The Origin Genesis is an excellent gaming PC. It posted some of the fastest 3D performance we've ever seen, and it's particularly well-suited to playing current games at high resolutions. For a boutique PC, it also has a relatively modest price tag of $3,399. For all of its appeal, it's hard to get around the fact that the Genesis' new processor, the Intel Core i7-3770K (aka Ivy Bridge), is not as overclockable as the previous Sandy Bridge-generation Core i7-2700K. If Origin will continue to offer that older chip at a lower price than the new one, I would recommend that you configure this same PC with that CPU to get the best performance for your dollar. Otherwise, if you already have a decent gaming desktop, you would be wise to wait for Intel's next-generation Haswell CPUs, due out next year, before making a major new PC purchase.
The Origin Genesis uses a full-tower BitFenix Shinobi XL case, a larger version of the ATX Shinobi chassis Maingear uses for its Vybe Super Stock. The larger XL model supports XL-ATX motherboards, and it also has a 2.5amp USB 2.0 port on top for speedy mobile-device charging. Aesthetically, the two cases are similar, from the colored piping to the rubberized exterior coating that helps the Genesis feel like a sturdy, well-built machine.
Inside, the Genesis is a typically exquisite boutique gaming PC. Stuffed as it is with liquid-cooling hardware, multiple graphics cards, and three hard drives, Origin's system builders routed all of the cables and tubing neatly, maximizing internal airflow and ensuring that it will be easy for you to add or remove hardware as necessary.
|Origin Genesis||Falcon Northwest Mach V||Velocity Micro Edge Z55|
|Intel Z77||Intel X79||Intel X68|
|4.6GHz Intel Core i7 3770K (overclocked)||4.4GHz Intel Core i7 3930K (overclocked)||4.9Ghz Intel Core i7-2700K (overclocked)|
|16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,33MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|(2) 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680||(3) 1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570||(2) 1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti|
|(2) Corsair Force GT 60GB SSDs, 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive||128MB Crucial SSD, 2TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive||(2) 60GB Intel SSDs, 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive|
|Blu-ray writer/dual-layer DVD burner||Blu-ray writer/dual-layer DVD burner||Blu-ray/DVD burner combo|
|Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
The Genesis is a standout gaming desktop thanks to its pair of GeForce GTX 680 graphics cards. Those GPUs are the latest from Nvidia, and they delivered unprecedented performance on our most demanding gaming benchmarks.
My hesitation in recommending Intel's new CPUs for high-end gaming desktops is because the previous generation was so strong, and such a good value. The Core i7-2700K chip in the Velocity Micro Edge Z55 is so overclockable that vendors reliably hit frequencies approaching or surpassing 5GHz with it.
This doesn't mean Intel's new Ivy Bridge chip design is inferior or somehow flawed. Thanks to a new manufacturing process, the Core i7-3770K offers greater power efficiency at equivalent base performance to the Core i7-2700K. Relying on overclocking to differentiate these systems also presents a view of these PCs that becomes skewed by the review process.
All of the overclocked desktops we review pass a demanding stability test to ensure they have been build responsibly. But in the pursuit of good reviews, the pressure is on these high-end vendors to achieve ever-faster benchmarking results through overclocking. I expect a customer would be happy with any of the above computers, regardless of minor differences in clock speed.
If we start talking about the technology behind these PCs, though, and look at the benchmark scores below, it becomes clear that Intel's new Ivy Bridge CPU doesn't provide a dramatic increase in performance over the previous generation. Thus, it's hard to recommend that you spend more for a Core i7-3770K CPU if the Core i7-2700K is available for less.
The apparent price-performance gap might not last. Intel controls the supply of CPUs available to PC vendors, and if the Core i7-2700K and 2600K disappear, you might only have the 3770K chip as an option. If that becomes the case, I'd want to see 3770K-based PCs from other vendors before recommending the Genesis over its competition, but I have no reason to think it wouldn't be competitive.
All that said, I would still not recommend that gamers buy the six-core Core i7-3930K CPU that shipped in the Falcon Northwest Mach V. The premium required for that chip and the accompanying X79 motherboard is too high for its situational performance edge. Those with serious, professional-level processing needs might consider it, but that chip is overkill if your goal is a higher frame rate in Battlefield 3.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
To gauge the value of the $3,399 Origin's CPU performance, compare its results with those of the $2,299 Velocity Micro Edge Z55. Given the Origin's faster 3D performance, you can't say you're paying $1,100 more for nothing. But I would like to see more contribution from the CPU to justify the higher price tag. With the CPU performance essentially identical between the Genesis and the Edge Z55, it is fair to say that the Ivy Bridge CPU also does not help offset the Origin's higher cost.
|1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)||1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)|
|1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)||1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)|
|2,560x1,600 (DirectX 11, very high)||1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high)|
|Extreme (1,920x1080)||Performance (1,920x1,080, 16x AF)||Entry level (1,680x1,050)|
If it's not a CPU processing standout, the Origin makes up for it on our gaming tests. The pair of Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 cards, each with 2GB of memory, represents the top of the line in PC gaming hardware. You could conceivably buy a machine with three of those cards for even better performance, but that kind of expenditure will be overkill unless you intend to play games at the highest resolution across multiple monitors.
For the rest of us, Metro 2033 is the most relevant test in our gaming battery, and there the Origin's performance demonstrates this PC's horsepower, as well as its value. The Falcon Northwest Mach V outperforms the Origin system at 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, but only by a few frames per second, and you'll need to pay about $5,000 for the privilege. Not only is the Origin system only a few frames behind at that resolution, it offers more than three times as much performance on that test at 2,560x1,600 pixels.
