Introduction and design
The Origin Omega isn’t like most other Steam Machines which, if you’ve never heard that term before, are defined as the initiative launched by Valve in 2013 that intended to bring more console-like PCs to the living room.
Most of the Steam Machines we’ve seen so far, like the Alienware Alpha and Syber Steam Machine, aren’t really what I’d call high-powered gaming rigs. They play games at 1080p, come with a built-in GPU and are rather limited by some custom, proprietary parts that make customizations a real pain in the motherboard.
The Omega is different in the sense that it brings true power to the living room. This monster is capable of delivering 4K, 60 frames-per-second (fps) gameplay from inside your entertainment center.
Now, to deliver that kind of power, the Omega couldn’t be a dainty, little black box. No, Origin’s mighty foray into the world of home theater PCs (HTPCs) is a fairly sizeable, power-guzzling beast, pure and simple.
And though it looks similar to the Origin Chronos Z, with which it shares an external chassis, it’s a quieter machine overall with nary a noise and only a few of the same nagging issues.
Identical in design to the Chronos Z, the Omega can be customized in four “standard” PC cases, and two HTPC cases: the Silverstone GD09 and GD05. The four standard cases include the squat Corsair 250D; sleek Silverstone RVZ01; average-sized Corsair 350D; and trash bin-shaped Silverstone FT03.
Opting for the one of the two HTPC cases means your new rig will look more akin to an A/V receiver than a standard, upright tower and come with four padded feet that keep the case from getting scratched.
The Origin Omega sent to techradar for review came housed in a Silverstone RVZ01 case. It’s not the most upgradeable of the lot – if you’re planning on modding the system down the road, the RVZ01 isn’t a good case choice – but the vertical gray slits that perforate the top and bottom of the box are too appealing to resist.
Should you make this a living room PC, I’d instead encourage you to give the GD09 and GD05 a closer look. The GD09 supports three-way SLI (Nvidia) and Crossfire (AMD), while the GD05 has a pretty sweet, brushed aluminum face that should look good on almost any shelf near your TV.
Origin can also paint the exterior of your chassis for around $300 (about £180, AU$350). Solid color options include red, white, pink and gray or, for the same price, one of three metallic colors: blue, green or yellow.
Most chassis sport a CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive on the front, two USB 3.0 ports and headphone and microphone jacks. However, not all of the options will come with an optical drive, so keep an eye out if that matters to you.
Popping the system open is done by breaking out a screwdriver and unfastening two screws in the back of the case. Inside, you’ll find either a 120mm liquid-cooler or standard fan, depending on how much you decide to pony up for your new system.
You’ll find the motherboard in an accessible location for most of the cases listed above. However, getting to the graphics card and other PCI-E slots can be a bit headache – often requiring you to remove more screws and more of the frame to change things around.
Admittedly, it’s tough for any case to offer a reasonable size, enough room for airflow and easily accessible parts all in the same build. So, two out of the three isn’t bad.
Chronos? Omega? It’s all Greek to me…
My biggest bugbear with the Omega is that, in many ways, it feels like a cash-in on the Steam Machine movement rather than a system built from the ground up with the living room in mind.
The major differences between the Omega and Chronos that I spotted when customizing the former were the Omega’s aforementioned HTPC chassis and the option to select an X99 chipset when building a Chronos system. The Omega is limited to just the more recent Z170.
That means you won’t find Intel Haswell-E CPUs on an Omega, a serious bummer if you wanted the absolute fastest machine. That said, thanks to its Z170 chipset option, which supports Intel Skylake chips, you’ll have plenty of powerful options when it comes time to select a motherboard.
But, once you get past the chipset, it’s amazing how similar the two systems are.
If it seems strange to take issue with a way a product is marketed or seems to have been conceived, but two nearly identical systems existing just obfuscates the buying process and seems to be little more than capitalizing on a trend.
Specifications and performance
The biggest difference between Origin’s two systems is the expanded line of cases that impact the upgradeability of the system down the road.
The Omega, for example, sporting its range of HTPC cases, is better for the “set it and forget it” types that just want the most powerful system right this second and for as long a time as possible before they need to replace it.
Chronos, on the other hand, is easier to upgrade down the road and has a little extra room inside the case when it comes time to crack it open and swap out some parts. This one’s for the PC gamers at heart.
Again, it’s not exactly rocket science to swap out parts into a new machine, but if you’re in it for a quick, easy and powerful beast of a machine, the Omega sits among the cream of the crop.
Here is the Origin Omega configuration given to techradar:
- Processor: 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.2GHz with Turbo Boost)
- Motherboard: ASUS Z170I Pro Gaming (Intel Z170 Chipset, mini‐ITX)
- Graphics: EVGA GeForce GTX Titan X (12GB GDDR5 RAM)
- Memory: 16GB Kingston DDR4 (2,600Mhz)
- Storage: Samsung SM951 M.2, PCI-Express 3.0 512GB SSD; Western Digital Red 6TB HDD
- Optical drive: 6X Slim, slot-load Blu-ray writer
- Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0
- Operating system: Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit Edition)
- Power supply: 450 Watt Silverstone SFX Series
- Cooling unit: Origin Frostbyte 120 Sealed Liquid Cooling System
- Ports: 2 x 3.5mm audio ports (1 headphone/mic jack), 4 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port, 2 x DVI-D, 2 x D-Sub, 2 x DisplayPort, 2 x HDMI, LAN (RJ45) port, Optical S/PDIF out, 2 x Wi-Fi antenna ports
- Size: 15 x 4.1 x 13.7 inches (W x H x D)
- Warranty: 1-year limited with lifetime expert customer care
If your eyes are glazing over, the takeaway here is that this build is rock-solid. It’s powerful to the point that it shreds 4K games and spits out frame rates of over 100fps on most games played in 1080p.
