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[REVIEW] DSO has amplified my awesome!

Post Date: 2010-10-18

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Torley View Drop Down
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  Quote Torley Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Topic: [REVIEW] DSO has amplified my awesome!
    Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 7:04pm
This review comes some two months after I first received my Digital Storm Online computer. That's simply because I wanted my opinions to have time to gel, since what you feel one week into ownership may be very different than further in the timeline. It also gave me an ample opportunity to be reassured of system stability, one of the big selling points that DSO aggressively advertises.

First, community means a lot to me. It's what I prioritize in my work and play, and after seeing various comparatively "cheaper" PC builders get ire at various ratings sites (as in "they put the parts together wrong and won't help me"), I wanted to be somewhere the customers persistently express their faith in the company. After all, in today's transient world, loyalty is such a rarity, and after I read numerous threads of people having a 2nd PC (and beyond) made by DSO, it helped reaffirm where I stand. (And the companies you do business with are often a reflection of your personality.) After all, having been a Mac fan for many years but recognizing the merits of Windows (and using both platforms extensively — I believe in using what's useful), I know what being passionate about a product is about.

This review wouldn't be complete if I didn't severely thank Dragoonseal and Ralf for their helpful and timely responses to my first post ever in the DSO forums (which gives more background on the creative person I am and what I want in a computer). Dragoonseal iteratively helped me narrow down what could've been a confounding list of pieces into a selection which, I'd know upon further research, prove especially popular with DSO owners. I value the volunteers that help out here, and a number of other "questions in my head" were readily answered by searching. I must've done this intensely for several days before making my buying decision.

I played with several configs and dreamed about my new computer. Earlier, I was looking at an AMD-based system, but decided that to push performance for my current needs, I should opt for Intel. It was fun to be able to save my config for later — I'm surprised at how many other PC builders lack this key part, or how their configurators are outright broken or difficult to navigate. That lack of attention to detail leads to lost sales.

Meanwhile, I learned more about DSO as a company and enjoyed the video tutorials on the site. Helped SHOW what they do, and as someone who does video tutorials for a living, I know firsthand how valuable visual communication is. "Show it to me as I'd actually see if I was there." Goes far beyond words and helps the whole notion of owning a DSO PC feel nearer to real. Also seeing the people who actually work at DSO helped me be able to relate: "These are cool humans!"

Then, I pushed the proverbial button.

My order took longer than expected due to the "back to school" window. My expectations were also stressed due to the following: (1) the early stages happened sooner than the estimates but the later stages lagged behind, and (2) I've had previous ill experiences with PC builders. I was hoping, humanly, for DSO to be everything lavished about, yet being realistic at the same time.

During the process, I sent an email on 2010-08-16 to Alex, because while I was corresponding speedily with Cassandra, there appeared to be a mix-up with my order. Alex, a terrifically communicative paragon of his company (I read just almost all of forum posts beforehand), let me know in an email that was to-the-point (but not curt) — and where not a single word was wasted — that they were spending quality time getting the overclock right, and that even though I'd be providing my own hard drives, they needed to test HDDs anyway. YES!!!! PLEASE DO. Overclocking is an important part of the whole package for me, because as a fellow who has enough existing expertises and hobbies to delve into, I favor the convenience of getting a stable overclock, and DSO seemed to offer some of the best packages on the market. I'd hoped for a 3.8 GHz overclock, and DSO exceeded my expectations by getting it to 3.9 GHz, which they marketed as the best case scenario (from 3.3 GHz - 3.9 GHz). I know each individual CPU varies, but nonetheless, it put a smile on my face.

Now delivery — and here's another funny part — was much quicker than expected. I'll never forget seeing the tracking number on a Thursday (2010-08-18), being frustrated that it was the wrong tracking number so I emailed back for a correction. Upon receipt of that, I thought to myself: "No way this comes on Saturday!" Of course, this part of the journey is largely up to FedEx, but when you get a chain reaction of magic moments, delight arises.

Saturday (2010-08-20) came, and there was my new DSO!



Packing was supreme. The box itself was in fine condition (has anyone NEEDED a crate for shipping?), as were the boxes within. I took my time to unwrap this beast, all the while repeatedly remarking how well it was packed — certainly an expectation set by the video I'd seen.





My straightforward but important instructions were followed to a T: I asked for three SATA and power connectors to be made available for three hard drives I'd install myself, and this was exactly the case. I didn't need to unbundle any cables, which was all for the best, given the meticulous arrangements snaked inside. I'm convinced there's an art + science to cable bundling, and the way DSO did it — as the attached pictures clearly show — leaves plenty of room for airflow.






It also made the case very tight to screw back together, so I actually had to sit above the case and apply pressure inwards, leaving my hands free to fasten the thumbscrews. Nothing unreasonable, and after I had plugged in the HDDs and the fan, it was boot time!




