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About one month before the release date of Borderlands 3 I’ve decided that laptop gaming won’t cut it anymore. Having previously owned a big tower pc, I knew that I wanted something smaller, yet powerful instead. While the overall size wasn’t necessarily a primary criteria, the footprint mattered a lot. With that I mean, that it doesn’t really matter how tall the computer is. Its depth and width are way more essential, because they might prevent me from placing a large monitor next to it. Essentially though, I’ve been looking for the best compact gaming pc.

I’ve always loved moving things and recreating my setups in different ways. Having three desks at home, that is easily achievable. I thought that a light yet powerful computer, which can easily be placed on any desk in any situation, would just make that experience so much smoother. And that’s when I found the Corsair One i160, arguably one of the most interesting pre built computers on the market.

Still packed Corsair One i160.

Despite the form factor, it boasts some impressive specs, including a 2080ti, 32GB of RAM and an eight core processor, which could very well make it the best compact gaming pc available right now. Before buying the pc, I’ve had my worries about noise levels and thermal performance but more on that later.

The Corsair One i160 is surprisingly big and yet compact…

Being marketed as a compact gaming pc, or even as a console killer, I always expected the i160 to be comparable to a PS4 in size. With a height of 48,9cm, a width of only 29,1cm and a depth of 33,5cm it more than doubles the size of a Playstation 4. While that’s obviously far off my predictions, it’s still surprisingly compact considering it’s specs. That being said, as long as you have enough space above the pc, it’s footprint is vastly superior. It can easily be placed next to most monitors on most desks or next to a TV without standing out too much. With a full sized tower that’s nearly impossible. I’d say the Corsair’s size is more comparable to a big near field speaker, rather than a full sized desktop or a console.

Corsair One i160 next to a speaker for size comparison.

It’s neither too big nor too small. The way it is, it looks impressive and elegant while not taking up too much space. If needed it can easily be moved around (after unplugging all the cables obviously) and could theoretically be put in a large backpack for a lan party. I am not sure if too many people would actually do that, considering how expensive it is, though it’s still nice to have the option. While you wouldn’t want to carry it for extremely long distances, it’s weight of 7,38kg is easily bearable for a quick walk to the car.

Too beautiful to be put under the desk…

One of the biggest advantages of it’s size is, that you can easily place it on your desk. As long as you don’t plan on using a triple monitor setup that is.

And honestly, the Corsair One looks way too good to put it out of sight. It is pretty hard for a pc case to actually impress me, especially if it doesn’t have a side panel. All in all, the i160 is extremely well crafted, which doesn’t only translate into it being robust, but also in it looking stunning. It’s matte black finish fits into any setup seamlessly, especially if you have a monitor with a similar finish, such as the LG 34GK950G.

The RGB lighting areas, while not being extremely large, look great as well. They don’t illuminate the room like some other pc’s are but are still stunning to look at. Overall the Corsair One is stealthy and yet stylish. Its look is impactful, without being too aggressive.

Best compact gaming pc by corsair with RGB enabled.

One of the best compact gaming pc’s…

The Corsair One i160 is one of the best compact gaming pc’s, which is mostly due to it’s insane performance. It’s absolutely perfect for 3440x1440p gaming, while it should also be able to handle 4k, though not necessarily at over 100Hz (in most games).

With a few exceptions, it could handle any game that I threw at it with a constant fps of over 120 with the highest settings available. The games that I have been playing on it were Killing Floor 2, Project Cars 2, Doom, GTA V, Six Siege, Saints Row 3, Borderlands 2 and Ark: Survival Evolved. Surprisingly, Borderlands 2 sometimes dropped in frames in the 100 area and Ark’s settings had to be tuned down to the second highest option available to be run smoothly. Every other game I mentioned was cranked to Ultra. Even with Killing Floor 2’s Nvidia Flex enabled, the frames didn’t drop under 90 fps no matter how many zeds were killed at once. My old pc (with a GTX 1060) regularly dropped from 100fps to 20 or 30 with it enabled, and that in Full HD.

Is it like a jet engine though?

