CDO Media & Headlines

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Television

See what the News has to say about CDO Technology:

WSPA TV, Your Carolina
Virtual Reality with Computer Direct Outlet, July 18, 2016

Coumputer Direct Outlet WSPA TV Your Carolina
Gary Underwood with CDO Technology is featured on WSPA TV’s show Your Carolina with Jack and Megan. Gary demonstrates CDO Technology’s Volta and the Oculus Rift VR headset to hosts Megan and Jack. Gary demonstrates various current uses for virtual reality and explains how virtual reality will be one of the dominate technologies over the next decade.

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WYCW Carolina’s CW TV, Studio 62
We try virtual reality with Computer Direct Outlet, July 7, 2016

Computer Direct Outlet WSPA-WYCW TV Studio 62
Gary Underwood with CDO Technology is featured on WYCW Carolina’s CW show Studio 62. In a segment about virtual reality, one of the hottest trends in computer technology, Gary is interviewed by Studio 62’s host Jamarcus Gaston. Gary demonstrates the Oculus Rift VR headset and explains how virtual reality has important real-world applications in addition to gaming.

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“This head set can change your world… A really cool piece of technology”

– Jamarcus Gaston, WYCW Studio 62

CDB Volta Divider

Articles

Read what the Press has to say about CDO Technology:

WIRED
All Gaming PCs Should Look as Gorgeous as the Wooden Volta V, February 6, 2017

“The Volta V, provides a high-powered option for people who equally value inner strength and outer tranquility.”

– Brian Barrett, WIRED

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The following article by Brian Barrett was originally published on February 6, 2017 on Wired.com.
Read the full article HERE

All Gaming PCs Should Look as Gorgeous as the Wooden Volta V

You know what gaming PCs look like, right? Big, LED-lit cubes that look ready to hatch tiny evil cyborgs. Lesser Doctor Who villains. Mean but tidy igneous rocks. You get the idea. The Volta V, from Computer Direct Outlet, disagrees. It thinks a gaming PC looks like a beautiful, handcrafted wooden box. Thank goodness.

The Volta V, which ships this March, provides a high-powered option for people who equally value inner strength and outer tranquility. It’s a 5.5-inch tall, upgradeable computer, cut from US-grown trees, that provides a platform for your monitor and a hiding place for your keyboard. It may also be the first PC that one could describe as mid-century modern. But those aesthetics belie capable performance. Pricing starts at $2,500 for a 4K-capable rig, but you can trick out the liquid-cooled Volta V up to an 18-core Xeon processor, 64GB of RAM, an Nvidia Quadro P6000 24GB video card, and two 2TB SSDs. (There are also plenty of configurations that don’t cost five figures).

Not everyone needs a gaming PC, and not everyone who does needs it to look like it came from a Restoration Hardware catalog. But if you value facades as much as frames per second, the Volta V seems like the best-looking option to come around in a long time. Volta.Computer

The Wall Street Journal
A New Computer as Beautiful as a Vintage Apple I, January 27, 2017

“Encased in wood, the Volta V harks back to the very early days of Apple, when our desktops were more rough-hewn—and easier to upgrade”

– Joshua Fruhlinger, The Wall Street Journal

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The following article by Joshua Fruhlinger was originally published on January 27, 2017 on TheWallStreetJournal.com.
Read the full article HERE

A New Computer as Beautiful as a Vintage Apple I

BACK IN THE DAY… way back in the day, computers were DIY kits, essentially just a motherboard and some instructions. In many cases, you had to build the exterior housing for the components yourself. This is how it was with the Apple I, the then-fledgling company’s very first computer. The $666.66 kit included only a circuit board; it was up to you to supply the keyboard, monitor, processor, memory and nerdy aspirations. Customers built cases out of whatever they had sitting around (or could cobble together using their limited carpentry skills). Some used briefcases; others crafted wood boxes, like the one shown at left.

The Volta V, available next month, is a simple-but-elegant, wood-encased desktop model that harks back to that furniture look. It’s made by Computer Direct Outlet, a “small-batch” manufacturer based in Greenville, S.C. Although the Volta V’s enclosure is decidedly low tech—made of either bamboo or walnut—the computer is packed with the latest technology: a high-end motherboard, graphics card and solid-state hard drive; 4K video and liquid cooling are options for all models. (It’s up to you to keep this thing classy with your choice of monitor, keyboard and mouse.)

Unlike the Apple I, the Volta comes fully assembled (a handy feature for those who have subpar proficiency with a saw). But the case of the Volta V pops open easily to allow you to swap out components to your heart’s desire, just like the old days.

Need a larger hard drive to store all of the videos you shot on vacation? With the Volta V, that’s no problem. Just remove the case’s cover (it’s held in place with strong magnets, so no tools are required), then disconnect the old drive and attach the new one. All components are spread out on one level for easy access. Try that with your all-in-one computer, where components are soldered to the motherboard and just opening the case can void your warranty.

The Volta V starts at $1,999, which is a significant premium over the components (those used in the more-powerful $2,581 Gaming & Design model, for instance, can be purchased for around $1,400). That said, with the Volta V’s open-architecture design and classic aesthetics, this could be the last computer you buy for years to come. From $1,999, Volta.Computer

Digital Trends
Volta V hardwood PC is a sustainable, elegant choice for your home or office, December 27, 2016

“the Volta V is handmade hardwood furniture with customizable PC components to create a machine that can game just as good as it looks.”

– Mark Coppock, Digital Trends

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The following article by Mark Coppock was originally published on December 27, 2016 on DigitalTrends.com.
Read the full article HERE

Volta V hardwood PC is a sustainable, elegant choice for your home or office
Every now and then, you might get tired of the same old metal and plastic builds of typical desktop PCs. They’re cold and often industrial-looking — or worse, they look like something from a science fiction movie — and they rarely fit into the typical home décor.

Computer Direct Outlet wants to change that, with its Volta V wooden case that’s intended to fit into more elegant environments while adding in some of the other benefits that wood affords. And it’s not just a PC case — the Volta V is handmade hardwood furniture with customizable PC components to create a machine that can game just as good as it looks.

The Volta V can be configured with Skylake or Broadwell-E Core processors, up to 32GB of RAM, M.2 SSDs and fast HDDs, and Nvidia Quadro or GeForce GTX GPUs. Everything is kept cool not only by virtue of the wood construction, but also via liquid cooling and ultra-quiet fans, with a dust-filtration system keeping air flow clean and unobstructed.

In terms of design and manufacture, the Volta V is crafted from natural wood that’s 3.9 inches thick and uses an aluminum base plate and legs for structural strength. It stands 5.5 inches tall to serve as an ergonomic monitor stand, and features a sliding keyboard tray.

In addition to simply looking good, the Volta V offers additional sustainability benefits, according to Computer Direct Outlet. Instead of adding to the 9.4 million tons of e-waste generated annually, the Volta V’s wooden construction is meant to last. The manufacturer backs up their claims with a percentage of the profits of each Volta V going to the Upstate Forever nonprofit, which “Promotes Clean Air & Water, Sustainable Communities, and Land Trust” in South Carolina.

Computer Direct Outlet hasn’t yet provided pricing or availability for the Volta V. If you’re looking for a different PC design made of materials that won’t contribute to e-waste and will look good in your home or office, then the Volta V presents an interesting option.

TechSpot
Check out the Volta V, a high-end PC in a handcrafted wooden case, January 12, 2017

“Computer Direct Outlet has taken inspiration from that retro wood style with the Volta V, a PC that comes in a handcrafted wooden case.”

– Rob Thubron, TechSpot

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The following article by Rob Thubron was originally published on January 12, 2017 on TechSpot.com.
Read the full article HERE

A PC case that could last for decades
Many decades ago, electrical products such as TVs and audio systems often contained large amounts of wood in their construction. Metal and plastic builds eventually became more popular, but Computer Direct Outlet has taken inspiration from that retro wood style with the Volta V, a PC that comes in a handcrafted wooden case.

Modders have been putting PCs into all sorts of weird and wonderful cases over the years, but the Volta V is the first of its kind to be commercially available. And don’t be fooled into thinking the stylish chassis means Computer Direct has ignored the hardware; this PC can be customized with high-end components like the Titan X Pascal and Nvidia’s Quadro P6000, as well as a Skylake, Broadwell E, or Xeon CPU.

Each case comes in either Bamboo or, for $41 more, walnut. The material is sustainable and eco-friendly, designed to last a very long time. Moreover, Computer Direct Outlet says a percentage of the profits from each Volta V will go to Upstate Forever, a nonprofit that “Promotes Clean Air & Water, Sustainable Communities, and Land Trust” in South Carolina.

As with other similarly small PC cases, the Volta looks as if heat could be an issue. But the company says it has been designed with airflow in mind. It comes with an Asetek 545LC compact liquid CPU cooler, uses only blower style GPUs, and pulls cool air from below the case, which is then pushed out of the sides. There are also two large, easily removable magnetic dust filters for easy cleaning, and even a hideaway underneath for storing your keyboard when not in use.

Computer Direct Outlet considers the Volta V to be a piece of classic furniture as much as it is a PC. And the fact it’s made from domestically-sourced, selectively cut trees is reflected in the price. You can reserve one now for $399, with shipping set for this March.

Kotaku
This Wooden Box Is A Gaming PC, January 11, 2017

“The Volta V is a watercooled PC in an American hardwood box. It’s meant to be a sustainable, upgradable system that will stay with you”

– Mike Fahey, Kotaku

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The following article by Mike Fahey was originally published on January 11, 2017 on Kotaku.com.
Read the full article HERE

This Wooden Box Is A Gaming PC
The Volta V is the first commercially-produced, handcrafted wooden computer, and if you’ve got the green, it can pack some serious gaming power.

Back when I was a kid, most of the electronics in our home featured a large amount of wood. Our television was 22 inches of screen in a 50 inch wooden box, and we loved it. So when I got the second email about the launch of the Volta V after missing the first one, I was overjoyed.

The Volta V is a watercooled PC in an American hardwood box. It’s meant to be a sustainable, upgradable system that will stay with you as PC hardware improves, instead of a metal or plastic enclosure that’s the next pretty LED-lighted thing away from extinction.

Each Volta V case is cut from American hardwood, precision tooled and assembled by hand. It’s wood all around, save for the aluminium base that forms the feet, keeping the unit elevated for a keyboard to slip underneath.

I worried about heat upon first seeing the Volta V’s design, but the world’s most knowledgeable PR person explained that the chassis is designed with airflow in mind. The CPU is watercooled. A pair of magnetic dust covers slide off for easy cleaning access. They use only blower type graphics cards. The system is designed to pull cool air from the bottom and dissipate hot air out the sides, and they’ve laminated the wood in 2” staves to help prevent potential warping.

