So there you have it: our first review of a Haswell-powered gaming desktop. You've seen the performance and while great, it's not worth upgrading from an Ivy Bridge-powered system. I'll leave the exact i7-4770K performance analysis to our CPU reviewer and head into the touchy-feely of the system.
The case arrived with a few dirty fingerprints on the porous white plastic parts of the case, which makes me have to ask why. The fingerprints/dirt smudges were unexpected as computers generally aren't handled with dirty hands. The smudges came off with some cleaning, but it's still something I didn't expect from a brand-new PC.
While there may have been a less-than-professional job handling the case, the cable management is completely top-notch and some of the best work I have ever observed in a system. It helps that the system is as large as it is, but even the cables hidden behind the motherboard tray were neatly bound and routed. To do a job like this on my own system would easily take an hour or more and is definitely a nice touch.
Noise was definitely an issue. 59 decibels is quite a lot, almost as loud as a normal conversation at three feet. I have to lean towards the heat issue being poor thermal paste or a poor thermal paste application as Intel would be unable to cool this chip with just a normal heatsink if a water cooling unit can't keep temperatures below 80 degrees Celsius. To be fair, however, the chip was Turbo Boosted to 4.2GHz the entire time, seemingly indicating the chip had plenty of headroom in TDP and heat. With some more experience with the Haswell platform, we'll learn for sure if it was an issue with the system, or if Haswell is just a warm / hot running chip at load.
Upgradability is a non-issue. It uses completely standard PC components and has tons of room for additional RAM, hard drives and video cards. Simply drop in more RAM, a new video card, or an SSD for added performance down the road.
Our system is quite high-end and comes with a high-end price tag. At $2,731, this is a massive purchase. As the 4770K isn't officially released (at the time of writing), it's hard to say just how good of a value this is. It comes with a three year limited warranty and life-time "expert customer care." It's built-in the United States, as well, which both help justify any premium over the component cost.
The Digital Storm ODE, when it comes down to the line, is a great system. It's definitely not worth upgrading from a 3770K-powered machine as the performance bonus just isn't there with the 4770K. However, if you're coming from an older machine, it's definitely a worthy upgrade, or also a good choice for a new gaming system. The computer really is a high-end system. The cable management, as noted above, is absolutely gorgeous. The Digital Storm ODE should definitely be on your radar if you're looking for a new Haswell-powered system for your gaming needs.
If the system ran a bit cooler and quieter, along with not arriving with fingerprints and dirt smudges, I would have no hesitations awarding an Editor's Choice award. However, because of the few issues experienced, I can't justify it.