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Origin PC Chronos review: Fast things come in small, loud packages

If you still think a gaming rig is a PC that’s so big, you have to throw a party to get help lifting it out of the box, we’ve got news: Performance PCs don’t have to be gigantic anymore.

Nothing illustrates that fact more than Origin PC’s redesigned Chronos micro-tower, which packs state-of-the-art hardware into a machine not much bigger than last-generation gaming consoles. Sure, you’ll choke at the price—$4,865 as configured—but the performance you get from such a compact machine is impressive.

origin pc chronos xbox360 ps4 Gordon Mah Ung

The Chronos isn’t much larger than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Custom case

Most boutique vendors use off-the-shelf designs or slightly modified cases, but for this generation, Origin designed the Chronos from scratch and had it built to spec.

I’ve seen smaller micro-towers, but not many that are as friendly to wrench on. You’re just a few screws away from accessing the RAM and CPU cooler, and even removing the GPU. Overall accessibility is quite good for a PC this small.

origin pc chronos gut Gordon Mah Ung

Despite its size, working inside the Chronos isn’t as bad as with other designs. Storage is kept behind the GPU, which means it may get a little warm.

A lot of micro-towers are intended to be used vertically, but Origin gives you a choice. Want it horizontal? Just relocate the magnetized feet and lay it flat. The prototype case we saw at CES allowed you to rotate the logo too, but our test unit’s logo wouldn’t budge.

origin pc chronos magnetic feet Gordon Mah Ung

They’re just magnets, but the removable feet work relatively well and can be moved depending on the orientation of the case.

What’s inside

Powering the Chronos are an 8-core Core i7-5960X and 16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM in an Asrock motherboard. The RAM is in dual-channel mode, which is the only option in a board this small. That may scare off some people, but my own testing indicates the performance hit is minimal in most tasks.

Gaming chores are left to Nvidia’s top-dog Titan X graphics card, which may sound like an odd choice given the option of Nvidia’s GTX 980 Ti. The 980 Ti is almost as fast and a lot cheaper, but for some reason, PC vendors have taken the VR craze as an opportunity to push the Titan X instead.

Origin has overclocked both the CPU and GPU in the Chronos. The 5960X is liquid-cooled, and it’s been boosted to a range of 3.7GHz to 4.4GHz (its stock range is 3.0GHz to 3.5GHz). The EVGA GPU is air-cooled with a stock cooler, but still gets a bump of 195MHz to the GPU core and RAM. This should all add up to a stiff performance increase, and for the most part, that’s true.

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