This is the sort of computer system one might expect from Computer Direct Outlet, a company with a CEO named Gary Underwood, a designer named Ty Underwood and a engineer named Dale Woodard. Seriously. These guys were born to make a wooden PC, or possibly be garden gnomes. One of those. They chose wisely.

But what price, all of this wood? Right now interested parties can reserve a Volta V for $399, with configurations running between $2,000 and $5,000. The first completed units begin shipping in March 2017.

They’re a bit on the pricey side, but they look so damn elegant, and should the cooling ever fail they will no doubt smell amazing.

uncrate
Volta V Computer, January 2017

“When buying a computer, you normally have two choices: buy something that looks good, or buy something that’s upgradable. With the Volta V Computer, you don’t have to choose.”

– uncrate

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The following article was originally published in January 2017 on uncrate.com.
Read the full article HERE

Volta Computer
When buying a computer, you normally have two choices: buy something that looks good, or buy something that’s upgradable. With the Volta V Computer, you don’t have to choose. Its unibody chassis is cut from American hardwood, precision-machined, and then assembled and finished by hand. The components inside are laid out on a single level, protected by a magnetically-attached lid that makes upgrades and repairs easy. And its 5.5-inch height makes it not only ideal as a monitor stand but also lets you store your keyboard underneath. Available with a wide range of components, and with your choice of a bamboo or walnut case.

The Clutch
This year’s hottest computer won’t be found at CES, January 02, 2017

“A computer that aims to dazzle with not only power, but with sleek design… Volta V is immediately striking with its wooden chassis.”

– The Clutch

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The following article was originally published on January 02, 2017 on UpstateClutch.com.
Read the full article HERE

This year’s hottest computer won’t be found at CES.

Introducing Volta V: a computer that aims to dazzle with not only power, but with sleek design. Produced by Computer Direct Outlet, Volta V is immediately striking with its wooden chassis. The Volta V is the first commercially-produced computer featuring a hardwood chassis made from domestically-sourced trees, and it’s inspired by honestly-made wooden furniture. Each one is outfitted to custom specifications, creating a workstation that is perfect for professionals, gamers, and those interested in a powerful statement piece for their desk. It is stunning, turning heads at each of the tech trade shows it has seen so far.

A Statement Piece for Your Desk

Modern gamers want a minimalistic, beautiful environment for work and play. The Volta V offers just that. Both visually and auditorily quiet, the Volta V is design you want to keep. Sitting just 5.5 inches off your desk, it creates the perfect monitor stand for ergonomic viewing. The legs are part of a one-piece aluminum base plate that adds strength to the construction. When not in use, your keyboard hides away beneath the computer, creating a compact workspace that stays both attractive and neat.

Can a Computer be Sustainable?

The Volta V answers: yes. The computer’s chassis is constructed by local artisans of walnut and bamboo, which the company strives to source from responsibly-cut tree farms, using good environmental practices. The Volta V offers a piece of technology that not only provides a powerful workstation – it is ethically designed. Using a magnetic toolless lid that allows the user to easily access the guts of their machine, the Volta V will be a stylish fixture of your desk for years to come. The computer aims to grow with you, preventing you from trashing your entire computer just to upgrade its components. This allows you to avoid contributing to the 9.4 million tons of e-waste we produce each year. Part of the profits are given to Upstate Forever – a nonprofit that promotes clean air & water, sustainable communities, and land trust in South Carolina. By contributing to its local environment through Upstate Forever, Computer Direct Outlet hopes to shape the way computer manufacturers think about their products – and the way consumers use them.

Built to Handle the Work You Do

Creative professionals can now choose long-lasting, ethical equipment while crafting the ultimate work environment. Gamers are afforded a refreshing style that breaks the mold of traditional super-powered computers, without compromising any of the performance. Create exactly the computer you need with the configuring tool, and speak with a real, live human being to be sure you are getting exactly the right tool for the job – whatever your job may be. Build it out with an Intel Skylake or Broadwell-E Core processor overclocked up to 4.5GHz, or choose a professional Xeon processor, up to 64 gigs of RAM, solid-state, M.2, and/or hard-disk drives, and a NVIDIA Quadro or GeForce GTX 10 series video card. With a combination of liquid cooling and ultra-quiet fans plus a unique dust-filtration system, Volta V stays cool and quiet under load without throttling and doesn’t accumulate performance-wrecking dust.

A completed, custom Volta V will range from $1999 to $5000 depending on the components you select. “We hand-build every single computer. We install high-quality parts, because we want it to be the perfect fit for you. We actually have a lifetime service guarantee,” says owner Gary Underwood. “This design hasn’t been tried before.”

Proven Successes

Born in 1997, Computer Direct Outlet has been creating custom computers with lifetime service warranties ever since. After years of prototyping designs and operations, Underwood released the Volta series, which became a hit among architects, photographers, graphic designers and other professionals using high-end programs. Underwood and his team spent 15 months designing and prototyping many versions of the Volta V. “The process was very exciting and frustrating, because for every problem we solved, two more would just crop up. But we wanted to design something that was sustainable and durable,” Underwood said. It was a success, resulting in the Volta V: just as powerful as it is beautiful.

How to Get Your Hands on a Volta V

Preorder sales began January 1st, 2017, and for only $399, you can reserve your new Volta V. Once you’ve placed your reservation, our experts will schedule a consultation appointment with you to discuss the requirements of your specific computer. From there, work begins, with the first custom machines estimated to ship in March 2017. Be a part of movement to blend technology and style, and to move away from the gaming PC culture overwhelmed by glowing lights and chrome accents. Learn more at Volta.Computer.

Upstate Business Journal
Computer Direct Outlet unveils world’s first ‘sustainable’ computer, December 22, 2016

“’It’s built with power to handle the tough jobs – from CAD programs to engineering to intense gaming’”

– Andrew Moore, Upstate Business Journal

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The following article by Andrew Moore was originally published on December 22, 2016 on UpstateBusinessJournal.com.
Read the full article HERE

Computer Direct Outlet unveils world’s first ‘sustainable’ computer

For nearly two decades, Computer Direct Outlet, which is located just off Laurens Road, has thrived off computer sales and IT services for both residents and businesses. Now, the small business is trying to become a tech giant with the release of an exotic computer that’s the first of its kind.

In January, Computer Direct Outlet plans to release the Volta V, a computer made from sustainable woods like walnut and bamboo. It is meant to be the first of a new dynasty of computers that are much more stylish, energy-efficient and powerful than the company’s current line of products.

The new computer is entirely custom.

“We hand-build every single computer. It’s not some machine sitting on a shelf that may or may not fit your needs. We install high-quality parts, because we don’t want it to come back. We actually have a lifetime service guarantee,” said owner Gary Underwood. “This design hasn’t been tried before.”

Customers can choose the processor and other components for their computer so that it fits their specific needs, whether that’s email or gaming. Underwood uses a numerical control machine to cut the woods into a rectangular case and then places the company’s signature lightning bolt logo on the front panel.

Then, technicians insert the processor and wiring into the case and test each computer. Each computer requires about five days for full assembly. The Volta V should cost somewhere between $1,900 and $7,000, Underwood said.

But the price depends on the computing power. The computer can hold processors that range from Intel’s Skylake to the Xeon processor with up to 32 gigs of RAM. It can also hold a solid-state or hard-disk drive as well as the NVIDIA Quadro video card or GeForce GTX 10 series video card.

“It’s built with power to handle the tough jobs – from CAD programs to engineering to intense gaming,” Underwood said.

The computer, which is four inches thin and five inches tall, features liquid cooling, fans and dust filtration to prevent overheating. It also features two aluminum legs, allowing the computer to act as monitor stand and users to store their keyboards underneath when it’s not in use.

Underwood got the idea from his son, Ty, a game designer, who wanted a smaller version of the standard Volta computer line.

In 2011, Underwood and his team of computer techs started designing a computer that could support high-end programs yet maintain speed and quality graphics. After three years of prototyping designs and operations, Underwood released the Volta, which became a hit among architects, photographers, graphic designers and other professionals using high-end programs.

Underwood and his team spent 15 months designing and prototyping more than three versions of the Volta V. “The process was very exciting and frustrating, because for every problem we solved, two more would just crop up. But we wanted to design something that was sustainable and durable,” Underwood said.

He turned to sustainable wood. “This computer was inspired by the beauty of handmade hardwood furniture,” Underwood added. “We designed this computer with sustainbility in mind. It’s really built to last and will be supported with repairs and upgrades for a decade, so we hope it helps cut out some electronic waste.”

Computer Direct Outlet owner Gary Underwood. Photo by Will Crooks.

Computer Direct Outlet is also donating some of the profits from Volta V sales to Greenville’s Upstate Forever, a nonprofit that promotes conservation and sustainability throughout the region.

Underwood said he hopes to sell at least 1,000 computers in pre-order. But he expects to see boosted sales for the Volta V, which can support virtual reality, a market that’s becoming increasingly popular and profitable.

Virtual reality is the creation of a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment that a person can interact with through a headset, featuring goggles and headphones, and a healthy dose of computer engineering.

The virtual reality industry is expected to boom throughout the next couple of years. According to Manatt Digital Media, virtual reality sales are going to hit $30 billion by 2020.

Those sales are going to stem mainly from video games and hardware, including high-end computer systems such as the Volta. The Consumer Technology Association estimates the sale of 1.2 million virtual reality units in 2016.

Other Volta computers feature similar electronics and are capable of virtual reality. The computers have garnered positive reviews from technology publications. Tom’s Guide, for example, issued the Volta an average quality rating of 11. Its closest competitors, Alienware X51 and Asus ROG G20CB, scored closer to a 6.

Underwood has big plans for the Volta computer line.

“This has really opened the door to some new stuff. We have a few ideas. We are going to release a second version of the Volta V sometime in the future. I’d love to use hickory or pecan for the case,” he said. “We’re also thinking about producing an all-in-one computer that’s more sustainable and upgradable.”

For more information, visit Volta.Computer.

Fête Magazine
The Value of Value, March, 2016

“a simple business philosophy… ‘a business has to add value to the customer experience or it ceases to exist.’”

– John Boyanoski, Fête Magazine

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The following article by John Boyanoski was originally published in the March 2016 issue of Fête Magazine. Read the full article HERE


The Value of Value
By John Boyanoski


Gary Underwood has a simple business philosophy in order to find success.

“I believe a business has to add value to the customer experience or it ceases to exist,” he said.

For the past 18 years that has guided Underwood’s company, Computer Direct Outlet to a lot of success. If you have never been in Computer Direct Outlet’s storefront at the intersection of Laurens and Haywood roads, then you quite simply haven’t lived in Greenville that long.

Eventually everyone in Greenville ends up there looking for a solution to a computer problem that no other business could fix and some that other businesses have even created. Word of mouth makes Computer Direct Outlet into a mystical place of sorts. A place where anything can happen to a computer.

