The Origin PC Chronos Z is the meanest small form factor gaming PC I've yet to encounter. Origin PC ships its gaming systems in wooden crates. The Chronos Z came in the smallest crate to date, yet the Titan Z-powered beast within was far more powerful than anything that came before it.
The small size of the shipping crate is even more notable when considering that two of the three Origin PC systems I've reviewed so far have been laptops. The Chronos Z packs a great deal of power into the incredibly sexy Silverstone Raven RZ01, its slim steel frame tucked inside stylised black plastic measuring 15 inches wide, 14 inches deep and a little over four inches tall.
I'm more than a little in love with this case, with its bevelled edges and hard-rock game console style. Some call it dull, but I prefer to think of it as understated. Anyone can build a large box that accepts PC components, but crafting something slim and compact takes real finesse.
A place for everything, everything in its place and very little waste. Once the Chronos Z goes back to Origin I'm considering ordering one of these cases from Newegg and placing it -- completely empty -- on my desk, as the idea of trying to fit everything inside it myself terrifies me.
The Chronos Z enclosure supports both vertical and horizontal alignment. I've been on a real horizontal system kick lately, a mix of nostalgia for my very first proper computer and the need for a living room PC my children can't tip over. Packaged in the accessory box that comes with the system are little sticky rubber half-spheres. Just stick them on the top side of the unit, look at the manual and realise your mistake, remove them and reapply them to the bottom (the side with two fan vents) and you're good to go. Oops.
A slender case is not without compromise, of course. Getting at the video card is a chore, thanks to the large piece of plastic that must be removed before getting to it. It's the same sort of problem I've run into with system's like Digital Storm's Bolt, and my large lands don't help. Thankfully the system comes with a Nvidia GTX Titan Z (the 'Z' in Chronos Z), which shouldn't need to be swapped out any time soon.
Enough harping over the outside of the unit. Here's the guts.
Chronos Z Review Configuration
- Asus Z97I-Plus Motherboard (Bluetooth/WiFi Onboard)
- Origin Frostbyte 120 Sealed Liquid Cooling System for 1150 Socket
- Overclocked Intel Core i7 4790K Quad-Core CPU (4.5GHz-4.8GHz)
- 700 Watt SFX Power Supply
- Single 12GB Nvidia GTX Titan Z
- 16GB Origin PC memory powered by HyperX 1866Mhz (2x8GB)
- Genuine MS Windows 8.1 64-Bit Edition
- 1TB Samsung 840 Evo Series
- 4TB Seagate Solid State Hybrid Drive
- 6X Slim Slot Load Blu-ray Writer
- On Board High Definition 8-Channel Audio
- Onboard Network Port
- Price as configured - $US3,599
Going down the list, we've got the Asus motherboard, the only brand that exists anymore as far as boutique gaming PC companies are concerned. Well, Origin PC does offer the EVGA Z97 Stinger as an option with this case, but look what they have sent for review.
We've got an Intel Core i7 4790K overclocked at 4.7GHz, fast and stable in a way I never could have achieved on my own. Adding to the system's speedy performance are the 1TB Samsung SSD and 4TB hybrid Seagate, affectionately referred to in these parts as the "Steam drive."
Also worth mentioning is the system's wireless performance. The 802.11ac wireless onboard the Asus Z97I-Plus is simply dreamy. There's a network cable behind the system that I never plugged in, even while downloading massive Steam games.
And of course there's the Nvidia GTX Titan Z, the reason this particular model of Origin PC's Chronos is referred to as the Chronos Z. Since a super slim case can only handle a single massive video card, why not get two video cards in one? The Titan Z is essentially a pair of 6GB GK110 GTX Titan Black graphics processing units on a single card. It's not quite as fast as two separate Titan Black cards, but it also takes up half the space.
One more item of note, that Blu-ray writer listed in the specs? It doesn't seem to exist in the review unit. There is a slot on the front of the machine that fits a Blu-ray disc, but no actual drive beyond. That's awkward. I'm guessing if you order a system with such a drive specified, they will check to make sure it's there before shipping.
All of these powerful bits of technology combine to form a powerful, Blu-ray drive-less little monster of a gaming machine.
Chronos Z Performance
Origin PC tells me this is a system ready for 4K gaming, which would be lovely if I had a 4K monitor laying about. I do not, and so my boring old 1080p monitor gets the honour of playing games while I pay attention to frame rates.
Above is a shot taken from the benchmark of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, an incredibly recent release for a developer who realises that if their game features a built-in benchmark test, it will keep showing up in PC reviews like these.
With the HD texture pack installed and the graphics default set to ultra, orcs were being promoted at an average rate of 95 frames-per-second.
Hooking up the ultra-wide 2560 x 1080 monitor I've been testing out to the system brought Shadow of Mordor down to 89 frames-per-second, not a very noticeable drop, all things considered.
Encouraged by these results, I tried a little Civilization: Beyond Earth.
Not much going on in the screen here, but with an average frames-per-second of 182 with all settings maxed out, there's plenty of room for more allies and enemies.
Then there's my favourite benchmark of then all, the famously dick-ish Metro: Last Light. Thanks in no small part to the fact that I am now running the new and improved Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark, the Chronos Z managed an average of 89 frames-per-second at 1920 x 1080 with all the bells and whistles applied. Welcome to the new age of higher Metro: Last Light scores.
Performance-wise the Chronos Z is one of the most impressive small form factor gaming PCs I've encountered, but all of this power isn't without a price. This system gets loud when games are running. With the system two feet away on my desk running Shadow of Mordor at 1080p, the system's fans sound like a hairdryer being used in the next room over. It's "you should probably invest in a nice set of headphones" loud.
That's another of the prices paid for the slim case -- pack this much power into a small space and it's bound to make some noise. Origin offers a selection of different cases for their Chronos line, and out of all of them the Raven RZ01 gets some of the lowest marks for noise level. If the hum's going to be a bother, perhaps one of the quieter selections is in order.
Aggressive PC Gaming
This particular configuration of Origin PC's Chronos small form factor gaming PC isn't playing games. It's wrestling them to the ground and holding them there until its master is done with them. It's got a serious case of small dog syndrome, making up for its small size with a constant airy growl. It will stand on its hind legs, maybe roll over onto its back, but try to rub it's tummy you might get jacked up. Its a mean little machine.
The Origin PC Chronos is available for customisation and purchase at the company's official website.