This build comes in at a sky-high $3,547 (about £2,364 or AU$4,908). The big ticket items here include an Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X that goes for $998 (about £660, AU$1,400), a $350 (about £230, AU$500) 512GB PCI-E solid-state drive and, of course, Intel’s Skylake Core i7 processor.
As with all boutique PCs, there’s definitely a bit of markup going on here. So, if you’re on a budget and have the skills, it’s probably best to sketch out a system and make it on your own.
You can easily cut back on the GPU if you don’t feel 4K gaming is in your near future, or swap out some of the storage for smaller solutions to save some cash.
What I wouldn’t skimp on are the processor and memory. While other parts of the system don’t provide a lot of horsepower for your dollar, both the i7 6700K and 16GB of RAM lift their own weight and propel the system to the top of its class.
The biggest surprise of the build is that it runs on a 450-watt power supply. You’d think that pushing a high-end processor, a GTX Titan X and a 6TB hard drive would require a lot of juice, but parts can do way more with way less power these days.
Origin’s latest PC pretty much tore apart all of our tests, scoring well above my own personal PC at home.
It scored a whopping 17,052 points on the grueling 3DMark Fire Strike demo. For reference, most “gaming PCs” score somewhere closer to below 10,000 on this test. The Omega destroyed Metro: Last Light and simply crushed Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on both low and ultra settings. Here’s how all the scores look:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 36,986; Fire Strike: 17,052
- Cinebench Graphics: 176 fps; CPU: 1,004 points
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 4,842 points
- GeekBench: 4,953 (single-core); 19,479 (multi-core)
- Metro: Last Light (1080p, Ultra): 123 fps; (1080p, Low): 184 fps
- Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Ultra): 160 fps; (1080p, Low): 278 fps
There’s not a lot more to say here than that. The numbers are incredibly impressive which, considering the sweet parts, didn’t come as a surprise.
The build here is naturally better than the Falcon Northwest Tiki system we took on in 2014, and rises well above the other Steam Machine we’ve reviewed, the Alienware Alpha. (The argument you could make, however, is that the Origin Omega is more of a full-size machine than a true Steam Machine.)
Regardless, playing games at over 100 fps means you’ll never have to endure choppy cut-scenes or slow down during big action sequences. Games will play incredibly smooth from now into the foreseeable future, which should feel pretty good considering the few month’s worth of paychecks you would have to drop on this.
A PC by any other name…
Steam Machine? HTPC? I’m not sure the Omega needs to fit into either category.
The Omega is best described as simply a mini-ITX system. Yes, it can boot straight into Steam Big Picture mode, but so can every other PC.
And yes, the sizeable hard drives make this the best place to set up a Plex server to stream content you own to anywhere you’d like. But that doesn’t mean it necessarily has to be either of those things.
The point here is that you probably shouldn’t buy the Origin Omega because you want a Steam Machine – there are plenty of other affordable options out there. You should buy the Omega because it can be decked out and souped up with some of the highest-end components that can absolutely shred any game you throw at it.
Origin is one of my favorite companies when it comes to packaging software with a system. Whether it’s a practical inclusion like PowerDVD or a thumb drive with a backup image of the machine, or a free download of Minecraft that comes pre-installed with a new system, there’s plenty to enjoy right out of the box:
Minecraft: The 21st century’s answer to Legos. It usually goes for around $20, so to get it on your new PC for free is a deal.
League of Legends: Sure, this is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena game, but dodging the one-hour install process leaves more time for slaying and less time watching a progress bar.
Steam: The Omega I received booted straight into Steam’s Big Picture Mode. This is handy if you plan to use this as a straight-up living room rig, but it can be disabled easily.
Powerful PCs are a bit like a magic trick: the first time you see one, you instantly feel confused and overwhelmed with curiosity. The second time, you’re a little less impressed and by the third time, it’s hard to even muster up an “ooh” or an “ah”.
Like a magic trick, the Omega is just so close to an already-existing product from Origin that it’s hard to feel that it’s as special of a product as the Chronos was last year.
That’s not to detract from the machine itself – it’s still one of the most immaculately built and powerful gaming PCs on the market. It still ranks among some of my favorite systems I’ve ever tested. It doesn’t seem like the Omega was built as a Steam Machine, but it’s currently leading the category in terms of power and versatility.
Take one more look at the specs and performance page. With scores above 17,000 on Firestrike in 3DMark and a beyond buttery-smooth frame rate of 123 fps in Metro Last Light on Ultra settings, there’s just nothing bad to say about this machine performance-wise.
Solid improvements, like a Z170 chipset, Skylake processor and 512GB M.2 solid-state drive are smart, worthwhile improvements that give the Omega a boost of speed over its predecessor. While all the parts are worthy of a call out, the fact that Origin configured the system to run on a mere 450-watt power supply is both surprising and incredibly impressive.
As a general rule, I’m wary of spending $3,000 on anything, let alone a PC that, unless tended to, will be obsolete four or five years down the road.
Both the Chronos Z and Omega are worth every penny but, if you’re willing to settle for slightly less powerful components, it’s still cheaper to build your own system if you have the skills and wherewithal to do it. We can help you!
If you want a Steam Machine for your living room at the cheapest price, check out the Steam Link. It bridges the gap between your bedroom rig and your living room TV, and comes in at a fraction of the cost of a full-size system, like the Omega. Of course, this assumes you already have a gaming PC.
The Origin Omega is an incredibly strong boutique PC that is well worth your money. This rig brings the big guns needed to play 4K games and video content in the living room, and it’s almost guaranteed to mow down anything you can throw at it.
If you’re keen on getting true 4K gaming and streaming into the living room hassle-free – not to mention at the highest settings for the next few years – the Origin Omega should be your first stop.