Origin Genesis (Intel Core i7 2600K) review: Origin Genesis (Intel Core i7 2600K)

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MSRP: $2,499.99

The Good Impressively overclocked Intel Core i7 Sandy Bridge CPU sets new price-performance standard; overclocked graphics card provides gaming performance boost; polished build quality; comparatively power-efficient.

The Bad Drive bay cable rigging could be tidier; you'll want a beefier power supply than the one configured here to support a second graphics card.

The Bottom Line The Origin Genesis is the first system we've seen with Intel's new Sandy Bridge Core i7 2600K chip. Fast, and extremely overclockable, the new chip has provided Origin with a platform for a remarkably value-friendly gaming rig. Shop around for pricing as Sandy Bridge spreads among other vendors, but right now this is the $2,499 gaming PC to beat.

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8.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Support 8

Editors' note: Since this review posted, Intel announced a flaw in the Sandy Bridge P67 chipset used in this desktop. Click here for the details of the flaw, which affects certain data connection ports. As the hard drives on this system are not connected to the affected ports, we have no reason to believe that our performance results are compromised by the chipset flaw. If you order this system today, Origin will offer you several options, among them free shipping, labor, and parts replacement when the updated motherboards arrive from Intel. Intel has stated that the updated hardware will ship in the next four to six weeks.

This Origin Genesis gaming desktop was the first PC to hit our lab with Intel's new Core i7 2600K desktop CPU. Boasting impressive overclocking headroom and admirable power efficiency, this high-end quad-core chip sets a new standard for desktop CPU price-performance. We're also impressed with the desktop Origin has assembled around this chip. For $2,499, the Genesis outpaces older systems in the same price range, and even comes threateningly close to the performance of a $5,000 gaming desktop that uses the same new Intel CPU. We're also happy to see Origin maintain the commitment to strong build quality we saw in its debut last year. Be sure to compare prices for new Core i7s from the various boutique vendors, but short of a massive price disparity, we have no problem recommending the Origin Genesis for gamers and performance enthusiasts.

This incarnation of the Genesis is a more modest take on the Origin flagship line than the configuration we reviewed previously. Again, rather than being a full-tower, $5,000-or-so system, this Genesis comes in at $2,499, and it features a more manageable midtower chassis. The Lian Li PC-8NWX case looks clean enough, and a lockable, front-panel hard-drive bay provides convenient drive access with a touch of security. Inside, Origin's design shows most of the polish we expect in this price range. The internal hard-drive bays don't come with rear-mounted power and data cables, so you may end up with a cluttered interior if you add drives later, but for now, the inside of the case is clean and tidy, even with the large liquid cooling system inside.

At the end of that liquid cooling rig you'll find Intel's new Core i7 CPU, in this case the Core i7 2600K model. Like the 45-nanometer Core i7 chips before it, the new 32-nanometer Core i7 2600K is a quad-core CPU with both Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost technologies. Hyper-Threading doubles the simultaneous processing capability of each CPU core, making the quad-core Core i7 effectively an eight-core chip when the workload calls for it. Turbo Boost, upgraded here to the 2.0 version, manages the clock speed of each of those cores, ramping up or slowing the frequency to achieve maximum performance per core, within the bounds of the system's thermal and power management limitations.

The difference between the two chips, among other things, comes down in part to transistor count. With the new 32-nanometer manufacturing process, Intel has been able to fit 995 million transistors on these new Core i7 quad-core chips, compared with 731 million on the larger, older generation of Core i7 CPUs.

You may also have heard about the Intel Insider feature that comes with Sandy Bridge. Intel Insider has brought some controversy with it in that the feature is designed with video content protection in mind. Various Intel media partners, like Warner Brothers Films and Best Buy's CinemaNow, have committed to making high-resolution content available to Sandy Bridge-equipped desktops on the strength of the Intel Insider content protection technology. Intel Insider will not prevent you from manipulating your existing video files, nor will it disable your ability to watch video content from other sources, but those sensitive to DRM issues have still cast a wary eye on this strategy. We like the fact that Intel Insider gives content providers incentive to distribute movies at higher quality, and more quickly than they might otherwise, but without being able to test it (the Intel Insider content goes live in February), nor with any indication of the larger market ramifications, we can't pass final judgment on it. We expect to hear more about Intel Insider throughout the year.

