- Outright dinky dimensions
- Quiet as a ninja
- Solid performance
- No M.2 SSD option
- Difficult to upgrade
- Price to be confirmed on ‘Webstore’ version tested
- GTX 1070 and 1080 GPU options
- 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM
- 240GB SSD, 1TB HDD (basic). Upgradable to 960GB SSD
- 200 x 176 x 380mm
- Intel Core i7-7700 or 7700K CPU
- Manufacturer: Corsair
- Review Price: to be confirmed
WHAT IS THE CORSAIR ONE?
The Corsair One is the American hardware firm’s second stab at the living room PC market after the compact Bulldog PC that was announced in 2015. Corsair says it’s designed the system from the ground up to be the “ultimate lounge PC” – one that’s powerful enough to play games at 4K and run VR headsets, such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, but small and quiet enough to discreetly sit in a regular person’s living room.
From a design perspective it’s an absolute marvel, and thanks to an innovative cooling system, the Corsair One is one of the most powerful mini-ITX gaming PCs Trusted has ever tested. However, its lack of upgradability limits its appeal to hardware fanatics.
CORSAIR ONE – DESIGN AND BUILD
On the outside the Corsair One is one of the most inconspicuous gaming PCs I’ve seen. Unlike most PC builders Corsair has avoided making too many outlandish design flourishes or adding many RGB lights. The only extravagance are the two light strips on the One’s front. Personally I’d have prefered no lights, but it’s easy enough to turn them off, or change the colour to something more subtle, using Corsair’s preinstalled Link software.
Even with them on the One is a fairly discreet device thanks to its ridiculously small dimensions. At just 380 x 200 x 176mm, it’s significantly smaller than some of the more compact gaming PCs we’ve seen recently, such as the Alienware Aurora and Lenovo Ideacentre Y710 Cube.
Despite its size, Corsair has managed to load the PC with all the connectivity options regular gamers and VR enthusiasts will need. Around the back you’ll find a single USB 3.1 Type-C, three USB 3.1 Type A, two USB 2.0 Type A ports alongside a gigabit Ethernet input and audio connectors. For VR headset owners, there are USB and HDMI ports on the front which makes setting up the Vive and Oculus a bit easier if you don’t want to have a VR headset plugged in all the time.
The One’s aluminium chassis can only be accessed using a rear-facing eject button that lets you remove the top of the device and single cooling fan. Once you’re inside, things get interesting. The Corsair One is one of the most space-efficient made pre-built PCs I’ve ever seen.
The headline features are its use of an MSI Z270I Growler mini-ITX motherboard and custom-built GPU and CPU cooling system. There are two fans, one on the GPU, which cools the power supply components of the card.
There’s also an assisted convection chassis fan that helps pull and guide cold air through the side-facing intake vents and then blows it out of the top.
The Corsair Link and diagnostics software also help control the system, instructing it to focus on specific areas, like the GPU, CPU or PSU, as needed in real-time. During my tests the cooling system worked a treat and is likely a key reason Corsair’s been able to load the mini-ITX case with a 10.5-inch GPU, full-height DDR4 memory sticks and SFX, fully modular PSU.
The only downside to the design is that it makes the Corsair One pretty much airtight on the inside. The only thing you’ll initially see when you pop the hood is the PSU and the top of the cooling system. To get any deeper you have to further disassemble the PC, removing the sides and unplugging pretty much every component of the cooling system and GPU until you finally reach the M.2 SSD input at the very bottom.
Opening it up is fairly tricky and one I wouldn’t recommend even seasoned builders risk, as it’s very easy to damage the system while burrowing. Instead most people would be better to heed Corsair’s advice and pay for the upgrade to be done at a support centre. This will be an issue for spec-heads or performance junkies – especially if you go for the lowest-specced configuration of the Corsair One.
CORSAIR ONE – PERFORMANCE
The Corsair One comes in three different configurations. The most basic Corsair One costs £1799.99 and comes loaded with an un-overclockable Intel Core i7 i7-7700 CPU, Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM clocked at 2400MHz, plus a 240GB SATA 3 SSD and 1TB hard disk.
The upgraded Corsair One Pro retails for £2199.99 and comes with higher-end components. These include an overclockable quad-core Intel Core i7-7700K CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, and a larger 480GB SSD and 2TB hard disk. It has the same 16GB of memory as the regular One.
The top-end Corsair One Pro Webstore-exclusive version I tested doesn’t have a confirmed price and is identical to the Pro outside of its use of a larger 960GB SATA 3 SSD and lack of a hard disk.
These specifications are undeniably impressive for a PC of the One’s size, but I can’t help but take issue with the fact that the company opted not to give it a faster M.2 SSD and used hard disks on the cheaper models.
This won’t be too much of an issue on the Webstore version, with a sizable SATA 3 SSD that’s big enough to fit most people’s game libraries. But it’ll be a massive pain on the basic Corsair One, with a piddly 240GB SSD that won’t deal with more than three or four modern games before running out of space, forcing users to rely on the snail-paced hard disk and sacrifice performance.
I’m also a little sad that Corsair’s not given buyers the option to upgrade to its top-end Dominator memory, which would offer a handy performance boost compared to the Vengeance parts used in theyou’re buying an ‘utlimate’ PC, missing out on top-end storage and memory is slightly disappointing, albeit far from a dealbreaker.
These two issues would be nearly non-existent if it was easy to upgrade the memory and SSD, but sadly the One’s compact design makes accessing the slots on the motherboard a wee bit tricky, even for seasoned builders. This, coupled with the fact that Corsair says damage caused while modifying the machine voids the product’s warranty, means you’ll probably want to wait for the warranty to expire before digging out the screwdriver.
Fortunately, outside of this, the flagship model I tested performed brilliantly well during testing and matched the performance of equivalently specced machines. On the general Geekbench 4 benchmark, the Corsair One notched up 5462 single- and 17,511 multi-core scores, putting it on a par with, if not above, most similarly specified rigs.
The HP Omen X, which is of equivalent spec outside of its use of a previous-generation Skylake i7, scored 4295 and 17,198 on the same test. The Skylake i7 and GTX 1080 configuration of the Lenovo Ideacentre Y710 benchmarked with a slightly lower 14,661 multi-core score.
The One also performed well in the GPU-focused 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra benchmark, where it enjoyed an overall 17,690 score, which again is on a par with most similarly specced devices. The GTX 1080 Omen X scored 17,223 on the same test.
The PCMark 8 Creative score of 5979 is also solid and means the One is powerful enough for video editing and creative work, which is hardly a surprise.
Actual gaming performance reflected my synthetic benchmarks’ findings. With VSync off, the One ran Rise of the Tomb Raider’s benchmark in its Ultra settings in 4K at an average of 48.9fps and at 129fps in 1080p resolutions.
Dirt Rally in 4K with its settings maxed ran at a speedier 136.4fps average in 4K and at 198.6fps in 1080p. Ghost Recon Wildlands’ performance was also solid and at the game’s Ultra settings at 4K it managed an average of 32.3fps. In 1080p the game ran at a smoother 61.4fps.
Heat and fan noise were also surprisingly stable. Though there is a noticeable whir when you run intensive games in quiet environments, if you’re wearing headphones or even using desktop speakers, you almost definitely won’t be able to hear it. The GPU, for example, never topped 75 degrees Celsius in my testing, which is impressive in such a compact chassis.
The only slight disappointment with the One’s performance is its 528.15 MB/s read, 439.62 MB/s write speed AS SSD scores, which are hardly surprising given its use of a SATA 3 SSD. An M.2 SSD, by comparison, would have been three or more times faster.
Even with this issue, the fact the Corsair One can match the performance of devices close to twice its size is a testament to the custom cooling system’s design, and is a seriously impressive achievement.
The only way you’re going to get better performance is by investing in an equally expensive and significantly larger pre-build, such as the Overclockers Titan Gladius, which features two GTX 1070s in SLI and a Samsung SM961 nVME M.2 SSD. The Gladius scored a massive 19,523 in the Geekbench multi-core benchmark, 23,039 in Fire Strike Ultra and offers much better read speeds of 1752MB/s and write speeds of 1441MB/s.
But it’s horses for courses. There is nothing you can buy right now that delivers the Corsair One’s performance in such an ingenious package, and it’s not in the same category of other high-end tower PCs. It’s in a class of its own.
SHOULD I BUY THE CORSAIR ONE?
If money’s no object and you’re looking for a 4K-capable, VR-ready PC that can be discreetly sat in the living room, then the Corsair One is a fantastic device.
The technical achievement of what Corsair has been able to do in such a small space can’t be overstated. With pricing starting at £1800 for the most basic version and the top Webstore-exclusive configuration set to retail for over £2000, the One is a luxury item.
There are better-value pre-builds out there, of course. The Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN1060 doesn’t match the Corsair One on specs, but it’s one of a select few 1080p-ready gaming PCs in the same size bracket. There’s a GTX 1080 version of that machine available, too. With pricing starting at £890 it’s also much cheaper although you have to buy memory and storage separately. The Alienware Aurora may be bigger, but it has a much wider range of configuration options, is easier to upgrade and significantly cheaper, with pricing for the GTX 1070 configuration starting at £1278.
The Corsair One is the ultimate lounge PC, but cost-savings in memory and storage left me feeling very slightly short-changed.