And it is true, but not in the way the average Greenvillian realizes. No, tucked away in the back and out of sight of customers the true story of Computer Direct Outlet emerges amidst the testing equipment, CNC machines and more.

This is a manufacturing facility where Computer Direct Business, a sister company of Computer Direct Outlet, is evolving. A person off the street could always buy a custom made computer at the store, but now the company is branding its own computer workstations that are gaining national attention.

Don’t believe me? Just read recent editions of Cadalyst Magazine and Desktop Engineering Magazine that offered glowing reviews of Computer Direct’s Volta Work Station. Cadalyst’s J.V. Bolkan categorized the Volta Pro as Highly Recommended, explaining that “every major component in the system is well balanced between high performance and price.”
Bolkan also wrote, “The Volta Pro VP1 from Computer Direct Outlet is an attractive system that includes high-end components for a good price. Computer Direct finishes the case with flat black paint and an elegant lightning bolt logo cut into the hinged front panel and backlit by blue LEDs.”
David Cohn of Desktop Engineering Magazine concluded that the Volta Pro VP1 beat or tied every other single socket workstation that he had tested to date on 21 of 25 tests.
“The Volta Pro VP1 combines excellent components in a well-apportioned package offering great performance at a very attractive price. If the Volta Pro VP1 is any indication, the folks at Computer Direct Business know how to build great systems.”
Underwood is quick to point that it is the folks – all 14 of them – at Computer Direct that makes the company unique. From sales to service, everyone has tech knowledge and experience.

“There is rarely a question that someone here doesn’t know the answer to,” he said.

A humble answer from a boss with an interesting career path. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Rolla with an engineering degree, he had stops in Haiti, Jamaica and Brazil, which makes for an interesting amount of sticker on one’s luggage.

Underwood then moved to Austin, Texas, where he worked in the electric utility and energy marketing industries and earned an MBA from the University of Texas. In the late 1990s, inspired by his MBA degree and desire to be an entrepreneur, Underwood called on his network of business associates and found Computer Direct Outlet in Greenville. It was the right opportunity at the right time. But with one catch. He knew a lot about engineering, people and business but had much to learn about computers. Again, it came down to a good team, he said. He learned the industry on the job and now sees the next logical step, which is growth of the Volta line. The company had a wide range of customers, he said. Everyone from law practices to manufacturers to doctors to dentists. But the Volta line expands the reach to more graphic designer engineers, architects, animators, video and film editors, day traders, product designers, and many more.”

“Computer Direct Business offers specialized custom hardware solutions and networking services for many small and medium sized businesses,” he said.. “This includes many different types of servers, business computers and customized solutions to your tech problems including data backup and recovery.”

Greenville Online
Computer Direct Outlet ‘takes anxiety out of technology’, August, 2016

“The CDO staff work to help the customer hit a “sweet spot,” balancing their needs with a fair price.”

– Greenville Online

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The following article was originally published in August 2016 on the Greenville Online site. Read the full article HERE


Computer Direct Outlet ‘takes anxiety out of technology’


Gary Underwood did not start out as a computer guy.

He began his career as a mining engineer, receiving his degree from the University of Missouri at Rolla (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) and working in places like Haiti, Jamaica and Brazil. After landing back in the U.S. with a marketing job for a natural gas company, Underwood decided it was time for a change.

“I wanted to make my own mistakes and earn my own successes,” Underwood said in the workshop of Computer Direct Outlet, where he leads a team that makes custom computers for customers from high-level gamers to day-traders and graphic artists.

After Underwood got his MBA from the University of Texas at 36, he wanted to be an entrepreneur and was looking for a place to land. A friend in Greenville had a young computer store and asked Underwood if he would help run the business.

“I wanted to have my own business, and I wanted to make use of the MBA I had spent a lot of hard work and a lot of money on,” Underwood said.

In 1998, Underwood packed up and moved from Austin, Texas, to Greenville, without knowing much about computers or technology outside of what he’d used in school and in the mining industry. It was a steep learning curve at first, especially in the age of floppy disks and earsplitting dial-up tones, when home computers were a luxury for many. But soon, Underwood became the computer whiz you need running a custom-PC shop. In 2010, Underwood bought out the friend, a serial entrepreneur who was ready to move to a new venture.

They made custom computers from the start, tweaking each machine to an individual’s needs. In the early days of the store, most of the custom computers were sold to hobbyists and gamers. As the business has grown, Computer Direct Outlet’s clientele has expanded to include small and medium-sized businesses. As the scope of computing has grown, Computer Direct Outlet has expanded its ability to help users handle large amounts of data or high security needs.

“It has to have the power to run the programs they need to run their business,” Underwood said. “We run each machine through rigorous tests to make sure we catch any problem before it brings a business down.”

The store’s standard model, the Volta, can be customized to the user’s needs. The sleek machines feature red and black plastic exteriors with a thin lightning bolt etched into the modem’s latched cover. The computers are not just purchased by Upstate buyers, but have been shipped across the country.

“There is no average price” for the custom Volta computers, Underwood said. They start around $1,500 for a basic desktop model, but can reach up to $7,000 “if someone wants it totally decked out.”

The benefits of getting the Volta, as opposed to buying a standard Apple or Microsoft product or building your own from parts, stack up, Underwood said. He and his staff work to help the customer hit a “sweet spot,” balancing their needs with a fair price. After the computer is built and brought to a home or office, it has a lifetime labor warranty ─ anything that breaks or gets slow is fixed for free.

“We not only build a great machine, we put our money where our mouth is,” Underwood said.

To keep his own business running, Underwood puts a premium on customer service. Keeping a small computer and technology shop open with Best Buy literally down the street seems like a fight against improbable odds. When asked how he’s done it for nearly two decades, Underwood responded simply: “I treat people the way I want to be treated.”

After a few minutes, Underwood changed his mind.

“I said I treat people the way I want to be treated, but that’s not exactly true,” Underwood said. “I learned in marriage that sometimes the way I want to be treated isn’t the way my wife wants to be treated. So, I treat people the way they want to be treated.”

While Underwood has expanded his tech knowledge in the 18 years since taking the reins at Computer Direct Outlet, he relies on a handful of computer expert employees to be the main constructors of the custom Volta models. Underwood likes to work with customers, from grandmothers who need to figure out how to use WiFi to hardcore computer geeks looking to try the latest in virtual reality technology.

“I want to take the anxiety out of technology,” Underwood said.

Upstate Business Journal
Vision Quest, A Virtual Reality Future, September 1, 2016

“The Volta’s virtual reality capabilities have garnered positive reviews from multiple tech outlets.”

– Andrew Moore, Upstate Business Journal

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The following article by Andrew Moore was originally published in the September 1, 2016 issue of Upstate Business Journal Magazine. Read the full article HERE


Gary Underwood and Computer Direct Outlet prepare for the virtual reality boom


Gary Underwood’s wire-frame glasses, plaid shirt, khakis and humble demeanor create a mirage of simplicity. He’s a simple man. At least that’s what Underwood wants you to believe. Or maybe he believes it too. But Underwood, who is owner of Greenville’s Computer Direct Outlet, has a plan that could put his small business on the map.

For nearly two decades, Computer Direct Outlet, which is located just off Laurens Road, has thrived off computer sales and IT services for both residents and businesses. Now, Underwood has shifted his focus to the production of high-end computers that can support virtual reality, a market that shows immense promise despite its infancy.

Luckily, Underwood has already produced the technology.

In 2011, Underwood and his team of computer techs started designing a computer that could support high-end programs yet maintain speed and quality graphics. After three years of prototyping, Underwood released the Volta. It became a hit among architects, photographers, graphic designers and other professionals using high-end programs.

“We hand-build every single computer. It’s not some machine sitting on a shelf that may or may not fit your needs,” said Underwood. “We install high quality parts, because we don’t want it to come back. We actually have a lifetime service guarantee. So we really put our money where our mouth is.”

Customers can choose the processor and other components for their computer so that it fits their specific needs, whether that’s email or gaming. Underwood uses a numerical control machine to cut plastic molds, which are red and black, into a rectangular case. He then etches a signature lightning bolt logo onto the front panel. Then, technicians insert the processor and wiring into the casing and test each computer. Each computer requires about five days for full assembly and ranges from $1,500 to $7,000.

The Volta’s virtual reality capabilities have garnered positive reviews from multiple tech outlets. In April, Tom’s Guide issued the Volta an average quality rating of 11. Its closest competitors, Alienware X51 and Asus ROG G20CB, scored closer to a 6.

And with good reason. Underwood expects to see boosted sales for the Volta as virtual reality becomes increasingly popular across the country.

“People get the idea that virtual reality is just gaming. And it is to some degree. But it’s also business,” said Underwood. “Nike uses it to design soccer cleats; the military uses it to train soldiers; the nuclear reactor industry uses it for safety training. Architects can walk through an entire complex that’s a digital replication of their building and look for fatal flaws. I mean you can visit the world. This is just the beginning.”

Turning virtual reality into real money

Virtual reality (VR) is the creation of a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment that a person can interact with through the use of a headset, which features goggles and headphones, and a healthy dose of computer engineering. That headset combines 360-degree visuals, a wide field of view and audio to achieve VR.

The concept dates to at least 1968, when MIT computer-graphics researcher Ivan Sutherland presented his “head-mounted display,” a VR helmet so heavy that it need to be supported by a mechanical arm dangling from the ceiling. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, companies tried to harness VR in smaller headsets, but the bulkiness didn’t appeal to customers. And so it seemed that VR was dead.

VR saw a revival as the smartphone and video game industries emerged as giants throughout the 2000s. Soon enough, computer engineer Lucky Palmer was able to harness VR in a commercially viable headset called Oculus Rift, which was purchased by Facebook Inc. for $2 billion. Oculus Rift was released in April.

But for all of its glory, the Oculus Rift is nothing without a computer system that can support its high-end graphics. Facebook recommends that Oculus Rift owners use a Nvidia GeForce 970 or AMD Radeon 290 graphics card. Both cards are offered in the Volta. These cards provide the 90 frames per a second needed for VR.

Anything less than that, and users could suffer from motion sickness due to delays in the screen’s responses to the user’s movements. A standard PC game runs at 30 frames per second. VR uses 90 frames per second on two video projections (one for each eye) to deliver the natural motion the brain needs to be convinced an image is real.

Not many computers can withstand the strain of VR. In fact, just 13 million PCs across the globe have the graphics capabilities needed to run VR, according to an estimate by Nvidia, the largest maker of computer graphics chips. That means only 1 percent of 1.43 billion PCs can run VR, according to research firm Gartner.

“We’re not competing with many VR machines,” said Underwood. “There are other companies that make some good machines, but we’ve gotten solid reviews across the board. And those are the moments where you wonder, ‘Are we as good as we think we are?’ The reviews show that the Volta is one of the best.”

Underwood and other high-end computer manufacturers could reap the benefits as the VR industry is expected to boom throughout the next couple of years.