Intel has also built graphics processing into its new chips, which will come in handy on lower-cost desktops that don't have discrete graphics cards built into them. This Origin Genesis comes with a discrete card, so the built-in graphics core has no impact here. If you'd like to read more about Intel's Sandy Bridge Core i7 chips, we invite you to read these companion posts from CNET's Crave and News blogs.

Origin Genesis Digital Storm Special Ops 690 II Advanced Level 3 Maingear F131
Price $2,499 $2,219 $2,499
Motherboard chipset Intel P67 Intel X58 Intel X58
CPU 4.7GHz Intel Core i7 2600K (overclocked) 3.83GHz Intel Core i7 950 (overclocked) 4.2GHz Intel Core i7 950 (overclocked)
Memory 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1.5GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 580 (overclocked) (2) 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 (2) 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 460
Hard drives 64GB Crucial SSD, 1TB, 7,200rpm Western Digital 80GB Corsair SSD, 1TB, 7,200rpm 64GB Corsair SSD, 1TB, 7,200rpm Western Digital Caviar Black
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray/dual-layer DVD burner combo dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

In order to put the Origin Genesis and its new chip in perspective, we've compared it directly with two recent systems in the same price range from Digital Storm and Maingear. Both Maingear and Digital Storm will also offer the Core i7 2600K CPUs, and you should certainly consider those two vendors, as well as Falcon Northwest, Velocity Micro, and others for your comparison shopping. Still, we thought it would be worthwhile to compare the older configurations with the new one, particularly considering the clock speed of the CPU. The Origin system has a dramatically higher clock setting than the older Core i7-based PCs.

Origin boosted the Core i7 2600K from 3.4GHz to 4.7GHz, and vendors have bragged to us about being able to hit 5.0GHz depending on the chip and the liquid cooling hardware. We don't expect Intel will ship a Core i7 chip above 4.0GHz, at least this year, but the enthusiast community has a lot of added value to look forward to from these new CPUs. Our testing of all three systems has shown them to be stable as well, so kudos to Intel for providing some impressive overclocking headroom in these new CPUs, as well as to the vendors for overclocking responsibly.

Origin has also demonstrated some creativity in overclocking the high-end GeForce GTX 580 graphics card. You'll see in our performance charts below that the single, boosted high-end card in the Origin at least matches the dual midrange cards in each of the competing older-generation PCs. The hard-drive configurations also compare favorably. The only thing we'd like to see is a Blu-ray drive in the Origin, but that's a dismissible feature in a PC designed primarily for gaming, especially given its performance edge.

While the Maingear F131 in our comparison chart above refers to an older model, Maingear is currently offering Intel Core i7 2600K chips with the F131 via its Web site. We did a quick price comparison and configured an F131 to match the Genesis for about $200 more. Digital Storm doesn't seem to have added Sandy Bridge CPUs yet, but we expect it will soon, along with the rest of the desktop universe. We suggest shopping around, but based on our early comparisons, the Origin has a competitive price for this particular configuration.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Origin Genesis (Intel Core i7 2600K)
Maingear Vybe (Intel Core i5 2500K)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Maingear Vybe (Intel Core i5 2500K)
Origin Genesis (Intel Core i7 2600K)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Origin Genesis (Intel Core i7 2600K)
Maingear Vybe (Intel Core i5 2500K)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Origin Genesis (Intel Core i7 2600K)
Maingear Vybe (Intel Core i5 2500K)

In addition to the older Maingear F131 and Digital Storm Special Ops systems, we've added the Falcon Northwest and Maingear Vybe to our performance comparison, both also equipped with Intel's new Sandy Bridge CPUs. You'll find a 4.6GHz Core i7 2600K in the $4,999 Falcon system, and a 4.6GHz Core i5 2500K in the $1,849 Vybe.

First, note the difference between the Sandy Bridge systems and the older Core i7-based PCs. On all of our application tests, the newer systems post dramatic performance wins. We can't pinpoint exactly which aspect of the new chips provides the advantage on each test. Among other things, the Sandy Bridge CPUs have different cache structures, and other granular tweaks compared with the older chips. In any case, the higher clock speeds likely play a large role in their advantage.

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