The best water-cooled gaming system

For PC gamers that crave performance, nothing beats a water cooled rig.

This is a sponsored post. 

Thanks to the recent introduction of PC gaming peripherals in the living room and increased popularity in VR, small form factor systems are more popular than ever. Versatile SFF systems are perfect for your desk, living room and even the occasional LAN party. Luckily for us, they’ve also never been so powerful.

When it comes to packing full-sized desktop power into a tiny water cooled package, nothing beats the ultra-sleek Bolt 3 from Digital Storm. Utilizing a custom version of Lian Li’s PC-O5SX case, the PC is a mere 18.3 x 15.1 x 5.8 (H,D,W) inches. But don’t be fooled by its size, the Bolt 3 packs a serious punch. Our suggested configuration features the Intel® Core™ i7-6700K with a base clock of 4.0GHz and turbo-boost up to 4.2GHz. With the system’s included closed loop liquid cooling, we are easily able to overclock the machine to a stable 4.7GHz.

The configuration comes equipped with Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 for graphics power, also water cooled. We haven’t found a need to overclock the beefy 1080 yet, but the extra low temperatures offer more than enough headroom for some serious performance increases. Whether you’re looking to get VR-ready or play the latest AAA titles in 4K, the Bolt 3 is absolutely qualified. And with DirectX 12 support coming to more games in the future, the Intel® Core™ i7-6700K with hyper threading will perform better than ever.

Some users ask us why they should bother water cooling their PC. For us, it’s all about maximizing the potential and longevity of our hardware which is much more important when you are building a small system where airflow can be restrictive. The Bolt 3 is able to pull this off using a custom Swiftech H240 X2 all-in-one cooler featuring a single closed loop that cools both the CPU and the GPU. This little powerhouse is truly future proof with more than enough cooling for modern games.

Accompanying its modern Z170 platform, the Bolt 3 features 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a generous amount of storage in the form of a 500GB SSD and 2TB HDD. You can also use the included M.2 slot for additional storage with the fastest consumer SSD technology available. One of our favorite features of the system is the incredible cable management job. From the power supply cables to the I/O panels, Digital Storm did an incredible job with cable routing to make sure the system is beautiful when displayed on your desk.

While most of us here at PC Gamer tend to build our own PCs, the Bolt 3 is still a great choice even for the experienced builder. When using PCPartPicker to build our own identical system, the total cost came out to $2,484.06. Using the Digital Storm configurator, our recommended Bolt 3 comes out to $3,082, just $600 more than the custom built solution. When you consider the difficulty of building a custom cooling loop in a tiny case and Digital Storm’s included 3-year warranty and support, $600 is actually quite reasonable.

Specifications

  • Case: Digital Storm Bolt 3
  • CPU: Intel® Core™ i7-6700K
  • Motherboard: ASUS Z170I PRO GAMING
  • GPU: GeForce GTX 1080 8GB (PNY)
  • Cooling: HyrdoLux LITE: Integrated Cooling
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz Digital Storm Performance Series
  • Storage: 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD + 2TB 7200RPM HDD
  • Optical Drive: DVD-R/RW/CD-R/RW
  • Power Supply: 750W Lian-Li PE 750 (Platinum Rated)
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