Origin Chronos review: Origin Chronos

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
MSRP: $1,199.00

The Good The Origin Chronos offers best-in-class gaming performance in a tidy, overclocked package.

The Bad Despite the Chronos' nice variety of options, gamers using multiple monitors will want to look for a system with room for multiple graphics cards.

The Bottom Line The Origin Chronos shows the strength of small boutique vendors with a fast, affordable, and compact little desktop that I can recommend to any PC gamer.

Visit for details.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Support 8

Editors' note: Origin is no longer offering the Chronos with a Core i5 2550K chip featured in this review. An otherwise identical version is now available for $1,279 with an overclocked Core i5 3750K chip, and an Intel Z77 motherboard.

The Origin Chronos small form-factor PC helps illustrate why I did not give the Alienware X51 an Editors' Choice Award. Alienware crammed some nice design innovation into its little PC, but unlike the Chronos, the X51 still shows performance compromises due to its small size and, I suspect, Alienware's ties to Dell and the precautions necessitated by large-scale manufacturing. Origin navigates around the size issue with well-chosen components, and the company's independence and smaller manufacturing scale allow it the freedom to overclock. The result is a small gaming desktop I would recommend to anyone.

Our Chronos review system came with the Silverstone SG08 case option, the smallest Origin offers under its Chronos line. The case measures 7.5 inches high, almost 9 inches wide, and just under 14 inches deep, slightly larger overall than the Alienware X51 (13.25x3.75x12.25 inches), but still small enough to make for an unobtrusive living-room system.

The Chronos' size permits only a single graphics card, and Origin has also capped the power supply at 600 watts. That's a reasonable amount of power for a small PC, and almost double the capacity of the Alienware's X51 330-watt PSU. Practically speaking, it means you can use almost any current-generation graphics card in the Chronos. The chief innovation of the X51 is its ability to use a double-wide graphics card in a slim tower case, but the Alienware's smaller power supply means you're limited to midrange GPUs.

Origin Chronos Alienware X51 Velocity Micro Edge Z40
Price $1,199 $999 $1,199
Motherboard chipset Intel Z68 Intel H61 Intel P67
CPU 4.7GHz Intel Core i5-2550K (overclocked) 3GHz Intel Core i5-2320 4GHz Intel Core i5-2500K (overclocked)
Memory 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 555 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti
Hard drives 750GB 7,200rpm 1TB 7,200rpm 1TB 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray/DVD burner combo
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

Compare the specs of the Chronos to those of the Alienware and you'll see the Origin's advantages pretty quickly. Our review configuration costs $200 more than the X51, but it also has a faster CPU and a faster graphics card, not to mention the ability to add an even more powerful GPU down the road. The Chronos has only a 750GB hard drive to the X51's 1TB model, but I'd happily sacrifice a bit of storage for better gaming performance.

If you're willing to spend a bit more for a gaming system, Origin also offers you more options. You can pay $1,049 for a Core i7-based X51, but that's the only flexibility Alienware gives you in terms of core components for the X51. On the Chronos configuration page, you can opt for top-end graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia, as well as an overclocked Core i7 CPU and up to three solid-state drive (SSD) options.

The SSD storage and higher-end graphics cards alone make the Chronos a more flexible system than the X51, and show how even Alienware has become vulnerable to owner Dell's recent trend toward offering fewer customization options. The fact that Alienware will not overclock the X51 out of the box also gives the Origin system a dramatic performance edge.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  

In its price range, the Origin Chronos is the fastest midrange desktop I've seen. That's not a real surprise given its fast clock speed, although I wondered how the Chronos would compete on the Cinebench multiprocessing test. Its Core i5 chip is only a straight quad-core CPU, while the Core i7-2600 in the HP Pavilion HPE h8xt has a slower clock speed but more processing threads thanks to its Hyper-Threading boost. No matter. The Chronos system outperformed it heartily, and it's your best bet at this price if you need fast application performance.

Far Cry 2 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  

Metro 2033 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,560x1,600 (DirectX 11, very high)  
1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high)  

3DMark 11 combined test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Extreme (1,920x1080)  
Performance (1,920x1,080, 16x AF)  
Entry level (1,680x1,050)  

Best Desktops for 2020

All best desktops

More Best Products

All best products