According to data published by Manatt Digital Media, VR sales are expected to hit $30 billion by 2020. Those sales are going to stem mainly from video games and hardware, including high-end computer systems such as the Volta. The Consumer Technology Association estimates the sale of 1.2 million VR units in 2016.

While VR shows promise, Underwood continues to market the Volta as a machine that can do it all. Various professionals, including architects and engineers, use the computers for CAD programs. So far, most of its sales have remained in the Upstate.

“I want to reach everybody that needs a machine like this. So yes, I’d like to see sales go across the country,” said Underwood. “But my first priority is my customers. I have a lot of customers and businesses that buy servers and desktops from me. They also count on us to be there for whatever technology improvement or solution they need. We’re their in-house IT group. I don’t think we’ll abandon that for the Volta brand.”

The man behind the machine

Underwood has spent decades as a computer guy, but he didn’t always know the difference between a solid-state drive and hard drive.

Underwood, a Texas native, received an engineering degree from the University of Missouri at Rolla (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) in 1979. He got his first job at Reynolds Aluminum in Little Rock, Ark., where he designed and developed surface mines in various countries, including Jamaica and Haiti.

Underwood returned to Texas in 1983 to design and develop lignite (an early form of coal) mines for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) in Austin. In 1992, he graduated with an MBA from the University of Texas, with hopes of one day becoming an entrepreneur like his father, who owned a service station.

But he continued to work for the LCRA. In 1995, Underwood’s lignite mining operation was canceled. He became the manager for the company’s fuel and energy services, where he and a team ran an energy price risk management program for natural gas, crude oil and fuel oil using NYMEX futures and options. He then started marketing energy for the LRCA until 1996, when he left for a business development job with Pan Canadian.

But the new job wasn’t enough to keep his mind off being his own boss.

“I really wanted to be part of a small business, to do something different and be part of it. So I started looking at my connections and found a friend who had started Computer Direct Outlet in Greenville. So I packed my bags in ‘98 and didn’t look back. But the transition was very difficult, because I didn’t have a background in technology.”

While managing the store, Underwood started training under fellow employees to understand the technology side of the business. He learned quickly. Computer Direct Outlet (CDO) became the go-to store for custom computers and parts as well as IT services such as software updates and data recovery.

Underwood soon became the CEO and later purchased Computer Direct Outlet from Rinehart in 2010. The business saw a boom, and in 2011, CDO repaired more than 3,000 computers and sold more than 600 custom computers. Just as the industry changed and business grew, Underwood started to put a premium on customer service.

“It’s not about treating someone the way you want to be treated,” said Underwood. “It’s about treating them the way they want to be treated. So for us, it’s really about providing a great experience and giving customers the products and services they want and need.”

That concept led to the creation of Computer Direct Business (CDB), a division of CDO that focuses on customer relations and marketing. It also inspired him to create.

“I had always known we made great computers. In the past, we had just assembled computers, making sure the parts were compatible,” said Underwood. “We wanted something we could call our own and something that could fit the needs of the user.”

As Underwood and his team of computer techs continued to build and test prototypes of the Volta, CDO continued to change with the industry. Soon enough, CDO was replacing touch screens and other smartphone components.

The future of computing

In 2013, Underwood adopted cloud storage – the storage of data on remote servers accessed through the Internet – and partnered with Utah-based company Storage Craft. CDO then released the Volta in 2014. It opened the door to sustainable practices.

The high-quality parts that are used in the Volta allow the computer to last between six and eight years, according to Underwood. That lifespan is important, as more than 20 million pounds of electronic waste is emitted each year, according to the EPA.

“All of our products are made with sustainability in mind. We want it to be a wonderful world for our kids and their kids. We try to teach our customers that they can upgrade their computers to last longer. I’m okay with them putting their hands inside the computer. I really don’t want them thrown in the dumpster,” Underwood said.

When a computer or other product reaches the end of its lifespan, CDO collects it to re-purpose it or process it through licensed electronic recyclers. CDO also donates a portion of the electronic waste to charities and nonprofits, including Goodwill.

Underwood’s passion for sustainability fueled his newest creation.

CDO is set to release a computer that is the first of its kind – the Volta V. The computer will have a case made from sustainable woods, including maple, walnut and cherry. The computer will also be smaller than other models, measuring 21 inches long and 11 inches wide. It will also have four legs, allowing users to store their keyboards underneath.

In 2015, Underwood got the idea from his son and game designer, Ty, who wanted a smaller version of the standard Volta. Since then, the father-son duo has worked through five prototypes with computer techs. The computer, which can support VR and other high-end programs, will be released later this year. A price hasn’t been determined.

“We wanted to build a highly sustainable computer with a very small footprint that our customers would be very proud of and one that would never go out of style,” said Underwood. “Ty is a very talented, creative person who thinks big.”

Greenville Business Magazine
Local Company Receives Industry Rating, April, 2016

“Computer Direct Outlet’s Volta Pro product line recently received an “A” rating from Cadalyst Magazine.”

– Greenville Business Magazine

read more

Living Off Augusta Magazine
August, 2016

“attention to detail and the lifetime warranty sets Computer Direct apart from other systems builders”

– Living Off Augusta Magazine

read more


The following article was originally published in the August 2016 issue of the Living Off Augusta Magazine.


Another way to buy local


Buying Local has become a rallying cry for small business owners in the past decade as a way to combat not just big box retailers but the every encroaching world of E-Commerce.

The average person probably has a list of locally owned businesses where they can buy around-the-house items, but what about bigger everyday items such as a new computer?

If not, then it is time to learn more about Computer Direct Outlet located at the corner of Laurens and Haywood roads. For almost 20 years, Computer Direct has been known as the place to go for custom-built computers, business servers and service, but it has gained a national reputation in the past few years for its custom-built, Greenville-made professional workstations and gaming computers.

“We have shifted our model to focus on being local and offering the services people need from their computer store,” said Gary Underwood, Computer Direct’s owner.

The latest and the greatest of these is The Volta Pro Workstation, which is easily customizable for specific markets such as architecture, engineering, manufacturing, graphic artist, and day-traders. Cadalyst Magazine said, “Volta Pro is an attractive, high-performance system built with quality components, great test scores and a good warranty. Highly Recommended!” Desktop Engineering Magazine said, “The Volta Pro combines excellent components in a well-apportioned package offering great performance at a very attractive price.” Tom’s Guide wrote “its performance is as impressive as that of any PC I’ve reviewed in this price range.”

Unlike a lot of its competitors, the Volta carries a Lifetime Service Warranty.

It is attention to detail and the lifetime warranty that also sets Computer Direct apart from other systems builders, Underwood said. The warranty means Computer Direct will offer support as long as a customer owns a system built by the company without hitting them in the wallet every time they need assistance.

Concerned about the environment? Computer Direct is. Their computers are not throw-away or disposal products. Since Computer Direct designs and builds its computers for sustainability, they perform at high levels with maximum uptime for many years. They also extend the computer’s productive life through proactively maintenance and upgrades with their warranty. They complete each computer’s lifecycle by providing a 100 percent take back or recycling policy for all the computers they sell.

Service is a key. In and out of the store. They can come to an office or home to give the honest answers to questions such as is your data safe and readily available should a major problem occur? Should the data be backed up just locally or off premise too? Can a person safely and securely remote into their business network from outside the office? How to sync your computer email with your smart phone?

“Computer Direct can help clients with all these challenges by sending knowledgeable, experienced, and friendly technicians to your business or home,” Underwood said.

Upstate Business Journal
Is it time to throw out your old business plan?, July, 2016

“Flawless hardware has always been the trademark of Computer Direct, but with business division comes a new focus of aesthetic details, better user experiences and design simplicity.”

– Upstate Business Journal

read more


The following article was originally published in July 2016 on the Upstate Business Journal site. Read the full article HERE


Is it time to throw out your old business plan?


Every smart business owner knows that a business plan is a must and it needs to be reviewed and adjusted for customer demands and market changes. However, the biggest question many business owners both large and small struggle with is when to go from tweaking to overhauling a plan completely and coming up with a new business model.

The reality is that many of us don’t make that decision until it is too late. Too often, the realization that a change should be made doesn’t occur until the business is failing or has already failed.

Look at the history of the Upstate economy, and that story is easily seen. The majority of Upstate counties relied heavily on textiles to provide jobs and drive their economic engines for decades. Greenville, which was considered the textile capital of the world, broke ranks in the 1970s and began to diversify its economic base. So, when textiles started to crash, Greenville’s economy was not hit nearly as hard as the rest of the Upstate.

Of course, not all textile companies suffered. Spartanburg-based Milliken and Greenville-based Kentwool changed to business models that focused on new and unique products that have allowed both of them to prosper.

 
Find the need
Those are large companies, but smaller businesses can do the same. When I came to Greenville almost 20 years ago to join Computer Direct Outlet, the company was focused mainly on selling computer parts. We have adapted our business over time to focus more on the service end of the spectrum and to provide a better overall experience for our business customers.

To this end, we created a new division called Computer Direct Business, which focuses on making sure that each client has a great experience and gets the server, professional workstation, computers and service they want and need. That concept led Computer Direct to create and manufacture its own workstations known as Volta, which have garnered national acclaim from magazines such as Tom’s Guide, Cadalyst and Desktop Engineering.

A few years ago, we noticed a need in the market for our experience, technical skill sets, and friendly and knowledgeable staff to add real value to our business customers’ buying and service/warranty experiences. The idea behind Volta is to take a complex process like designing workstations for a tech business and make it straightforward and understandable. Volta represents our new web platform, which help clients make informed decisions and buy computers that fit their individual needs.

 
Make the change
In some ways, the easy part of changing a business model is finding the need. The real challenge comes in implementation. Here are some things that worked for us.

 
Separate the new division from the rest of the business.
Computer Direct Business provides our business customers with a different experience than Computer Direct Outlet. That was important, because in order for it to grow, it needed to be treated differently. It couldn’t be a spare or part-time part. It needed its own life with its own work culture and goals. Giving it a new name — even if it was a tweak in the name — helped make that transition more real.

 
Bring in new blood.
To help Computer Direct Business find its own identity, I realized we couldn’t treat it like the old business. I got some mentors and found smart businesspeople to provide fresh ideas. They helped me see the new division in a different light. That was key, but it is not a one-time thing. I constantly bring in new people to make sure we are growing smartly.

 
Focus on design.
Flawless hardware has always been the trademark of Computer Direct, but with business division comes a new focus of aesthetic details, better user experiences and design simplicity.

 
Realize success is now different.
When you have an established business, you know what success looks like. You have a history to compare with. A new business obviously doesn’t have that history, but it is tempting to compare your new model to the old one. We created new metrics and new systems to measure success for Computer Direct Business because of that need.

 
Don’t stop innovating.
Just because you brought in new people, created new metrics and developed a new brand, doesn’t mean you are done. You have to keep innovating and making changes.

