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Corsair One Pro i180 review

The Mac Pro kicked off a new era of computers small in stature and big in power. It was one of the most powerful PCs for its time, but Apple hasn’t given its pro-grade desktop a serious update in five years. There’s been ample room for competitors to fill the gap.

Drawing inspiration from its rival and aging predecessor, the Corsair One Pro i180 is an over-engineered powerhouse, packing a modern 12-core processor, top-of-the-line RTX 2080 Ti graphics, custom liquid cooling solution, and ample amounts of storage and memory to boot.

Corsair doesn’t just ape the Mac Pro’s compact silhouette – the One Pro also comes with an Apple-like price tag of $5,000. Even though Intel’s powerful 9th-Generation Core i9-9920X processor with 12 cores and 24 threads and RTX graphics make the One Pro a capable gaming rig, its over-the-top performance and price may limit this PC’s appeal to professionals and creatives. But with class-leading silicon choices, can the One Pro i180 match the performance of systems that are two to three times its size?

Don’t let its size fool you

Think the One Pro i180’s size is indicative of its performance? Think again. With a footprint of 7.9 x 7 inches, the One Pro takes up slightly more room on your desk than Apple’s 6.6-inch diameter desktop. At 15 inches tall, Corsair’s desktop is about the same height as a 2-liter soda bottle and sits barely taller than a college textbook.

And even though the One Pro and Mac Pro cater to creatives with identical specifications on paper — like a 12-core processor, 32GB RAM, and copious amounts of storage — the similarities largely end here. The One Pro i180 packs in the latest components available today. Corsair also bests Apple design with a desktop that’s highly upgradeable, even if the job proves difficult given the One Pro i180’s small size.

Aesthetically, there are major differences between the two units. While the Mac Pro’s glossy steel design looks more polished with its fingerprint-attracting curves, the One Pro i180 looks more industrial with its sandblasted aluminum finish, flatter sides, and a squircle-shaped base. The matte gunmetal aluminum build also gives the One Pro i180 a more demure presence on a desk.

PCs that share the One Pro’s objet d’art aesthetics include Samsung’s ArtPC Pulse, a semi-modular cylindrical mini desktop, and Asus’ workstation-class ProArt PA90 desktop. The $1,600 Samsung ArtPC hasn’t been updated since its release and tops out with 6th-Generation Intel processor and discrete AMD Radeon RX 460 graphics, while Asus’ $3,000 ProArt PA90 comes with a more current Intel 9th-Gen Core i7-9700 processor and Nvidia Quadro P4000 graphics.

Don’t be fooled by the Corsair One Pro i180’s small stature. It packs an impressive punch.

Unfortunately, the One Pro’s understated aesthetics means that gamers won’t be able to show off some of the more visually interesting components inside this rig. Compared to a larger system like HP’s 2019 Omen Obelisk, which sports a tempered glass window to showcase the RTX graphics, liquid cooling pipes, and RGB-lit fans and radiators, Corsair’s over-engineered technology to keep the One Pro compact and running cool remains hidden behind the unit’s opaque walls.

Lacking the harsh angles and aggressive grills of most gaming systems, the One Pro i180 balances its gaming appeal with business aesthetics. The unit’s flatter sides give it a more masculine look, while the two RGB light strips that run from top to bottom on the front of the One Pro i180 adds Tron-like vibes. Build quality is superb, and the Corsair One Pro i180 feels like a tank on a desk thanks to its metal enclosure. Gamers who purchase Corsair’s RGB-lit keyboard and mouse can even sync the desktop’s lighting effects with their peripherals, which is a nice touch.

Keep a lid on it

Keeping the One Pro i180 cool is of high importance, considering this desktop’s small 12-liter volume. To prevent overheating and preserve performance, a convection-assisted liquid cooling system was designed with strategically placed fans, radiators, and water coolers. The removable panels on either side of the desktop has perforations, allowing the internal fans to pull in cool air, while hot air is piped through a large metal grate at the top.

