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?
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