South Carolina Manufacturing Magazine
Local Computer Manufacturing Company’s Risk Pays Off, April, 2016

“Well-known in the Upstate for years, Computer Direct Outlet is garnering national accolades for its Volta line.”

– South Carolina Manufacturing

read more


The following article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of South Carolina Manufacturing Magazine. Read the full article HERE


Locally Headquartered Computer Manufacturing Company’s Calculated Risk Pays Off


After nearly two decades of being one of Greenville’s home grown computer sales and service stories, Computer Direct Outlet has shifted its business model to focus more on the manufacturing of high-end workstations, servers and gaming systems.

It was a calculated decision to ramp up production and marketing as part of a new business unit, Computer Direct Business.

“Computer Direct Outlet had always made great custom-built computers,” said Gary Underwood, the company’s owner.

“High performance computers are much more complex to design, build and maintain and therefore require greater experience and know how,” he said. “Our business division, Computer Direct Business, focuses on making sure that each business gets the server, professional workstation, computers and service that they want and need.”

Well-known in the Upstate for years, Computer Direct Outlet is garnering national accolades for its Volta line.

Recent editions of Cadalyst Magazine and Desktop Engineering Magazine offered glowing reviews of Computer Direct’s Volta Workstation. Cadalyst’s J.V. Bolkan categorized the Volta Pro as Highly Recommended, explaining that “every major component in the system is well balanced between high performance and price.”

Bolkan also wrote, “The Volta Pro from Computer Direct Outlet is an attractive system that includes high-end components for a good price. Computer Direct finishes the case with flat black paint and an elegant lightning bolt logo cut into the hinged front panel and backlit by blue LEDs.”

David Cohn of Desktop Engineering Magazine concluded the Volta Pro VP1 beat or tied every other single socket workstation that he had tested to date on 21 of 25 tests.

“The Volta Pro combines excellent components in a well-apportioned package offering great performance at a very attractive price,” he said.

For a state such as South Carolina that is targeting a tech industry more and more, a company such as Computer Direct Outlet and its Volta line is an example of how tech manufacturing can be a strong part of the business equation. Computer Direct is one of the few custom-builders of professional workstations on the East Coast with national recognition.

“Both CDO and our customers knew that we built great workstations and it is fantastic that these national reviews gets the word out about CDO being among the best of the best in our industry,” Underwood said.

All of the Voltas, which come in red or black, are made by CDO staff in about five to seven work days. CDO works with each customer to understand their needs and design the perfect system, professionally choose the parts, hand-build each, perform extensive quality control testing and provide service for as long as they own it.

“While Computer Direct has long worked with a variety of businesses in numerous industries, the Volta line will help reach more graphic designers, engineers, architects, animators, video and film editors, day traders, product designers, and many more,” Underwood said.

The Volta is the tip of the proverbial manufacturing iceberg for Computer Direct, he said. The company has been developing a wooden Volta workstation for the past nine months that would allow high performance technology to look like a piece of beautiful furniture.) To date, there has been four prototypes and he expects the finished product to hit the market this fall.

In addition to the company’s dedication to its customers, they take their environmental responsibility very seriously. They believe the longer a system performs as needed, the better off it is for the client, Underwood said.

They also believe by helping their customers know more about the systems they own and accompanying that with great service, they help keep more systems in use longer and lessen the amount of e-waste that is produced each year, he said.

Living Off Augusta Magazine
April, 2016

“Since 1998, Computer Direct Outlet has built, sold and repaired our own custom designed computers; and above all else we believe that our business should be honest and easy to understand.”

– Living Off Augusta Magazine

read more


The following article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of the Living Off Augusta Magazine.


Computer Direct Outlet


Buying a new computer can be a little intimidating. Setting foot in a computer store is like a maze of different brands and salespeople who are pushing for an upsell – and don’t seem to know as much as they think. To make matters worse, it can be difficult to get your computer fixed – or even find out what’s wrong – without spending money on a complex premium warranty.

For decades we have watched the computer sales industry turn into a confusing mess. Since 1998, Computer Direct Outlet has built, sold and repaired our own custom designed computers; and above all else we believe that our business should be honest and easy to understand. From the day they are built until their end of life, we build workstations for professionals, gamers and basic users as well as business servers that are designed to be useful with minimal downtime and hassle.

Instead of investing in expensive advertising, we invest more in our team than any other computer retailer. All of our salespeople and technicians are trained to translate your needs into bespoke hardware and services without any confusing or intimidating processes. Instead of trying to fit our customers into a list of SKUs, we believe in listening to our customers and customizing our products around their needs on the fly.

The only thing more important than designing the perfect computer is backing it up with our bulletproof services. Every computer we sell is covered by a lifetime service warranty, period. Our technicians have an unbeatable track record of finding fast solutions to problems that lead to fewer hardware replacements and longer service life for our products. In addition to this, we offer a la carte services like on-site technical support when traveling to our service center is inconvenient. Additionally, we understand how important your data is and offer a full suite of data recovery, backup and transfer services.

Computer Direct Outlet’s most loyal and passionate customer base are small and medium sized businesses. Our business division, Computer Direct Business, offers specialized custom hardware solutions and networking services for many tech-invested businesses. Our diverse clientele include graphic designers, engineers, architects, animators, video and film editors, day traders, product designers, and many more. We offer full-service on-site networking and server support; and we are very excited to have recently launched our new Volta custom professional workstations. When Desktop Engineering Magazine and Cadalyst reviewed Volta, they said it was “Highly Recommended” and “The fastest single-socket workstation we have tested to date”.

In addition to our dedication to our customer, we take our environmental responsibility very seriously. Our belief is that the longer your system performs as you need it to, the better off you and your business is. We also believe that by helping our local and extended communities to know more about the systems they own, and accompanying that with great advice and honest evaluations, we help keep more systems in use longer and lessen the amount of e-waste that is produced each year. CDO has a 100% take back policy on all systems we sell.

We invite you to stop by anytime to meet our team and learn how we can best assist you with your computer needs. Our office is located at 2382 Laurens Road in Greenville and online at www.ComputerDirectOutlet.com or www.ComputerDirectOutlet.com/Business.

CDO Professional Reviews

voltalogoboltonly

WIRED
July 7, 2017

“Volta V ran rings around anything else I’ve benchmarked lately, with blistering performance across the board on everything I could throw at it.”

– Christopher Null, Wired


The following review by Christopher Null was originally published July 7, 2017 on WIRED.
Read the full article HERE


Volta V Gaming PC, Woodn’t It Be Nice

The Volta V is a gaming computer made out of wood. Many stories have been written about the Volta, and they all talk enthusiastically about its impressive woodiness. This enthusiasm may take the form of nostalgia for the days of console televisions, or commentary on the direction of modern industrial design. There’s an environmental angle here, too, as it is arguably better for the planet to use renewable materials like wood to make a PC rather than sheets of metal.

And thus, much has been said about how good the Volta V looks on your desk. Less however has been written about how well it actually works. And considering this is billed as a gaming computer with a price tag approaching $3,500, it better work pretty well if Volta wants to sell any of them.

But before we get to all that, I’ll follow the herd and talk about the computer’s looks. They are, admittedly, pretty swell, modern and retro and a little pointless all at once, the way an ultra-luxe home stereo receiver with vacuum tubes sticking out of it might be. The chassis is made from planks of walnut and bamboo, glued together and cut by computer to exact specifications. Steel pieces like the start button are 3D-printed, and the whole thing is screwed together and sanded so it looks perfect on top of your desk—and so you don’t even dream of stashing it underneath.

Access to the system internals is through the top panel, which isn’t hinged or otherwise attached to the chassis. Rather, it just sits on top of the computer, with small magnets holding the plank of wood in place. Just pop the top and you have full access to the electronics within. It’s crowded but well laid-out: Mini ITX cases like this are unusual for gaming rigs, because the limited space inside restricts upgradeability and add-ons. Want an optical drive? Sorry, there’s no room inside. You might be able to get away with adding a second SSD, but otherwise upgraders will likely be limited to replacing the RAM or video card. The interior components are beautifully arranged, with braided cables well zip-tied, ribbon cables elegantly crinkled, and liquid cooling hoses seamlessly routed. For a real nerd, it’s as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside.

Components are dazzlingly high-end, as you’d expect from a gaming-focused rig. The seventh-generation Core i7 runs at 4.2GHz, and the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti card is, for the moment, the state of the art. A mere 8GB of RAM seems awfully low, and the 512GB SSD seems small, but if you’re willing to bump the price up another few hundred bucks, these can be happily upgraded to higher-capacity components. Ports include three DisplayPort connections, an HDMI port, and, at my count, 10 standard USB ports (some of which may be disabled). Note however that USB-C ports are wholly missing, a limitation, says Volta, of the Mini ITX motherboard.

As it stands, the V ran rings around anything else I’ve benchmarked lately, with blistering performance across the board on everything I could throw at it. Gamers should find the platform ideal for their needs, while style mavens will find the machine runs Facebook just as well as anything else.

The V isn’t quite perfect, though. A clever design has the Volta drawing air up through vents in the bottom of the chassis and out through vents in the rear. Those bottom vents are covered with dust filters that adhere magnetically, the same way the lid sticks to the top of the computer. One of my filters wouldn’t stick, however, because the magnets weren’t strong enough, and it simply kept falling off. Similarly, while the V’s internal wiring is spotless, the company’s attempt to do the same for exterior cable routing isn’t as successful. The motherboard is offset so that the USB ports are hidden a few inches inside the chassis. You can access these via holes in the back or underside of the chassis, which should reduce cable clutter. But unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to all the connectors, as the video and power supply ports are both accessed via separate points on the rear of the chassis. In a typical setup, you’ll only attach three or four cables to the Volta, but they’ll emerge from three different points of the computer, obviating the goal of creating the promised “totally clean workspace, free of visible cables”—unless you route cables back into the chassis through one hole and out again through the other one, all of which feels really weird to me.

Lastly, while the aluminum legs upon which the V perches look stylish, they are quite sharp and will likely mar whatever the system is sitting on over time. I think it’s safe to say that anyone spending $3,500 on a computer will have an equally valuable desk upon which to place it, and it will be at risk of receiving some serious scratches without some padding measures being taken.

Ultimately, there’s no easy way to quantify a computer like the Volta V with a numerical rating. My best guess is attached to the top of this review, but if you want to fine-tune that rating, you’ll have to answer just one question for yourself: Do you respect wood?

 

“Volta V Gaming PC. A unique computer for the design-minded. Incredible performance. It looks and plays like a masterpiece.”

