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Digital Storm Equinox (2018) review

Laptops

The Good The Digital Storm Equinox is built around excellent components delivering great gaming performance for such a thin and light laptop, and it’s backed by the company’s hands-on testing, service and support.

The Bad Except for its RGB LED keyboard, the laptop’s design lacks both flash and style. It also runs very hot while gaming.

The Bottom Line What the Digital Storm Equinox lacks in style it makes up for in gaming performance along with portability, and Digital Storm’s personal support just adds to the package.

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8.0 Overall

  • Design
    7
  • Features
    8
  • Performance
    9
  • Battery
    6

Digital Storm specializes in custom gaming desktops. Really amazing, beautifully assembled gaming desktops. Its gaming laptops aren’t quite as custom, but the company still has a hand in how they perform and then backs them with lifetime support.  

The thin-and-light 15.6-inch Equinox is based on the P955ER gaming laptop from OEM/ODM PC manufacturer Clevo. Digital Storm takes it, puts in up to 32GB of memory and up to two NVMe solid-state drives — depending on your needs and bank account — tests it for stability and performance issues and then backs it with personalized service and support. They’ll also custom color calibrate the laptop’s full HD 144Hz matte display if you want. 

Compare

Digital Storm Equinox (2018)

Dell G3 15 3590 Gaming Laptop

Dell XPS 13 (2019)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch, 2019)

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390

Design 7 7 9 9 10
Features 8 8 8 7 8
Performance 9 8 9 8 9
Battery 6 7 8 7 8
Overall 8.0 7.8 8.7 8.0 8.8
Price $792 Dell $1,700 Amazon $1,299 Walmart $880 Dell

While you can configure the storage and memory, everything else is fixed including the six-core Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max Q graphics card. The base version sells for $1,727 with 8GB of memory and a 250GB M.2 NVMe SSD, which converts to about AU$2,332 and £1,327. The $1,983 config I tested out had a 500GB SSD and 16GB of memory, and although that’s a lot, it’s actually competitively priced against models like the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 that’s similarly configured for $2,199.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Digital Storm Equinox

Digital Storm Equinox
Price as reviewed $1,983
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 144Hz display
CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design
Storage 500GB Samsung EVO 960 SSD
Networking Gigabit 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system Window 10 Home (64-bit)

On the whole, it’s a first-rate gaming laptop and the component combo makes for excellent gaming performance even with settings cranked up. Games like Fortnite and Overwatch ran smoothly as expected, but I was also able to play Battlefield 1 on ultra settings. The game might be a couple years old, but it’s still a challenge for today’s graphics cards and I never had so much as a stutter while racing through muddy trenches avoiding soldiers and shells or darting through a village avoiding sniper fire. 

Actually, there was one thing that caused the system to freeze. My review laptop’s screen was calibrated by Digital Storm (an extra $29 charge) and while the display is very good if not all too bright, the X-Rite i1Display Pro driver used for calibration seemingly caused the laptop to lock up after about an hour of gameplay. Removing the driver remedied the problem, and I was able to play uninterrupted for hours. 

Before our testing discovered that the driver was the culprit, I thought the freezing was the result of the tremendous amount of heat put out while under load. Even with the fans going full blast (there’s an app on the system to control fan speed), the temperature under the WASD keys would hit upwards of 125 degrees Fahrenheit (about 50 degrees Celsius). Again, it wasn’t the cause of the freezing and those temps shouldn’t hurt the components, but it was definitely warm on the finger tips and the top left corner of the metal chassis got very hot. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

During normal use, the system stays pretty cool and the keyboard itself is nice to type on. The same app that controls the system fans also lets you set up key combos and adjust the three-zone RGB lighting.

For gaming, the WASD keys are outlined to find them more easily, but I wish there was some separation between the keyboard and the number pad. The Asus Zephyrus’ keyboard, for instance, has a defined break between its keyboard and number pad, the arrow keys are dropped and separated, the space bar is wider on the left side and the function keys are broken into three sets of four.

Digital Storm doesn’t actually design the laptop hardware and other than being thin, its design is nothing special and it picks up and holds on to the oils from your hands. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since it sort of gives you a blank slate to cover how you choose. And it doesn’t skimp on ports and connections including two Mini DisplayPorts and a full-size HDMI out so you can surround yourself in external displays.

This is a power-hungry laptop, too, with only a little more than 4 hours of battery life in our tests, so you won’t want to stray too far from an outlet.

Digital Storm Equinox 22 Photos

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Great gaming with a personal touch

While it’s not nearly as nice to look as one of its custom desktops, the Digital Storm Equinox is still assembled and tested by its team of experts. If there’s a problem, you can call them up and get personal service with lifetime support. Just as important, though, gaming performance is excellent — even if it does get a little hot while you’re playing.

Geekbench 4 (multi-core)

Digital Storm Equinox 19725 HP Spectre x360 Convertible 15425 Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 14810 Acer Nitro 5 14220 Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 11548

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multi-core)

Digital Storm Equinox 1021 Acer Nitro 5 851 HP Spectre x360 Convertible 783 Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 691 Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 599

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (Streaming)

Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 406 HP Spectre x360 Convertible 374 Acer Nitro 5 333 Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 300 Digital Storm Equinox 247

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Digital Storm Equinox 3413 Acer Nitro 5 1873 Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 1627 HP Spectre x360 Convertible 1614 Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 758

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite (fps)

Digital Storm Equinox 171.67 Acer Nitro 5 98.51 Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 82.92 Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 76.36 HP Spectre x360 Convertible 76.28

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gaming test

Digital Storm Equinox 72.4 Acer Nitro 5 37.7 Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 31.2 Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 28.3 HP Spectre x360 Convertible 28.2

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Digital Storm Equinox Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 500GB SSD
Acer Nitro 5 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti Graphics; 256GB SSD
Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Graphics; 1TB HDD
Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics; 512GB SSD
HP Spectre x360 Convertible Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics; 512GB SSD

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