Cor­sair One

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As Cor­sair’s first-ever PC, the One is im­pres­sive as hell. This tiny ma­chine (which starts at £1,799) is fast, beau­ti­fully built, and per­haps more im­por­tantly – quiet, too. That’s no small feat for a PC that mea­sures just 380x200x176mm.

Ac­cord­ing to Cor­sair, a pro­fes­sional lab mea­sured the One’s acous­tics at idle: 20dB. That’s equiv­a­lent to some­one whis­per­ing three feet from you. Quiet at idle is one thing. Quiet when the CPU and GPU are at full throt­tle is quite an­other. The One ex­cels on that front, too. It’s far from silent (we’ve cer­tainly heard qui­eter – al­beit much larger – ma­chines un­der load), but we mostly agree with Cor­sair’s as­sess­ment that it would be ‘un­no­tice­able’ un­der nor­mal gam­ing con­di­tions.

That quiet is the re­sult of the One’s de­sign and the liq­uid cool­ing of both the CPU and GPU. Most small-form­fac­tor rigs out to­day us­ing the fa­mil­iar mi­cro-tower mould liq­uid cool the CPU but leave the GPU to air cool­ing. De­spite hav­ing a larger foot­print than the One, those boxes just don’t have the room to liq­uid-cool both com­po­nents.

Cor­sair cus­tom-de­signed the One’s alu­minium chas­sis to hold two low-profile 240mm ra­di­a­tors, one mounted to each in­te­rior side of the case. One cools the GeForce GTX 1080 (or 1070 in the lower-end model), while the other keeps the CPU cool. To keep the One’s profile small Cor­sair has fore­gone fans on those ra­di­a­tors. In­stead, a sin­gle low-rpm, 140mm mag­netic lev­i­ta­tion fan mounted up top sucks air from the sys­tem. With the ra­di­a­tors mounted flush with the sides, cooler out­side air is sucked through the in­takes then through the ra­di­a­tor. Call it a semi-pas­sive liq­uid-cool­ing sys­tem.

Of course, one fan isn’t enough to keep the en­tire sys­tem chilled. A sec­ond fan mounted on the desk­top GTX 1080 cools the card’s RAM and volt­age reg­u­la­tion mod­ules. Over­all it’s quite clever, but not with­out a cost (which we’ll get to later).

For ports, you get one USB Type-C 10Gb/s, three USB Type-A 5Gb/s, and two plain USB Type-A 480Mb/s, along with two Dis­playPort 1.4, gi­ga­byte eth­er­net, and a legacy PS/2 port. VR fans will ap­pre­ci­ate the front-mounted HDMI 2.0 port. Wire­less is 802.11ac. Fi­nally, there’s a stack of the stan­dard ana­logue au­dio con­nec­tors and a SPDIF port.

More im­por­tant than the ports are the com­po­nents in­side. Cor­sair is of­fer­ing three tiers at launch, with the £1,799 base-level One fea­tur­ing a Core i7 7700, GTX 1070, 240GB SATA SSD, and 1TB hard drive. Step up to the £2,199 One Pro and you get an un­locked Core i7-7700K, a GTX 1080 and a 480GB SSD plus 2TB hard drive.

All three ver­sions use a Z270 MiniITX moth­er­board stuffed with 16GB of Cor­sair DDR4/2400 RAM, a 400W SFX 80 Plus Gold PSU and Win­dows 10 Home. The op­er­at­ing sys­tem is what makes this Cor­sair’s ‘first PC’ rather than just a box

Cor­sair cus­tom-de­signed the One’s alu­minium chas­sis to hold two low-profile 240mm ra­di­a­tors, one mounted to each in­te­rior side of the case

of parts. Many ven­dors sell bare­bones sys­tems with ev­ery­thing but the op­er­at­ing sys­tem, be­cause the minute they in­stall the OS, they’re on the hook for all hard­ware­and soft­ware-re­lated is­sues. Got mal­ware? Prob­lem with the in­ter­net? Clouds out­side not mov­ing fast enough? Call the PC maker.