– Christopher Null, Wired

KOTAKU
Volta V Wooden PC Review: An Heirloom Gaming Machine, May 3, 2017

“Volta V goes beyond being an incredibly elegant block of functional walnut standing on slanted metal feet… Games I played on the system all ran spectacularly”

– Mike Fahey, Kotaku

read more


The following review by Mike Fahey was originally published May 3, 2017 on KOTAKU. Read the full article HERE


Volta V Wooden PC Review: An Heirloom Gaming Machine

I’ve spent the past few weeks gaming, working and pretending to work on the Volta V, the world’s first commercially-produced handcrafted wooden computer. It feels like it’s part of the family.

There was a time when most of our electronic entertainment equipment was either made of wood or, at the very least, stylized to look as if it had been. There’s something both enduring and endearing about wood. Perhaps it’s that it was once part of a living thing. Or that each piece of a wood-crafted television cabinet, radio housing or now computer enclosure is unique.

As I was preparing to write my review of this particular Volta V PC, one of my fellow writers asked, “So the reason people would want it is because it looks nice, right?” It does indeed look very nice.

But it goes beyond being an incredibly elegant block of functional walnut standing on slanted metal feet. The system I’ve been testing has a distinct personality. For example, it did not like me making it look like this: I was trying to mix retro styles and failed. Really badly.

It took it like a champ, but I could tell it did not want that cheap red plastic monster sitting on top of it. And those might be $180 keyboard keys on that custom board, but this Volta V would prefer something a bit more coordinated.
Filco Majestouch 2 with a lovely faux-wood Kobo cover.

What’s Inside

The Volta V is offered in multiple configurations, starting at $1,999 for the most basic, on up to nearly $4,000 for the most powerful overclocked system. The one I tested was a slightly modified version of the “Content Creation and High FPS Gaming” model. Cases are available in both walnut and bamboo.

120mm Black Mesh Dust Filters X 2
Asus Z170I Pro Gaming Motherboard
Corsair SF600 600W 80 Plus Gold PS
Custom Black Power Supply Cable Set
Core i7-7700K Overclocked
Asetek 545LC – Compact Liquid CPU Cooler
8GB DDR4 2133MHZ (2 x 4GB)
Integrated Wifi / Bluetooth
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB
Gold Plated 16X PCI-E Shielded Extension Cable
Onboard Sound
512GB Samsung 850 Pro SSD 6Gbps
Microsoft Windows 10 Professional Edition 64 Bit
Lifetime Service & Tech Support – 1 Year Parts

Price as configured: $2931.00

Opening It Up

The Volta V uses some creative layout tricks on the inside in order to house a powerful gaming PC inside a slim wooden rectangle. Here’s a quick video tour.

We’ve got a trimmed-down motherboard taking up the middle of the unit. To the right is a case fan, pushing air trough the filter beneath that side of the unit. On the left the video card, a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080, is connected to the motherboard via ribbon cable bridge. It lies upside-down so the fans are pushing air through the filter on the right side of the unit.

Note that the motherboard’s rear connectors rest inside of the unit, instead of flush with the rear. That’s part of the Volta V’s cable management solution, feeding essential devices like keyboard, mouse and network cables through holes in either the back or bottom of the case.
I love this shot forever.

For quick connections like headphones and temporary USB needs, there’s a small strip of inputs on the top of the right side of the case. Were this my machine, I would never use these. Instead I’d plug a USB hub into the back in order to keep the lines clean in the front. Still, it’s nice that they’re there.

Performance

A mostly wooden enclosure doesn’t seem to do anything to hinder the performance of the overclocked Core i7-7700K / GTX 1080 combo. Games I played on the system (Dragon Quest Heroes II, Nier: Automata, Overwatch, Rise of the Tomb Raider) all ran spectacularly maxed out at 1920 x 1080, with most barely blinking when jumping up to 1440p. Things started breaking down a little at 4K. Nier in particular hated to jump up, slowing down to the point where I had to dial back settings. Overwatch was fine. Overwatch will play on a toaster.
That dust is not Volta V dust. That’s from the television I took from the kids’ room, which I stupidly blasted with my new DataVac. Oops.

I wasn’t worried about performance on the Volta V. I was worried about heat and air flow and wood burning. Surprisingly enough (to me at least) the wooden enclosure barely warmed after hours of extended play. There was plenty of heat coming out the exhaust in the back of the system, but the surface only got slightly warm. Looks like trees love water even after they’re dead.

On top of the fine performance and keeping cool under pressure, I can’t say I’ve noticed a whole lot of noise coming through those laminated wood panels.

The Downsides

Wood has plenty of upsides. It’s sustainable, carries a classic traditional elegance and looks great on top of a wooden desk, even if that desk is cheap Ikea. It’s got real character.

But it’s still wood. Wood scratches. Wood chips. I may have put a couple scratches on this Volta V, or maybe they happened before I got it. Some folks will be fine with that—each nick or scuff adds a little more personality. Others will be driven insane.

And wood warps. It happens. Volta V makers Computer Direct Outlet warn against using the system in a humid environment, suggesting placing a dehumidifier in the room it’s used in. They also suggest never taking the system outside. This is because it will see the trees outside, remember what it used to be and get depressed, probably.

Aside from the material used, you’ve also got that unique interior design. While Computer Direct Outlet offers a lifetime service and upgrade installation warranty, eventually something’s going to come along that won’t fit, and you’ll have to purchase a new PC and stand it on top of your old one, like we used to do with televisions.

Wood You, Should You, In A Box?

If you look at the Volta V and think, “That looks really plain,” then you’re not the sort of person the system is made for. There’s nothing wrong with shiny plastic, polished metal and as many LEDs as you can pack in without blowing the power supply (a lot).

I love my blinking LEDs and tinted plexiglass system windows, but I feel drawn to the understated beauty of the Volta V. Is it because I am old, and have fond memories of massive wooden television cabinets housing tiny television screens? Do I long for my early computing days, back when systems were short and wide instead of shallow and tall? Or do I just find comfort in the fact that, should this PC ever catch on fire, I can roast marshmallows over it without having to worry about an overabundance of plastic residue?

I don’t know. What I do know is the Volta V is the sort of computer you try to keep in the family as long as possible. Maybe the next generation will figure it out.

 

Tom’s Guide
Volta V Review: A Neat Gaming PC That Helps the Environment, April 21, 2017

“The Volta V delivers strong gaming performance in a striking, environmentally-friendly chassis. 8/10 Totally worth it”

– Sherri L. Smith, Tom’s Guide

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The following review by Sherri L. Smith was originally published April 21, 2017 on Tom’s Guide. Read the full article HERE


Volta V Review: A Neat Gaming PC That Helps the Environment

At first glance, the Volta V (starting at $1,999; reviewed at $2,885) looks more hipster than gamer with its slick walnut case. But don’t sleep on it — this small, environmentally-friendly PC has more than enough power to support most of your gaming, VR and productivity needs. It’s a great departure for gamers who are tired of the same old flashing lights on every gaming desktop — or are just woke AF.

Design: Eco-Friendly Chic

The Volta V looks more like a miniature version of one of those swanky ’60s coffee tables than a badass gaming rig — and that’s the biggest part of the appeal.

Instead of delivering light shows, metal and glass, the Volta V has a case made from American hardwood (walnut, in this case), aluminum and 3D-printed steel. There is a bit of plastic in the makeup, but it’s hidden from prying eyes in the interior of the case. If walnut’s not your thing, you can get the system in bamboo. In short, this desktop is eco-friendly chic.

Because the paneling is made out of wood, it is prone to expanding and contracting due to moisture or dryness in its environment.. So if you were thinking about using the Volta V in a particularly humid or arid environment, you might want to reconsider.

The front panel juts out slightly and reminds me of a cabinet, so much so that I tried pulling it out on several occasions. There’s a small silver-aluminum lightning-bolt emblem in the lower-left corner for a nice — but not over-the-top — piece of flair. The sides and most of the rear panel are made of more luscious walnut. The bottom of the desktop is made of aluminum, with two large nylon dust filters attached via magnet.

The system stands on a pair of black aluminum feet, allowing for enough space to slide a keyboard underneath when it’s not in use. The legs are sturdy enough to support a monitor up to 30 pounds placed on top of the Volta V.

Even though I do love a hefty mid or full tower, the Volta V’s slight dimensions speak to my rather small New York City apartment. At 15.8 pounds and 20.3 x 11.9 x 3.9 inches, the Volta V would look nice in a living room or on a work desk. It’s thicker than the MSI Trident (7 pounds, 13.6 x 3.8 x 2.8 inches) but thinner than the Corsair One (15.8 pounds, 14.9 x 7.9 x 6.9 inches) and the Maingear Drift (35 pounds, 18.3 x 15.11 x 5.8 inches).

Ports and Upgradability: Just Pop the Top

In the interest of cord and space management, the Volta V’s ports are seated deeper inside the case than I’m used to. You get four USB 3.0 ports, three USB 3.1 ports, HDMI-in and Gigabit Ethernet.

Your single GPU has its three DisplayPorts and one HDMI-out port, and there are a number of audio outputs, including headphone, microphone and the optical digital out jack. For gamers holding on to their decades-old peripherals, Volta V packs a PS/2 port.

The company also placed a couple more USB 3.0 and audio ports along the system’s right, along with the silver steel power button.

To get that sweet, sweet cord management going, you’re going to have to thread your peripherals into the system. Thankfully, all you have to do to access your ports (and other components) is remove the desktop’s top, which I’m happy to report requires nothing more than lifting the panel from the case. From there, you can easily swap out components.

Gaming and VR Performance: Better Than Average

The Volta V is outfitted with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM, which means that it can reliably deliver great frame rates at 1080p and mixed performance at 4K. However, like its more powerful brethren, the 1070 is a beast on VR, which means you can expect a smooth gaming experience when you strap on your Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

Even as I teleported from spot to spot, dismembering brightly colored automatons in Robo Recall, there were no nausea-inducing stutters. When we ran the SteamVR Performance test, the desktop maxed out the score at 11, matching the One (GTX 1080) and the Drift (GTX Titan X) while beating the 10.6 desktop average. The Trident and its GTX 1060 GPU produced a score of 7.3.

The Volta V held its own on some of our more rigorous benchmarks, putting down 112 frames per second on the Hitman test (1080p on Very High). This trounced the 86-fps average and the Trident’s 78 fps. However, the Drift and the One notched higher scores of 141 fps and 129 fps, respectively, with their more powerful GPUs. The Volta V’s frame rate took a big hit when we switched over to 4K (3840 x 2160), dropping to 49 fps, while the One fell to 79 fps.

When I played Mass Effect: Andromeda on Ultra at 4K, the system averaged 22 fps, which is below our 30-fps playability threshold. I managed to hit 30 fps on High and 35 fps on Medium. Compare that to the 51 fps the desktop delivered on Ultra on 1080p, and there’s a clear difference.

On the Rise of the Tomb Raider test, the Volta V obtained 56 fps at 1080p, which is a little short of the 58-fps average but better than the Trident’s 32 fps. Meanwhile, the Drift and the One reached 91 fps and 72 fps, respectively.

