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The Corsair One i140 small form factor gaming PC, reviewed

Zak Killian
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I’ve never met a computer I didn’t like, but my very favorite PC (disregarding price) of all the ones I’ve reviewed for TR was the Corsair One Pro back in 2017. It ran fast, cool, and quiet in equal measure—and said measure was quite high indeed.

I said “was” because I have a new favorite now. You see, quad-core CPUs and Pascal graphics cards are no longer the state of the PC hardware art. It’s 2019, and apparently, if you’re not rocking eight cores in your CPU and tensor units in your GPU, you’re old news. To that end, Corsair’s created a new line of One gaming PCs. The one we have in the shop is the Corsair One i140, which is actually the bottom end of the new lineup. Above this model sit the Corsair One i160 and Corsair One Pro i180.

Corsair One i140 Corsair One i160 Corsair One Pro i180
Processor Core i7-9700K Core i9-9900K Core i9-9920X
Memory 32GB DDR4-2666
(2x16GB)
32GB DDR4-2666
(2x16GB)
32GB DDR4-2666
(4x8GB)
Chipset Intel Z370 Express Intel Z370 Express Intel X299 Express
Graphics GeForce RTX 2080 GeForce RTX 2080 Ti GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
Storage 480GB Samsung PM961
2TB Seagate 2.5″ HDD
480GB Samsung PM961
2TB Seagate 2.5″ HDD
960GB Samsung PM961
2TB Seagate 2.5″ HDD
Audio Realtek ALC1220 Realtek ALC1220 Realtek ALC1220
External connections 2x USB 3.1 (one Type-C)
2x USB 3.0 Type-A
2x USB 2.0 Type-A
1x Ethernet RJ-45
1x PS/2 connector
6x 3.5-mm audio jacks
1x TOSLink S/PDIF
1x HDMI 2.0 (front)
3x DisplayPort (rear)
2x USB 3.1 (one Type-C)
2x USB 3.0 Type-A
2x USB 2.0 Type-A
1x Ethernet RJ-45
1x PS/2 connector
6x 3.5-mm audio jacks
1x TOSLink S/PDIF
1x HDMI 2.0 (front)
3x DisplayPort (rear)
2x USB 3.1 (one Type-C)
6x USB 3.0 Type-A
2x Ethernet RJ-45
6x 3.5-mm audio jacks
1x TOSLink S/PDIF
1x HDMI 2.0 (front)
3x DisplayPort (rear)
Communications Intel I219-V Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 8265 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.2
Intel I219-V Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 8265 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.2
Intel I219-V Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 8265 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.2
Dimensions (HxDxW) 15″ x 7.9″ x 6.8″
38cm x 20cm x 17.3cm
15″ x 7.9″ x 6.8″
38cm x 20cm x 17.3cm
15″ x 7.9″ x 6.8″
38cm x 20cm x 17.3cm
Weight 16¼ lbs (7.38kg) 16¼ lbs (7.38kg) 16¼ lbs (7.38kg)
Included cables Standard C14 power cable Standard C14 power cable Standard C14 power cable
Operating system Windows 10 Home Windows 10 Home Windows 10 Pro

I find it amusing that a machine with eight CPU cores and a TU104-based GPU is the bottom end of the One range. Corsair is making it clear with its branding that the One family is not fooling around, even though it’s intended mostly for fooling around. These are gaming PCs, after all. The combination of an Intel Core i7-9900K CPU and GeForce RTX 2080 GPU is not so far from what Jeff used to test the RTX 2080 originally, so we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this machine.

Besides the high-octane processors, Corsair outfitted the One i140 with 32GB of DDR4 memory running at 2666 MT/s, a 480GB Samsung PM961 SSD, and a 2TB Seagate Barracuda 2.5″ drive. The amount of memory is almost gratuitous, but given that the mini-ITX motherboard has only two RAM slots, the alternative would be limiting the machine to 16GB. I don’t have any complaints about the 960 EVO-equivalent SSD, but Corsair’s choice of hard drive is reprehensible. I’ll talk about that more on page three.

Let’s have a look around and inside the Corsair One as a prelude to performance testing.

