Corsair One i160 Review
Last Updated on October 1, 2021 by Daniel Osakwe
There may be an end to the massive tower PC. Because of limited game support, both Nvidia and AMD are de-emphasizing multi-card gaming setups. It appears that storage is getting denser and cheaper every day. Corsair’s One line of compact PCs indicates that bulky cooling setups with lots of fans are no longer necessary to keep high-power components cool.
Corsair’s One i160 looks almost identical to its predecessor on the outside, apart from the RGB light strips running down its compact 12-liter frame. With a newly designed internal layout that, according to the company, increases airflow by a factor of three, this already impressive compact powerhouse takes performance computing to new heights.
In fact, Corsair’s updated One i160 packs the fastest consumer-focused graphics card (the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti) into one of the best gaming PCs available today. The tower’s quietness is impressive considering its top-tier components. The price tag of $3,599 (£3,399.99) is certainly not one for impulse buying. You would be hard-pressed to find a more compact and refined alternative to a traditional tower if you are seeking a powerful gaming and productivity PC.
Unlike its previous-generation counterpart, the Corsair One i160 looks nearly identical at first glance. The layout of the internal components hasn’t changed as much as the front LEDs, controlled by the Corsair iCue software.
As a first step, the power supply has been moved to the bottom, which should help with what Corsair calls “convection-assisted” cooling. You also don’t have to remove the top to disconnect the power cable. Moving the power cable to the bottom also makes for a more stable design; any accidental pulls on the cable are less likely to knock the tower over if its power tether is near the ground.
Out of the box, the system’s light pipes are blue. Using the company’s iCue software, you can customize the colors of the eight total LEDs (four in each strip), or have them change according to temperature or what game you’re playing.
Corsair managed to fit top-tier components into such a small space, even though the footprint is the same as before (200 x 176 mm).
|Processor||Intel Core i9-9900K|
|Motherboard||Custom MSI Z370 mini-ITX|
|Memory||32GB (2x16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666|
|Graphics||Liquid-cooled NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti (11GB GDDR6)|
|Storage||480GB M.2 NVMe; SSD 2TB 2.5” SATA HDD|
|Networking||802.11ac 2×2 Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet|
|Interface||Front: 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1; Combination Mic/Headphone Jack;Rear: PS/2, 2x USB 2.0, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 7.1 Surround Audio, 3x DisplayPort|
|Video Output||(3) DisplayPort 1.4; (1) HDMI 2.0|
|Power Supply||600W Corsair SF600 SFX 80 Plus Gold|
|Case||Corsair One Aluminum/Steel|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home 64-Bit|
|Dimensions||7.9 x 7 x 15 inches (200 x 176 x 380 mm)|
|Price As Configured||$3,599 (£3,399.99)|
Ports and Upgradability
With a smaller desktop, you won’t get as many ports as you would with a larger desktop, but most users will find there is still enough here to meet their needs. Ahead, you’ll find an HDMI 2.0a port, a USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, and a combo jack for headphones and microphone, along with a headphone/mic combo jack.
It comes with a PS/2 port for legacy (some would say ancient) peripherals, as well as a pair of USB 2.0 ports for mice and keyboards. It also comes with two Type-C USB 3.1 ports. Underneath that are another pair of USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, as well as Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi antenna attachment points, and digital audio connections.
As far as video connectivity is concerned, aside from the HDMI 2.0a port on the front, you get three DisplayPort 1.4 ports. VirtualLink/USB-C ports for future VR headsets are the only glaring omission here. While VR headsets do not yet support this port, it is available on most Nvidia 20-series graphics cards, so you may regret not using it when VR becomes a reality.
Furthermore, the system utilizes an MSI motherboard that utilizes an old Z370 chipset. However, it’s mostly fine, because USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Wi-Fi are two of the main advantages of the Z390 chipset. But given the price of the i600, many may balk at not being able to get the latest and greatest chipset. It is likely that there would also be more than just two-speed USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports on a Z390 motherboard.
