can be removed via four screws on the back, but the way everything is crammed into the case to hit that 3.6" width doesn't feel especially elegant or practical. You'll see cooling isn't a major issue for the CPU, but the GPU struggles a bit more. The RAM slots are completely covered by the CPU cooler, which would be a bigger problem if 8GB wasn't already plenty.

Interestingly I feel like the biggest problem child isn't the GTX 660 Ti (though it does get loud), it's the rackmount PSU. Server power supplies don't exactly need to be quiet, and the two small fans in the PSU are killers. That PSU is responsible for both the mess of cabling and part of the constant idle noise. It already idles at an uncomfortable ~38dB, start pushing it and it breaks 40dB.

Personally I feel like a redesign that tended towards an SFX power supply instead of using a rackmount would be the smarter play. SFX PSUs are going to be engineered more for consumers and by extension will tend towards being on the quieter side, though that kind of design decision would run the risk of robbing the Bolt of its "world's thinnest" moniker. Is marketing really worth the noise, though?

Heat and Power Consumption

As I mentioned before, if nothing else the Bolt at least does offer decent thermal performance. Intel and NVIDIA's advances with Ivy Bridge and Kepler benefit us all (the Scythe CPU cooler doesn't hurt); thermals in the Bolt stay within a comfortable range on the GTX 660 Ti and downright reasonable on the i5-3570K. You could probably argue for a little more voltage on the CPU to get an extra 100MHz or so, but try to remember that it really doesn't take much for Ivy Bridge to run face first into heat issues.

You can see from HWMonitor that if nothing else, the Bolt really doesn't have any trouble keeping the CPU cool. The GeForce GTX 660 Ti also runs relatively cool, but the fan speed is a little more problematic, topping out at 54% and essentially doubling under load.

Idle Power Consumption

Load Power Consumption

Boy, it sure saves face when you look at power consumption, though, doesn't it? At both idle and load the Bolt is one of the most efficient systems we've tested, impressive given the substantial performance on tap. This stems from using a more power friendly GPU and opting for a moderate overclock on the i5-3570K. The Bolt also benefits from using an offset voltage, allowing the i5-3570K to undervolt comfortably low at idle.

Gaming Performance Conclusion: Generally Good, With Major Caveats
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  • just4U - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Stand up systems like these could really benifit from a slot loading DVD. Don't know why you don't see them around any more. I really liked my pioneer ones from back in the day.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I personally love slot-loading drives. The uh...the Alienware X51 has one.
  • CaptainDoug - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    So does the falcon northwest tiki.
  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Speaking of the X51, when will we see a review of the new IvB/660 version?

    I love the Bolt review, but I agree that the X51 might be a better value for those of us that only want a midrange system. I can't wait to see it in your lab.
  • Menty - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Probably just the price difference between tray and slot-load. For some reason, everytime I try to find a slot-load, it winds up being twice as expensive as a tray-load :(.
  • MadMan007 - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Do you have actual noise measurements and forgot to put the chart in the article?
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I tend to just measure systems individually and only point out noise when it's a serious issue.
  • ursulache - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    under what load was the power consumption measured?
    Thank you.
  • landerf - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Not sure how I feel about a sleeve bearing fan on something as critical as the cpu... especially a scythe. Every slip stream me an my friend ever had leaked oil and seized up.
  • nevertell - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I believe that if they had gone with a closed watercooling loop for both the gpu and cpu, it would make it even better. It's the small form factors that would actually benefit from wc at the time when cpu's sip power and kepler is the most efficient gaming architecture ever built by nvidia. Of course, then it wouldn't be as narrow, but the temperatures would be low even if they used just a 240mm long radiator. This would save space, since both of the major coolers are pretty big. If they wanted to make it even quieter, they could opt for a watercooled PSU.

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