Digital Storm Equinox (2018) Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Powerful graphics and performance; Neat interior design; Great touchpad and keyboard

The Cons

Dim display; Hot temps while gaming; Bland exterior

Verdict

The Digital Storm Equinox has powerful performance and a wonderful keyboard and touchpad, but suffers from a dim display and some intense heat.

Thin doesn't equal weak. A point Digital Storm drives home with the Equinox. Priced at $1,983, this 0.7-inch system serves up lots of power thanks to its 8th Gen Intel processor and Nvidia Max-Q GPU. You also get a relatively fast SSD and a comfortable, customizable keyboard. However, a dimmer-than-average display and an uninspired design keeps the Equinox from earning a higher rating.

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Design

Despite a few details that enhance its look, the exterior of the Equinox's aluminum-alloy chassis is dull and unpolished. The white logo centered at the top looks faded and insignificant. And what's more troubling is that the design is not the same one shown on the Equinox website; the logo is black and engraved into the chassis with the words "Digital Storm" underneath it. The logo on the website looks like it's dressed to impress, while ours looks like its ready for a night of Netflix and chill.

There are a few details that signal that the Equinox is in fact a gaming laptop. A stylized line starts at the top of the lid and runs down the aluminum and splits into a curve along the seam. There's also a silver accent near the bottom of the chassis, which leads to a full silver hinge for a small touch of panache. The glossy rear diagonal vent grill closes with an arrow in the center, which, truth be told, is the only thing that looks right about the exterior.

The interior is much more exciting. As soon as you open the laptop, the RGB island-style keyboard illuminates, welcoming you to its lovely comic-book-style font. Underneath, toward the left, is a sleek, glossy Digital Storm logo protruding from the chassis. The bezels on the display are a decent size, but its curved design is unappealing and makes it feel thicker than it is.

The Equinox has a plethora of ports. On the left, there is a secure lock slot, a power input, an HDMI port, two Mini DisplayPorts, two USB Type-C 3.1 ports and a pair of USB 3.0 ports. Along the right sits a Gigabit Ethernet LAN, a 6-in-1 card reader, one USB 3.0 port and inputs for headphones and a microphone.

At 4.7 pounds and 15 x 10 x 0.7 inches, the Equinox ranks among the thinnest and second lightest of its competitors. The PowerSpec 1510 is heavier and thicker at 6.5 pounds and 1.3 inches. The Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 and the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin are just as thin as the Equinox (0.7 inches), but the Zephyrus is heavier (5.5 pounds) and the Stealth Thin is the lightest (4.1 pounds).

Display

The Equinox's 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 matte IPS display is somewhat dim and lacks color compared with current gaming laptops. I felt like I needed to play in a dark room to really enjoy the colors and sharpness. However, the screen still managed to put on a show, especially while playing Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. Standing atop a fortress wall, I hovered over my prey: the Dark Trickster, Pûg. The red-orange sunset illuminated Talion with a soft glow, and as I leapt into the corpse-ridden courtyard, dashing toward the glossy mud-skinned orc with vibrant green eyes, I felt completely immersed. The panel's 144-Hertz refresh rate helped ensure that all those heady vistas rendered smoothly.

When I watched the live-action trailer for Rage 2, the characters were crisp and colorful. From the pink smoke grenades coloring the background in an off-white, to the foggy forest being ravaged by bandits and mutants, each scene felt vibrant with color. However, the numbers don't lie; there are better displays for a cheaper price.

The Equinox's 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 matte IPS display is somewhat dim and lacks color compared with current gaming laptops.

According to our colorimeter, the Equinox covers only 113 percent of the sRGB color gamut, matching the PowerSpec 1510, which is the least colorful among the competitors. The typical color range for premium gaming laptops is 132 percent. Compared with other laptops, the Stealth Thin was the best at 150 percent, while the Zephyrus fell short of the average at 120 percent.

MORE: Laptops with the Best Display Brightness

At 263 nits,the Equinox missed the 279-nit premium gaming laptop average. The PowerSpec was the brightest with 306 nits, but the the Stealth Thin (293 nits) and the Asus (286 nits) weren't too far behind.