Ah, the joys of hearing a successful POST and the lights and fans come on. Felt very cool. I think the HAF 932 is an ugly but highly pragmatic case, and since I'm here to get things done over staring at the machine, this is just what I needed.



Installing my own copy of Windows to the 80GB Intel SSD I'd provided went smooth. My only hitch was getting a black screen upon installing NVIDIA graphics card drivers — this happened after every startup, and I was all "WTF?!" Finally, considering external factors, this ended up being an incompatibility between my Hanns.G monitor and KVM switch. Since the monitor doesn't have a direct DVI port, I had to use a DVI-HDMI connector, and while this worked fine with my previous PC's graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT), it didn't for whatever reason with this 480 GTX. No worries, once I figured that out with a different monitor, I kept going.

NUMBERS GOOD.



Doing a clean install of apps and my personal files felt refreshing. To date, I've only blue-screened a couple of times but those, and various other crashes have all seemed to happen due to software incompatibilities, not because of something DSO did (or didn't do).

My performance experiences:

I've resumed work and play in my fave leading virtual world, Second Life, and grinned as video encode times in Sony Vegas have sped up immensely (and I can't wait until CUDA support matures). The "Haunted Attractions" and "MadPea Productions" videos were partially filmed and entirely visually edited on my DSO rig.

Along the way, I've become accustomed to setting graphics settings on ultra. I happened to get addicted to a game called Mass Effect 2 because of Steam. I read about Steam for awhile (including its Mac presence), but didn't think to really get into gaming (again, I used to be hardcore) until I reasoned: "I splurged a bit on a 480 GTX, why not enjoy the most this system can give me TODAY?" Needless to say, I doubted for a long time that I'd find a game to rival my love of Deus Ex (and I'm eagerly awaiting Human Revolution), but because of my DSO, I've had the fun of partaking in partake in these state-of-the-art entertainments. Not sure if I'm gonna do the 3D vision thing yet, tho. Having Just Cause 2 as a bundled bonus was fun, but I got tired of it quickly after looking at the gorgeous visuals (mmm, draw distance and sun flares) because I have a serious obsession with storytelling. But I digress.

More talk about the boxes: I like how neatly all the misc. parts were compiled into a box. While there aren't esoteric and unique instructions for how to use a DSO PC compared to others, the binder with manual is a nice touch, and true to branding, so's the T-shirt. Another symbol to build customer loyalty? These touches make you feel special.



Also, I'm glad all the appropriate connections were made. Awkwardness is plugging in an ESATA external HD, only to find out the internal header wasn't hooked up. Sure was here.

My system feels incredibly responsive. Firing up multiple apps, browsing multiple tabs at once (I treat them like decks of cards), and doing other things which noticeably bogged down my ol' Q6600 aren't a glaring issue here. I heart having it grind away while I'm doing other things on my Mac Pro. And I'm sure the DSO's overclocking matters too. The two are an odd but beloved couple.

Put it this way: any cook can take a mechanical list of ingredients, but a master chef makes sure the end result tastes sublime. And not only that, the lights will be romantic (in both the lovey-dovey and adventurous senses), the background music will be suitably complementary, and the WHOLE EXPERIENCE will be cohesive and enjoyable, from start-to-finish. If an inevitable problem happens, then the chef won't spit in your meal — he'll work with you to make sure the rest of the night goes smoothly. This "complete flow" is true of great game design, and I've found it to be true of DSO, too.

So, two months later, what do I wish could've been done better by DSO?

For one, getting help at times wasn't easy. I tried to call at multiple times of the day, only to receive the equivalent of a "we're too busy" message. I understand the need and drive to focus on quality, but it made me anxious. So I didn't use the phone much for correspondence. Email was much more responsive, although it wasn't easy for me to respond to email: instead of simply clicking the reply button, I had to enter my info each time on the DSO website. I didn't even see an option to auto-complete stuff like my order number, so I learned to manually keep that nearby. This flow could be improved (if it isn't being already, I haven't checked more recently), and if a ticket-tracking system like Dreamhost's (another customer-centric company) would be compatible here, it'd save cumulative time for both the company and customers.

Two months in and I'm hoping for many more. Thanks graciously to DSO and helpful customers for amplifying my awesome! Now, I hope my review will make others make an informed decision to leap over the fence. The grass is not only greener here, it grows faster.

*****************************************************************
If you found this review helpful and buy a DSO system, mention "Torley Wong - Order 12976" in the order comments box to help me get a bonus towards my next DSO system.