 

The second verse is different from the first

The interior layout of the new One is quite different from the original model; that much becomes clear the instant you get your hands on, uh, one. Where the original One had its front panel connections at the top and everything on the back toward the bottom, the new model has its front panel connections at the bottom while the back panel ports are more distributed.

Up front, you get an HDMI 2.0 port, a pair of USB 3.0 connections, and a headphone jack. The pair of USB 3.0 ports is ideal for hooking up flash drives and other storage devices. The most likely candidates for these front USB ports are gamepads, though, which are overwhelmingly USB 2.0 devices. Personally, I would have rather seen a pair of USB Type-C ports up here and these USB 3.0 ports around the back, but the front-panel ports needed to be USB 3.0-capable so that the front HDMI port made sense—it’s for VR headsets, after all.

That front HDMI port, though, is the only HDMI connection on the whole machine, and that’s unfortunate. The thick HDMI cable jutting from the front of the machine for my second monitor was perilously close to my mousing space. As annoying as that was, it’s going to be even more frustrating for someone who wants to use the One as a living room gaming machine. TVs generally take HDMI, not DisplayPort, so the lack of a rear-panel HDMI port means you have to have a big, fat cable poking out the front of your otherwise sleek system.

My real complaint here is with the headset port. It’s clearly marked as a headset port, not just a headphone jack. However, when you hook up a headset to it—I tested with Corsair’s own HS50—it’s detected only as a microphone. If you retask the port for headphones in the Realtek control panel, it works just fine, but then you’ve got no microphone function. I couldn’t figure out a way to make it function as a combo jack. This makes the lack of a second audio jack on the front particularly annoying. You have to use a USB microphone or get a longer cable.

Besides the extra jacks, the new machine steps up to addressable RGB LED lighting on the front. I found the lighting somewhat unreliable, though. Randomly, the lights would shut off while Windows played the “device disconnected” noise. Then, they would come back on, first at the default blue color and then switching to the RGB cycling pattern I’d set. This problem was more common with a gamepad plugged in to the front ports, which leads me to suspect it may be power-related.

On the back of the One is all of the remaining ports. The top portion houses the I/O cluster from the MSI Z370I-C2018 motherboard, and then down at the bottom is the RTX 2080’s three DisplayPort connections and the SF600 power supply. It would be much easier to make the machine more compact if it had an external power brick, but I’m pleased to see that it doesn’t. Likewise, I appreciate the PS/2 keyboard port, clear CMOS button, regular old RJ-45 jack, and TOSlink optical audio port. Corsair could have left all of those out of this build, and could have justified it, but I’m glad those features have been carried forward.

The motherboard offers six USB connections: two 2.0 ports, two 3.0 ports, and two 3.1 ports (one of which is a Type-C). The USB 2.0 ports are marked for keyboard and mouse along with the PS/2 connection above them, while the USB 3.0 ports are marked as “VR Ready.” That’s a bit curious given that you’d expect someone with a VR headset to use the front ports, not to mention the fact that the front-mounted HDMI port is purpose built for a VR headset connection. Combined with the front panel ports, there’s a grand total of eight USB ports on the One. I would have liked to have seen a USB Type-C port up front and perhaps another pair of USB 3.0 or even 2.0 ports on the back, but that’s something of a nitpick.

Another (admittedly minor) VR-related qualm I’ll throw in is that graphics cards based on GeForce RTX 2080 chips usually have a VirtualLink port. This is a USB Type-C port specifically intended to give VR headsets a one-cable connection to the PC so you don’t have to plug in separate HDMI, USB, and power cables. You’ll find no such connection on any Corsair One. While that could potentially be exasperating to someone in the future, I can’t knock Corsair too hard for it since there are literally zero devices on the market so far that connect to VirtualLink.

At this point, you can insert my usual complaint about these pre-built machines locking you out of using the Intel UHD Graphics built into the CPU. Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 is obviously a superior graphics solution in every practical way, but having access to the built-in Intel graphics can be enormously useful for troubleshooting, or simply for hooking up another three displays. Further, having the hardware present and presumably functional, yet with no way to use it, just grinds my gears. I’d be less annoyed if Corsair had used the Core i7-9700KF.