Keyboard & Touchpad

The Equinox's RGB-lit keyboard looks gorgeous and smooth with its comic font, but it doesn't provide those satisfying clicks my fingers yearn for. Yet, the keys have great travel (1.8 millimeters) and actuation force (69 grams), which is within the range of what we typically look for (1.5 - 2 mm of travel and 60 grams).

Despite the lack of click, the keyboard is incredibly comfortable and well-spaced, allowing me to manage 61 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test. That narrowly beats my 60 wpm average.

The Equinox's RGB-lit keyboard looks gorgeous and smooth with its comic font, but it doesn't provide those satisfying clicks my fingers yearn for. 

The pre-installed Control Center 2.0 allows you to customize keyboard lighting either as a whole or through three sections: left, mid and right. There's also the Keyboard Effect option that makes the keyboard cycle through all the colors at different paces. The Control Center 2.0 allows you to program macros for your keyboard as well as for your mouse too. Additionally, the app keeps track of performance earmarks such as memory usage, temperatures and fan speeds.

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The 4.2 x 2.3-inch touchpad is silky smooth and comes with two discrete mouse buttons, which feel natural to use. There's also a fingerprint reader in the top-left corner, and while that does take up touchpad space, my fingers rarely lingered in that area. The touchpad is quick in its response time and accurate in capturing Windows 10 gestures.

Audio

The speakers in the Equinox are mediocre, but produce audio loud enough to fill a private office. As I was talking to the Bloody Baron in Witcher 3, I could hear the intense violin score under his surprisingly audible drunken voice. When in combat, however, the highs suffer from a little too much treble and not enough bass. As I slashed through wolves with my sword, the sound of high-pitched clangs emanated from the speakers, instead of swift, clean cuts.

MORE: I Spent More Than $200 on Headphones: You Should Too

A similar instance occurred when I listened to "Savior" by Rise Against. The speakers accurately represented the drums and rhythm guitar in the song, but the bass guitar was barely audible. The speaker's heightened treble caused some vocals to come off at a higher pitch, but it wasn't an uncomfortable listening experience.

Gaming, Graphics and VR

Under the Equinox's hood, there's a powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM. The Equinox ran around 55 frames per second (measured via FRAPS) while I played Shadow of War on ultra settings, and that's with the 13GB High Resolution Texture Pack installed. The Equinox kept up with me swiftly tearing through several orcs right before Bûbol the Twins showed up and pulled a backbreaker on me.

Rise of the Tomb Raider ran at 45 fps on very high 1080p, which is among the lowest compared with competitors. Still, it was enough to slide past the Stealth Thin (GTX 1070 Max-Q). The gaming laptop average and the PowerSpec (GTX 1070) both peaked at 56 fps, whereas the Zephyrus (GTX 1070 Max-Q) fell a little behind with 53 fps. The Equinox beat the Stealth Thin by a single frame.

On the Hitman benchmark (1080p, ultra), the Equinox held its ground at 79 fps. It beat the PowerSpec (60 fps) and tied with the Stealth Thin (79 fps). Unfortunately, it missed the category average (84 fps) and was tossed aside by the Zephyrus (88 fps).

MORE: Which GPU is Right For You?

The Equinox delivered 58 fps on the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (1080p very high), which is well above our 30-fps playability threshold, but below the 77-fps average. The Zephyrus and PowerSpec 1510 hit 70 and 60 fps, respectively.

On the SteamVR Performance test, the Equinox scored a decent 8.6, but it is also the lowest among the competitors. The PowerSpec achieved a perfect 11, the Zephyrus scored 10.9 and the Stealth Thin produced 9.5, just missing the 10.1 category average.

Additionally, the Equinox comes with a Intel UHD 630 graphics card built in.

Performance

Do you need 23 Google Chrome tabs open while you're playing Sky Factory and blasting music from high-resolution 1080p YouTube videos? If so, the Equinox might be the system for you. Packed inside the Equinox is an overclockable Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of RAM and a 500GB NVMe SSD. I did all of the previously mentioned multitasking without a hint of lag from the system.

The Equinox nailed it on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, scoring a high 19,477. It flew past the 16,998 premium gaming laptop average, the PowerSpec 1510's 14,223 (Intel Core i7-7700HQ) and the Stealth Thin's 17,184 (Intel Core i7-8750H). The only competitor to beat it was the Zephyrus, which scored 20,590 (Intel Core i7-8750H).