So while you might not see it as a big deal that a PC comes com­plete with OS, know that it’s a big deal for a com­pany that got its start mak­ing just one PC com­po­nent.

Most of the One’s parts are top-notch, but if we were to nit­pick, our first tar­get would be the SSD, a Cor­sair Force in old-fash­ioned 2.5in SATA flavour. Sure, it’s plenty fast, but with M.2 PCIe NVMe drives of­fer­ing three to even four times the per­for­mance, it’s hard to set­tle for SATA. Note, how­ever, there’s room for two 2.5in drives and an M.2 drive in­side the One. A 400W PSU seems a bit small and po­ten­tially lim­it­ing for fu­ture up­grades, but to be fair, you can’t re­ally drop a ton of hard­ware into the One’s frame.

Per­for­mance

None of th­ese de­tails mat­ter if the One can’t keep up with sim­i­lar desk­tops, so we put it through our stan­dard sys­tem tests. The re­sults were quite good for a ma­chine so small and quiet.

3DMark

First up is Fu­ture­mark’s 3DMark FireStrike Ex­treme test. It’s a syn­thetic test (mean­ing it’s not an ac­tual pro­duc­tion game en­gine), but it’s still use­ful for mea­sur­ing a PC’s 3D gam­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. It’s also gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be neu­tral ground, free from ven­dor pol­i­tics. The over­all score re­flects the per­for­mance of both the CPU and the GPU, but is more weighted to­ward the lat­ter. You can see the One comes in slightly faster than the 8-core Ori­gin PC Chronos equipped with a Maxwell-era GeForce Ti­tan X. Mind you, we had is­sues with the Chronos, which ran rather loud.

Tomb Raider

Mov­ing on to an ac­tual game, we ran the older, but still fun, Tomb Raider on the Ul­ti­mate set­ting at 2560x1600 res­o­lu­tion. Again, the One places in front thanks mostly to its higher-clocked sev­en­th­gen­er­a­tion Kaby Lake CPU and its Pas­cal GeForce card.

CineBench R15

Mov­ing on to pure CPU per­for­mance, we use Maxon’s CineBench R15 to mea­sure a sys­tem’s abil­ity to ren­der a 3D scene. This par­tic­u­lar test loves mul­ti­core CPUs, and sys­tems with more cores gen­er­ally win.

Al­though no slouch by any means, the One gets left be­hind by the eight-core Core i7-5960X in the Chronos. It’s worth not­ing, how­ever, that the eight-core chip in the Chronos cost a cool thou­sand pounds in its day, al­most three times the cost of an In­tel quad-core chip. Still, the up­shot from this test is that if you need a ma­chine for heavy-duty 3D-ren­der­ing work, con­sider an octo-core. The good news? Maybe one day we’ll see a Ryzen-based One, too.

Hand­brake en­cod­ing

Ren­der­ing 3D frames isn’t some­thing the typ­i­cal per­son does, but for a broader look at CPU per­for­mance, here’s how the One would han­dle a more com­mon video en­code. Up against the Core i7-6700K chips in the Gi­ga­byte PC and the Cerise, the One is fastest, but not enough to mat­ter to most users. Sadly, that’s the world of in­cre­men­tal up­grades we live in to­day with In­tel’s quad-core CPUs.

And yes, we again see the Ori­gin PC take all com­ers by a healthy mar­gin thanks to its eight cores. It’s enough to make us wish there was an af­ford­able eight-core CPU al­ter­na­tive.

Ther­mals

To sum up the One’s per­for­mance, it has no prob­lems hang­ing with PCs sim­i­lar (or even larger) in size. There are cer­tainly faster ma­chines in ex­is­tence, but noth­ing this small and cer­tainly noth­ing this quiet.

Still, you have to won­der if the One’s semi-pas­sive liq­uid-cool­ing can re­ally with­stand a heavy ther­mal load. To find out, we ran our unit through 3DMark’s stress test for two hours and saw no signs of GPU or CPU throt­tling in that time.

The up­grade path

Okay, so the Cor­sair One is small, quiet, and fast. What more could you want? Well, how about easy up­grades? That’s where the price of minia­tur­i­sa­tion and a cus­tom de­sign whack you on the knuck­les. First, get­ting into the One isn’t a snap, but it’s cer­tainly not im­pos­si­ble. You first push a but­ton, then re­move the cast-alu­minium top, then re­move four screws to re­lease the sides bear­ing the ra­di­a­tors. From there, you can ‘eas­ily’ ac­cess the RAM, CPU, and the SATA drive if you can dig it out from un­der the ca­bles. As we men­tioned be­fore, the One can hold an M.2 SSD and two 2.5in

drives; we sus­pect the M.2 may be mounted be­hind the moth­er­board mak­ing ac­cess ma­jor surgery. Swap­ping the GPU will re­quire a com­pat­i­ble liq­uid cooler for the up­grade, not to men­tion time spent ex­tract­ing the part.

To be fair, this has al­ways been the price of minia­tur­i­sa­tion. In fact, we’re ac­tu­ally sur­prised the One is as upgrad­able as it is, given its size and acous­tics. All of the com­po­nents, as you can see, are in­dus­try stan­dard. There’s no weird mo­bile GPU or strange cus­tom moth­er­board in there. It won’t be easy, but up­grad­ing is pos­si­ble.

Caveat emp­tor

Here’s the catch: Cor­sair says the act of open­ing up the One to, say, add RAM or a larger SSD voids the war­ranty. Pe­riod. Want it up­graded? An au­tho­rised ser­vice cen­tre can do it for you.

Why would Cor­sair do this? Small com­put­ers can be tricky to work on. The firm is likely afraid that a clumsy con­sumer will try to open it up, de­stroy things, and then scream for a war­ranty re­place­ment. That’s a valid con­cern, but we should point out that Dell, HP, and even Ap­ple al­low you to add RAM or stor­age with­out void­ing the war­ranty (pro­vided you don’t break things). Granted, es­tab­lished PC OEMs have hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent mod­els and huge sup­port mech­a­nisms. First-time PC-maker Cor­sair has a con­sid­er­ably smaller op­er­a­tion.

To get the most out of your twoyear war­ranty, you ba­si­cally have to treat the One as a sealed box. And for many that won’t be a deal breaker – this amount of power will eas­ily last two years. Cor­sair also says users can over­clock with­out break­ing the war­ranty.

For more on gam­ing PCs, see our Group Test on page 60.

Ver­dict

For a first go at the rodeo, Cor­sair’s One PC gets most things right. That’s quite an ac­com­plish­ment when you think about all the mov­ing parts there are to a cus­tom de­sign, much less a com­plete liq­uid-cooled PC. Cor­sair just needs to loosen up its war­ranty pol­icy to make the One truly su­perb.

Cor­sair uses don­gles to route the GPU’s out­puts to the back of the sys­tem

3DMark FireStrike Ex­treme gives the edge to the Cor­sair One

The hard­ware in­side the Cor­sair One schools older as well as cheaper com­po­nents

Af­ter al­most two hours of loop­ing 3DMark, we saw no signs of ther­mal throt­tling on ei­ther the CPU or GPU

You can ac­cess the RAM, CPU, and SATA drive once you’ve re­moved one side

In our video en­cod­ing test, the quad-core Kaby Lake and Sky­lake ma­chines can’t hang with the older Haswell-E

The Cor­sair One’s liq­uid-cooled Kaby Lake CPU is fast, but it’s still just a quad-core that pales next to an 8-core chip

Re­mov­ing the alu­minium grill on top, gets you just this far in­side the Cor­sair One with­out of­fi­cially vi­o­lat­ing your war­ranty

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