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Origin PC Millennium (2016) review: A full-size, full-power, VR-ready desktop tower

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The last time we looked at the Origin PC Millennium was a couple of years ago, just when the idea of 4K gaming was starting to take hold. Driven by higher-end graphics cards, in that case the then-new Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, desktops were still a much better way to play high-end PC games at high resolutions, and by a fairly wide margin.

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8.5

Origin PC Millennium (2016)

The Good

There's plenty of room for two of Nvidia's latest GeForce 1080 graphics cards in this smartly designed custom case. Configuration options are vast, and customer support is excellent.

The Bad

While many gaming desktops are getting smaller, this is still a huge tower that will eat up a ton of space. Building a rig like the one we tested is very, very expensive.

The Bottom Line

This expensive build of the Origin PC Millennium is overkill for even most VR gamers, but the component selection, tuning and hands-on support are top-of-the-line.

Since then, gaming laptops have closed the gap considerably, with decent mobile GPUs playing games easily in full HD and even in many cases, at higher resolutions like 4K. It looked as if the traditional gaming desktop was on its way to being an anachronism, until virtual reality came along and dropped a shocking high-end list of required specs (including desktop-only components) in our laps.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Gaming notebooks are again starting to catch up, and a small handful of bulky models have desktop GPUs crammed inside (including the excellent Origin PC Eon17-SLX), and there's a generation of laptops coming soon with the new mobile Nvidia 1070 and 1080 chips that promise VR compatibility in slim packages.

Still, for the time being the best VR and high-end PC game experiences come from a desktop, and among the most flexible, most powerful (and in the case of this no-limits configuration, most expensive) is the Origin PC Millennium. (You can also compare the Millennium with other Nvidia 1080 VR-ready desktops in this roundup.)

The custom desktop case hasn't changed since we last tested a Millennium, but that's because it was a rare beast to begin with -- a desktop PC case designed from scratch for a boutique PC builder. Most desktop and laptop gaming systems built by smaller, boutique companies are essentially high-end parts inside generic off-the-shelf cases, which is a shame in some ways, as these designs often don't reflect the high prices and attention to detail found inside.

But, the Millennium is built into a custom midtower desktop chassis, designed by Origin PC, and its unique configuration allows it to work in both ATX and inverted ATX positions, plus you can rotate its motherboard and components by 90 degrees, giving you a total of four starting shapes, which is useful for tweaking heat management and fitting in extra components.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Configuring a Millennium from scratch starts at around $1,900 in the US, but adding high-end parts, such as the Intel Core i7-6950X processor used here, or a couple of Nvidia GeForce 1080 graphics cards, can drive up the price quickly. Our test system also included overclocked components, a big 512GB solid-state drive (SSD) and 3TB of hard-drive space, which added up to $6,050. Note that component prices and availability can shift, so the exact price may be different depending on when you look.

Origin PC has an Australian site, and the closest available configuration there comes out to AU$9,049. For the UK, the company can provide a custom quote (the US price converts to about £4,570, but the UK price may differ), which may include a hefty shipping fee.

Origin PC Millennium (2016)

Price as reviewed $6,050
PC CPU 4.3GHz Intel Core i7-6950X
PC memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
Storage 512GB SSD + 3TB 7,200rpm HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Our previous review goes into more detail on the design and construction of the Millennium, which places plastic panels over a steel frame, as well as the situations when you'd want to invert or rotate the motherboard. The overall aesthetic remains impressive, especially if viewed from the side, where the interior lights show through the side window, illuminating the dual graphics cards and liquid cooling tubes. But, the box is still huge, and weighs around 60 pounds. We've seen single-card desktops able to offer very good, VR-friendly performance in much smaller packages, and the next generation of gaming laptops will be able to use desktop-level Nvidia 1070 and 1080 GPUs -- no more handicapped "M" versions for laptop gamers. I'd suspect that the future largely belongs to smaller PCs (including Origin PC's own Chronos).

High price, high performance

In this review update, we're primarily concerned with the impact of the newest cutting-edge components from Intel and Nvidia, and how well the system plays with our latest power-hungry obsession, virtual reality.

For several weeks, I used this as my main HTC Vive test machine, and it was an excellent introduction to Nvidia's new GeForce 1080 graphics cards. In particular, I used the Millennium to try out the new Everest VR app for the HTC Vive, and Nvidia's VR Funhouse app -- both of which are intended to make use of the extra graphics and physics processing power in the new Nvidia GPUs.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Millennium handled both at the highest possible detail settings with ease, as well as other challenging VR apps, like the robot-killing action game Raw Data. Compared with VR, which requires two separate screens to run a game at 90 frames per second each, standard 2D games such as No Man's Sky are a breeze.

Conclusion

While the Millennium is pitched as a gaming rig, it also excels at other tasks. Besides just games, application benchmark scores were at or near the top of our collection of high-end VR-ready PCs. Of course, you should expect that from a $6,000-plus configuration. Shift the component mix, and adjust your expectations to match. For what it's worth, I was able to put together a very good dual-1080 configuration online for about $3,500.

That's a lot more than the bare-minimum $1,200-and-up desktops being pitched by some companies as VR-ready, but those cheaper systems are likely to struggle with the next wave of VR games, while this is about as future-proof as you can get right now.

And at these prices, you should be looking at more than just raw component costs, you should also be looking at what happens after you buy -- and the Origin PC team has an excellent reputation for hand-building and hand-tuning these systems, and for providing real hands-on service and support if you ever need a repair or want to install an upgrade, which should be a major factor if you're going to join the high-end gaming PC club.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Origin PC Millennium 79Falcon Northwest Fragbox 81Digital Storm Velox 85Digital Storm Aura 128Origin PC Omni 133Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 133Alienware Aurora R5 152Acer Predator G1 710 157
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

Origin PC Millennium 40631Falcon Northwest Fragbox 39935Digital Storm Velox 34473Digital Storm Aura 18845Origin PC Omni 18103Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 17894Alienware Aurora R5 16904Acer Predator G1 710 14465
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Origin PC Millennium 10384Digital Storm Velox 9859Falcon Northwest Fragbox 9220Origin PC Omni 5427Digital Storm Aura 5036Alienware Aurora R5 4973Acer Predator G1 710 4936Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 4717
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Digital Storm Velox 334Origin PC Millennium 309Falcon Northwest Fragbox 276Origin PC Omni 241Alienware Aurora R5 232Digital Storm Aura 230Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 221Acer Predator G1 710 192
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Origin PC Millennium Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.4GHz Intel Core i7-6950X; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; (oc) (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 3TB HDD
Origin PC Omni Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 500GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Alienware Aurora R5 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Digital Storm Velox Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.3GHz Intel Core i7-6900K; 30GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; (2) Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Digital Storm Aura Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4.2GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 3TB HDD
Acer Predator G1 710 Micorsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-6700; 30GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 8GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Falcon Northwest Fragbox Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6950X; 64GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; (oc) (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 6TB HDD
nvidia-geforce-1080-gaming-desktop-roundup-02.jpg
8.5

Origin PC Millennium (2016)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8.5Performance 10