Packed inside the Equinox is an overclockable Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of RAM and a 500GB NVMe SSD

On our Handbrake test, it took the Equinox 10 minutes and 38 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p. It held up rather well against the PowerSpec (14:00) and the Stealth Thin (12:01). However, it was slower than the 10:02 category average and the Zephyrus (9:43).

MORE: Best Graphics Performance

The Equinox copied 4.97GB worth of multimedia files in just 11 seconds, or 462 megabytes per second, surpassing the 424MBps average. It completely crushed the PowerSpec (391MBps) and the Stealth Thin (192 MBps) due to their respective 256GB NVMe SSD and 512GB M.2 SSDs. The Equinox was just shy of the Zephyrus' 256 NVMe SSD (509 MBps).

Battery Life

Prepare to be plugged in, all of the time. The Equinox lasted only 2 hours and 49 minutes on our battery test (web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness). That's much shorter than the 3:32 gaming premium average and the Stealth Thin's 5:40. However, it beats the Zephyrus by a whole 2 minutes (2:52).

Webcam

Usually, this would be where I rail about the low-quality webcam. However, the Equinox's 2.0-megapixel HD Video Camera is actually quite good. It has some trouble with contrast, but overall, the color feels fresh and the images are relatively clear, as evidenced in my test shots.

The webcam accurately reproduced the colors in the real world -- the glowing red exit sign in my office, the dark shades of green and white on my flannel shirt and the popping green-yellow filing cabinets at everyone's desk. There wasn't much graininess in any of my shots. I had no problem making out the little white corns on our popcorn ceiling.

Heat

Do not put this in your lap while gaming. I ran Shadow of War for 15 minutes and the aluminum-alloy undercarriage reached 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Our comfort range is under 95 degrees. The center of the keyboard hit 120 degrees and the touchpad reached 96 degrees. At those temps, expect the fans to get loud enough to be heard over max volume.

The notebook is much cooler if you're not gaming. After we ran an HD video for 15 minutes, the Equinox's undercarriage measured 95 degrees, the keyboard reached 88 degrees and the touchpad hit 84 degrees.

Software & Warranty

Digital Storm doesn't pack any of its own branded software. Instead you get bloatware like Disney's Magic Kingdoms, Bubble Witch Saga 3 and Candy Crush Soda Saga.

The Digital Storm Equinox ships with a three-year limited warranty.

Configurations

The Equinox that I tested is priced at $1,983 and features a 6-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 500GB NVMe SSD, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM and an Intel UHD 630 graphics card. The $1,723 base model halves the RAM to 8GB of RAM and shrinks the storage to a 256GB NVMe SSD. The capped-out version runs up to $4,888, with 32GB of RAM, a 2TB NVMe SSD for primary storage and a 4TB NVMe SSD as the secondary. While these are specific to internal hardware, there are plenty of additional features you can add, such as a color calibration profile and an external optical drive.

Bottom Line

Power doesn't always justify price. The Equinox packs an overclockable Core i7 processor and a strong Nvidia GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU with a NVMe SSD. That translates into high frame rates, VR-readiness and multitasking power for gamers as well as a fast file-transfer speeds. However, for $1,983, I expected a brighter display and a more interesting design.

The $1,999 Stealth Thin has the same specs but offers a brighter, more vivid display with Nvidia G-Sync and nearly double the battery life. Sure, it has a slower SSD, but that's a relatively small sacrifice.

But, if you're looking for a slim, powerful gaming laptop, the Digital Storm Equinox will deliver.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag

CPU Intel Core i7-8750H (6-Core) (Up to 4.1GHz)
Operating System Windows 10 Home
RAM 16GB
RAM Upgradable to 32GB
Hard Drive Size 500GB
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type NVMe SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 15.6
Highest Available Resolution 1920 x 1080
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card GeForce GTX 1070 8GB (Max-Q) (VR Ready)
Video Memory 8GB
Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Model
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 4.2 x 2.3 inches
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Mini Display Port
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.1 with Type-C
Ports (excluding USB) Gigabit Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
USB Ports
Card Slots 6-1 card reader
Warranty/Support
Size 10"L x 15"W x 0.7"H
Weight 4.72 LBs
Company Website https://www.digitalstorm.com/
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