That’s where I’m going to come back to the noise level and thermal performance of the i160. Even after being under full load for one or two hours, it’s not nearly as loud as any laptop would get. I could actually play without any sound, while talking to a friend without being frustrated. And that for over two hours. While it’s extremely impressive how quiet the system is under load, there’s no mode that’s completely silent. Even without having anything open, the desktop is easily audible while sitting next to it. While playing video games, I am focusing my attention elsewhere. Thanks to that the bit of noise can easily be ignored.

It can be pretty annoying however, if it’s audible, that the computer is still running when doing something else entirely. There’s a chance that it’s unit depending, since the first one that I got had an extremely loud rattling noise to it.

Who needs a space heater if you have a compact gaming pc?

Surprisingly enough, all of the components stayed extremely cool even under heavy gaming loads. Even after an whole hour in GTA V, the CPU stayed at 39,90 degrees Celcius, and the GPU at 48,60. The main fan only cranked up to 1213RPM with the GPU and CPU pump staying at the usual 1800-1900RPM.

Thermal Performance after almost one hour of gaming.

That being said, the computer does emit a lot of heat. It is effectively blown out the top, spreading the hot air throughout the room. The pc also blows out some heat when not playing any video games, which does make it like a small heater. After a few hours without open windows. the air deteriorates pretty badly.

It’s amazing how cool the device stays in general. The spreading heat is to be expected from a 2080ti and an i9-9900k. That’s not really something that can be taken against the Corsair One, has to be taken into account when buying a pc with those specs though.

Mobility comes at a price…

… and in this case it’s not performance. There are some disadvantages that the i160 has in comparison to a self built computer.

Hard to upgrade…

That one should be an obvious one, considering how small the pc is. It is possible to upgrade components yourself. That being said, it’s going to be much harder than it would be with a self build pc. Thanks to the high end specs, you won’t need to upgrade for quite a while anyway.

No Thunderbolt 3…

From a device as expensive and compact as this one, I kind of expected a Thunderbolt 3 connection. It does have an USB Type-C port; however, that one can’t be used to connect external displays to the computer.

One of the advantages of a compact form factor pc is, that it can easily be moved around if needed. My initial assumption was, that I could just use docking stations to connect all the peripherals, including my monitor to the device. That way I could easily switch between my Corsair One i160 and my Macbook Pro. Another advantage of that would’ve been, that you could easily switch between a tv setup and a normal desk setup. Thanks to its size, it would fit pretty well next to a tv, without standing out too much.

The best compact gaming pc doesn’t come with the best price…

As expected from a pre built pc, it’s pretty expensive. This one comes with a rather insane price tag of a little over 3600$.

If you build a pc yourself, then you can easily save enough money to buy a high end monitor, such as the LG 34GK950G. The Corsair One’s case can not be bought separately though. That means, that it’s not possible to build this exact pc yourself for less money. And finding a case this size, which is able to fit a 2080ti without overheating is tough.

Never entirely silent…

That is honestly one of the main issues that I have with the Corsair One i160. No matter what you do, it’s never entirely silent. I am living alone in a rather quiet area. If the windows are closed, then there’s little to no environmental noise present. Due to that, I can always hear the pc fans spinning, no matter where in the room I am.

Considering how silent the device is under heavy load, I am sure they could have included a silent mode.

Verdict

Best compact gaming pc on display

The Corsair One i160 is a compact and beautiful, yet extremely powerful machine which is able to crush most games and most resolutions with ease. It is well built and fits into pretty much any setup. The versatility comes at a high price however, which is why it’s hard for me to fully recommend this device.

If your budget is limited and you still want maximum performance, then I would recommend building a pc yourself. Even a computer with similar specs can be built for way less.

For those who want a compact pre built system and don’t mind spending that much money, I can easily recommend buying this one. It is one of the best, if not the best compact gaming pcs available at the moment. The price increase over competitor’s models such as the MSI Trident X is also justified, especially because of its insane built quality.

In conclusion, I would advise everyone to take another moment and think about what actually suits your needs. Depending on the scenario, this might be the best choice – it might also just be the most attractive one.

To view the Corsair One on Amazon, simply click here*.