Even though the layout is different between this One and the last-gen One, the cooling arrangements are the same. Waterblocks attached to the CPU and GPU feed through radiators on either side of the system, which are in turn cooled by a single fan at the top of the chassis. You probably wouldn’t expect one fan to cool a pair of radiators very well, but you would be mistaken. Thanks to the way it’s designed, the One stays nice and cool while cranking out frames in your game of choice. It’s no less impressive here than it was on the original One, and the noise-to-cooling ratio is superb.

As before, push a button on the back of the machine and the top pops right off. The single cable that connects the One’s fan to the motherboard snakes around the side of the frame in this version, and disconnecting it will require removing the left side panel. Fortunately, that’s still just a matter of removing two screws.

With the screws removed, the side panel comes away from the chassis easily. However, you have to be careful when you move it, because the radiator mounted to the side panel is permanently attached to the pump-block. Pulling the panel away, you can see the mini-ITX motherboard as well as the Corsair-branded RAM and PCIe riser cable installed in it. Below that is the Seagate hard drive, and further downward you can see the SF600 modular power supply.

I was loathe to open the right side of the machine too much because the hoses attaching the radiator on that side to the GPU are extremely short. You can at least see in this picture that it’s a full-sized graphics card—you can even see the ATX-style rear-panel bracket in the distance. Closer to the camera, you can see a small heatsink with its own fan. That’s the only other fan in the system besides the main cooling fan in the top. I obviously didn’t detach that heatsink, but I suspect it’s for the graphics card’s power delivery hardware that otherwise would go without cooling.

So just like with the last One, I didn’t take the whole thing completely apart. With the original One’s marketing materials, Corsair played up the fact that the system used off-the-shelf parts and was fully upgradeable. The reality is that taking the machine apart would void users’ warranties, so it wasn’t really upgradeable at all. I have to give Corsair kudos here because the company doesn’t say anything about the machine’s upgradability anymore. Enterprising gerbils could surely upgrade the Corsair One i140, but I certainly wouldn’t bother; it’s stuffed to the gills with excellent components even in this lower-tier offering, anyway.

 

Putting some marks on the ol’ bench

After my review of the original Corsair One, some gerbils commented that they were disappointed in the lack of quantitative performance testing. As I noted in the comments there, we actually did run a bunch of benchmarks on that machine. We just didn’t publish them because there was no point; it matched a custom-built machine with the same hardware blow for blow. However, we’ve technically never tested the combination of a Core i7-9700K and RTX 2080 before, so we decided to run a few tests and see how it holds up.


We’ve done something different for this review. Because we don’t have any test data to directly compare these numbers against, we’re presenting these results just to give you an idea of what kind of performance you can expect out of the Corsair One. Games listed in red were tested in 2560 × 1440, while games in blue were tested in 3840 × 2160. Meanwhile, the chart below lists the settings that were used for testing in each app.

Game tested Resolution Settings Testing notes
Doom (2016) 3840 × 2160 (click) Settings as picture, except in 4K.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided 2560 × 1440 (click) Settings from this review.
Grand Theft Auto V 3840 × 2160 (click) Settings as picture, except in 4K.
Monster Hunter World 2560 × 1440 (click) Settings from this review. Map of test path.
Far Cry 5 3840 × 2160 (click) Settings from this review, except in 4K.

You can head to our reviews of the GeForce RTX 2080 and the Core i9-9900K (which includes numbers for the Core i7-9700K) to compare, but keep in mind that these numbers are to be taken as a guideline rather than direct comparisons. Jeff and I may not have performed the benchmarks exactly the same way, the driver versions are different, our testing environments are totally separate, and so on. Also, I inadvertently tested Monster Hunter World with the SpecialK mod installed, which improves performance somewhat.

With all of that said, these numbers are representative of what users can expect from the Corsair One i140. It’s a solid 4K gaming machine, or if you prefer, perfect for high-refresh 2560 x 1440 gaming. That comes as no real surprise given the prowess of the processors included.

