Origin Chronos (2019) Overview: A Small PC Packing Unbelievable Efficiency

"Tiny but powerful, with the Origin Chronos you can rethink the need for a full-size tower PC."

  • Very small space requirement

  • Excellent performance

  • Many hardware adjustments

  • Beats many full size desktops

  • Can be loud

  • Not much to see

We love huge tower computers. They're big, brave, absurd, and frankly we prefer that our computers look more like an alien monolith than a useful piece of modern technology. Still, our mindset is certainly on the rise. Computers are getting smaller as their performance increases.

That brings us to the Origin Chronos. The Chronos is the smallest desktop PC in the company's product range. It's a little less than a foot tall, four inches wide, and about 14 inches deep. It's smaller than most A / V receivers or about the size of Microsoft's Xbox One X. Nevertheless, it offers full fat performance. Our test device packed a Core i9-9900K and the RTX 2080 Ti from Nvidia, surely more than enough to satisfy.

Maybe the question is no longer: "Why should I buy a small desktop?" Maybe now it says, "Why should I buy something other than?"

Gaming desktop or industrial machine?

There is an immediate reason why a large desktop can be better. Design. A larger desktop can offer more real estate to go wild with strange, unnecessary flourishes. Although often sticky, large desktops are at least something. Origin & # 39; s Chronos is … nothing.

Origin Chronos Review (2019 Model)

Origin Chronos Review (2019 Model)

Origin Chronos Review (2019 Model)

Origin Chronos Review (2019 Model)
Rich Shibley / Digital Trends

Nothing? Nothing. Look at it. It is a small metal box with a small badge on the front. It's not obnoxious, but it also doesn't respond unless you want your computer to look like a couple of sheets screwed together. This is in stark contrast to Origin & # 39; s full-size Millennium desktop, which has a unique and attractive custom case.

You can add spice to the Chronos if you have money to spend. Origin offers a variety of custom color options and themes. If you have the money, Origin prints (almost) everything you want on the flat, canvas-like flank of the Chronos. However, competitors like Falcon Northwest and Digital Storm have similar options, and upgrading to metallic paint will bring you $ 250 back.

This is the benefit of Origin's boring design. It's not an eye-catcher, but it minimizes the tricks you need to know to revise the internals.

At least it is functional. The box-like Chronos can be aligned either vertically or horizontally as required without restricting the airflow. Pint-sized computers are often a home theater PC, and the Chronos fits just that.

The forward-facing port cluster also works in both directions. It contains two USB-A ports, a headphone jack and a microphone jack. All of them are easily accessible from every angle, and since the Chronos is small, you may be able to place it much closer to (or below) your desk.

Narrow internals, but they make sense

Cracking the Chronos case is theoretically simple, but complicated in practice. Only two knurled screws have to be removed. It's great, but it's difficult to separate the panel. Removing the panel requires some force. Once solved, the CPU cooler becomes an obstacle. It is bolted to the removable plate, but cannot be easily removed by yourself, so the plate remains attached to the body by the cooler's liquid cooling.

Origin Chronos Review (2019 Model)Rich Shibley / Digital Trends

This is not an unusual problem for a small PC, so we cannot knock the Chronos too much for it. However, this arrangement makes changing components more annoying and precarious than with a larger system.

The graphics card is also complicated because it is attached to the motherboard with a riser that angled the card so that it runs parallel to the motherboard. Removing the card is a bit more difficult than normal, and you can't pinch an aftermarket card with a cooler that's larger than the stock. However, this too is a common victim of competitors such as the Digital Storm Bolt and Falcon Northwest Tiki.

The Origin Chronos offers more graphics than expected.

Apart from these problems, the Chronos is simple and relatively easy to use. The RAM is easily accessible for an upgrade, as is the hard drive. The CPU is also free of unnecessary obstacles, so replacing it shouldn't be more difficult than in a larger case. This is the benefit of Origin's boring design. It's not an eye-catcher, but it minimizes the tricks you need to know to revise the internals.

The Core i9-9900K is flexible

An entry-level Origin Chronos will bring you back at least $ 1,500 if you choose an AMD Ryzen processor. Our updated test device came with the Intel Core i9-9900K, an 8-core device that can achieve clock speeds of up to 5 GHz. It was paired with 16 GB of 3200 MHz RAM and a Samsung 970 PRO Solid State Drive, which raised the price to around $ 3,550.

This predictably led to excellent performance, if not better than other systems with the same chip.

Compared to the Asus ROG Strix GL12XC, which also had a Core i9-9900K, the Chronos was a bit slower. We are not shocked. Origin's desktop is much smaller, which results in less thermal headroom and possibly less performance.

However, it is hard to be disappointed as the Chronos' results are still excellent. In Geekbench 4, it achieved a multi-core score of 32,328 and transcoded a 4K trailer from h.264 to h.265 in less than a minute.

These results are extremely quick. The Chronos is somehow faster than the Alienware Area-51 R5 that we tested in May 2018, even though the system had the 18-core Intel Core i9-7980XE. Oh, and the Alienware is almost four times bigger.

