Origin Neuron (2019) review

Origin's Neuron packs heavyweight punch into a lightweight frame

Origin's Neuron is a powerful rig that can stay relevant for as long as you feel like upgrading it.
Origin's Neuron is a powerful rig that can stay relevant for as long as you feel like upgrading it.
Origin's Neuron is a powerful rig that can stay relevant for as long as you feel like upgrading it.

Highs

  • Minimalist design with tempered glass window
  • Many customization options
  • High-end liquid-cooled processor
  • Compact mid-tower footprint
  • Can support up to two GPUs

Lows

  • Small chassis makes it hard to perform upgrades
  • Upgraded configurations can get expensive

Some gamers want unbridled power and performance. The Origin Millennium fills that role nicely. But practicality of size and price are a concern for most people, and the chunky size of a tower like that isn’t for everyone.

Fortunately, for battle royale victories and quieter setups, Origin’s Neuron promises similar levels of performance when fully equipped in a decidedly more compact mid-size tower. Don’t let the Neuron’s small stature fool you – this gaming desktop is packed with power and can be configured with up to Intel’s 18-core X-series processor, dual-Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics, and plenty of storage and memory to give you an edge.

Whether you’re looking at a new rig for VR, ray-tracing games, or to play just about any modern title out there, the Neuron’s capabilities will make you the envy of most gamers. If the Millennium is a battleship, the Neuron is the corvette of the Origin fleet.

Made for graceful aging

Available in red, black, or white standard colors, or a number of upgraded metallic paint finishes, Origin’s Neuron PC may look like a playful consumer desktop tower with a tinted tempered glass side window. But don’t let this gaming PC’s minimalist design fool you – our candy apple red review unit accented with black trim is an attractive focal piece on any desk.

origin neuron 2019
Riley Young/Digital Trends

With a simple polygonal-shaped steel box, the Neuron comes with flat back and side panels along with a faceted front, adding a little bit of visual interest to an otherwise minimalist design. The desktop measures just 15.25 x 16.5 x 6.75 inches, making it more compact than other mid-sized towers, like the Digital Storm Lynx, Alienware Aurora R7, or Falcon NW Talon. Though the all-metal construction adds to the Neuron’s premium style and gives it extra durability, the unit is still portable at 18 pounds, making it lighter than the Lynx, Aurora R7, and Talon.

To go along with our battleship analogy, the Neuron is the corvette to the Millennium’s frigate.

Despite the fact that all four competitors support similarly powerful specs – including the ability to utilize two graphics cards – the Neuron has the simplest design. Hopefully, that means it feels as modern today as it will ten years down the road. Free of obtrusive vents, aggressive grills, and harsh angles, Origin’s design will help keep the Neuron from looking dated over time, which is an important consideration given the unit’s price and upgradeability.

If you want to add more flare, Origin PC offers plenty of customization options. Gamers can choose to laser etch a custom image to the tempered glass panel, and various RGB lighting elements can be added to the interior.

To protect the Neuron in transit, customers of Origin PC will appreciate the company’s attention to detail in shipping this rig in its own wooden crate.

Functional form

Another highlight to the Neuron’s design is the tool-less access to the internals via the side glass panel. While the feature is similar to Lynx and HP’s Omen Obelisk, Origin went a step further on the Neuron. Instead of having to entirely remove the glass panel – where it could get damaged – you merely have to lift open the glass door via the notch located towards the front of the PC. Doing so will allow the glass door to swing open on its rear-mounted hinges.

Origin Neuron 2019
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Though the door design is clever, the notch is actually a bit difficult for those with larger fingers to access and a fair amount of force is required to pull open the door. Origin could have made the task easier by implementing a push-to-unlock mechanism, where pushing the glass into the chassis would activate a mechanism to release it, similar to how some kitchen cabinets are opened.

The unit’s compact size may make it more difficult for owners with larger hands to make repairs or upgrades.

Inside, most of the PC’s components are neatly organized in two compartments. The top component, which is more open, houses the motherboard, graphics card, and vents. Cable management is top notch, as expected, designed to showcase liquid-cooled CPU, GPU, and RGB-lit memory cards. Though all the internal pieces are organized and nothing appears clutter, the unit’s compact size may make it more difficult for owners with larger hands to make repairs or upgrades. A closed off bottom compartment neatly hides away less sexy PC components, like the power supplies and hard drive bays.

Making ports great again

Though having front-facing ports on gaming PCs are great, these ports may not be as accessible as you think depending on their positioning. In its standard out-of-the-box layout, the Neuron’s two front-facing USB ports, audio jacks, and power button are all located towards the bottom. While this placement may be ideal for a tower that sits on a desktop, it could make the ports harder to reach if you’re setting up the Neuron on the floor.

Fortunately, there are four detachable magnetic feet on the bottom that can be removed and attached on the top of the case. This allows the Neuron to be inverted to make the ports easier to access. Similarly, to use the Neuron as a home theater unit, you can attach the feet to the side panel to give it a horizontal layout.

origin neuron 2019
Riley Young/Digital Trends

There are more ports on the rear of the unit, including a USB-C port, five USB-A ports, HDMI, DisplayPort, ethernet jack, external Wi-Fi connectors, two legacy PS-2 ports, and additional audio connectors. Our review unit, which ships with a single flagship Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti graphics card, comes with additional ports for USB-C, three more DisplayPort connectors, and a second HDMI port. Depending on the graphics card you choose, your selection of ports may vary.

Despite all the attention to detail Origin has paid to the Neuron, the attachment to secure the graphics card could use more work. The small case size means that the screw sockets to hold the graphics card in place are not as deep as on other units, so a part of the ends of the screws protrude beyond the length of the socket. Given that this detail is placed on the rear, most users won’t care about the flaw, but it’s notable nonetheless given that the price of this PC can top out at over $13,000 when fully configured with multiple GPUs and solid-state drives.

Built to perform

Depending on your budget, the Neuron can be configured with as much power as you can afford. The PC can be outfitted with silicon from either AMD or Intel, and our review unit comes with the latest 9th-gen liquid-cooled Intel Core i9-9900K processor on a mini-ITX MSI board. It’ll prove to be plenty fast for a majority of people, including demanding gamers. Creatives with a need for speed can upgrade to AMD’s 16-core Ryzen Threadripper or Intel’s beefy 18-core Core i9-9980XE silicon for chart-topping performance.

Thanks to the presence of liquid-cooling, heat and throttling don’t appear to issues despite the Neuron’s compact case design.

Performance of our review unit is competitive against similar Core i9-equipped system. Thanks to the presence of liquid-cooling, processor throttling does not seem to be an issue despite the Neuron’s compact case design, and Origin’s use of six fans to circulate cool air inside helps with thermal regulation. Compared to the Lynx, which relies on four fans and slightly large case to keep cool, gamers will notice that the Neuron runs a bit louder.

When benchmarked with the Geekbench tool, the Neuron’s scores of 6,308 and 33,146 points for single-core and multi-core tests, respectively, is within range of beefier units with significantly larger case designs, like Origin’s Millennium and Digital Storm’s Aventum X. Compared to the even more compact Origin Chronos and ASUS ROG Strix GL12X, the Neuron’s better results could be attributable to its larger chassis, leading to better airflow and cooling. The Chronos scored 5,988 and 32,328 points, respectively.

In our video encoding test, the Neuron completed the task in 77 seconds, a time similar to the Origin Millennium, Asus ROG Strix GL12X, and Digital Storm Aventum X. This is significantly faster than the Digital Storm Lynx, which took shy of 90 seconds with its weaker Intel Core i7-9700K chip.

While we didn’t find performance or heat to be an issue with the smaller case on the Neuron, gamers who like to tinker with their PCs to make internal upgrades may find less room to maneuver inside given the smaller size of the mini-ITX board. The larger ATX board on the Lynx provided more access to swap out components.

origin neuron 2019
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Like the Lynx, the Neuron shares a similar Samsung 970 EVO series solid-state drive but it ships with a better M.2 970 Pro drive, which offers slightly better read and write performance on the 512GB capacity. Origin offers a number of SSD, PCIe SSD, and PCIe M.2 drive options for greater flexibility in capacity and performance.

Those who need additional storage but don’t want to spend a ton of money on a 4TB Samsung 860 Pro SSD can add up to five additional hard drives or solid-state drives to the Neuron. Intel Optane storage is also a premium option as well. In addition to the 512GB Samsung 970 Pro SSD, our review unit also shipped with a 3TB hard drive.

Made for gaming

With support for graphics cards ranging from an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti and up to a single GeForce RTX Titan card (or dual RTX 2080 Ti Blower cards), the Neuron is clearly targeted at gamers who demand the best performance. Owners who don’t want to make the up-front commitment on a dual-card setup will find plenty of space to add a second card in the future. Our review unit ships with a single RTX 2080 Ti card and 16GB of system memory, and as expected, performance is solid across most resolutions, save for 4K at the highest level of details.

The Neuron’s score of 13,995 points in 3DMark’s Time Spy benchmark is among the highest we’ve seen on a single-GPU system. It’s higher than the 12,194 points scored by our test system with a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and the 13,817 points posted by the Origin Chronos with a similar GPU. The only systems that sored better are the Origin Millennium and the Digital Storm Aventum X, as both units benefited from dual-RTX 2080 Ti graphics. The Aventum X’s dual cards gave it an impressive 21,468 points on the same benchmark, showing the potential for what the Neuron could achieve if a second card was added.

With its RTX 2080 Ti card, gaming performance is solid on the Neuron as expected. Even in graphics intensive titles, like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, the framerate only dipped below 60 FPS (frames per second) at 4K when the game settings were turned up to ultra high. At 4K with High details, the game performed at 69 FPS, though we noticed a slight bit of stuttering. Surprisingly the Neuron’s single-GPU performance is on par with the Millennium’s dual-graphics setup  on this title, suggesting that most gamers may not benefit from having dual graphics, at least until more titles build in NVLink support.

