Ammo not included
For some people, putting together their own custom computer isn't worth the time and effort. Thankfully, companies like Digital Storm exist to fill that void by providing excellent desktops at reasonable prices that are already built and ready to use.
This review will delve into whether the Digital Storm Marauder is worth the asking price or if it's simply better to build the computer yourself, assuming you're open to that option.
First off, let's go over the specs of the Marauder. For this review, we'll be taking a closer look at the "Level 3" version of the system.
Processor: Intel i5-3570K 3.4GHz
Right up front, I have to say that I'm a real big fan of this computer. The components used are pretty solid and made by reputable companies, unlike some of the other companies who offer services similar to Digital Storm.
The case of the Marauder is military themed, giving it more of a rugged look than some cases out there nowadays. Designed to look like an ammunition case, the entire case is cammo green with easy-to-open clasps on the top, which really only take a few seconds to undo (hurray for quick access!).
The left side panel has transparent plastic allowing you to see through to the interior of the computer with two vents where you can install two extra fans if you'd like. In addition to two fans in the front and one in the back, the Marauder comes with three removable air filters (two on the bottom and a jumbo one in the front).
I'm not a big fan of how the filters are placed, but they seem to be relatively high quality filters (well, as high quality as filters can get, I suppose). To top the military theme off, the buttons resemble missile launch buttons, where the big red button is power and the yellow/black striped button is protected by a flip-up plastic cover.
Going into more detail on the case...
As I was saying before, the case has a very militaristic theme, which makes it interesting to look at. The first thing I noticed when I saw the computer were the two handles on top; they make it extremely easy to carry around. Of course, this doesn't make much of a difference if you don't really move your computer around frequently.
The sides come off extremely easy, which is a plus if you're like me and open your computer up all the time for no good reason. They're attached by two latches (two per each door) and you just need to unbuckle them to take the cover off. No tools, no time needed at all -- props, Digital Storm.
The front panel has the usual ports you would expect out of a computer: audio and microphone jacks along with two USB 3.0 ports. The DVD-RW drive is sadly not a Blu-ray player, but I can definitely get over that. However, it bothers my OCD side a little that the color of the drive does not match the color of the case.
The inside of the Marauder is nice, clean, and has plenty of space
As expected of a company that builds computers for a living, the inside of the Marauder is very clean. There are no PSU cables sticking out or any real mess to worry about, for that matter. As I was saying before, there are three fans (two in front, one in back), but the thing that I got the most kick out of were the easily removable hard drive bays.
They're remarkably intuitive to use -- all it takes is squeezing the two pinch things in the front and a pull.
Let's get down to the PC components
So what really makes any computer worth it are the components inside, and what really makes or breaks a company that sells these computers is how they compare to their competition and those who choose to build themselves.
Here's the price you can get just by buying the components yourself:
So with the Marauder's base price starting at $1199, that's a $166.38 difference just to put some parts together for you. With that kind of money, you might as well buy a decent monitor!
Though, there's some justification for the extra $166 that may tip the scales in Digital Storm's favor. Along with the computer, you're going to get lifetime support and three years of hardware warranty.
To top it off, Digital Storm's customer service is very good. I called them as if the Marauder was having major issues (it wasn't, but I wanted to test out their service) and they immediately offered to send me a replacement computer, no questions asked. The representative just went straight there. For the investment you're putting into your computer, I would definitely consider paying a little extra for service like that.
For the most part, I agree with the selection of parts used in the Marauder. I might have chosen a higher wattage on the power supply in case I wanted to overclock it in the future, but it's definitely going to be fine at 600W. Additionally, I'm personally partial to Western Digital hard drives, as I've had some problems with Seagate's reliability, but that's not a big deal at all -- Seagate is still a reputable company.
Obviously, the case I chose isn't the same case that comes with the Marauder, but it's a decent case with plenty of room for a mid tower, and the price range is around the price I would estimate the case on the Marauder would cost anyway.
Moving on to the operating system, I chose to go with Windows 7 Home Premium despite Windows 8 coming out simply because it's more reliable and you'll be safe running all of your games/programs on it right off the bat. That being said, Windows 8 does only cost $40 for an upgrade (so you can grab an old Windows disc and install it as a trial, then install Windows 8, etc.) and that can knock off a bit off the price. Again, it's up to you -- install Ubuntu if that's what makes you happy.
How it runs games
While I'm not going to go into too much detail on this because it's not quite needed -- there are extensive analyses to be found elsewhere -- as expected from a high end computer, it runs essentially everything on max settings.
I averaged about 40 frames per second while playing World vs. World in Guild Wars 2, and 60 FPS in Battlefield 3. I also ranged above 60 FPS on League of Legends and StarCraft II, but those weren't much of a surprise considering that I can run them on my laptop just fine.
As with every other review in the world on things like this, the big question is whether or not I think you should buy it. As always, I'm going to say it's conditional.
If you have any knowledge when it comes to building computers, then I'd say that it's not worth it. Save yourself the money and buy something personalized with the money you saved. Don't forget that most of these components come with warranties of their own and you can utilize them at any time -- Digital Storm just makes it pathetically easy.
If you don't have experience building computers, then it's probably best to go with the Marauder. It's an excellent machine and the warranty will make your life easier.
However, there's a lot to be said about learning to custom build your own computer. You get to know a lot about your setup and eventually become your own IT support along with being able to help others! I wouldn't necessarily experiment with such expensive parts like this, but it's definitely worth a try if you're in the market for your first time.