For those who don’t mind dismantling expensive PC hardware, you can access most components on the inside. The problem is that adding RAM or storage requires swapping out existing components. Removing the graphics card and its liquid cooling will allow you to access the boot drive.
The system’s lid can only be removed by pressing a button on the back near the top, as in the previous model. You must press firmly on this button and then unplug the fan from its four-pin connector in order to remove the lid.
Two screws must be removed from each side of the system to gain access to the rest. However, be cautious, as the radiators are attached to the side panels and remain tethered by the coolant tubes.
You can easily remove the RAM, though it occupies both slots and should be adequate for most gaming and mainstream computing purposes. The RAM is 32GB of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666. Also accessible from the front is a 2.5-inch Seagate hard drive, which has a capacity of 2TB. However, there are no expansion slots. Additionally, the 480GB NVMe Samsung SSD is mounted behind the motherboard. You would have to remove the graphics card in order to access that, which is something I didn’t bother with.
According to Corsair, you can replace the graphics card with an air-cooled one (using axial cooling instead of blower cooling). In order to install a different graphics card (as long as it fits within the confines of the enclosure), you can decouple the graphics cooling setup from the CPU cooler. Nonetheless, this system already comes with the best consumer-level CPU (Intel’s Core i9-9900K) and gaming GPU (Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 Ti) that is currently available.
If I were to configure a similar system myself, I would get a bigger boot SSD. The price of fast 1TB NVMe SSDs is now around $250, and some go for even less. Since this system is asking for $3,600, spending more on the drive you’re going to install all your important games and programs on makes sense, especially since it’s not exactly easy to swap out the boot drive.
Gaming, Graphics, and VR
With what we already know about the RTX 2080 Ti and the Core i9-9900K, I played through some of the Argent Tower boss sequences in Doom at 4K and Ultra settings and the frame rate hovered between 103 and 137 fps. A noticeable increase in noise was found during the testing of the One i160 cooling system. In part, that’s because it is usually silent.
During gaming, the default fan settings produce more of a whir than the blowing sound I’m used to hearing from most compact gaming towers. Despite turning on the extreme cooling mode in the iCue software, the fan still sounded relatively quiet. No doubt this is partly due to the device’s external radiators, which radiate most of its heat. Although the 140mm fan makes a lot of noise, since it isn’t doing most of the cooling, its speed isn’t too important.
Our benchmarks showed it to be easily the top-performing desktop, beating out our 2080-equipped counterparts. As you can see in the charts below, the One i160 scored 123 frames per second (fps) in Rising of the Tomb Raider at 1080p, far better than the desktop gaming average of 93 fps. Even with 45.3 frames per second, the One i160 did not achieve quite as good 4K performance as the original One.
The same performance was achieved for the One i160 with 45 frames per second at 4K and 140 frames per second at 1080p. The average gaming desktop has 91 frames per second, which is 53 percent less than that. Moreover, our competitors equipped with RTX 2080 had a hard time exceeding 100 frames per second.
Once again, the Corsair One i160’s performance on Hitman at 3840×2160, Ultra settings couldn’t compete with the average gaming desktop.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider also ran smoothly on the One i160, delivering 123 frames per second at 1920 x 1080 and 47 frames per second at 3840 x 2160. Furthermore, given that lesser machines with RTX 2080s previously scored an 11 in Steam VR benchmarks, the i160 is no surprise to achieve the same result.
The One i160 Core i9-9900K clocked at 4.6 GHz during our stress test, in which we ran Metro: Last Light 10 times in a row. We recorded an average GPU temperature of 57.2 degrees Celsius (135 degrees Fahrenheit). In both cases, the temperatures are well within the ranges established by the respective silicon, so you shouldn’t encounter any throttling issues when you play.