During the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, the Volta V got 70 fps, missing the 81-fps average while dispatching the Trident’s 30 fps. The Drift notched an insane 115 fps.

Overall Performance: A Speedy Powerhouse

Need to update a massive spreadsheet while watching your favorite livestream and editing a few photos? The Volta V’s overclocked 4.2-GHz Intel Core i7-7700K CPU with 16GB of RAM has it covered and then some.

I actually had 40 tabs open in Google Chrome, some of which were streaming Netflix and running TweetDeck. I also started up a full system scan in Windows Defender while playing Asphalt 8 and never saw a hiccup.

The desktop also performed well on our synthetic benchmarks, scoring 19,225 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test and surpassing the 16,663 desktop average. The One, which also has a i7-7700K CPU, notched 17,755, while the Trident and its last-generation Intel Core i7-6700K CPU delivered 12,953. But the Drift and its overclocked Intel Core i7-6950X CPU achieved a monstrous 25,777.

When we tested the Volta’s file-transfer speeds, its 512GB NVMe PCIe solid-state drive copied 4.97GB of multimedia files in 9 seconds, for a speedy 565.5 megabytes per second. That score demolished the 298.3-MBps average, and also topped the Drift (dual 250GB SSDs), the One (480GB SSD) and the Trident (128GB SSD), which produced speeds of 363.5 MBps, 236.6 MBps and 133.9 MBps, respectively.

The Volta V continued its speedy ways on the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, pairing 20,000 names and addresses in 2 minutes and 31 seconds. That’s faster than the 3:18 desktop average as well as the times put up by the Trident (3:12) and the Drift (3:01).

Heat: Cool Confidence

Even when I was in the heat of battle during Mass Effect: Andromeda, the Volta V managed to stay relatively cool thanks to its liquid cooling module. After I fought Kett for 15 minutes, the rear-mounted fans blew 101 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s above our 95-degree comfort threshold, but no one’s going to be placing this machine on their lap. And whether I was playing a traditional game or a VR title, the fans were almost whisper quiet.

Software: Keeping It Light

The Volta V is light on bloatware, as any good desktop should be. There are a few flies in the ointment, such as Candy Crush Soda Saga, Facebook and Twitter. Nvidia GeForce Experience is the only gaming software, bundling up a bunch of gamer-focused features, such as Battery Boost and Game Optimization, into one easy spot.

The Volta V includes lifetime service and tech support and a one-year parts warranty.
Configurations

I had a great time playing with the $2,885 model of the Volta V, which has an Intel Core i7-7700K CPU with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM.

The $1,999 base model features a 3.0-GHz Intel core i5-7400 GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 250GB SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 2GB of VRAM. For folks with deeper pockets, there’s the $3,969 iteration, which has an overclocked Intel Core i7-6900K processor, 32GB of RAM, a 500GB SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM.

Although the Volta V offers several customization options — including for the motherboard, type of wood, CPU and GPUs — the well isn’t as deep as what boutique companies such as Maingear and Origin offer.

Bottom Line

The Volta V isn’t your average desktop. Made from wood and other environmentally safe materials, the desktop PC has eco-friendly cred for days. But don’t you dare write it off as a lightweight when it comes to gaming. Sporting an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU and a powerful Core i7 processor, the Volta V lets you help save the real world at the same time you liberate virtual kingdoms and galaxies.

However, if you’re looking to confidently play 4K games, you might want to step up to the $2,898 model with the Nvidia GTX 1080 GPU. And if you’re looking for something a bit flashier, you might want to take a gander at the Maingear Drift, which starts at $1,299. Still, if you want a slick, retro-looking system with equally impressive power and looks (with some eco-friendliness thrown in), the Volta V deserves your attention.

 

Tom’s Guide
Volta VZ Gaming PC Review – Just Plain Powerful, April 29, 2016

“Computer Direct Outlet’s Volta VZ looks unassuming, but its performance is as impressive as that of any PC I’ve reviewed.”

– Michael Andronico, Tom’s Guide

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The following review by Michael Andronico was originally published April 29, 2016 on Tom’s Guide. Read the full article HERE


Volta VZ Gaming PC Review – Just Plain Powerful

Some gaming PCs aim to wow you with their flashing lights and aggressive designs, while others are content to let their performance do the talking. Computer Direct Outlet’s Volta VZ desktop ($1,442 starting, $3,069 as reviewed) falls into the latter camp, offering a simple, no-nonsense chassis that you can stuff a whole lot of power into. The Volta might not turn heads like many of its competitors do, but it’s practical, easy-to-upgrade design and beefy gaming performance make it a strong choice for those seeking a gaming desktop that won’t look out of place in the office.

Design
The Volta VZ keeps things simple yet classy, utilizing a sturdy and rectangular Fractal Define Mini case coated in slick black automotive paint (CDO also offers an option for red paint in the front). The only added pieces of flair are the two lighting-bolt-shaped Volta logos on the side and front panels, the latter of which lights up blue when the PC is turned on.
The Volta’s front panel opens up like a mini-fridge, revealing a DVD-RW drive, an optional hard-drive bay and two pop-open doors that let you access the PC’s front-facing fans.
At 19.3 x 15.6 x 8.27 inches, the Volta is a good fit for those with a decent amount of floor or desk space. It’s not as hulking as other premium towers such as the Origin Millennium or Alienware Area 51, but it also won’t slide into your entertainment center like a Maingear Drift or Alienware X51. The Volta is about on par with Velocity’s Micro Raptor Z55 (18.9 x 17.8 x 7.25 inches) in terms of shape and size.

Ports and Interface
The Volta offers plenty of convenient connections, starting with the two USB 2.0 ports, a single USB 3.0 port, and headphone and mic jacks at the front of the top panel.
In the back, you’ll find an additional six USB 3.0 ports, a USB 3.1 port and a USB Type-C port for extrafast charging on supported devices. You’ll also find a PS/2 port for older mice and keyboards, an Ethernet jack, and a full suite of surround-sound audio connections.
The Volta’s Fractal case makes upgrading incredibly painless. After twisting off a few hand screws, I was able to slide off both of the side panels to gain access to components, such as the graphics card and storage drives. From there, you’ll just need to remove a few screws with a screwdriver, depending on what you’re replacing.

Gaming Performance
Packing an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card with 6GB of VRAM, our Volta unit is a legitimate gaming powerhouse. The PC showed off just how good Rise of the Tomb Raider can look, allowing me to perform death-defying leaps through its gorgeously lit canyons in 4K at high settings with frame rates ranging from 45 to 60 frames per second. When I lowered the resolution to 2560 x 1440, I was treated to a consistent 60 fps.
This lines up well with how the Volta performed on the game’s built-in benchmark. CDO’s desktop netted an average frame rate of 43.16 fps at 4K with graphics maxed out, and improved to 59.20 fps with the resolution set to 2560 x 1440.
The Volta scored a 4,339 on the 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra test, which gauges 4K gaming performance. That tops our GTX 980-powered Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (3,371), as well as our 3,857 category average.

VR-Readiness
Thanks to its top-of-the-line specs, our Volta is more than ready for virtual reality gaming. The PC crushed the SteamVR performance test, which runs a quick Portal-themed demo and rates a machine on a spectrum of Not Ready (Red), Capable (Yellow) and Ready (Green). The Volta landed as far into the green as possible, with an average quality rating of 11. To put that number in perspective, GTX 970-powered machines such as the Alienware X51 and Asus ROG G20CB scored closer to 6.
Just to be safe, I also ran the Oculus Rift Compatibility tool, which scans your PC to ensure you have the proper components and ports for the Rift. Unsurprisingly, the Volta checked off all of the necessary boxes.

Overall Performance
Packing an Intel Core i7-6700K processor with 8GB of RAM, the Volta had plenty of muscle to support whichever combination of tasks I threw at it when I wasn’t gaming. I never experienced slowdown on the PC, even as I watched five Twitch streams, downloaded a game from Steam and ran a full-system scan all at once.
The Volta scored a 18,894 on the Geekbench 3 overall performance test, topping the Core i7-6700K-powered Maingear Drift (17,003) and our 16,398 category average while falling to the Raptor Z55 19,468, which uses the same CPU as the Drift.
Our Volta’s 400GB PCIe SSD copied a large batch of multimedia files at an insanely fast 497 MB per second. That’s faster than the Drift’s dual 250GB SSDs (363.5 MBps) and our 250-MBps average, though not quite as blistering as the Raptor’s 400GB Intel 750 NVMe flash drive (1,107 MBps).

Configurations and Value
We reviewed a high-end, $3,069 configuration of the Volta, which packs an Intel Core i7-6700K processor, 8GB of RAM, a 2TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive with a 400GB SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card.
Of course, the Volta is a made-to-order machine, and you don’t have to dish out over $3,000 to get your hands on one. You can create a configuration that’s as low as $1,442, which gets you an Intel Core i5-6500 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and an AMD Radeon R360 graphics card. You can also go totally overboard, adding as much as 64GB of RAM ($338 extra), a 1.2TB SSD ($1,230) and up to two Nvidia GTX Titan X GPUs ($2,539 extra).
Building a VR-ready Volta would cost around $1,748, which ups the graphics card to an Nvidia GTX 970 — the minimum for virtual reality gaming. A VR-ready Origin PC Millennium will run you about $1,870.
While we reviewed the all-black Volta with blue accents, you can also opt for a case with a bright-red front panel and white backlights. The PC ships with a one-year parts and labor warranty, and which you can extend to up to three years for $339.
The Volta’s pricing seems about standard for a boutique manufacturer. An Origin PC Millennium with the same CPU, RAM, storage and graphics costs about $40 more, at $3,112. On the other hand, PC makers such as Origin and Maingear offer a greater number of aesthetic-customization options at the point of purchase.

Bottom Line
Computer Direct Outlet’s Volta VZ ($1,442 starting, $3,069 as reviewed) looks unassuming, but its performance is as impressive as that of any PC I’ve reviewed in this price range. CDO offers plenty of options for making your Volta VR-ready and then some, and while the PC’s design is plain, it’s also a breeze to upgrade.
If you want something more visually stimulating, both the Origin Millennium ($1,731 starting) and Maingear Shift ($2,278 starting) offer striking designs with tons of aesthetic-customization options. But if you’d rather have your gaming PC blend unassumingly into your workspace, the Volta has the performance that counts.

 

“Volta… a legitimate gaming powerhouse”

– Michael Andronico, Tom’s Guide

Desktop Engineering Magazine
Engineering Workstation Review: Very Fast Indeed, November 15, 2015

“the Computer Direct Business Volta Pro VP1 beat every other single-socket workstation we have tested to date”

– David Cohn, Desktop Engineering

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The following review by David Cohn was originaly published in the November 2015 issue of Desktop Engineering. Read the full article HERE


Computer Direct Business sent us its Volta Pro VP1, a well-designed workstation based on a fourth-generation Intel Haswell CPU. The system is housed in a solid black ATX tower case measuring 8.27×19.29×15.55 in. (WxDxH) made in Sweden by Fractal Design. The complete system weighed 31.5 lbs. The case features side and top vents with ample sound dampening and noise absorbing material on the side panels. A hinged door conceals two front panel 5.25-in. drive bays and a pair of fans. The top bay in our evaluation unit housed a Liteon 24X DVD+/-R/RW burner.

