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Digital Storm launches Bolt, a tiny gaming PC with a giant graphics card

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Gallery Photo: Digital Storm Bolt hands-on pictures
Gallery Photo: Digital Storm Bolt hands-on pictures

Early this year, Dell introduced the Alienware X51, a miniature gaming PC just slightly larger than your average game console, yet still capable enough to play the latest games. Now, Alienware has some competition in that realm: the Digital Storm Bolt, a computer roughly the same size, but even more powerful. Despite having a chassis just 3.6 inches wide and 14 inches tall, Digital Storm's managed to cram a 500W power supply, a GeForce GTX 680 graphics card, and a Core i7-3770K CPU overclocked up to 4.6GHz.

Mind you, Digital Storm's a boutique retailer, and the Bolt isn't exactly a bang-for-the-buck machine. Compared to the Alienware X51, it's not nearly as cheap. Where the Alienware starts at $699, you'll have to shell out at least $999 for the base Bolt configuration, which comes with merely decent specs: a dual-core 3.1GHz Core i3-2100 processor, GeForce GT 650 graphics with 2GB of video memory, 8GB of memory, 1TB of storage, and an Asus H77 motherboard. Even at the $1,249 price point, which ups the ante to a Core i5-3570K CPU and GeForce GTX 660 graphics, the Alienware is a better deal... but that's about as powerful as the Alienware gets.

You'll have to shell out at least $999 for the base Bolt configuration

The secret is that where the X51 is held back by a custom 330W external power brick, the Bolt uses a standard 1U rackmount power supply, with 500W to start. That's enough to run a Core i7 processor, a GeForce GTX 680 graphics card, 16GB of memory, a 120GB solid state drive and that 1TB hard drive, all connected to a Z77 motherboard for $1,949. With a 700W power supply, Digital Storm plans to ship a GeForce GTX 690, too. We took a peek inside the Bolt last week, and while it's not nearly as carefully designed for easy upgrades — keep that screwdriver handy — the combination of a large GPU bay, a hefty power supply and three drive slots (two 2.5-inch, one 3.5-inch) lets you cram far more into the Mini-ITX chassis.

If you're planning to spend well over $1,200 on a mini gaming PC, the Bolt seems like the better bet, but there's also the Falcon Northwest Tiki to consider after you cross the $1,700 mark. If you're spending less, the Alienware X51 is still the tiny tower to get.