The ultraportable revolution has reshaped the entire laptop industry over the last year, but some of the most dramatic changes have happened in gaming, where performance has finally reached the point that portability is attainable. While powerful 17- and 18-inch laptops are still the choice for high-performance gaming, the shift to smaller, slimmer ultraportables has made PC gaming on the go a reality. As such, the 13-inch Digital Storm Veloce is a bit of a surprise, not because it’s small and portable, but because it still manages to look a bit bulky despite being under 5 pounds and only 1.26 inches thick.
The body of the laptop might look familiar to anyone shopping around for a gaming system, because it’s a Clevo W230stp chassis, so you’ll see a few similar looking systems from other manufacturers. Digital Storm does try to distinguish this system from others with a red Digital Storm logo across the matte-black lid, but not everyone wants a large logo on their system.
Though much smaller than the average 15- or 17-inch gaming laptop, the 13-inch Veloce is pretty bulky compared with the likes of the Razer Blade (2013) or the MSI GE40 2OC-009US, measuring 8.9 by 13 by 1.26 inches (HWD) and weighing in at 4.6 pounds (with a 1.2-pound power adapter). While that’s not too heavy to carry around, it is a half-pound more than the Razer Blade (4.1 pounds) and the power adapter is unfortunately a necessary extra to pack with it.
The 13.3-inch display does differentiate the Veloce from other gaming ultraportables we’ve reviewed, stepping up from the likes of the Razer Blade and MSI GE40 with 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, providing full 1080p—the other two top out as 1,600-by-900 resolution, opting for lower resolution in the pursuit of higher frame rates. Depending on where you fall in the frame rates vs. resolution debate, the 1080p display may be a good or bad idea, but there’s no denying that it looks good. The colors are rich, the blacks are deep and dark, and the details are sharp.
By comparison, the audio from the built-in Onkyo speakers (enhanced with Creative SBX Pro Studio software) is passable, but disappointing. There isn’t much bass to speak off, but the real let down is in volume, which never seemed to get loud enough. You’ll definitely want to use some headphones, whether on the go or in the quiet of your own home.
The full-size chiclet keyboard is good, but the key motion is a bit shallow and stiff, especially compared to the slimmer Razer Blade. It also features an adjustable backlight, which will be helpful during late night raids and campaigns. While many gamers will prefer to use their own gaming keyboard, the keyboard on the Veloce will get the job done when you’re gaming on the road. The touchpad offers sold navigation and gesture support, along with separate right and left buttons; but it’s a bit small, measuring only 3.4 by 1.6 inches, as opposed to the Razer Blade’s expansive 4.2-by-2.5-inch touchpad.
The chunky dimensions of the Veloce do have the benefit of providing lots of room for all of the ports and connectors you might want, from the common, like USB ports (three USB 3.0, one USB 2.0) and HDMI, to the harder to find, like Ethernet, VGA, and an SD card slot. Thanks to an Intel Wireless-AC 7260 wireless card, you’ll enjoy both 802.11AC Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
A combination of solid-state storage and spinning hard drive provide both performance and capacity, thanks to a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) and 750GB 7,200rpm hard drive. It’s also fairly clean out of the box, with nothing preinstalled but Windows 8, a handful of Nvidia drivers, and Windows Recovery Toolkit. Digital Storm covers the Veloce with a generous three-year warranty, along with free labor for repairs and upgrades, and lifetime phone support.
The Veloce is outfitted with an Intel Core i7-4800MQ processor, a quad-core 2.7GHz processor overclocked to 3.7GHz. It’s a step up from the CPU found in the MSI GE40 and Razer Blade, and Digital Storm pairs it with 8GB of RAM. The resulting performance is great, finishing PCMark 7 with 6,302 points, ahead of both the MSI GE40 (5,339 points) and the Razer Blade (5,904 points). It pulled ahead in our other processor intensive tests as well, beating all competitors in CineBench R11.5 (6.68 points), Handbrake (35 seconds) and Photoshop CS6 (3 minutes 31 seconds).
Thanks to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M mobile GPU with 2GB of dedicated memory—the same found in the Razer Blade—but it uses it to greater effect, leading the category in 3DMark 11 with scores of 6,731 points (Entry settings) and 1,299 (Extreme settings). It also squeezed out better frame rates at low resolution and detail settings, with 59 frames per second in Aliens Vs. Predator and 55 fps in Heaven. Where it did fall behind, however, was when we dialed up the resolution and detail. Because it has to push all of the additional pixels that come with 1080p resolution, the 13-inch Veloce fell behind the 14-inch Razer Blade, with 20fps (Alien vs. Predator) and 21 fps (Heaven), compared with the Razer Blade, which scored 26 fps (Aliens vs. Predator) and 25fps (Heaven). Again, whether this is a bad thing depends upon whether you prize resolution or frame rates. In either case, you should be able to play any current gen game, albeit with the detail settings lowered a bit.
Despite the Veloce leading in other performance categories, it fell behind in battery life. In our battery rundown test, the Veloce lasted only 3 hours 31 minutes with a 6-cell 62Wh battery. Even a year ago this would be short—the Alienware m14x R2 lasted 4 hours 40 minutes with a similar sized 63Wh battery—but compared to the likes of the MSI GE40 (6:14) or the Razer Blade (6:52), it’s hardly in the same league. Given that the 13-inch size is ideal for portability, the short battery life is especially disappointing.
Ultimately, the Digital Storm Veloce is a question of priorities. If you value power over portability and display resolution over frame rates, then there’s a lot to like about the Veloce, which led in most of our performance tests and offers a higher 1080p resolution. However, at this size of laptop, portability is often the greater concern, and the heavier weight, chunkier design, and dramatically shorter battery life prevent the Digital Storm Veloce from taking home top honors. As a result, while the Digital Storm Veloce is recommended for performance fiends, the Razer Blade (2013) remains our Editors’ Choice for ultraportable gaming.
|Processor Name||Intel Core i7-4800MQ|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M|
|2nd Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4600|
|Processor Speed||2.7 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||External|
|Screen Size||13.3 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||878 GB|
|Storage Type||HDD, SSD|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc