Introducing the Origin Chronos

BitFenix's Prodigy enclosure, despite a couple of rough spots, emerged as a one-of-a-kind design and a substantial success for the company. BitFenix brought a remarkably flexible Mini-ITX enclosure to market at one of the lowest price tags we've ever seen for that type of enclosure, making it an instant hit with enthusiasts but also a great opportunity for boutiques to produce a variety of LAN boxes to suit the needs of their customers.

While we've already seen small gaming systems from the likes of AVADirect, DigitalStorm, and iBuyPower, what Origin brings us for review today may be one of the best balanced and most impressive LAN boxes we've ever seen. I've maintained since I started reviewing their cases that BitFenix's enclosures were ideal for boutiques: they're inexpensive, they look good, and they're well made. Origin was showing off a few systems utilizing BitFenix's cases at CES, and the Chronos is just the latest iteration in what looks to be a very fruitful partnership.

More and more the Mini-ITX form factor seems to be able to provide just about everything the average user might need; Micro-ATX generally brings multi-GPU support along with potentially better overclocking and more RAM, and full ATX is really only necessary in isolated cases anymore. But if you just want a single fast CPU and a single fast GPU, a Mini-ITX board may be all you need. Judging from the Origin Chronos, that could be very true indeed.

Origin Chronos Specifications
Chassis BitFenix Prodigy
Processor Intel Core i5-3570K
(4x3.4GHz, Overclocked to 4.6GHz, 22nm, 6MB L3, 77W)
Motherboard ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe
Memory 2x4GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600
Graphics eVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 2GB GDDR5
(1344 CUDA cores, 915MHz/6GHz core/RAM, overclocked to 1015MHz/6.1GHz, 256-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive Samsung 830 128GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) HL-DT-ST slimline DVD-RAM (GT60N)
Power Supply 550W Corsair TX550M
Networking Broadcom 802.11b/g/n Wireless
Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC889
Speaker, mic/line-in jacks, optical out for 7.1 sound
Front Side Optical drive
SD/MMC/CF card reader
USB 2.0
Right Side 2x USB 3.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Back Side 4x USB 2.0
Optical out
DisplayPort (IGP)
WiFi antennae
4x USB 3.0
2x eSATA
Speaker, mic/line-in jacks
2x DVI (GeForce)
1x HDMI (GeForce)
1x DisplayPort (GeForce)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 9.84" x 15.9" x 14.1"
250mm x 404mm x 359mm
Extras Integrated 802.11b/g/n
Closed CPU liquid-cooling loop
Card reader
Overclocking on the CPU and GPU
LucidLogix Virtu MVP
Warranty 1-year hardware and lifetime labor and software support
Pricing Starts at $1,071
Review system configured at $1,499

The average user would be pretty hard-pressed to find anything to ask for in this configuration. The CPU overclock on our review system is hefty; our Ivy Bridge-based Intel Core i5-3570K is clocked at 4.6GHz, which is 200MHz higher than the highest overclock Origin offers on their site outside of the "review configuration." The case and cooling solution handle it fairly well (impressive given the sheer voltage they're pumping through an architecture that's gaining notoriety for running hot), and 200MHz isn't going to break the bank, but you'll see in single or lightly-threaded tasks that the clocks are enough to take the lead. The ASUS motherboard Origin utilizes is a great one, built for overclocking, and it does deliver.

On the graphics side, NVIDIA seems to have done boutiques a real solid by making overclocking their Kepler GPUs even more painless than Intel made overclocking K-series Sandy and Ivy Bridge chips. One trip into EVGA's Precision X software and you can raise both the power target of the card and the boost clock speed. As a result, Origin's GTX 670 enjoys a mild but sustainable 100MHz overclock that bone stock GTX 670s don't have.

Everything else is about what you'd expect, with an SSD system drive and mechanical disk for mass storage, but I liked that Origin opted to use an adaptor for the 5.25" bay that allows them to include both a slimline DVD-RAM drive and a card reader. Sure this is functionality that could've mostly been duplicated by USB accessories, but the more integrated into the system the better.

In the process of writing this review I've been going back and forth with Origin about concerns over the overclock and in doing so had an opportunity to express concerns about the price. Originally there wasn't a "review configuration" shortcut on their site for the Chronos; our configuration was roughly $1,900, which was a hard sell. But it's amazing what chopping $400 off a price tag can do, and at $1,499 the Chronos is actually price competitive with buying the parts off the shelf and assembling it yourself. The starting price of the Chronos seems to be a little on the high side, but the "review configuration" is bang on.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • mtoma - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    I'm amazed how his articles roll, on and on and on. Mr. Sklavos must be the most prolific writer on this site. Cases are one of my favorite topic and I am pleased. Although the competition is high, I can count only 2 models who can please me. Only one thing would be desired: keeping as long as possible the same test bed over a long period of time. Which, for the moment I don't see here happening.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    I'm going to try and maintain it as long as humanly possible. I'm not PSYCHED with the case testbed I'm using now, but it's at least a good starting point, I think. I HATE the idea of switching over to a new one (and thus breaking continuity with previous reviews).
  • Death666Angel - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    "Which, for the moment I don't see here happening."
    This isn't a review of the case. It is the review of a completely built PC by a boutique (Origin) based on the Bitfenix Prodigy case, which was reviewed here:
  • mtoma - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    It is not he review of a case, of course. But, one can extract bits and pieces of information, about: the BitFenix Prodigy, the Asus motherboard, of the video card. Different people have different fixations (mine being the PC case), different buying needs on a particular moment, and collecting all sorts of information, helps.
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    I'm supremely enjoying seeing the amd 7970 and 7950 getting utterly stomped in every game at 1920x1080, instead of the amd favoring 1920x1200 this website always uses.

    I was right, and here is the proof above.
  • Olaf van der Spek - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    No sound measurements?
  • geniekid - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    That's the first thing I looked for as well. A box this small running a high end GPU is going to either overheat with extended use or be very noisy, and it would be good to see where this guy stands.

    The author does point out that it gets noisy under load.
  • cosminmcm - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    There is a mistake in the specifications box, the i5 doesn't have HT.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Fixed. Stupid oversight on my part.
  • Death666Angel - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    I completely agree! I have an adapter for a slim line optical drive (BluRay for me) and a 2.5" HDD with 2 USB ports. It is much more useful than just having a large ODD. It is also smaller than most normal sized ODDs I found which helps with keeping my TJ08-E innards clean and tidy.

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