Silent system, slow HDD

Corsair made an interesting choice when configuring the One. Most motherboards will unlock the CPU’s power limit when you install a K-series Intel chip, but this system’s Core i7 CPU is limited to its 95W TDP rating. Hit that limit, and the chip will throttle to make sure it stays under. I noticed this behavior only because I was watching the CPU’s clock rates during benchmarking. It wasn’t sticking at 4.6 GHz as I’d expect, instead dropping to 4.3 GHz.

After consulting with my esteemed colleagues here at TR, I decided to run a few multi-core-heavy benchmarks with the default settings, and then again with the power limit unlocked (using Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility). You can see the results of those benchmarks above. The short version is that it makes basically no difference. However, it also made basically no difference in the temperatures or noise level of the machine, either.

Seriously though, the One just doesn’t get noisy. I did my worst, running a simultaneous Prime95 and renamed-Furmark torture test on the machine with the power limit unlocked. While temperatures did get pretty hot—the CPU peaked at 91° C—I never heard so much as a whisper from the One. Even when I used Corsair iCUE to max out the single fan’s speed, it remained inaudible.

I do however take umbrage with another choice Corsair made. The hard drive in the One i140 is a Seagate Barracuda model in a 2.5″-7mm form factor. It has a rotational speed of 5400 RPM, and a generous 128-MB cache. I suspect the reason for the cache is to help mitigate the drive’s otherwise abysmal performance. It took 20 minutes and 55 seconds for Steam to pre-allocate disk space when installing Far Cry 5 on the One.

Admittedly, Far Cry 5 is a humongous game—circa 75 GB. But using my personal system, downloading the game onto a Toshiba 7200 RPM drive, it took a little over four minutes to pre-allocate space for the same download. It wasn’t just Far Cry 5, either. I downloaded Doom (2016), GTA V, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and several other titles onto the Corsair One. Each took ages to even begin installing. I suspect the difference comes down to the little Barracuda’s 13-ms access time, which is more than triple my Toshiba’s 4.16 ms rating.

The difference is tremendous, and that’s not the only place it shows itself. Games loading from the hard drive take much longer to pull up on the Corsair One than on my own PC, even though the Core i7-9700K CPU is a bit faster than my Core i7-8700K. Games that use streaming assets, like Monster Hunter World and Warframe, sometimes get “stuck” displaying low-detail textures long enough that it sticks out. If you’re the type of player to quicksave and then quickload repeatedly in one spot, each load will take a bit of extra time.

Obviously the slow hard drive doesn’t have an impact on actual game performance, and it doesn’t affect booting or general desktop use since that’s all up to the SSD. The Corsair One is lightning-quick as long as you’re not messing with the hard drive. It’s just a shame that the drive is so pathetically slow—particularly so given the supposed premium branding of this machine.

 

Conclusions

It’s a curious feeling that I get when talking about the Corsair One. I couldn’t put my finger on it until recently, over breakfast: This doesn’t really feel like a gaming PC. It feels like a game console. Everything’s ready to go; hook it up, install your games, and start playing.

In a certain sense, that’s fantastic. It’s a no-fuss top-tier gaming experience, perfect for folks who don’t have the time or ability to build their own gaming PC, or for those who can’t be bothered doing it. It’s easy to envision a thirty-something gamer type—who built a PC in college that’s been long in the tooth for a while already—picking up the Corsair One as a ready-made solution. Certainly I know a lot of folks whose patience for PC-building shenanigans has grown thin over the decades. The Corsair One i140 is small, quiet, and fast, and it looks totally awesome. Functionally speaking, it ticks every box that it needs to. I do have some nitpicks, but given the machine’s excellence in other areas, I’m more than willing to overlook them.

Still, the cost is awfully high. Corsair asks $3,000 for the One i140. As much as this machine is almost without reservation a fantastic gaming system, there’s only so much credit I’m willing to give Corsair for build quality, silence, and convenience. I parted out several near-equivalent mini-ITX systems, and each time I came up about a thousand dollars short of the price tag Corsair put on this PC. The price is an enormous brick wall stopping me from a recommendation. Even if you’re someone who isn’t able or willing to build your own PC, there are plenty of boutique vendors who can sell you a little bitty box with the same specs for a lot less money.

If Corsair knocks $500 off the price, then we’re talking. Until that time, I’d recommend prospective PC purchasers to peruse other places.

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