There are PC gamers that like to build their own rigs, save as much money as possible, and take pride in the construction. And then there are those who just want to play every game at the highest settings possible, without being burdened by assembly, driver installations or the bits and pieces that come with building a new PC.
If you fall into the latter, the Corsair ONE is very much for you.
What Is It?
The front is fairly minimalist: a power button, USB and HDMI port. Image: Kotaku
A watercooled Kaby Lake system with a liquid cooled GTX 1080, the Corsair ONE is a fully built PC that expands on the company's attempts to capture PC gamers with something a little more hassle-free than the DIY Bulldog.
Shipping with either an i7-7700 or i7-7700K CPU, 16GB of Corsair Vengeance 2400MHz DDR4 RAM, a 240GB (or 480GB) SSD and 1TB HDD for storage, a custom MSI Z270 mini-ITX motherboard and an air cooled GeForce GTX 1070 or liquid cooled GTX 1080 depending on the model, the Corsair ONE is pretty much targeted at people who want to enjoy PC games at their best but don't have the time to build their own high-end setup.
Two models are available to Australians right now: the stock Corsair One, which comes with a liquid cooled i7-7700 CPU, the smaller 240GB SSD and an air-cooled GTX 1070, will set you back priced at $2649. The Corsair One PRO ships with a GTX 1080, the slightly faster i7-7700K, and costs $3149. Both models are currently only available through PC Case Gear right now, although that may change down the road.
The major appeal of the Corsair ONE is the size: the whole chassis is only 380mm x 176mm x 200mm (h/w/d), small enough to fit neatly next to your TV in the living room, on a small desk, or an office space. It's not a gaudy case either, with fairly understated blue lighting around the exterior. It's a bit reminiscent of TRON, if only because of the angles the LED takes on the front of the case.
Another major selling point, one that plays into Corsair's expertise as a manufacturer of fans for decades, is the sound. A 140mm maglev is located at the top of the chassis, drawing cold air in through the two 240mm radiators (on the Corsair One PRO, whereas the base model only has a single radiator) and expelling hot air through the top.
Both units also ship with pre-installed launchers from Steam, Origin, Uplay, Good Old Games and Battle.net. Corsair's own diagnostics and Utility Engine software are installed, as well as MSI's tools for the Z270 motherboard. The system's also designed to make VR easy, with a HDMI and USB port on the front, a single USB-C port and five regular USB 3.0 ports.
What's It Good At?
Apart from being a fairly tiny chassis, the Corsair ONE is also quiet. Real quiet. The whole unit idles at around 20db according to Corsair, and while it ramps up under load or a benchmark, it's nowhere near as noisy as a regular PS4, PS4 Pro or an Xbox One while gaming. You'll also get two years warranty with Corsair, which covers parts and labour.
Some props have to be given to the design as well. Being a tall, but relatively thin case means the Corsair ONE fits in a lot of corners, desks and living rooms quite neatly. Square and rectangular boxes might be nice if you want to stick a PC in between a living room cabinet, but Corsair's design is better for the cooling, which means better frame rates and temperatures while gaming.
And speaking of gaming, the Corsair ONE holds up as well as you'd expect. The PRO model, which I reviewed, comes with a 7700K and a GTX 1080, so it's no surprise that it hit 60fps at 4K in most of the games I tested (and in areas where it doesn't, you can easily turn off a post-processing effect or two to get over the line):
As a small note: I'd probably drop the graphics settings in F1 2016 down a touch. The frame rate will drop in line with the amount of cars on screen, and if you're faced with a pile-up that's exactly when you need to make sure your fps holds steady.
The ONE also shipped with the updated version of Corsair's Utility Engine, which has been cleaned up a touch. It still has most of the same features, although the new UI makes uploading and downloading RGB profiles a lot simpler. I quite liked the Medic community creation:
That said, this software is available for any Corsair peripheral; you don't need to spend $2649 and up to get the benefits.
It won't be used by most people, but the HDMI port on the front is a nice touch for those deep in VR. And the button at the back of the case to open the chassis up is smart and subtle. From top to bottom, it's a well designed piece of kit.
What's It Not Good At?
There's not much to quibble at with the Corsair ONE in terms of hardware. It's a little odd that the Corsair ONE doesn't let you control the RGB on the front of the case, given that it's made by a company which puts RGB lighting into just about every other part of your PC. Being able to turn the LED off at all would be nice, but it's not a dealbreaker by any means.
Another gripe that also isn't a dealbreaker, but is damn annoying nonetheless, is Corsair's diagnostic tools. I've never had a problem with their Utility Engine software before, but the ONE ships with additional tools that like to scan your PC to make sure everything's running well. Problem is, they have a habit of popping up at all the wrong times - like when you're in the middle of a game, or running a benchmark. It took a few goes before the software buggered off permanently; hopefully a future update adds a switch that tells prompts not to appear whenever you're in a fullscreen or windowed fullscreen application.
Something worth noting is that Corsair themselves are handling all of the repairs and two year warranty for the device, even though Australians will have to buy the ONE through PC Case Gear. There's nothing wrong with that, but for Australians living in more remote places it's worth taking into account.
It's also worth noting that Corsair really doesn't want you to take the ONE apart. It's possible to upgrade components, but you'll void your warranty if you do. Instead, you can send your Corsair ONE into a repair centre where you pay to have it upgraded. That's not ideal, although understandable to some degree: part of the appeal is that Corsair has rigged everything to fit inside as small a space as possible - and it's a system targeted at people who don't want to fuss around with PC parts in the first place.
But perhaps the biggest mark against the Corsair ONE is time. By launching before the GTX 1080 Ti, Corsair was forced to manufacture a PC that can play at 4K - but not in every title without the odd compromise here or there. A GTX 1080 Ti version of the ONE will be available later this year, and while there isn't Australian costings yet, the international price will be $US2600.
One small gripe is that for a system pitched at supporting the future, having only the one USB-C port is an oversight. Given that its commonplace among smartphones now, and that more monitors and even VR headsets will support the technology going forward, a second USB-C port would have been helpful. But that's the limitations of a custom mini-ITX motherboard: if you want a smaller size, you have to compromise somewhere.
Should You Buy It?
The Corsair ONE isn't targeted at people who build their own PC systems, so while it's legitimate to say you could save money by building an i7-7700K/GTX 1080 PC yourself, that's not the point. You'd need a good amount of skill, at any rate, to get the audio levels and cooling setup down to the point where Corsair has had it.
And that's where the value starts to kick in. If you're someone who has the spare cash, who loves playing with a mouse and keyboard and isn't interested in making compromises to play in 4K (or very few), the Corsair ONE is probably the nicest pre-built RIG going around. It looks nicer than most traditional PCs, especially if you want something more understated than the bright whites and neon tubes that some PC builders are adopting.
You can get systems just as powerful for cheaper, but you're also buying a regular PC at that point. It'll look like a flashier, more space-age version of the PC you might have known growing up, but it's a PC all the same. The ONE is a bit classier, a bit sleeker, and a hell of a lot quieter - and that's what the premium is for.
It's a great piece of engineering on Corsair's part, and it's a nippy system to boot. It's not perfect - nothing is - but it's a great rig for gaming, and a fine illustration of Corsair's expertise in a single case.