The Corsair One Elite is a stunning and almost unprecedented PC. It’s one of the smallest systems on the market, yet it’s also one of the most powerful as well.
This version of the Corsair One retains the excellent exterior design that was introduced last year, but the internals have been given a huge boost.
Corsair reckons they’re perfect for work and play – and we’re about to find out if this tiny tower can cope with a serious upgrade.
Price and availability
The Corsair One Elite we’re reviewing is the beefiest and most expensive specification Corsair is selling, with the Intel Coffee Lake Core i7 processor, GTX 1080 Ti graphics card and 32GB of memory for $2,999 (£2,799)
That latter specification is only really required by creatives, so the Corsair One Pro Plus is also available. It’s got the same processor and GPU, but it halves the memory allocation to drop the price to $2,799 (£2,549).
Last year’s models are also still available with a small price reduction. The One Pro has a Core i7-7700K processor, 32GB of memory and GTX 1080 graphics for $2,499 (£2,299), and another version drops down to 16GB of memory and costs $2,299 (£2,099).
The situation is different in Australia. Corsair hasn’t yet updated the One to Coffee Lake, which means you’re stick with quad-core i7-7700K processors.
The pricier of the two machines has GTX 1080 Ti graphics, 16GB of DDR4 and a 480GB SSD for AU$3,799. The more affordable model uses a weaker GTX 1080 card and costs AU$3,399.
The Corsair One Elite is stunning. It’s made of aircraft-grade aluminium that looks smart, with thin bands of light snaking down the rig on either side of subtle logos and the power button.
It looks fantastic, and the dimensions are disarming. It’s just 380mm tall and 176wide, and weighs 7.4kg. That’s comparable with the Asus ROG G20CI and MSI Trident 3, which are other recent high-end PCs that used smaller enclosures.
The great design is paired with rock-solid build quality. The panels are sturdy, and the interior is built around a strong metal skeleton. It’s perfect for carrying to and from LAN parties or esports events.
The front of the Corsair One Elite has a USB port and an HDMI socket, for VR headsets, and at the rear you get more display outputs alongside a USB 3.1 Type-C convector. There’s a PS/2 port, and some of the connections are illuminated for night-tame gaming. Wireless is also included.
The top is built with thick metal slats that sit above a 140mm fan that’s virtually frictionless. This is the Corsair’s key heat-removal mechanism, and lifting the slats free give access to the internals.
The top of the machine serves up the PSU and graphics outputs, which are routed to more convenient spots using extension cables. The two larger side panels can be removed, and both are filled with slim, long water-cooling radiators.
On one side of the Corsair One Elite, a radiator connects to the processor using a conventional mounting system. Buried beneath that is a mini-ITX motherboard that’s based on the MSI Gaming Pro Carbon AC, which has wireless and beefed-up networking circuits. The radiator on the other side connects to the full-size graphics card, which also has a small fan to chill its memory chips.
The graphics card connects to the motherboard using a neat extension cable, and the M.2 SSD sits beneath a heatsink on the motherboard. The hard disk sits in a small caddy between other components. The interior is filled with snaking cables and chunks of metal, which is necessary when so much power is installed into such a tiny space.
It’s impressive engineering, but it doesn’t always make access easy. The major components are accessible but it’s always going to be laborious, and there’s no upgrade room.
It’s certainly easier to get inside the MSI and Asus machines, even if those rigs do have weaker components – and larger dimensions, in the case of the Asus.
The only other design issue is the lighting. It looks great at default, but the lights aren’t RGB – so in software you can only alter the brightness, turn the lights off or opt for a basic breathing effect.
The Corsair One Elite delivers gaming pace with a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti card. It’s one of Nvidia’s most powerful consumer chips, with a mighty 11GB of GDDR5X memory, 3,584 stream processors and a stock speed of 1,480MHz that improves to 1,645MHz and beyond with GPU Boost.
The Corsair One Elite will run any current game at 1080p beyond 100fps, and its benchmark scores outstripped both rivals. Its 3D Mark Time Spy result of 9,272 is thousands of points ahead of both MSI and Asus’ machines.
That advantage translates to gaming performance. In the Deus Ex Ultra benchmark the Corsair One Elite ran at 98fps – the other two machines couldn’t even manage a playable framerate.
The Corsair One Elite will handle gaming at 4K, too. At 3,840 x 2,160 it averaged 44fps, and steamed beyond 60fps in Battlefield 1 and Witcher 3. That bodes well for 4K screens, of course, but it also means that the Corsair will run VR headsets and intensive graphical applications.
Processing power has taken a massive leap in this generation of Corsair desktop. Last year’s quad-core chip has been replaced with a six-core i7-8700K, which can handle twelve concurrent threads and arrives with the architectural improvements of Intel Coffee Lake.
The two extra cores mean that the Corsair One Elite will be an even better performer in complex productivity applications and when multi-tasking, which is why the One is marketed at creatives as well as gamers. And, despite the extra cores, clock speeds haven’t suffered: the i7-8700K’s base speed of 3.7GHz is a little below last year’s chips, but the new part has single- and multi- core Turbo speeds of 4.7GHz and 4.3GHz – better than the older parts.
Elsewhere, the Corsair One Elite has 32GB of memory – overkill for everyone except for those running high-end productivity tools. There’s a Samsung PM961 SSD that uses NVMe for extra pace, and a 2TB hard disk.
The Coffee Lake silicon romped through the Geekbench single- and multi-core tests with results of 5,365 and 23,290. The former score is a little better than the older Core i7 chips in the MSI and Asus machines – no surprise when clock speeds have remained static. However, the Corsair’s multi-threaded result is almost 7,000 points better than the MSI.
That’s a huge gap, and it proves that the Corsair will be far more adept with complex multi-tasking and tough apps that creative and high-end productivity jobs require. If you need more evidence, just look at Cinebench: the two rival rigs scored around 850cb – but the Corsair’s six-core CPU scored 1,392cb.
The Corsair One Elite is a stonking bit of kit and, impressively, it remained near-silent in every scenario. The system can barely be heard when it’s idling, and during a gaming test the fan speed only rose a little – we had to put our ears to the case to hear it at all. If you’ve got speakers or a headset, you won’t know that the Corsair’s there.
The noise level barely altered during a full-system stress-test. The graphics card ran at nearly 1,900MHz in every scenario, and the CPU ran at 4.5GHz in a gaming test and 4.3GHz in the system-wide test.
During our most demanding benchmarks the CPU peaked at a reasonable 87° C and the GPU topped out at 59°C – both fine figures.
We’ve never seen a system that offers this much power inside a chassis that’s so small and quiet.
The updated Coffee Lake processor delivers a huge boost to multi-tasking, and the GTX 1080 Ti will handle any gaming task. It makes the Corsair an all-rounder that can handle 4K and VR gaming alongside almost all creative and productivity applications.
The stellar design means that the Corsair is quieter than almost every rival in every situation – so whether you’re working or playing, you won’t notice its presence. It looks the part, too, and has a good selection of ports alongside loads of memory and storage space.
The downside of the Corsair’s design is an extreme lack of space. There’s no upgrade room, and all of the main components are difficult to reach.
That won’t bother most people, but it’s worth looking elsewhere if you like to tinker. Conventional mini-ITX rigs and larger tower machines will offer more internal versatility.
The price, too, won’t be for everyone. The Corsair is quiet and powerful, but it’s also hundreds of pounds or dollars more than more conventional systems that have similar components. If budget is a concern, the Corsair One Elite is not for you.
If you do want a premium product that ticks multiple boxes, though, then few PCs are better than the Corsair One Elite.
The Coffee Lake processor and Nvidia graphics deliver genuine, top-tier power that’ll handle almost any task, and the superb design ensures that this rig stays cool and quiet despite its tiny size.
The Corsair One Elite is pricier than most rivals, but it easily earns its Elite label.
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