Seeing the 17-inch Digital Storm Krypton gaming laptop might elicit a sense of deja vu. It’s understandable, as this system is built into the exact same chassis as thewe reviewed recently.
That’s because of an odd quirk in the PC industry, where smaller, boutique companies take off-the-shelf desktop cases and laptop chassis, fill them with high-end components, and tune, test, and sometimes overclock them. You end up with a custom-made system that’s extremely powerful, but that often looks very generic, or just plain ugly.
To make them feel even more custom, the systems are often dressed up with custom logos or touchpad overlays, and come accompanied by hands-on warranties with better access to live, knowledgeable tech support than you’d get from the big guys.
In contrast, major PC makers such as HP or Lenovo have the resources to design and fabricate custom shells for their PCs, but then tend to fill them with nearly identical off-the-shelf collections of components.
In this example, both the Origin PC Eon17-S and Digital Storm Krypton models we’re currently using are built around the same Compal chassis (that’s a Taiwanese company known for making tech hardware for clients including Toshiba, Acer, and others), and each has been slightly customized to reflect their respective brands.
Both are highly configurable with a variety of options for processors, storage, and graphics, although the Krypton we have is a more modest build. Price and availability of specific components can shift in build-to-order systems, but our system came out to $2,240, which is a sizable investment by any standard. The Origin Eon 17S we tested was even more, $3,505.
While available to ship internationally, Digital Storm asks that you call for shipping quotes (and taxes). Directly converted, pricing for the UK would be about £1,380, and pricing for Australian is about AU$2,480.
Why the price difference between two similar-looking 17-inch gaming laptops? Both have 16GB of RAM, the current Nvidia GeForce 880M GPU, and a combination of SSD and HDD storage (and you can adjust the level of storage to suit your budget). The big price difference comes from the CPU. The Origin Eon 17-S configuration we reviewed happens to use a very expensive CPU you don’t see very often (and that choice didn’t seem to have a big impact on our gaming experience, either).
While both systems have Intel Core i7 CPUs from the current Haswell generation, the Origin PC has an MX, or “extreme” edition chip (the Core i7-4940MX), while the Digital Storm has an MQ chip, just a basic high-end quad-core chip. That MX adds more than $900 to the cost, versus a more common Core i7, and if you configured the Eon17-S with a same CPU as the Digital Storm, its price drops down to around $2,600.
Choosing between these two, or any of several other boutique gaming PC brands comes down the availability of the configurable parts you want, and your comfort level with different degrees of customer service. For example, Digital Storm offers what the company calls lifetime support, which means free labor for repairs and upgrades, similar to what Origin PC promises, but doesn’t include the 45-day no-dead-pixel guarantee that Origin does.
In our hands-on tests, the Krypton felt indistinguishable from the more expensive Eon17-S, although that covers weeks of use, not months or years. Any no amount of service or support will make it look any less clunky. A new generation of systems, such as theand , are making inroads as high-design gaming laptops, but they can’t yet match the performance of these desktop-dominating monsters.
|Digital Storm Krypton||Alienware 17 (2014)||Origin EON17-S (2014)|
|Price as reviewed||$2,240||$2,967||$3,505|
|Display size/resolution||17.3-inch, 1,920×1,080 screen||17.3-inch, 1,920×1,080 screen||17.3-inch, 1,920×1,080 screen|
|PC CPU||2.8GHz Intel Core i7 4810MQ||2.9GHz Intel Core i7 4910MQ||3.1GHz Intel Core i7 4940MX|
|PC Memory||16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz||16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz||16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 880M||Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M||Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M|
|Storage||256GB SSD, 750GB 7,200rpm HDD||256GB SSD 1TB 5,400rpm HDD||(2) 120GB SSD 750GB 7,200rpm HDD|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)|
Design and features
From a design and usability standpoint, the Digital Storm Krypton and Origin PC Eon17-S we recently reviewed are essentially identical, and our observations apply to both. Both are big, black, and boxy, and look essentially the same as similar systems might have looked anytime over the past several years.
That’s because this is essentially an off-the-shelf laptop case of the type that boutique PC makers such as Origin PC buy, then fill with custom components. You’re still stuck with a thick, angular machine that doesn’t feel as if it was designed from the ground up for gamers.
While Origin PC adds a new sculpted A-panel, which is the panel covering the back of the lid, Digital Storm just adds a logo to the flat black lid. A different, winged logo is stamped on the backlit touch pad, adding a little bit of a custom feel (interestingly, the Origin PC version is identically customized, with its own logo in the same spot on the touch pad).
The key faces on the not-quite-island-style keyboard are widely spaced, but the base of each key is wider and nearly touches its neighbor. The large keys are great for WASD gaming, but I find that Alienware’s soft-touch keyboard has a better overall feel.
Every gaming laptop keyboard seems to feel the need to be backlit these days. In this chassis, you can set multiple zones with different colors under the keyboard, plus a distinct zone for the touchpad. The Alienware backlit keyboard system is somewhat more polished, with more zones and options, but the overall coolest-looking backlit gaming keyboard is arguably the red backlit one on the Lenovo Y50 and.
The 17.3-inch display is especially important, as it will be your main conduit to games. The one here has a native resolution of 1,920×1,080 pixels, which is the long-time standard for multimedia and gaming PCs, although some systems are boldly moving past that into 4K (or close to it) territory.