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Hailstorm II: My Hailstorm II Review - Aced it!

Post Date: 2014-11-26

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Eggy View Drop Down
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  Quote Eggy Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Topic: Hailstorm II: My Hailstorm II Review - Aced it!
    Posted: 26 Nov 2014 at 9:07am

I’m very sorry for the long-winded post. I feel that Digital Storm is deserving of a detailed, quality review (and I tend to ramble) after all their hard work. In case anybody here needs a TL;DR, let me start this off by saying the following:

Never have I been so satisfied with a purchase. The high quality, detailed level of craftsmanship, coupled with the top level of customer service that everyone I dealt with on the Digital Storm team provided to me over the course of this purchase (and beyond, as you’ll find out), makes them well deserving of an A+ rating in my book. For anybody on the fence about buying, I highly recommend you table your concerns, pull the trigger, and allow them to do what they do best.

The Pre-Order Phase:

I first learned of Digital Storm by happy accident. It was shortly after the holidays last year, and I was just sort of browsing around online and I think they either came up in a Google search or a forum somewhere. I had never heard of them before! I must have read through the forums and product pages for like 6 hours that day. I was (and still remain) impressed by the sense of community among those with the Verified Customer tag, and those who were intrigued as I was. I loved the vibe I got from the forums, how active some of the DS employees were in discussions, and the general feel of the place. I have been a long time buyer of “boutique” and other custom gaming builds, and the biggest nightmare had always been the customer service. This was a huge plus. Brian on the LiveChat was a huge help to me in figuring out just what I wanted, as were numerous forum members. Special thanks to bprat22 for his continued guidance and quick responses.

As I mentioned in my original post here on the forums, I was purchasing this machine as not only a gift to myself, but a tribute to my late father. I was left a small amount of money and strict instructions to not put it towards bills or anything of that nature, but instead towards something fun; a gift for myself, from him. I was in need of a new computer, and so I started putting extra money aside. We grew up playing games together, though admittedly that was NES back when I was a kid. When I saw the option to do a laser-etching, I thought that this would be the perfect way to make it a tribute. To explain the etching a bit (pictures to follow): My last name is Solomon. Dad loved King Solomon, and collected numerous related art pieces throughout the years. I think it’s a fitting name for the beast of a rig that DS built. The line below the drawing is a quote from a Mel Brooks movie that we always used to watch together. As for the graphic itself, he was a pool shark in every sense of the word, and shooting with him was one of my favorite things to do. I thought the 8-ball on the skull and the pool cues in place of crossbones were a neat addition.

After months and months of putting money aside, and then additional waiting time as new parts were announced and released, the time had come!

The Order (and wait L ):

The actual order process was super straightforward and easy. Plugged it in that night, had a nice surprise about there being no sales tax, and away we went. Unfortunately since I had just moved, my shipping and billing address were different. I remembered recently one forum member noting that she was in a similar situation with two different addresses, and that he/she was particularly frustrated with all that followed. As such, I wanted to address this area specifically.

The very next day, I received a phone call from Janna with customer service. She informed me of two things. First, they would not be able to liquid cool the chipset on the motherboard because waterblocks had not yet been released for the Rampage V, so they could either hold off for an indeterminate amount of time, or simply go ahead and not cool the chipset, but refund my money for it. She explained that the chipset itself does not really need to be cooled, and that because I had the cooling on the CPU and GPUs, I would be fine. No problem!  In addition, because of the different addresses, I had three options: 1) Alternate payment method – I could wire/direct deposit the funds, or choose a different card. 2) Change my shipping to my billing address (not possible for me). 3) Fill out an Authorization Form. I chose the authorization form, but expressed my concern about not having access to a printer, scanner, or fax machine for some time. Janna told me that all I would have to do was copy down by hand what was on the authorization form with the appropriate $ amount, signature, and date, and I could just take a picture of it with my phone and email it to her. This was such an easy process for me, and while I feel for the previous member who had issues with it, I can’t help but wonder why it was such an issue. DS was perfectly happy to accommodate my situation, and find a solution so that they could begin work for me.

I emailed Alex and Janna a couple of times over the course of the build just for status updates. They never once made it seem like I was a bother to them, although I’m sure I was. My order was held up twice over the course of the build; Once when they were waiting for waterblocks for the 980s as they had just been released, and again at the laser-etching stage right towards the end. And here lie my only critiques – with regard to the GPU waterblocks, I was confused as to why I wasn’t made aware of this issue at the same time Janna informed me of the waterblock for the chipset. If I was going to be waiting for the GPU waterblock, I might have reconsidered passing on the chipset. Also, I think the laser-etching process could have some improvements. I lost precious shipping days (which caused my rig to arrive while I was out of town) because I received a late phone call one night that the team had never received the files for the laser job. I double checked my email and saw that I had sent them over in response to the automated email which I received the day my order was processed. I sent them to the proper email address. My suggestion here is that there is perhaps some sort of notification email, or even in your account on the website, in response to sending in these files. Just something that says, “Hey, we got your stuff, and we’re ready to etch away in QA!”. This holdup caused my computer to be sent out the following week, and I had to make additional arrangements for somebody to be around to pick it up, since I was gone on business. Certainly not the end of the world, but I can see where it could be a bigger frustration to some, especially over something that simple.