Timeline:
Stage 1 - 2010-08-03
Stage 2 - 2010-08-03
Stage 3 - 2010-08-03
Stage 4 - 2010-08-04
Stage 5 - 2010-08-04
Stage 6 - 2010-08-18
Stage 7 - 2010-08-18

Order Contents:
- Digital Storm Desktop 225019 Quantity: 1 $1,710.00
System Configuration:
Chassis Model: Special Deal Hot Seller - Cooler Master HAF 932
Exterior Finish: - Standard Factory Finish
Trim Accents: - Standard Factory Finish
Processor: Intel Core i7 930 2.8GHz (Quad Core)
Motherboard: EVGA X58 LE Edition SLI (Intel X58 Chipset)
System Memory: 6GB DDR3 1600MHz Digital Storm Certified Performance Series (Highly Recommended)
(Hand Tested)
Power Supply: 750W Digital Storm Certified (Dual SLI Compatible) (Silent Edition Recommended)
Expansion Bay: - No Thanks
Hard Drive Set 1: Operating System: - No Thanks
Set 1 Raid Options: - No Thanks
Hard Drive Set 2: Multimedia\Data: - No Thanks
Hard Drive Set 3: Backup\Misc.: - No Thanks
Optical Drive 1: DVD-R/RW/CD-R/RW (DVD Writer 24x / CD-Writer 48x)
Optical Drive 2: - No Thanks
Internet Access: High Speed Network Port (Supports High-Speed Cable / DSL / Network Connections)
Video Card(s): 1x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 1.5GB (Includes PhysX Technology)
Add-on Card: - No Thanks
Sound Card: Integrated Motherboard Audio
Extreme Cooling: AIR: Stage 2: Noctua NH-D14 Extreme Performance (Does NOT fit on the regular EVGA X58
3X SLI)
H20 Tube Color: - Not Applicable, I do not have a FrostChill or Sub-Zero LCS Cooling System Selected
Chassis Airflow: Standard Factory Chassis Fans
Internal Lighting: - No Thanks
Enhancements: - No Thanks
Chassis Mods: - No Thanks
Noise Reduction: - No Thanks
CPU Boost: FREE: Stage 1: Overclock the processor between 3.3GHz to 3.9GHz (Cooling Upgrade
Recommended)
Graphics Boost: FREE: Yes, Overclock the video card(s) as much as possible with complete stability
Memory Boost: - No Thanks, Please do not overclock my memory
OS Boost: - No Thanks, Please do not tweak the services on the operating system
Windows OS: - No Thanks, Please test my memory, I will be responsible for software based support
Restore Kit: Digital Storm Specialized Recovery System (DVD Image Based)
Virus Protection: - No Thanks
Office: - No Thanks
Benchmarking: - No Thanks
Pre-Install Game: FREE: Hot-selling game with a NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 or above graphics card
Display: - No Thanks
Surge Shield: - No Thanks
Speakers: - No Thanks
Keyboard: - No Thanks
Mouse: - No Thanks
External Storage: - No Thanks
Exclusive T-Shirt: FREE: Digital Storm T-Shirt - Black (Large)
Priority Build: - No Thanks, Ship Within 5-15 Business Days After Order Is Successfully Processed
Warranty: Life-time Expert Customer Care with 3 Year Limited Warranty
Sub-Total: $1,710.00
Tax: $0.00
S&H: Ground $65.00
Grand Total: $1,775.00
*****************************************************************

Edited by Torley - 18 Oct 2010 at 7:20pm
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maxyme View Drop Down
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  Quote maxyme Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 18 Oct 2010 at 7:55pm
congrats :) enjoy it!
every time i see an awesome rig like this i really want to be like wow. i absolutely hate you! i wish i had the money for my new rig now... haha but none the less enjoy your rig!

Edited by maxyme - 18 Oct 2010 at 7:56pm
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rholyrag View Drop Down
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  Quote rholyrag Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 19 Oct 2010 at 6:02am
Great review!  Thanks for sharing!
"What we do in life echoes in eternity" - Maximus from Gladiator
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  Quote !ender_ Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 19 Oct 2010 at 8:28am
great review, glad to see youre loving it!
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neilkaz View Drop Down
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  Quote neilkaz Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 20 Oct 2010 at 12:44pm
Great review of a superb system here for the price ! Good to see that things are cool enough for a nice worry free stable 3.9 GHz overclock.
 
.. neilkaz ..
HAF932
i7-980X at 4.34 Ghz HT 24/7
GTX 275
6 MB STT DDR3 at 1628 MHz
Stage 4 cooling
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  Quote MagiK Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 21 Oct 2010 at 4:39pm
I absolutely HATE this review, it drives the knife in deeper that my order is waiting for them to finish the development of their new cooling system...Graaaaaaaaah
Im a spoiled technofile I want my DSO now!!!


*Ahem*  ok  just kidding, Great review, glad you had such a good experience.
The review and Pics do make me anxious to order my system though  Hahaha
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Alex View Drop Down
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  Quote Alex Quote  Post ReplyReply bullet Posted: 21 Oct 2010 at 7:58pm
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