Premium gaming performance doesn't always have to come at an extra-premium cost. Take the Digital Storm Vanquish 4, which packs a powerful Nvidia GTX 970 graphics card and a speedy 6th-generation Intel Core i7 processor into a package that's both compact and easy to upgrade. The Vanquish 4 ($1,599 as tested, $899 starting) isn't the sleekest or slimmest gaming PC we've played with, but it's one of the best values out there in terms of performance for the price.
The Vanquish 4 boasts a compact sense of style that's signature to Digital Storm PCs. This small tower is laden with front-facing arrow markers throughout its gray plastic exterior, which, combined with its exposed cooling fans in the front, made me feel like the desktop was gearing up to send a controlled explosion of awesomeness my way. It's not quite as thin or elegant as Digital Storm's higher-end Bolt 3, but it's certainly no eyesore.
It wouldn't be a Digital Storm desktop without some exposed guts, so it's only natural that the Vanquish's side panel sports a small window that lets you see its core components in action. The PC's external backlighting can be customized to glow in various shades of red, blue, green and yellow, and there's no shortage of cool lighting effects. You can opt to have the lights slowly fade in and out, or, if you really want to show off, trigger a dazzling multicolor light show with the included remote.
While relatively compact, the 17.3 x 21.7 x 8.3-inch Vanquish isn't exactly going to slide into your entertainment center. Slimmer machines such as the Alienware X51 and Maingear Drift will do a better job blending into the living room.
Ports and Upgradability
The Vanquish's port layout is as plug-and-play as they come, with two USB 3.0 ports and both headphone and microphone jacks in the front. There's also a DVD-R/RW drive.
In the back, you'll find an Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.1 ports, a reversible USB Type-C port and two PS/2 inputs for those clinging to their old-school mice and keyboards. The PC sports line-in, line-out and microphone jacks for your audio needs, as well as HDMI, DVI and VGA connections for video. If you need more monitor ports, you can plug right into the HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI ports located directly on the Vanquish's GTX 970 graphics card.
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The Vanquish is designed to be easily upgraded over time, and doing so is a breeze. After twisting off a hand screw on the rear of the machine, it only took me a few seconds to slide off its side panel in order to access its core parts.
What's in the Box
The Vanquish ships with a loaded accessory box, which includes driver discs, a remote for controlling the system's lighting and a surplus of video cables. Our particular Vanquish 4 configuration includes an impressive 3-year warranty, though your coverage will vary depending on which model you pick.
You can confidently crank modern games to high settings on the Vanquish 4, thanks to its Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 GPU with 4GB of VRAM. The open-world stealth action of Metal Gear Solid V played wonderfully on the PC at 2560 x 1440 with graphics set to high, allowing me to ride through the desert on horseback and gun down enemy soldiers at a slick 60 frames per second.
The Vanquish tore through the GPU-taxing Metro: Last Light at 1080p, running the game at a blistering 170 frames per second on low settings and a highly playable 50 fps on high. Our GTX 960-powered Alienware X51 ($1,999 as tested) trailed the Vanquish on both fronts, turning in respective frame rates of 119 and 28 on low and high settings.
As far as synthetic benchmarks go, the Vanquish scored 2,787 on the 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra test. That more than doubles the X51's mark of 1,131.
The Vanquish 4's 6th-generation, 4-GHz Intel Core i7-6700K processor and 16GB of RAM give the PC plenty of power for more than just gaming. The Vanquish never buckled under the workload I put it through, even as I watched multiple Twitch streams, downloaded a game in Steam and did some work in Google Docs ─ all while running Metal Gear Solid V.
Digital Storm's PC scored 18,890 on the Geekbench 3 overall performance test, surpassing the 6th-generation, Core i7-6700K-powered Alienware X51 (16,625), while coming up short of our 20,847 gaming desktop average.
The Vanquish proved its productivity mettle on our spreadsheet test, where it matched 20,000 names to addresses in 2 minutes and 52 seconds. That's faster than the X51's 3:06, as well as our 3:12 average.
The Vanquish's 250GB SSD chewed through our file transfer test, copying 4.97GB of mixed media at a zippy 221 MB per second. That breezes past the X51's 256GB SSD (60.5 MBps), but fails to top our 243-MBps average.
If you're looking to spend less than $1,000, the Vanquish 4's Level 1 configuration costs $899 and includes an Intel Core i5-6500 processor, 8GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 950 graphics and a 1TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive. The $1,099 Level 2 config ups the graphics to GTX 960 and adds a 120GB SSD as well as CPU air cooling.
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Shelling out $1,349 for the Level 3 model gets you an Intel Core i5 6600K processor, stronger GTX 970 graphics and a 250GB SSD. Finally, the $1,599 Level 4 model that we tested ups the graphics to a GTX 980 and the RAM to 16GB.
Don't be fooled by its unassuming design or fairly attainable price tag ─ the Digital Storm Vanquish 4 ($1,599 as tested, $899 starting) is a big-league gaming PC. This small tower's GTX 970 graphics card and 6th-generation Core i7 processor can breeze through modern games, and the PC's painless, tool-free upgradability makes it a machine you can build on for years to come.
Those looking for something sleeker and more living-room friendly might want to check out the latest Alienware X51, which supports an optional graphics amp for extra-strong GPU performance. But while the X51 starts at a cheaper $649, you'll have to pay closer to $2,000 just to get performance that's comparable to our $1,599 Vanquish 4. Overall, Digital Storm's entry-level PC is one of the best you can get in its price range.