Price Analysis & Conclusion
The Origin PC Chronos is the company’s first custom SFF chassis, and it packs a lot of power in a tiny box. The overclocked and water-cooled Intel Core i7-7700K and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti deliver best-in-class gaming performance. Its 32GB of DDR4-2666 memory, 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD, and 6TB HDD gives you exceedingly high memory and storage capacity, even by PC gaming enthusiast standards.
However, this all comes at a hefty price: $3,259. We can already hear enthusiasts furiously typing comments about building it themselves cheaper! But when it comes to custom shop gaming PCs, this price is actually par for the course for a Core i7/GTX 1080 Ti SFF PC with a fully custom chassis (see Steiger Dynamic’s Era Reference). In fact, compared to the Era, the component set of the Chronos (Core i7, higher RAM and storage capacity) is quite reasonable, even if the final price tag is higher.
The chassis catches the eye with a matte red finish and red LED strip. A small window showcases the graphics card, and it has vents that line up directly with the GPU’s blower fan, giving it a steady supply of cool air. The simplicity and size makes the Chronos well-suited for a powerful living room gaming rig, but the case's versatility makes it just as appealing sitting on a desk or under your display.
We weren’t thrilled with the interior of the case, particularly how incredibly compacted everything is. This isn’t really a bad thing if you aren’t ever going to touch the components yourself, but anyone considering a purchase probably intends to keep it for a long time, and upgrades (or replacements) may become available or necessary after some time (say, if the PSU or SSD goes bad, or Nvidia turns the dial to 11 with a new series of GPUs and you’re dying to have the latest and greatest graphics card).
Although it is possible to access all of the individual components (there are standard Phillips-head screws holding the various cages in place), Origin PC certainly didn’t make it easy. The PSU and storage are inaccessible without disassembling the majority of the system. However, you can still access the memory, GPU, secondary storage, and cooling components without any tedious tinkering. If there are any issues you don't want to deal with yourself, Origin PC's warranty should make you rest easy.
Speaking of tinkering, if you aren’t one to dabble with CPU or GPU clock rates (either through a lack of knowledge or confidence), we generally recommend custom shop overclocking services as a means for the uninitiated to get the most out of their hardware. However, Origin PC’s asking price for this is much higher than its competition, with the company fetching $75 for a CPU overclock and $50 for the graphics card ($125 for both components). It's nice to know that Origin PC's warranty covers the overclock, but the company doesn't provide the performance perk for cheap.
Steiger comes in slightly lower with its overclocking services at $100 for the CPU and GPU (at least at the time we reviewed the Era; Steiger has since reduced its overclocking fees in response to our feedback), but shops like AVADirect and Xidax only charge $25 per component for the performance boosting add-ons (although GPU overclocking isn’t available in the AVADirect Avatar). Occasionally, shops will throw in the service (for one, if not both of the components) as a special sale, but currently, Origin PC doesn’t appear to be running any such promotions. Despite the unsavory price tag, the fine tuning certainly helped propel the Chronos to the top of the charts against similarly equipped competition.
The Chronos exhibited excellent thermal dissipation in our testing. We observed peak CPU and GPU temperatures no higher than 75°C, which is well within the standard operation parameters of the components. The clock rates never seemed to waver, and the intuitive design of the Chronos prevents any thermal throttling with its strategically placed air vents and clever implementation of a 120mm radiator and slim-profile fan. You wouldn’t think a gaming rig this compact and powerful could provide adequate airflow for the overclocked premium components, but Origin PC put some serious thought into the design of the Chronos, and the results speak for themselves.
Although Kaby Lake is about to be demoted with the arrival of Intel's 8th generation Coffee Lake desktop processors, it's a sure bet that Origin PC will be offering the updated Z370 chipset and six-core CPUs in an impending update to the Chronos. If this sample is any indication, it will offer top-tier gaming performance, stable overclocks, and a sweet red SFF chassis.
The Origin PC Chronos is a brilliant combination of intelligent design and raw horsepower, and it's a worthy consideration for PC gamers looking for the absolute best if a budget is just a number and cash flow is comfortable.
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