The terms "pre-built" and "small form factor PC" are usually sufficient to scare hardcore PC gamers. Prefabricated PCs do not necessarily take precedence over quality or performance. They often choose branded or no-name components to cut costs while billing you for unusual accessories or warranty packages elsewhere. On the other hand, small form factor PCs don't always get high-end graphics card options or efficient cooling due to their inherited size limitations.
The rig I'm going to check out today breaks these two stereotypes. The Chronos from Origin packs premium components from brand manufacturers in a tiny housing. These include an Intel Core i7 7700K CPU, 32 GB DDR4 RAM at 2666 MHz, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, a Samsung 960 Pro SSD with 512 GB and a 4 TB WD Black for storage – all properly installed in an MSI Z270i Pro Carbon AC motherboard.
Without going into the luxury price range, this is pretty much the best equipment you can buy. If that's still not enough, the Chronos can be equipped with an i7 6950X, a GTX Titan Xp, up to 6 SSDs and a 10 TB hard drive. For those looking for a budget conscious option, there are plenty of options around the H270, Z270 and X99 chipsets. The Origin configuration tool enables countless different hardware combinations to meet your price and performance requirements.
To cool all of this hardware, Origin has built in a 120mm Frostbyte liquid cooler with a pre-assembled low profile fan. It is mounted on the side wall of the case so you should be careful when opening the chrono. There is also an additional small inlet near the front of the case. Since the graphics card is a basic version, high thermal insulation between the components is possible.
The case has precisely arranged inlet and outlet openings for the GPU in fan style, so that all heat flows away from the CPU and the motherboard. As mentioned earlier, the CPU is liquid cooled so all of the heat is transferred to the cooler. Finally, the additional case fan helps cool the motherboard, memory, and storage drives. The case itself is only 10.6 liters in size, so extreme attention to heat management is key to any hope of a cool running system.
There are honeycomb vents around the case and Origin has not used dust filters. You should therefore clean the inside of the housing every few months.
The entire exterior can be painted in many different ways to suit your preferences. Origin offers spot colors, custom designs, and even a hydro-dip option. The model I have today is matte black with red accents, which is quite tame compared to some options on offer.
On the front of the case there is an illuminated Origin logo at the top and the buttons for switching on and off at the bottom. Below are the I / O options, which include 2 USB 3.0 ports and audio ports for headphones and microphone. The side of the case has a window opening directly above the graphics card rotated by 90 degrees. This serves to both demonstrate and cool it thanks to the ventilation cutouts above the GPU fan.
There are more cutouts on the back of the case and the rest of the I / O – yours may vary depending on the GPU and motherboard, so I won't go into them. Depending on your space constraints, you can position the Chronos in the desired orientation. Origin includes 4 magnetized rubber feet that you can attach to the floor to lift it up and ensure proper airflow. This is a nice touch for those who want to mount it sideways as part of a home theater setup.
The side wall is loosened with two knurled screws on the back. I was very impressed with how the Origin design team managed to fit everything into it. The graphics card uses a PCIe riser so that it can be mounted flat. This contrasts with the SFX power supply with properly laid power cables. The memory is located under the graphics card in the last corner of the case.
It's very tight inside, but you can definitely get to any component. Everything inside is a trademark and off the shelf, which means that you can update any component you want. The graphics card can be easily removed with a few screws and a support bar that releases the hard drive cages is located underneath.
The MSI motherboard, which I unfortunately have, mounts the M.2 drive on the back, so it is painful to get it out. When planning upgrades, be sure to check the dimensions of the motherboard and the amount of RAM, as these two are very close.
The Chronos has optional internal case lighting if you want it to. Unfortunately, the included LED strip burst into a large cloud of smoke during the test, so I could not get any photos or make recommendations. I suspect that the plug or strip came into contact with the metal case and caused the short circuit. Origin told me it was just a one-off.
You really notice that the internal layout is well thought out. It is divided into four quadrants: one with the motherboard, one with the SFX power supply, one with the front panel connectors and 2.5-inch drive brackets and the last corner with the 3.5-inch drive and the GPU.