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Gaming desktops built for the living room are a tempting prospect, but almost always come with caveats. Some are powerful but not upgradable, while others are incredibly sleek but can't compete with the guts of a big tower. That's where the Origin Chronos comes in.
The console-shaped Chronos ($2,931 as reviewed, $1,200 starting) ticks every box you'd want from a gaming desktop -- it's powerful, it's sleek and, unlike many of its competitors, it's easy to open up once you're ready to upgrade parts. Factor in some smart ergonomic features and a wealth of customization options, and the Chronos is one of the best machines you can buy for enjoying high-end PC gaming from the comfort of your couch.
Few desktops are as good as impersonating consoles as the Origin Chronos is. This little black box is compact, sleek and filled with neat highlights, such as a side window that lets you drool over its GTX 1080 Ti graphics card in all its red-backlit glory.
The Chronos also packs lots of neat features that make it extra-adaptable to your living room setup. The PC comes with four rubber feet that attach magnetically, which makes it incredibly easy to switch from horizontal to vertical. You can even rotate the front-facing Origin logo to have it match the PC's orientation.
At 13.8 x 11.8 x 4 inches, the Chronos is notably chunkier than a PS4 or Xbox One as well as MSI's console-shaped Trident (13.9 x 9.9 x 3.8 inches). But it's more than sleek enough to sit under a TV, and unlike the small but cylindrical Corsair One or MSI Vortex, will actually slide into an entertainment center.
|AMD Ryzen 3 1200
|AMD Ryzen 7 1800X
|500GB SSD, 4TB hard drive
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
|13.8 x 11.8 x 4 inches
|13.8 x 11.8 x 4 inches
Ports and Upgradability
The Chronos' front-facing port selection is pretty standard, with two USB 3.0 ports and headphone and mic jacks for easily plugging and playing (though I would have loved to have seen a front-facing HDMI port for VR, like the Corsair One offers.
In the back, you'll find three more USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port and a USB Type-C port for newer gadgets. There's also a standard smattering of audio jacks, an Ethernet port and a PS/2 port for old-school mice and keyboards. The desktop's Nvidia GTX 1080Ti has its usual HDMI port and three DisplayPorts, giving you plenty of options for monitors.
Unlike most compact gaming PCs we've tested, the Chronos is remarkably easy to open up if you want to tinker with the guts. After removing two hand screws, you can slide off the PC's side panel and easily gain access to components such as the RAM slots and cooling system.
While getting inside the Chronos is easy, swapping out most parts, such as the graphics card, will take a screwdriver and a bit of extra legwork. (Origin noted that its support technicians will help users through the upgrade process.) The whole process isn't as blissfully dummy-proof as it is on, say, the Alienware Aurora, but the Chronos' upgradability is some of the best I've seen on a small PC.
Gaming and VR Performance
Sporting a beastly Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU, the Chronos packs a huge amount of gaming power into its small frame.
The desktop tore through our Hitman benchmark (1080p at max settings), rendering the stealth action game at a blistering 127.6 frames per second. That's just a frame behind the GTX 1080-powered Corsair One (129 fps) and well ahead of the MSI Vortex (98 fps, GTX 1080) and our 88 fps desktop average.
The Chronos continued to impress during the more demanding cinematic action of Rise of the Tomb Raider (1080p at max settings), in which Origin's PC turned in an impressive 95.4 and topped the Vortex (82) and the Corsair One (72). The Chronos even mustered a playable 30fps at 4K with all settings cranked up, something few desktops we've tested have achieved.
Origin's desktop is a miniature virtual-reality monster, maxing out the SteamVR Performance test at 11 just like the Vortex and One did. Our category average is 10.5.
The Chronos scored a strong 6,705 on the 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra benchmark, which measures 4K performance. That tops the Corsair One (5,032), the Vortex (4,503) and our 5,097 average.
Thanks to its AMD Ryzen 7 1800X processor and whopping 32GB of RAM, the Chronos chewed through daily tasks with no slowdown. I fired up well over a dozen browser tabs while watching five Twitch streams and downloading games from Steam to try to tax the system, and it didn't budge once.
Origin's PC scored a 21,585 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, topping the Corsair One (17,755, Core i7-7700K) as well as our 16,920 gaming PC average.
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The Chronos' speedy 500GB SSD copied about 5GB of files in just 6 seconds, for a blistering transfer rate of 828.3 megabytes per second. That beats the Corsair One's 480GB SSD (236.6 MBps) and our 339.1 MBps average, while nearly tying the Vortex's 512GB SSD (848.2 MBps)
As with all Origin desktops, the Chronos is made to order and offers a ton of neat customization options. The base Ryzen version of the PC starts at $1,200 with an AMD Ryzen 3 1200 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti.
From there, you can trick out the Chronos to your heart's content, adding extras such as a slick metallic paint job ($250), glowing interior lights ($20) and colored accents (no extra cost). You have plenty of options for extra power, including up to an AMD Ryzen 7 processor ($434) and a beastly Nvidia Titan XP graphics card ($1,220).
Our $2,931 review unit is a good example of the kind of power you can pack into the Chronos, sporting a Ryzen 7 1800X CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 500GB SSD with a 4TB hard drive and an Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti GPU. Our system came in the Chronos' default black color scheme, but with slick red accents.
The Origin Chronos delivers excellent gaming performance in a compact chassis while making very few compromises. The system's console-shaped design makes it ideal for the living room, while its support for AMD Ryzen 7 processors and Nvidia's highest-end GPUs allows it to handle 4K and VR without a sweat. Just be ready to pay up if you want to take advantage of its cooler customization options.
There are plenty of other great gaming PCs for the living room. The Alienware Alpha is even smaller but not nearly as powerful, while the Corsair One and MSI Vortex have great designs but aren't as upgradable or easy to slide under a TV. The Chronos finds a happy middle ground between size, power and flexibility, making it one of the best ways to play demanding PC games on your big living room TV.
Credit: Tom's Guide
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Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.