Sleek Bolt II Steam Machine packs powerful gaming in small design

At PAX East last year, I came across a small form factor (SFF) PC unlike anything I had ever seen before. That console-sized PC was Digital Storm's Bolt, a compact but surprisingly uncompromising gaming powerhouse that seemingly defied the constraints of thermal product design logic.

The original Bolt launched in 2012 had quite the beefy specs. And last year, Digital Storm launched the Titan Edition Bolt with the holy grail of graphics cards: NVIDIA's $1,000 GeForce GTX Titan. It was a monster of machine, but with a starting price at $2,500, it was well out of reach for many.

Digital Storm is back and ready to rumble. The new Bolt II sports a redesigned cage that measures 16.4-inches tall, 4-inches wide and has a depth of 14.1-inches (vertically). It's more streamlined and drops the gloss paint for a subdued matte black finish. It's stealthier-looking. The vents are precision cut and their placements deliberately chosen to expose certain aspects of the machine such as the "GeForce" logo. Even the power button brings back fond memories of old arcade buttons. We also got a first look at a carbon fiber panel that Digital Storm hopes to roll out later. (As you can see in the photo gallery down below, the Bolt II is a beaut.)

The Bolt II isn't just merely a SFF PC. It's a supercharged Steam Machine — the first one with liquid-cooling, actually. Wait a second, I know what you're thinking: aren't all Windows PCs Steam Machines, since they can play games from Steam? Not quite. While, all PCs can pretty much run games from the Steam client, a Steam Machine is classified so only if it has Valve's Steam OS installed on it. The Bolt II is a Windows 8 PC and does everything your normal high-end gaming PC will do, but it can also boot into Steam OS, which lets you run wild endlessly in a gaming environment, much like a game console.

Digital Storm remained tight-lipped when we pressed on starting specs, but we know at least one configuration. Specs for the $2,584 Bolt II model will include an Intel Core i7 4770K processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti with 3GB of VRAM, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, 1TB hard drive, 120GB SSD, 8x DVD multi-drive, 250mm liquid CPU cooler and a 500W power supply.

The only thing the Bolt II Steam Machine doesn't come with is Steam's new oddball controller — the one with the two trackpads instead of analogs. It will be compatible with Xbox 360 controllers and Logitech wireless controllers, though. And of course, with mouse and keyboard.

The key difference between the Bolt II and the impending launch of a hundreds of Steam Machines is quality. While startups are expected to build Steam Machines with decent specs at prices comparable to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ($400 and $500, respectively), Digital Storm isn't playing the same game, says Harjit Chana, the company's Chief Brand Officer.

Instead, the Bolt II, like its predecessor, will target the high-end gamer — the kind of person who demands top-notch performance, and knows that premium doesn't come cheap.

The Bolt II starts at $1,899 and will go on sale later this month, but Harjit tells us Digital Storm wants to lower that to $1,500. Yes, a Steam Machine is coming by the end of this month.  We'll be putting the Bolt II through a review later this month, so stay tuned for that. Start freaking out, NOW.

Via Digital Storm

Posted on location at CES 2014. All photos taken by Raymond Wong for DVICE.

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