A round power button, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port, microphone and headphone jacks are on the front top edge of the case. The rear panel provides four more USB 3.0 ports, an RJ-45 network jack, an optical S/PDIF output port and five audio jacks. The side panels are held in place with non-captive thumbscrews. In addition to the two external bays, the Fractal case provides room for up to six internal bays. Our evaluation unit included three internal drive bays, however.


Classy Components
The Volta Pro VP1 is built around the ASUS Gryphon Z97 motherboard, an excellent board based on the Intel Z97 Express chipset. The motherboard provides four DIMM (dual in-line memory module) sockets supporting a maximum of 32GB of non-ECC un-buffered memory modules of up to 1866MHz. The base Volta Pro VP1 configuration comes with 8GB of RAM using a pair of 4GB DIMMs. Our evaluation unit came with 16GB of memory, installed as a pair of 8GB Crucial Ballistix 1600MHz modules, adding $56 to the system price. The LGA1150 socket on the ASUS motherboard supports a wide range of Intel processors, and Computer Direct Business offers a choice of five different CPUs ranging from the 3GHz Core i5-4460 quad-core processor in the base Volta Pro VP1 configuration to the Core i7-4790K installed in our evaluation unit. While that Intel CPU has a standard speed of 4GHz and a maximum turbo speed of 4.4GHz, Intel designed this processor to be overclocked, and Computer Direct Business did indeed boost the CPU in our system to 4.5GHz. That faster CPU plus overclocking added another $322 to the cost of the base system.

Expansion options on the ASUS motherboard are limited to a pair of PCIe 3.0 x16 slots that support a single x16 board or two x8 boards, plus a PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 electrically) and one PCIe x1 slot. The base Volta Pro VP1 configuration comes with an entry-level NVIDIA Quadro K620 GPU, but one x16 slot in our evaluation unit housed a high-end NVIDIA Quadro K5200 graphics card with 8GB of GDDR5 memory and 2304 CUDA cores. The high-end NVIDIA board added $2,117 to the system price. The Quadro K5200 provides a pair of DVI ports as well as two DisplayPorts. The rear panel also has DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPorts connected to the Intel HD Graphics 4600 on the CPU.

While the base Volta Pro VP1 configuration comes with a 250GB Samsung 850 Pro SSD (solid-state drive), our unit came with a 400GB Intel 750 PCIe SSD, installed in one of the remaining PCIe x16 slots, adding $344 to the base price. It meant there was only one expansion slot remaining while the drive bays were empty. The company offers drives ranging from a 500GB 7200 rpm drive up to a 1.2TB SSD. Computer Direct Business included a Corsair Hydro Series H60 liquid cooling system. Power was provided by a Seasonic 850watt 80 Plus Bronze power supply. The system was quiet even under heavy compute loads.


Great Performance
By the time we added up the options, our Volta Pro VP1 priced out at $4,441. But how would it perform?

On the SPEC Viewperf tests, the Computer Direct Business Volta Pro VP1 beat every other single-socket workstation we have tested to date, owing largely to its overclocked CPU and high-end graphics card. On the SPECapc SolidWorks benchmark, it again beat other systems equipped with a single CPU. But on the AutoCAD rendering test, the Volta Pro VP1’s quad-core CPU could not match the rendering performance of the six- and eight-core systems we’ve recently reviewed.

We also ran the SPECwpc workstation benchmark. The Volta Pro VP1 turned in great numbers on tests that relied primarily on graphics performance but dropped to the middle or bottom of the pack on elements of the test that were multi-threaded.

DE Benchmarks of CDB Volta Pro VP1
Benchmarks courtesy of Desktop Engineering and David Cohn.

Computer Direct Business pre-loaded Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. Windows 8.1 is also available. The company does not offer them as an option when configuring a system online. Strangely, the system comes with only a 1-year warranty on parts, yet most of the components used to build the system carry their own multi-year warranties. Computer Direct Business does offer lifetime labor and tech support, however, and will cover parts for a second or third year for an additional charge.

While it lacks ISV (independent software vendor) certification and you could essentially build the same system yourself for less, if the Volta Pro VP1 is any indication, the folks at Computer Direct Business know how to build great systems. The Volta Pro VP1 combines excellent components in a well-apportioned package offering great performance at a very attractive price.

Computer Direct Business Volta Pro VP1 as configured for this review:

  • Price: $4,441 as tested ($1,602 base price)
  • Size: 8.27 x 19.29 x 15.55 in. (W x H x D) tower
  • Weight: 31.5 lbs.
  • CPU: One 4.GHz Intel Core i7-4790K quad-core (over-clocked to 4.5GHz)
  • Memory: 16GB DDR3 non-ECC at 1600MHz (2X8GB), 32GB max
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K5200
  • Hard Disk: 400GB Intel SSD
  • Optical: 24X DVD+/-R/RW
  • Audio: Integrated Realtek ALC892 8-channel HD audio (top panel: headphone and microphone; rear-panel: microphone, line-in, line-out/front, rear, bass and SPDIF)
  • Network: Integrated Intel I218V gigabit LAN controller with RJ45 port
  • Other: Five USB 3.0, two USB 2.0; DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort; two DVI ports and two DisplayPorts on NVIDIA board
  • Power supply: 850 watts 80Plus Bronze
  • Warranty: One-year for parts, lifetime labor

 
 

“The Volta Pro VP1 combines excellent components in a well-apportioned package offering great performance at a very attractive price”

– David Cohn, Desktop Engineering

Cadalyst Magazine
First Look Review: High-end 3D modeling workstation, December 11, 2015

“Volta Pro is an attractive, high-performance system built with quality components, great test scores, and a good warranty. Highly Recommended!”

– J.V. Bolkan, Cadalyst

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The following review by J.V. Bolkan was originaly published in the December 2015 issue of Cadalyst Magazine. Read the full article HERE


The Volta Pro VP1 from Computer Direct Outlet is an attractive system that includes high-end components for a good price. The customized Fractal Design tower case is classified as a mini-tower, but is nearly as large as cases considered full towers. Computer Direct finishes the case with flat black paint and an elegant lightning bolt logo cut into the hinged front panel and backlit by blue LEDs. The logo is also etched into the side of the case, along with the Volta name. The same blue light surrounds the power button, which is located at the top edge of the tower’s face.

Of course, beauty is also about what’s on the inside: performance and utility. The VP1 is built around Intel’s 4-GHz Core i7-4790K. This central processing unit (CPU) is overclocked to 4.5 GHz and cooled by a Corsair Hydro Series H60 water-cooling system. The CPU is fed by 16 GB of RAM, a 400-GB solid-state drive (SSD), and a 2-TB data drive. Graphics are handled by an NVIDIA Quadro K4200 graphics processing unit (GPU) with 4 GB of RAM; it’s a graphics card built for complex, 3D-heavy CAD modeling. (Note: NVIDIA recently released the M4000, an incremental upgrade to the K4200, which Computer Direct Outlet offers for an additional $196.

As expected with a water-cooled system, there is almost no noise produced during operation. The 850-watt power supply exhaust fan hums a bit, but it is barely audible until you get right next to the case. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll need them, the case features a large fan grill on the side and another on top. The roomy (especially for a minitower) interior offers expansion potential, including two unused RAM slots that can be filled with another 16 GB of memory for a maximum total of 32 GB. There is also space for adding more full-size (CD/DVD), standard-size (HDD), and compact (SSD) drives. All of this space makes the machine easily upgradeable as your needs increase over time. The workstation weighs a solid 31lb. The heft of the unit may make it a little unwieldy if you need to move it often and the sleek case doesn’t offer obvious handholds or handles. Of course, as a water-cooled system, you can site the system more flexibly because ventilation is less of an issue than with a typical air-cooled workstation.

The workstation includes most of the expected ports and interfaces. I was a little disappointed that wireless networking and Wi-Fi weren’t included. The company states that you can add the Intel Wifi 802.11ac and Bluetooth PCI-E card for $66 . The Asus motherboard provides 6 USB 3.0/2.0 ports, integrated sound, and Ethernet networking. The review system did include a CD/DVD/RW drive, but lacked a mouse and a keyboard, which would be odd if the machine were arriving at an office to be used right away. The need to purchase about $100 worth of peripherals doesn’t substantially change the value equation, but since a mouse and keyboard are required to boot the system, they should be included in the box. The company states that it does not include input devices, because, “Engineers and other creative professionals are typically very selective about their keyboards and mice, so we let them choose their own.”

Performance Numbers

Running our latest C2015 benchmarks using AutoCAD 2016 at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, the Volta Pro VP1 turned in solid scores of 720 overall, 1,664 in 3D, 497 in 2D, 409 for disk, and 311 for CPU. It would be very difficult to beat those scores at any price.

The SPECviewperf benchmark scores were catia-04, 71.62; creo-01, 64.40; energy, 2.90; maya-04, 58.46; medical-01, 21.32; showcase-01, 37.75; snx-02, 104.62; sw-03, 110.10. These are solid scores for any Intel Core i7 system, but I suspect the newer NVIDIA M4000 might help here and some in the C2015 scores. A good Intel Xeon-based system will destroy many of these SPECviewperf scores, but at a considerable price increase of a possible $2,500 – $3,000 more.

The Wrap Up

The Volta Pro VP1 is a powerful, quick, and readily upgradeable workstation. At $3,208 (as configured), the system is priced competitively in the sweet spot for workstations. This sweet spot is basically the line in the sand where you receive maximum performance for the least money. If we, for example, were to use a less expensive card in a system, it could slow performance much more than it would save money because it would bottleneck the system. In the end, you’d probably be better off using a slower CPU and maybe even a slower SSD drive, so that all the parts work at the same expected rate. With this configuration, you’d have a “budget” system in its own sweet spot. Alternately, adding in a higher level graphics card would push the price up considerably with only slight (if any) gains in performance in most tests.

Although I quibble a bit about minor cost-cutting (Wi-Fi, accessories, etc.), every major component in the system is well balanced between high performance and price. Quality components, an easy-to-use custom configuration and ordering web site, and a three-year standard warranty should make this system a contender for your next purchase. Highly Recommended.

Click here for the Cadalyst Labs Workstation Review Specification Sheet of the Computer Direct Business Volta Pro VP1 from this review.
 

 

“Volta Pro is an attractive, high-performance system built with quality components, great test scores, and a good warranty. Highly Recommended!”

– J.V. Bolkan, Cadalyst

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