Chuong Nguyen/Digital Trends

Even though the grate looks aggressive, the overall design works well in a professional environment. The One Pro i180 stayed nearly silent when the desktop is running on idle, and even when stressed, the fans weren’t overly loud. Given its metal construction, however, the grate at the top does get warm when the system is running at heavier loads. Corsair claims that “the CPU block features logic that allows the cooling system to optimize fan speed based on the coolant temperatures of the CPU cooler and/or the GPU cooler without the need for software.”

The main difference between the One Pro i180 and gaming-dedicated desktops is that there is no glass window to peer inside the system. Although cables are neatly tucked and managed inside, the inner workings of Corsair’s uniquely engineered cooling system is kept out of view.

Growing pains

Upgradeability is an important consideration when buying a workstation, and thankfully, the One Pro i180 can be upgraded. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It requires a bit of maneuvering to access the internals. Though amateurs will likely stick to upgrading the RAM and memory, adventurous users could even upgrade the graphics card and even the mini-ITX-sized motherboard inside.

To access the internals, users will need to depress and hold a switch on the rear while removing the top grate. Once the grate is off, two screws will need to be undone to gain access to the left and right side panels. The memory, three M.2 solid-state drive slots, and 2.5-inch 2TB hard drive are located behind this panel, and upgrading these components is an easy task.

Few people will actually need this level of processing performance on a desktop.

Beneath the opposite side panel is a full-length graphics card oriented vertically. At a glance, it appears that the liquid-cooled graphics card, which utilizes a separate radiator from the liquid-cooled processor, has been altered slightly to fit in the small space on this desktop. The metal rail typically found on the end of the card has been removed, and attached to the graphics card are a series of adapters designed to route access to the three DisplayPorts to the rear of the desktop and lone HDMI port to the front. And while this system utilizes an RTX 2080 Ti, Corsair did not provide access to the USB-C port through the graphics card. Instead, the USB-C port is accessed through the motherboard.

Though users will be able to upgrade to a different graphics card in the future, given the water-cooling system, tight space, and the modifications needed to squeeze a full-length card inside, upgrading the GPU should only be attempted by enthusiasts. Casual users should just stick with basic upgrades, like adding more memory or storage.

Pro ports

Even though gamers may be beguiled by the One Pro i180’s capabilities, Corsair’s choice of ports on this PC positions the One Pro more as a workstation than a gaming rig. There is no HDMI port on the rear. Instead, you’ll find three DisplayPort connectors, PS/2 port, two USB-A 2.0 ports, two USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, a USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 port, single USB-C 3.1 port, Ethernet connection, two 802.11ac 2×2 Wi-Fi antennas, and audio with optical connections on the back. Unfortunately, despite its workstation designation, Thunderbolt 3 was noticeably lacking, which could limit the One Pro’s appeal to business users who rely on a Thunderbolt desktop dock.

Corsair One Pro i180 review Chuong Nguyen/Digital Trends

Surprisingly, an HDMI 2.0a port makes an appearance on the front of the unit. Given the internal space constraints, it makes sense that Corsair routed the HDMI port to the front, but this location could make cable management burdensome for gamers. Offices that rely on DisplayPort to connect monitors won’t be as bothered here. Joining the HDMI port are two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, and a combination headphone and microphone jack. The bottom placement of these ports makes it easy to connect peripherals, like a mouse and keyboard, given that this compact desktop will likely reside on the top of a desk rather than on the floor. The power button sits towards the top.

Power to handle any task

Whereas most high-end gaming systems top out with Intel’s eight-core 9th-Gen Core i9-9900K processor, the 12-core Intel Core i9-9920X X-series silicon means that the One Pro i180 is capable of handling any task you throw its way. Users who don’t need that level of performance can save some money by going with other members of Corsair’s One Pro family, including the i140 and i160 models.

With the i180, Corsair did not cut any corners on creating one of the most powerful compact desktops that we’ve tested. Our i180 model comes standard with 32GB of memory, which helps this PC adeptly juggle even demanding rendering and design work.