The Origin's success on that test is most likely a function of its vast stores of video memory and raw GPU horsepower. What those results tell us about its performance in general is that this system can play the most demanding current titles at the highest single-monitor resolutions and image quality settings. It also bodes well for the Origin's future. It will be a long time before you find a game this computer can't play well.
After weighing both the GPU and CPU performance of the Origin Genesis, the question is whether it delivers enough value for its $3,399 price tag. The Velocity Micro Edge Z55 is an imperfect comparison because you can't configure that system to match the Origin's pair of GeForce GTX 680 cards. The closest system I found with the Core i7-2700K processor and the same 3D card is the Digital Storm Slade. Configure that PC to match the Origin as closely as possible, and the price comes out to $3,395 -- almost exactly the same as the Origin's.
Still, to truly gauge the Origin's value, we must wait to see what happens with the pricing and availability of the Core i7-2700K chip after the launch of the Core i7-3770K. Only if the older chip becomes scarce, or if its price doesn't drop, will it be safe to conclude that Origin is asking a fair price for the Genesis and its Core i7-3770K relative to its performance.
Connectivity and expansion
Intel will be introducing high-speed Thunderbolt ports to Windows PCs later this year. Microsoft is also promising Windows 8 for the fall. Both of those factors are also potentially reasons to wait before making a major new PC purchase.
I say "potentially" because the focus on Windows 8 has so far been its touch-driven interface. PC gamers don't care about touch input, so it's possible that Windows 7 will still be relevant on PCs like the Genesis.
Thunderbolt ports might have a greater impact. The primary usage for Thunderbolt, outside of connecting an Apple laptop to an Apple display, is high-speed data transfers. If you buy a high-end gaming PC for a professional environment, for coding or video editing, for example, you might reasonably want to wait for Thunderbolt.
You might also want Thunderbolt as a 3D graphics upgrade path. PCs six months from now could conceivably offer a whole new upgrade opportunity via external graphics card modules you connect via a Thunderbolt port. Such a feature would greatly extend the life of a gaming PC, or possibly upend the PC gaming hardware market entirely. That, too, could be worth waiting for.
Near-future developments aside, the Genesis and its Asus P8Z77-V Deluxe motherboard offer some of the most expansive connectivity options available. On the back of the case you get six USB 3.0 ports, to accompany the four USB 3.0 ports on the front. That's more USB 3.0 ports on a single PC than we've ever seen. Whether you'll use them all to their full potential is another question, but at least you have them.
You will also find a few more standard USB 2.0 inputs, eSATA jacks, and 7.1 audio and S/PDIF audio jacks. Each graphics card also provides a pair of DVI ports, an HDMI output, and a DisplayPort jack, and each card can support up to four monitors. Sadly, that does not scale to eight-screen support when you have a second graphics card.
For internal expansion, you get three free hard-drive bays, a pair of 1x PCI Express slots, and a spare standard PCI slot. The memory slots are all occupied, but with 16GB resident already, only the most demanding users will feel the need to opt for 32GB or more.
Although I was underwhelmed by the Core i7-3770K's performance, it can at least boast greater power efficiency thanks in part to its new 22-nanometer manufacturing process. The new GeForce GTX 680 card also brings new efficiency, and despite posting roughly equivalent CPU performance and demonstrating measurably faster 3D horsepower, the Origin Genesis only draws a modest amount of power relative to its competition. Averaging about $7, the Origin Genesis' monthly power cost will make its presence known on your power bill, but probably won't strain the budget of anyone who can afford such a computer to begin with.
Service and support
Origin promises lifetime in-house phone and online service for the Genesis, as well as lifetime labor coverage. The default parts warranty only covers you for a year, though. Falcon Northwest offers three years of parts coverage for every Mach V. Both vendors offer discretionary shipping coverage if you send your PC in for repair; although Falcon explicitly states that it will pay for overnight shipping both ways should it be necessary to send the system in, Origin offers similar shipping coverage, but only for the first 45 days after purchase.
This Origin Genesis has all of the hallmarks of a top-end gaming desktop, from expert construction to enviable 3D performance. My reservations come primarily from the absence of any major performance gains from Intel's new Core i7-3770K CPU, and secondarily from the introduction of Windows 8 and Thunderbolt ports later this year. If you need a gaming PC today, this system would be a worthy possibility. Just be sure to wait a week or two to see how the rest of the boutique market applies Intel's new Ivy Bridge CPUs, and keep an eye out for good deals on Core i7-2700K and 2600K chips.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Digital Storm ODE Level 3 (Core i7-2600K, spring 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.8GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics cards; 128GB Intel solid-state drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
Falcon Northwest Mach V (Core i7-3930K, fall 2011)
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit; 4.4GHz Intel Core i7-3930K (overclocked); 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (3)1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics cards; 128GB Crucial solid-state drive; 2TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive
Maingear Vybe Super Stock (fall 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-2600K; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti graphics cards; 1TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive
Origin Genesis (Core i7-3770K, April 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.6GHz Intel Core i7-3770K (overclocked); 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 graphics cards; (2) 60GB Corasir Force GT solid state drives; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Velocity Micro Edge Z55 (Core i7-2700K, February 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.9GHz Intel Core i7-2700K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics cards; (2) 60GB Intel solid-state drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 (Intel Core i7-3930K, November 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-3930K (overclocked); 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards; (2)128GB Patriot Wildfire solid-state drive; 2TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive