Origin PC Chronos review: A 4K gaming monster in a petite package

Nancy J. Delong

There’s lots of wide-open space in the Chronos, but no extra slots, typical of these small-form-factor desktops. The black box next to the CPU is the power supply. Lori Grunin/CNET The new Origin PC Chronos is one of those systems you feel the need to invent a performance metric for, […]

There’s lots of wide-open space in the Chronos, but no extra slots, typical of these small-form-factor desktops. The black box next to the CPU is the power supply.


Lori Grunin/CNET

The new Origin PC Chronos is one of those systems you feel the need to invent a performance metric for, like frames per second per cubic inch. Capable of housing up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 and overclocked Ryzen 9 or Intel Core i9 processors, this small-form-factor gaming PC punches well above its weight. It’s not the most gracefully proportioned system, though, squat and chunky with minimalist illumination. And unlike the tall, slim MSI MEG Trident X, which uses the same motherboard, it looks like it should be able to accommodate more than just a single card.

Like

  • Fits a lot of power in a small space
  • Relatively quiet given its power
  • Surfaces don’t get hot

Don’t Like

  • Really need to use the external Wi-Fi antenna
  • Like most mini-ITX motherboards, there’s only one slot, occupied by the graphics card

This case is new for Origin PC and it’s actually a bit smaller than before. We’ll be seeing a lot more of these small desktops with 3080 and 3090 cards — it’s amazing how much power you can cram onto a corner of your desk these days — and they’re a perfect size for weekday-work-from-home-game-on-weekends people in a cramped space.

Like all Origin PC systems, you can pay extra to jazz it up with a custom paint or etching job. In this case, that’s extra above the $3,225 of our test configuration (directly converted, about £2,530 and AU$4,585), equipped with a 10-core Intel Core i9-10900K, EVGA XC3 GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card, a total of 1.5GB SSD and 16GB 3.2GHz DDR4 memory.  If you opt for the aluminum mesh side panels instead of the tempered glass we got, you can get a bigger CPU cooler and custom overclocking. The Chronos can be configured starting as low as $1,449 (about £1,135 and AU$2,060).

Origin PC Chronos

Price as reviewed $3,225
Size Mini ITX (11 x 7 x 15.5 in/27.9 x 17.8 x 39.4 cm)
Motherboard MSI MEG Z490I Unify and Corsair SFX 750 watt PSU
CPU 3.7GHz Intel Core i9-10900K
Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz (2 slots)
Graphics 10GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (EVGA XC3)
Storage 500GB SSD (1 NVMe slot), 1 x 1TB SATA SSD; 1 open bay for 3.5-inch storage
Ports 6 x USB-A, 2 x USB-C (1 x Thunderbolt 3); on GPU 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, on motherboard 1 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI)
Networking 1 x 2.5Gb Ethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 (802.11ax)
Operating system Windows 10 Home (2004)

There’s a lot of empty space in the case and, of the Mini ITX systems I’ve seen recently, it’s one of the easier to open and upgrade: there are thumbscrews on the back, the sides slide out, there’s a pressure plate with outside screws holding the graphics card in place and there’s a bottom slide-out filter tray. Everything’s easily within reach, visible and accessible. The liquid cooling systems are pretty, too, but they can make quick swaps and upgrades a pain.

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The Chronos has a Thunderbolt port in the back — a nice motherboard feature since the RTX 30-series cards don’t have USB-C connections like the 20-series did. I wish it had more connections in the front like the Trident X rather than the single USB-A, USB-C and audio jack, but at least you have a USB-C connector to hang a hub off of.

As with a lot of desktops, the Wi-Fi can be a bit sketchy — the antenna locations frequently don’t handle 5GHz signals very well — and you’ll definitely have to use the bundled external one. The antenna’s base is magnetized, though, and it attaches more sensibly to the base than other’s I’ve seen.

The i9-10900K processor in the Chronos isn’t the fastest I’ve tested in a small form factor, though it does take the single-core-speed crown, if only by a slim margin in some cases. The Ryzen 9 3900XT in the Maingear Turbo outperforms it for multicore speed, which is in part attributable to the Ryzen’s 12 processing cores compared to the i9’s 10. (You can see how it measures up in the benchmark results at the end of this review.)

Origin PC Chronos

The lip on the bottom is a pull-out filter.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Surprisingly, the RTX 3080 isn’t unambiguously faster than the 2080 Ti; it’s plenty fast, but it looks like it’s (unsurprisingly) optimized for Nvidia’s own CUDA programming interface and Windows DirectX rather than Vulkan. That’s likely temporary, though, since the 30-series cards have some new algorithms and architectural changes that software needs to catch up with.  

For many games, though, it generally seems to be about 10-20% faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, its spiritual predecessor, and about 30-40% faster than the RTX 2080 Super, it’s price-equivalent predecessor. Perhaps more important, though, those gaps increase significantly when playing games in 4K using DLSS (Nvidia’s upscaling technology) in a way they never did in the 20-series cards, as well as 4K without it.

All this speed doesn’t heat up the system’s surfaces or overheat its components, but the hot air venting out the top does seem to raise the temperature in my room by about two degrees. Still, it’s small enough that I might actually be able to squish a third monitor on my desk and fast enough to make it worth putting up with the heat.

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Origin PC Big O (PS4 Edition)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 5 (single-core)

Origin PC Big O (PS4 Edition)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 5 (Vulkan)

Origin PC Big O (PS4 Edition)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 5 (CUDA)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R20 CPU (multicore)

Origin PC Big O (PS4 Edition)

Falcon North West Talon 20th AE

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Falcon North West Talon 20th AE

Origin PC Big O (PS4 Edition)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Shadow of the Tomb Raider gaming test

Origin PC Big O (PS4 Edition)

Falcon North West Talon 20th AE

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

3DMark Port Royal (RTX)

Origin PC Big O (PS4 Edition)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Corsair One Pro Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (1909); 3.3GHz Intel Core i9-10940X; 64GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 11GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti; 2TB SSD
Falcon Northwest Talon 20th Anniversary Edition Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (1909); 3.8GHz AMD Ryzen 9 3900X; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super; 2TB SSD RAID 0
Maingear Turbo Microsoft Windows 10 Home (2004); 3.8GHz Ryzen 9 3900XT; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,600; 11GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti; 1TB SSD + 4TB HDD
MSI Trident X Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); (oc) 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,932; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super; 1TB SSD
Origin PC Big O (PS4 Edition) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); 3.8GHz AMD Ryzen 9 3900X; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super; 1.5TB SSD (2TB SSD for console)
Origin PC Chronos Microsoft Windows 10 Home (2004); Intel Core i9-10900K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200; 10GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (EVGA); 1TB SSD + 500GB SSD
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