Curiously, however, in our Geekbench processor test, the i180’s single-core result of 5,011 points isn’t the best. Even HP’s 2018 Omen Obelisk, which relies on an older generation Intel Core i7-8700 silicon posted a higher score of 5,606 points, while Intel’s Core i9-9900K on Origin PC’s Millennium delivered a score of 6,300 points. Where the One Pro i180 shines is in its multi-core performance, posting one of the highest scores of any system we’ve tested to date with 36,609 points, edging ahead of the Origin Millennium’s multi-core result of 34,309 points. The One Pro i180’s strong multi-core results makes sense given the unit’s 12 processing cores compared to the Millennium’s eight-core CPU.

While the One Pro i180’s multi-core score is certainly impressive, it’s doubtful that most consumers will need that level of performance. Unless you’re after Corsair’s insane engineering to pack high levels of performance into a compact design, the One Pro i180’s price point and over-the-top processor may be better suited for creatives juggling between large media files for audio, video, visual, or other creative tasks.

Corsair’s target of creative professionals becomes more evident in our Handbrake test. Encoding a 4K video sample took this unit just 73 seconds to finish, compared to 77 seconds on the Origin Millennium and up to 124 seconds using the 2018 HP Omen Obelisk’s Intel Core i7-8700 processor. The Digital Storm, with its Intel Core i7-9700K CPU took 89 seconds to accomplish the task. Though the One Pro i180 was the speediest at finishing this task of any system we’ve tested, it’d be interesting to see if the unit’s Core i9-9920X processor could perform even faster if placed in a larger enclosure to give it even more thermal headroom.

The lack of extended warranty options may limit its appeal in the enterprise market.

Our One Pro i180 ships with a 960GB Samsung PM981 solid-state drive for fast performance and a 2TB Seagate BarraCuda hard disk drive for users looking to store larger media files without breaking the bank. With read and write speeds of 1,756 and 1,522 Mbps, respectively, tbe One Pro i180’s SSD isn’t the fastest SSD on the market – the SSD on the Origin PC Millennium performs 73 percent faster at reading and 53 percent faster at writing – but we didn’t notice any delays or lags when handling larger CAD, Photoshop, or Premiere Pro files. Applications and games both loaded quickly, and overall, the One Pro i180 impressed us with its speed.

If storage space is an issue, you can add two additional SSD modules to the One Pro i180’s motherboard, for a total of three solid-state drives before having to resort to external drives.

A graphics stunner

With Nvidia’s top-of-the-line consumer RTX graphics card, the i180 packs in plenty of graphics performance. Gamers will appreciate the RTX 2080 Ti graphics, but creatives can also benefit from the card’s real-time ray tracing capabilities, allowing designers to preview how lighting and shadows can affect different architecture and design projects. Given Nvidia’s recent industrial push behind RTX, Nvidia’s consumer-grade graphics card will likely find more appeal outside of the gaming market, of which only a limited number of titles currently support ray tracing.

When benchmarked using Underwriter Laboratories’ 3DMark test, the Corsair One Pro i180’s score of 12,842 is not the highest we’ve seen in a system with an RTX 2080 Ti card. Given our review unit’s high-end processor and copious amount of memory, the One Pro i180’s score places it almost 1,000 points behind the Origin Chronos, suggesting that there may be some throttling – a plausibility given the unit’s size. Both units trailed systems with dual graphics, like the Origin Millennium, which is loaded with two RTX 2080 Ti cards and scored 18,981 points.

Synthetic benchmarks, however, don’t paint a full picture of what the One Pro i180 is capable. The One Pro i180 is able to solidly handle most modern games fluidly, even when pushed to 4K resolutions with high game details. Gamers who play at lower resolution, like 1080p and 1440p, will be able to push to higher levels of details at ease without any hit to framerates or image quality.

Games with simpler graphics, like Civilization VI and Fortnite, perform extremely well on the One Pro i180. Even at 4K with maxed settings, respectively, for higher visual details, this workstation delivered well above 60 FPS. Framerates on Civilization ranged from 98 FPS in 4K with Ultra settings to 172 FPS in 1080p with Medium game settings. Given that the Origin Millennium with its dual-RTX 2080 Ti graphics didn’t post significantly better results, this suggests gamers won’t see any appreciable benefits to spending money on an extra graphics card and the NVLink bridge until developers build out multi-GPU support in titles.

The situation is similar in graphics-demanding games, like Battlefield V and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. With the former title, the One Pro i180 never dipped below 60 FPS, while performance on the latter title went below our 60 FPS baseline only in 4K resolution. When compared to the significantly more powerful Origin Millennium, the One Pro i180 managed to keep pace in both titles, similar to our Civilization VI benchmarks, but in Assassin’s Creed, the dual-graphics capabilities of the Millennium helped that unit perform slightly better when the system is fully pushed at 4K resolution.

Even Nvidia has extended ray tracing capabilities to older GTX cards, the RTX 2080 Ti graphics on the One Pro i180 will give designers a performance boost when it comes to graphics. At its GTC conference this year, Nvidia showcased how architectures can utilize architects can leverage real-time lighting effects to show how buildings and internal spaces will look at different times of the day, and auto manufacturer BMW is building tools to allow shoppers to visualize how different materials and finishes on its cars will look.

Warranty

Corsair offers a more straightforward two-year warranty for its PC products. In comparison, gaming competitors, such as Digital Storm and Origin PC both offer more generous lifetime telephone support, but defective hardware components are generally covered by a more limited one-year term, unless an optional extended warranty policy is purchased.

Though Corsair’s two-year hardware warranty may seem generous in the gaming market, the lack of extended warranty options may limit its appeal in the enterprise market. Rivals, such as HP, Dell, and Lenovo, all offer optional extended warranties with coverage that range from on-site support, free replacements, or accidental damage coverage. Without these coverage options that some businesses may demand or seek, the One Pro i180’s long-term potential may be severely limited.

Our Take

Creatives who want more powerful silicon that what Apple offers in the Mac Pro can find solace in Corsair’s compact One Pro i180. With a 12-core Intel Core i9-9920X, GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, 32GB of RAM, and a 960GB solid-state drive, the One Pro i180 will equally appeal to consumers and creatives looking for a system that delivers the most performance in as little space as possible if they can stomach the $4,999 cost of entry.

Is there a better alternative?

There are few systems that offer the same level of performance that Corsair promises, and certainly not in a similarly compact footprint. Origin PC’s Neuron, when configured with similar specifications to our Corsair unit, is priced at more than $4,500. However, the Neuron is a larger desktop and doesn’t offer the same space-saving benefit on a desk.

In the workstation space, Asus’ ProArt PA90 promises a similarly sleek design with liquid cooled internals, but it tops out with Intel’s Core i9-9900K and relies on Quadro P4000 graphics. That GPU is based on Nvidia’s older Pascal architecture rather than the new Turing design on the RTX series. Given its professional audience, pricing for the ProArt PA90 isn’t expected to be cheap.

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Samsung’s ArtPC Pulse is a significantly cheaper alternative to Corsair’s overengineered modern marvel. But this affordable art-inspired desktop hasn’t seen any major updates since it was launched, leaving the PC with aging internals like its Intel 6th-Generation Core i7-6700 processor and AMD Radeon RX 460 graphics. If all you care about is a minimalist and compact desktop design, going with Samsung could save you $3,400 compared to the OnePro, but lacking high-end graphics, the $1,600 ArtPC isn’t even a contender for serious gamers or designers who demand raw graphics performance.

How long will it last?

With a modern 12-core Intel X-series processor and Nvidia’s top-of-the-line RTX 2080 Ti graphics card, your $5,000 investment in the One Pro i180 will last you for years to come. Corsair has wisely packed this PC with plenty of RAM and solid-state storage to satisfy even demanding users, and there’s a wide range of ports to connect your favorite peripherals and accessories. And despite its small size, adventurous tinkerers will be able to upgrade the graphics card in this compact PC, ensuring that this PC will stay powerful for years to come.

Should you buy it?

Yes, the One Pro i180 delivers exceptional performance in a small footprint, and even home users will find a lot to love about this sleekly designed, all-metal workstation desktop. The only thing holding the One Pro i180 back from widespread appeal is its high $5,000 price.

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