Sure, the same processor in a larger desktop may be faster. But what is more important to you? A five percent (or less) increase in processor speed, or a desktop so small that you can put your monitor on it and mostly forget about it?

We are equally impressed with the hard drive.

Origin Chronos Review (2019 Model)Rich Shibley / Digital Trends

Our test device came with a 512 GB Samsung 970 Pro Solid State Drive. It went very well and achieved a maximum read speed of more than three gigabytes per second and a maximum write speed of 2.3 gigabytes per second. These are the best speeds we've seen so far from a single solid-state drive in a desktop computer.

Upload your favorite game and let yourself be surprised

As with its processor, the Chronos offers more graphics performance than expected. Our test device came with the RTX 2080 Ti from Nvidia, the graphics card that every PC player dreams of. It is clearly visible and is located next to a ventilation cutout on the side of the housing so that the card and its lighting are clearly visible.

Appearance is one thing, but performance is what matters. The Chronos has what matters, no matter what game you throw at it.

The Origin Chronos got off to a good start with the Fire Strike test from 3DMark. The score of 26,821, powered by a single RTX 2080 Ti, is on par with an Alienware Area-51 R5 with two GTX 1080 cards. The Aventum X from Digital Storm also offers a solid comparison. With a score of 33,927, the dual RTX 2080 Ti setup is faster, but does not extend its lead as much as we would expect. Overall, the Origin Chronos is the fastest single GPU system we've tested so far.

Now we come to real gaming.

Sid Meier's Civilization VI represents an end to the spectrum. This beautiful turn-based strategy game puts a heavy load on the processor, but the Core i9-9900K does the job easily. Breathtaking speed is the result. The Origin Chronos achieved an average of 135 frames per second with a resolution of 1440p and ultra details. The next fastest desktop we recently tested, the Falcon Northwest Tiki, only reached 94 FPS. This story was repeated at a 4K resolution where the Chronos reached an average of 127 FPS, while the next fastest system, the Area-51 R5 from Alienware, reached 85 FPS.

At the other end of the game is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, a highly GPU-bound game that challenges today's best graphics cards. For the Origin Chronos with a resolution of 1440p and ultra details, this was not a challenge as we saw an average of 85 FPS. That beats the Alienware Area-51 R5 with two GTX 1080 graphics cards! 4K was of course more strenuous, but the Chronos still averaged 49 FPS. That's impressively close to the 60 FPS that most players prefer. It again surpasses Alienware's dual GTX 1080 setup and is within 5 FPS of the 2018 Incarnation of Origin’s Millennium with two GTX 1080 Ti cards.

Origin Chronos Review (2019 Model)Rich Shibley / Digital Trends

All of this leads to a fairly simple conclusion. The Origin Chronos is fast. Really fast. It is a good choice to run a 1440p monitor with a 144 Hz refresh rate or a 4K monitor with a 60 Hz refresh rate. A larger desktop with a double RTX 2080 or 2080 Ti setup like the Digital Storm Aventum X is the only way to get better performance. But don't forget – the Aventum X is more than six times larger than the Chronos and weighs almost 100 pounds.

It is remarkable to see that the Chronos go so far while staying compact, and it reinforces the argument that a small desktop can make sense. Not only for Facebook and shopping on Amazon, but also for hardcore gamers or professionals who need a seriously capable rig.

A note on noise

Ok, but packing this energy into a small package is causing a problem. Just ask our ears.

More gaming desktop reviews

The Origin Chronos at least avoids the hassle. Its sound is more of a constant, quiet whirring, like a big storm blowing outside your house. However, it remains a big storm and we couldn't help but notice it when we turned a benchmark or loaded a game.

It's not so loud as to be unacceptable, but the noise decreases in size for the Chronos. This is a small desktop that you can place near you. Maybe under a monitor. Maybe in a home theater where it's used for entertainment. However, the noise will be distracting. You don't want it near you or in a quiet home theater unless you happen to be playing every game and watching every movie with headphones.

Our opinion

The Origin Chronos is a compact computer that makes you wonder why something bigger is needed. It is not exciting to look at, but it is exciting to have it.

Is there a better alternative?

The Falcon Northwest Tiki remains our favorite among small custom desktops because it is both quick and easy to look at. However, with a lower starting price of $ 1,500, the Chronos is cheaper than the Tiki price of at least $ 2,100.

Other competitors like the Digital Storm Bolt can keep up with the Chrono's hardware, but its size defines Origin's option. The Chronos is smaller than the average and therefore fits in places where Tiki or Bolt cannot.

How long it will take?

The Origin Chronos we tested had the best hardware, so we're sure it will last for at least five years. Entry-level models will likely need a GPU upgrade after a few years of service. The size of the Chrono limits your options, but replacing the GPU is not too difficult.

Every Chronos comes with a 1-year parts replacement guarantee. However, shipping is only covered for 45 days. We would prefer to get a 1 year shipping guarantee too.

Should you buy it

Yes. The Origin Chronos itself is available in its own class of custom gaming mini-towers, but it doesn't pay off in terms of performance and is no more expensive than the competition. If maximum speed with minimum size is your goal, the Chronos is exactly what you want.

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