With its Core i9 processor, RTX 2080 Ti graphics, 32GB of RAM, and NVMe SSD, the Corsair One i160 is still a powerful machine, handling workday tasks like word processing and photo editing with ease. But it must contend with Asus’ ROG Strix GL12CX, a bigger mid-tower with the same Core i9-9900K processor.
GL12CX scored 31,016 on Geekbench 4, narrowly beating Corsair i160. Despite this, both systems outperform the gaming desktop category average.
With an average speed of 757 MB per second, the One i160 and Strix GL12CX were evenly matched in the 4.97GB file transfer test. They both feature NVMe storage drives, which bolstered their performance well above the 383.4MBps category average.
We measured the One i160’s performance against the ROG Strix GL12CX and the MSI Trident X in our Excel macro test, and it took 25 seconds. All three systems easily exceeded the gaming desktop average of 34 seconds.
When we tested the Corsair i160 with Handbrake’s video transcoding program, a 4K video was converted to 1080p in 58 seconds, far behind the Strix GL12CX (5:01) and Trident X (5:38). The power-hungry Core i9-9900K will probably not run cool under sustained workloads if the One’s thermal setup is suitable for gaming but not optimal for prolonged workloads. It should make a difference as well if you ramp up the fan preset over the defaults.
Software and Warranty
Despite a two-year warranty and a very limited amount of pre-installed software, the Corsair One comes with two years of manufacturer’s warranty coverage. Additionally to Windows 10 Home and its bloatware, you have iCue software that helps you control lights as well as the system fans. Furthermore, the company offers a PC Doctor for diagnosing performance and hardware issues remotely.
With the One, Corsair now offers three configurations. This entry-level option sells for $2,999 (£2,849.99) with an eight-core, eight-thread Core i7-9700K processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 graphics. In addition to Corsair’s i160 model, the company is also planning to sell an i180 Pro, which aims at content creators, with a Core i9-9920X chip and an Nvidia GTX 2080 Ti GPU. A 2TB hard drive and 32GB of DDR4-2666 Vengeance LPX RAM are standard on all three models. Furthermore, the Pro model comes with a 960GB NVMe SSD, while the two lesser models only offer 480GB of NVMe storage.
Our preferred configuration would be a Core i5 (or even a Core i7), with an RTX 2070. It is clear, however, that Corsair wants its compact One PCs to target high-end gamers and enthusiasts. There is also a Corsair Vengeance 5180 starting at $2,399, which is an option for those on a budget.
However, the company is not charging a heavy premium for the parts or the compact design. My build budget with an air-cooled RTX 2080 Ti with similar components cost under $3,000 when I wrote this article. The price of the i160 drops about $100 with a liquid-cooled card, so you’re roughly within $100 of the asking price.
|Top-end components and performance in a sleek, compact shell||Expensive at every configuration level|
|Surprisingly quiet operation||Uses older Z370 chipset|
By redesigning the One desktop’s internals, Corsair managed to drop in today’s top-end components while keeping temperatures and fan speeds low. Among compact performance desktops, the One i160 is one of the quietest we’ve seen, producing noise levels comparable to those of a much larger system.
Apart from the steep price tag of $3,599, there are few reasons to complain. However, when you add up the cost of the components–particularly a liquid-cooled RTX 2080 Ti–you’d end up paying nearly as much if you built an equivalent (larger) system yourself. It’s overkill to have a Core i9-9900K or an RTX 2080 Ti for a gaming CPU, even if you intend to play 4K games.
As such, the $2,999 One i140 is probably a better choice as it still has 32GB RAM and 480GB SSD, but with a non-Ti RTX 2080. Although the price of 1TB SSDs has dropped dramatically, I would still prefer a larger solid-state storage option for systems this expensive.
Corsair’s revised One lineup is the way to go if you’re seeking an ultra-slim, powerful gaming rig with a thin, lightweight design and no excessively loud fans that will affect your gaming or productivity.