The Arrival!

So, this thing is massive. Unfortunately, the friend who offered to stay at the house and wait for the package is kind of tiny – because the package was so large, and the driver refused to bring it to the door (UPS policy? Not really sure how freight works, but I thought that was kind of rude), she had to drag it on the pallet to the garage to get it out of the bad weather, and my roommate and girlfriend were able to carry it in to the house later that night.

I expected it to be big. I took the dimensions down from the website and confirmed that I had plenty of room for it. But, wow. Big doesn’t describe it adequately. I did not take measurements of the box itself (silly me), but I took a picture with my dog next to it for reference. He’s an 80 lbs lab/shepherd mix, and was absolutely dwarfed by this thing. My roommate had to help me get it out of the box; I have a bad back, and it’s probably 70-80 lbs fully loaded. To get it out of the packaging and onto my desk without help would have risked dropping, so keep this in mind if you live alone and are ordering. Again, it’s massive, but truly a thing of beauty. This thing is packaged well. Styrofoam, expanding foam, bubble wrap, you name it, it’s there. I was one of the lucky ones who did not even so much as have a stick of RAM unseated during travel. I stand by freight shipping, if that’s what it means (even with jerk drivers!).

I’ll admit, after I found the power switch, it took me 10-15 minutes of searching for the actual power button before grabbing my laptop and searching for the Corsair 900D power button. I then found it staring me in the face, but never would have thought it was a button. Embarrassingly, I even briefly thought that it was the red button on the Motherboard that says “Start”. Once I pressed it – WOW! It lit up like a Christmas tree. As described in someone else’s review, it was so exciting to see the bubbles chase each other around through the system as it was powered on for the first time. Design is stellar. Cable management is top-notch on the back side. And I love the Hailstorm II Digital Storm base plate – adds some badass branding and lighting from the bottom of the case.

The one glaring issue with the system, however, was that the laser-mark was wrong. It was incomplete. The skull was just a silhouette. When I sent over the files, I sent over not only the requested format, but a pdf version as well. I sent the pdf so that the team could use it as a reference, so they knew how it was supposed to come out. I had been in contact with Janna, and she made some mention about how it looked like the top layer was missing from the file, but I was confused as to why this wouldn’t have triggered a phone call prior to the work being done. If they could see what it was supposed to look like, why wouldn’t they have contacted me when it didn’t come out that way? I shot a message over to Alex, explained the situation, and he was all over it. I was offered either a full refund for the cost of the laser-etching, or to see if I could work with my artist to get a different format of the file that would maybe work better with the etching machine. I found both options to be agreeable, and I was impressed yet again by the service offered – I think that with most companies, the argument would be, “Well, we still did the etching, so at most we’re going to give you a partial refund”.  But not DS! I was able to work with my designer to get a different format sent over, and within a couple of days, it was on its way to me with expedited shipping! I opened it up just last weekend, and it is more perfect and awesome than I can imagine. I really hope the pictures I took do it justice. I was a bit nervous because I still hadn’t seen any pictures of the etching work that they do, but I really couldn’t be happier. Way to turn a potential “con” into a HUGE “Pro”, DS!

Performance:

While I unfortunately ordered at a tough time of the year for me business-wise, I have managed to get some decent time in testing it out. I’m very much looking forward to December where I took two full weeks off. But, preliminary reports – IT SHREDS EVERYTHING. I’ve maxed out settings I don’t particularly need or care for just to see what it could do, and it hasn’t disappointed for a moment.

Battlefield 4: Cranked everything up to max. Still pulling between 70-90 frames in firefights and high-intensity areas.

Borderlands: Maxed out, smooth as silk.

World of Warcraft: lol. Registering over 200 frames in some low pop areas. Granted, the Swift is a 144hz monitor, but at 1440p, impressive nonetheless. It should be noted that this is a CPU-intensive game more-so than a GPU one, but at 4.5 ghz, I haven’t noticed slowdowns. From what I hear, raids will still drop to the 40-60 range, but I’ve yet to see anything below the 90-110 range when out and about questing in Warlords.

And I have to say, getting the RoG Swift was a fantastic choice. I know it’s not an IPS monitor, but both the screen real estate and the picture are brilliant. Everything I’ve done is as fluid as could be, lightning fast, and I love every second of it. I highly recommend Digital Storm to anyone considering a purchase. Hopefully this will allow me to break into streaming a bit!

And as an aside, but if you’re interested in the design work that was done for me, check out Eric Budzinski Design. He’s fantastic, and he does all sorts of graphic design. In addition to him deserving a plug, I feel it’s relevant to mention him because he parallels the level of customer service that Digital Storm provides. Without both of them, this would not be a fitting tribute, but with them, it is an absolute masterpiece.

Thanks again to all, and as promised, photos!!

