Origin Chronos review

The compact Origin Chronos raises the bar on high-end gaming desktops, showing that you don't necessarily need a massive tower PC to dominate on the game grid.
Photo of Origin Chronos

The Origin Chronos is a high-end, compact gaming rig that’s cheaper than gaming desktops that cost $5,000 or more, yet matches and even surpasses those in performance. It’s capable of running just about any high-end PC game you throw at it, and ask for seconds. While it’s not really expandable, the sheer amount of capability that Origin PC put into the Chronos means that you’re going to be looking at a new PC before you feel the need to add components to this one. It’s the high-end gaming rig to beat right now, and the new Editors’ Choice for small-form-factor (SFF) high-end gaming desktop PCs.

Design and Features
The Chronos is built into a customized version of the Bitfenix Phenom chassis, with plenty of cooling fans and piping for the liquid cooled processor. It’s a white chassis similar in style to the ones we’ve seen on the V3 Gaming Traverse and AVADirect Mini Gaming PC Core i5 Z77, but with some significant differences like which side the power button and USB ports are located, and the fact that the Chronos doesn’t have space for an optical drive.

The chassis has a pair of cooling fans pumping air out of the top, as well as a large cooling fan in the back that exhausts warm air from the CPU’s liquid cooling system. The two graphics cards also spit out a copious amount of heat while running games and 3D benchmark tests. We measured about 89 degrees Fahrenheit at rest, but 163 degrees while the system was running the strenuous Heaven benchmark test with all the sliders turned up.

The fans and the installed eVGA monitoring software certainly kept up with cooling the high-powered GPUs: The fans make themselves heard while the system is chewing on 3D tasks, but quickly calm down when it returns to a more idle state. At idle or when performing non-strenuous tasks like email and IM, the desktop was quieter than a thermoelectric desk fridge.

The Chronos is built around an Asus Maximus VI Gene microATX gaming motherboard with Republic of Gamers branding. It comes with an Intel Core i7-4770K processor overclocked from 3.5 to 4.7GHz, 16GB od DDR3 memory, a 1TB SSD boot drive, and a 1TB, 7,200rpm traditional spinning hard drive. The 3D graphics are handled by a pair of 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards in a two-way SLI configuration. The whole shebang is powered by a Corsair 850W power supply.

Since the system is so compact, and since the GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards are double-wide, there is no internal expansion room. You can, however, expand the memory with another 16GB of RAM via two free and accessible DIMM slots. The internal wiring is neat, and airflow is fine. When you initially open the case, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the 1TB SSD, but it’s actually bolted to the side of the other case lid. Origin is very efficient in the use of this compact chassis.

The Chronos comes simply configured, with only Windows 8.1 and the requisite driver and utility software for the graphics cards and motherboard. The system has no bloatware, which is a good thing. It comes with a three-year warranty, including parts replacement and shipping back to Origin PC for service.

Performance

The reason you spend close to five thousand dollars for a gaming rig is for the performance, and the Chronos certainly doesn’t disappoint. Thanks to the high-powered processor, graphic cards, and SSD boot drive, the desktop managed to give us one of the highest PCMark 7 scores we’ve ever seen: 7,936 points. (PCMark7 tests the system on day-to-day tasks like file copies, light gaming, Web browsing, and the like.) To put this into perspective, our last high-end gaming PC Editors’ Choice Falcon Northwest Fragbox (GeForce GTX 780 SLI) was the last highest with 7,322 points. The full-size Origin Genesis (Core i7-3970X) could only get 6,584 points, and the AMD-powered Maingear Shift (AMD FX-9590) lagged behind at 5,192 points. To be sure, all these PCMark 7 scores are way ahead of more pedestrian consumer systems, which average around 2,500 to 4,000 points. Multimedia scores are as quick as you’d expect. The Chronos is certainly capable of performing as a high-end multimedia PC when it’s not at play on the game grid.

At the all-important game tests, the Chronos is a real workhorse, with three-digit frame rates at our toughest game tests: On high-quality settings, it scored 209 frames per second (fps) on Aliens vs. Predator (AVP) and 182 fps at Heaven. These are slightly behind the scores of the former Editors’ Choice Falcon Northwest Mach V (Triple Titan) under the same quality settings (222 fps in Alien vs. Predator, 198 fps in Heaven), but the Mach V has three expensive GeForce Titan cards, while the Chronos only needs two GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards (the Chronos is also significantly cheaper). The Falcon Northwest Fragbox (GeForce GTX 780 SLI) was way behind (129 fps in AvP, 132fps in Heaven), as was the Mainger Shift (AMD FX-9590) (128 fps in AvP, 84 fps in Heaven). That said, it’s more about bragging rights, since all four systems mentioned above will play 3D AAA titles smoothly with all the eye candy turned on.

The Origin Chronos is a compact gaming rig that is fast enough to wipe the smiles off the smug (rich) gaming circle you may compete against. It’s priced $2,500 less than the Falcon Northwest Mach V (Triple Titan), which used to be the pinnacle of gaming rigs, yet it performs virtually the same or better on the benchmark tests. It’s faster across the board than the Falcon Northwest Fragbox, the Editors’ Choice for small-form-factor, high-end gaming desktops. This is why Origin Chronos replaces the Fragbox as our new Editors’ Choice for SFF gaming desktop.

Specifications
Processor Family Intel Core i7
Storage Type HDD, SSD
Graphics Card nVidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Operating System Windows 8.1
RAM 16 GB
Type Gaming
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 2000 GB

Verdict
The compact Origin Chronos is the high-end gaming rig to beat. It raises the bar, showing that you don't necessarily need a massive tower PC to dominate on the game grid.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc