Fast and affordable, this rig takes aim at Alienware
ORIGIN PC’S GAME plan with its new Chronos box is pretty clear: It wants a piece of the buzz that Alienware stirred up with its much-lauded X51 mini gaming PC.
Where Origin PC hopes to punch the Alienware X51 in its exoskeleton nose is in performance. The Alienware X51 that we reviewed in the May 2012 issue came with a GeForce GTX 555 and 3GHz Core i5-2320 (the fastest configuration at the time). The Chronos easily out-specs that with its liquid-cooled 3.4GHz Core i5-2550K and EVGA Classified GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 card. To make it even less fair, Origin takes advantage of the liquid cooler to clock the chip up to 4.7GHz on the Zotac Z68ITX-A-E board.
With its 57 percent higher base-clock speed, it’s no surprise that the Chronos outpaced the Alienware X51 by more than 40 percent in our application tests, as well as nearly 110 percent in STALKER: CoP and 78 percent in Far Cry 2.
But what about small form factors with a bit more muscle? We compared the Chronos to the CyberPower LAN Party Evo that we reviewed in July 2011 and found that the Chronos actually did pretty well. Granted, it’s not completely fair to put a PC today against one available last summer, but we’ll do it anyway. The LAN Party Evo box had nearly the same chassis, but was packed with a GeForce GTX 580, a 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K, and a 120GB SSD. The Chronos actually wins in three of our app benchmarks and ties in one. On the other hand, it makes an interesting statement about Hyper-Threading. Despite being clocked 1.3GHz slower, the Evo’s 2600K is right on the tail of the non-Hyper-Threaded Core i5-2550K. The Evo’s full-boat GeForce GTX 580 also outruns the Chronos’s GPU. That LAN Party Evo, however, cost about $900 more in 2011 money.
It’s not all about specs and shekels, though. You also have to consider the other tangibles in this class of machine: Is it quiet? Are there gaffes with the build? We think the Chronos is a bit loud thanks to its heavy overclock; both the CyberPower and the Alienware rigs were nearly silent—especially the X51, with its Optimus technology, which lets it run on its whisper-quiet integrated graphics for low-intensity uses. Why other vendors can’t get this feature yet we don’t know. Hear us, Nvidia?
The traditional shoebox design might not gracefully blend into a living room environment, nor will the noise.
We also have an issue with the slot-fed drive in the Chronos. The way the drive is mounted leaves a slight gap between it and the case, which caused us to slip a disc into the case and not the drive.
So is the Chronos an X51 slayer? We don’t think so. It’s still about $200 more than the X51, and to be frank, we think they don’t directly compete. As much as Alienware denies it, we see the X51 as an attack on gaming consoles—it’s more of a console form factor box than a small form factor box, in our opinion. That doesn’t take away from Origin PC’s Chronos, though.
At this price, it offers a lot of performance in a traditional shoebox design that’s perhaps more at home at a LAN party than a media center rack.
Origin PC Chronos
Fast, cheap, and compact.
SSD caching would help drive performance; it’s a tad loud.
Vegas Pro (sec)
Lightroom 2.6 (sec)
ProShow 4 (sec)
STALKER: CoP (fps)
Far Cry 2 (fps)
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked to 1,750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate.