Corsair One review: a console-like PC in the age of PC-like consoles
Shrinking the gaming PC down to its overpowered essentials
The Corsair One is the gaming rig for those of us tired of or uninterested in being responsible for every little component that goes into their machine. It’s the "it just works" gaming PC, with all the maxed-out specs gamers demand enclosed in a sober exterior that their housemates and loved ones can tolerate. But it doesn’t come cheap, carrying a $1,799.99 starting price. If you want a Corsair One Pro with the latest GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (Nvidia’s fastest graphics card under $1,000) and 960GB of SSD storage, you’d need to splash out a cool $2,599.99. I reviewed the middle child of this unapologetically high-end family, the $2,199.99 Corsair One Pro, and I came away feeling very privileged indeed.
Corsair One Pro specs
Processor: Intel Core i7-7700K, 4.5GHz max Turbo Boost, liquid-cooled
Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB, 1,771MHz boost clock, 1,632MHz base clock, liquid-cooled
Memory: 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 2,400MHz
Storage: Corsair Force LE 480GB solid state drive, 1TB hard drive
Motherboard: Custom MSI Z270 Mini-ITX
PSU: 400WCorsair SF400
Chassis: Black aluminum
OS: Windows 10 Home
MSRP: $2,199.99 exc. tax
I’ve never known a Corsair part to fail, and so the promise of having that peace of mind expanded to an entire computer is an enticing one. The two-year warranty is more extensive and thought-out than most, as well, with service centers scattered around the globe to handle any repairs or upgrades you want to have done. Like I say, though, tinkering with the innards yourself will invalidate that warranty — so there’s really no middle ground here, you’re signing up for the full Corsair hand-holding experience with this PC.
Not that I’d encourage anyone to mess around inside the Corsair One. There’s hardly any unused space within this 12-liter tube of powerful hardware. The only way to make an Intel Core i7-7700 CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU work together within such tight constraints is fully custom liquid cooling for both — and it’s really far beyond my level of expertise or patience to try and decouple each part and replace it with another. I could, this is still as modular as any other PC, but the magic and the whole reason why this machine exists is in the fact that someone else has done it, and done it better than I ever could have.
A PC I can put on top of my desk rather than beneath it
It’s worth taking a moment to appreciate just how exceptional the Corsair One’s design is. From the front, it has the appearance of any mid-tower gaming PC, but turn it a few degrees to see its side and it looks like two-thirds of it have just vanished into nothing. It’s not normal for a computer this powerful to be this compact, but Corsair has rotated the graphics card to a vertical position, developed its own extra-small, super-efficient power supply, and crafted something I can put on top of my desk rather than below it. I love the thick aluminum of the One’s case. It’s wonderfully understated, by gaming PC standards, even if it does have a few too many Tron-esque lines and polygonal motifs. The two LEDs at the front can be disabled, and the liquid cooling system relies on just one large fan at the very top of the case, meaning the whole thing works almost silently most of the time.
This is obviously not going to be an infinitely expandable overclocking powerhouse, but then it’s also nowhere near the size of one. For me, the Corsair One delivers everything I still need a PC for: the performance to play the latest games at their best, married to spotless reliability and a high degree of convenience. I’m an old-school PC gamer with a new-school intolerance for any delays or requirements for manual intervention.
But Corsair wants to reach beyond its usual audience and beyond its usual destination of gaming boudoirs. This gaming company wants to invade the living room, and it’s got the HDMI-plus-USB output combo for virtual reality headsets literally front and center on the One. You’d be surprised by how few PC cases take this into consideration (and you’d probably be shocked by the almost total absence of proper USB-C or Thunderbolt support, both from case and motherboard makers; the Corsair One has one USB-C port, offering 10Gbps of bandwidth).
The limited upgrade options might not be a problem, given how much performance Corsair has crammed in
As far as performance goes, the Corsair One Pro ticks all the requisite boxes. It boots faster than I can check my Twitter notifications, and its software is pure and bloatware-free. The only add-ons are actually helpful: a couple of monitoring apps to check on temperatures inside the case, links to install all the popular online game services (Steam, Origin, Battle.net, etc.), and an audio tweaking utility. Playing on a 1080p monitor, I basically couldn’t find a game with settings that would challenge the One. Battlefield 1, Witcher 3, Mass Effect: Andromeda, XCOM 2, Gears of War 4, Overwatch — pick your favorite game and the One will play it superbly well. Even Civilization VI, with performance requirements that can be beguilingly high on later levels with tons of per-turn processing, is better than ever thanks to the fast SSD storage of the One.
Corsair’s stated goal with the One is 60 fps 4K gaming, and though I haven’t got such a high-resolution display to test that claim, I have seen this PC running a maxed-out Battlefield 1 on a gorgeous LG UltraWide monitor with 3440 x 1440 resolution without a problem. So I’ve little doubt that this computer will satisfy the vast majority of people’s needs. The question, though, is how long that will remain the case: without the space or power headroom for another graphics card, you’re basically left hoping that buying the greatest parts today will keep you going for a good few years. Seeing how far current GPUs and CPUs are outperforming the requirements of the latest games, however, I think that’s much more of a viable strategy than it might have been a decade ago. You just don’t need to upgrade PCs anywhere near as often as was once the case.
But the Corsair One isn’t without its own set of frustrations. I have to not only pay a higher price for Corsair’s integration, but also accept a much narrower set of upgrade options. And this is the conundrum of this PC: it’s designed to be the sort of worry-free all-in-one machine that most people would want, but it costs the sort of money that only extremely enthusiastic gamers would pay. So the class of people who can afford to buy a Corsair One are also the class of people who’d feel most restless about its limitations. My feelings about this PC are not dissimilar to my feelings about the Blue Ella headphones I recently reviewed: it’s great for what it is, but that’s a very peculiar thing that you’ll have to be sure you want before you go spending so much money on.
Images: Corsair ■