 
 
 


Edited by Eggy - 26 Nov 2014 at 9:08am
"King Solomon"
Hailstorm II

Intel Core i7 5930k
16GB DDR4 2666MHz
Rampage V
3x GTX 980
HydroLux Level 4 (3x GPU + CPU. No chipset)
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  Quote ArkansasWoman777 Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 26 Nov 2014 at 9:35am
that sure is a beauty
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Ordered: 11-27-12
Stage 1: 11-29-12
Stage 2: 12-2-12
Stage 3: 12-2-12
Stage 4: 12-4-12
Stage 5: 12-4-12
Stage 6: 12-10-12
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  Quote bprat22 Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 26 Nov 2014 at 9:40am
HI Eggy... That is one fine looking rig.     Love the narrative and the pics are spot on. The etching really pops with all the different colors and a nice tribute to your father.

Thanks for the mention and it is always my pleasure.    

Your guard dog should keep it safe.

ENJOY.
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  Quote Tidgxor Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 26 Nov 2014 at 9:57am
 Awesome
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  Quote Alex Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 26 Nov 2014 at 2:09pm
Wow, that's such an amazingly detailed review. I love the photos as well. Thank you for posting your review, and we're very glad to hear that you love the PC!
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  Quote Eggy Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 26 Nov 2014 at 2:59pm
Heh, maybe went a bit overboard LOL Told you I ramble!
"King Solomon"
Hailstorm II

Intel Core i7 5930k
16GB DDR4 2666MHz
Rampage V
3x GTX 980
HydroLux Level 4 (3x GPU + CPU. No chipset)
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  Quote joguco2012 Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 12 Dec 2014 at 2:58pm
This just made my day!!

Totally stunning, good job DS.

Enjoy it!!
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  Quote Subxero Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 16 Jun 2015 at 9:23am
Glad you are happy with your purchase, and good luck. I ordered mine before they had the cases in and needed to wait, prepaid for almost four months. Mine was UPS too but was DOA with a leak. After many emails back and forth with Alex we designed a totally new system that died yesterday. Back she goes to DS on my nickel, but I a hoping for a happy conclusion to this tale of woe. Your system looks super! Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well for many years. 😀
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  Quote Alex Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 16 Jun 2015 at 11:06am
Hi Subxero,

I'm sorry to hear. Every customer has a unique situation, for your unit, we had a lot of custom items added over the time-span we were building your unit. I looked up your order and I see the last time we had a support ticket was last year, back in August. Until now, I do see that you are having an issue with the PC, unfortunately since it has been such a long time, we cannot cover shipping costs, but we will help you take care of any issues and ensure you have a working PC.

Feel free to contact me at anytime along the process and we'll do our best to make sure we are able to get your unit out as quickly as possible. My email is "[email protected]"
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  Quote Eggy Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 23 Jun 2015 at 6:03am
Hey Subxero,
 
I'm sorry to hear of all the pitfalls you've had to deal with along the way. I have no doubt Digital Storm will do what they can to ensure you are ultimately happy with your purchase, even if there were some issues along the way. Mine has had some growing pains along the way, but typically the forums are a great resource and the problem is resolved quickly (I just wish we could figure out what was CAUSING the issue!).
 
Long story short, if there's any reason I've looked back with second thoughts on my purchase, it's only due to life issues which have resulted in me not having as much time as I'd like available to enjoy it. But when I'm using it, I couldn't be happier, and I'm thrilled that I went with DS for such a beastly rig. Awesome
"King Solomon"
Hailstorm II

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16GB DDR4 2666MHz
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  Quote Subxero Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 23 Jun 2015 at 8:19am
Eggy,
I am hopeful that DS will be able to work with me to make a happy customer. I posted my pictures and reviews when I first got it. FedEx made the first delivery and when I opend that massive box an started it up, I noticed a slow leak. Weather due to assembly or shipping, it had to go back. Alex was great in helping me put some custom gear (that's now standard) on her an get it back by convincing me to cough up the 3 bones for freight. (Not worth it, he just kicked it off the truck and split.) I have to say the 900D and custom lighting really made it look awesome. I didn't get much time to work with it as my spouse came down with cancer and needed immediate care. As I started to get the system fired up I got blue screens on occasions. I followed the advise of the forums and benchmarked the bejesus out of it with no red flags. It would just shut down, and blow the BIOS back to default, until one time I screwed up and lost the back up. Most games would play without errors, unless they were really pushing the envelope. Then boom. Reboot. Being on the east coast kept me from using tech support as I was a sure it was os related or bad drivers. It turned out to be a bad mother board, which I have only experienced once in 26 years. I guess it was my statistical likeyhood that it happen again. Now I am thirsting for some of that dope gear that has come up the chain. I am hoping that Alex and I can work something out as cancer breaks two things, your heart and your wallet.
Good fortune on the "King" and may it enrich your life and teach you the wisdom of Soloman.
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ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
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  Quote DigitalStormPusher Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 09 Jul 2015 at 9:36pm
These laptops are over freaking powered!!! My harker has GTX 980m and an I7 4.0 GHzprocessor!!!
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