Most modern games play consistently above 100 FPS on the Neuron. Performance of the Neuron on Civilization VI was on par with the similarly configured Origin Chronos, and the game performed at over 100 FPS on both units, even in 4K with the highest level of details turned on. When playing Fortnite, the situation is very similar, and the game only went under 100 FPS when epic mode was enabled on 4K resolution. The Neuron notched 72 FPS here, which is better than the RTX 2070 on the Lynx, which scored just 59 FPS. Gamers who demand more performance can choose to upgrade to Origin’s overclocked CPU and GPU solutions when configuring their systems.

The strength of the RTX 2080 Ti card on the Neuron showed on Battlefield V, with the game consistently performing at over 70 FPS, even in 4K on Ultra. As always, when real-time ray tracing was enabled, performance noticeably dipped in 4K resolution. In 4K ultra, with ray tracing, the Neuron’s frame rate dropped to just 47 FPS and the graphics appeared choppier than when the feature was disabled.

With the latest GeForce drivers and Battlefield V’s latest patches, performance is extremely smooth, even with ray-tracing enabled, delivering at least 60 FPS when the feature is turned on at 1080p and 1440p resolutions. At higher resolutions, like 4K, the frame rate will dip below 50 FPS, but most enthusiast gamers will likely play in 1080p to maximize the benefits of ray tracing and fast frame rates for a more enjoyable experience. In the Port Royale ray tracing benchmark, the Neuron scored 8,441 points at 39 FPS, significantly better than the RTX 2070 on the Omen Obelisk.

Warranty

Like competing gaming companies, Origin PC’s warranty policy comes with lifetime telephone support, free labor, and one-year coverage on parts for the Neuron. Users will have to pay for shipping if any defects are discovered after 45 days of ownership, however.

The Neuron will last you for years to come, packing the latest silicon and graphics in a compact chassis.

Compared to Digital Storm’s policy, Origin’s upgraded Evolve plan offers owners more flexibility when they make future upgrades. If the package is added, owners will be given credit equivalent to current market value when the original parts are sent back. If you’re looking to upgrade your GPU down the road, this is beneficial as you don’t need to salvage your part or deal with reselling it – Origin PC will essentially buy back your old GPU at market value.

Still, Origin’s warranty falls short of Dell’s upgraded protection plans, which also offers coverage for accidental damage. If you spill a beer on your Neuron and fry the motherboard, you’re out of luck here. In contrast, Dell offers up to four years of accidental damage coverage for $119 on the Aurora R7.

Our Take

The Neuron is a powerful pre-built PC that comes with plenty of option for customizations. Though the base price starts at just $1,430, upgrading the processor, graphics card, or storage quickly adds to the cost. When fully equipped, the Neuron can cost up to nine times as much, topping out at $13,000, giving gamers and creatives insane levels of performance in a very compact and stylish package.

Fortunately, for gamers who may not want to invest all their savings into the rig from day one, the Neuron’s upgradeable design means that you can add as much power as you need to get the performance you want down the road.

Is there a better alternative?

Though it has a modest starting price, the Neuron can get pricey once you upgrade to a more capable processor or graphics card. As configured, our $3,700 review unit with Origin’s liquid cooling solution, an Intel Core i9-9900K processor on an upgraded MSI board, single GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics, 16GB RAM, 512GB Samsung 970 Pro M.2 SSD, 3TB hard drive, upgraded Corsair fans, RGB case lighting, and wrapped cables is among the top PC builds right now.

Though the cost is nearly double that of the top-of-the-line $1,999 Lynx, Digital Storm’s PC comes with a more anemic processor and graphics card, placing it out of contention of enthusiast gamers. If you’re willing to scale down on performance, Origin PC offers the Neuron with less powerful specifications for more budget conscious shoppers.

Even though Origin offers more configurations for the Neuron, as configured, our review unit is still $700 more expensive than a similar configured Alienware Aurora R7 after Dell’s instant discounts. While Alienware gives you far less options for customization, you should get similar performance in theory with the Aurora R7. When you’re going with the Neuron, along with the tower’s windowed design, you’re really paying a premium to have Origin PC “build” you your own “custom” gaming rig.

How long will it last?

Given that you can have Origin build the Neuron with the most powerful components on the market – including a 16- or 18-core AMD or Intel processor and up to two flagship Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card, this is a PC that will last you for years to come, even if you choose not to make any of the upgrades yourself.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Origin PC offers plenty of configuration options along the way, so buying the Neuron feels like you’re building your own custom gaming rig without having to invest the labor with your own bare hands. The diverse configuration options give owners the flexibility to get the performance they need at the price they can afford. When fully configured, the Neuron will last you for years to come, packing the latest silicon and graphics in a compact chassis that look unobtrusively modern on any desk.

Computing

The Razer Core X Chroma is the best external GPU you can buy

The third entry in Razer's lineup of external graphics card enclosures, the Core X Chroma, brings together the best of its previous options in a single package. With RGB lighting and extra USB ports, is this the best you can buy?
Computing

Nvidia’s counter to AMD Navi might be new Turing GPUs with faster memory

Nvidia may be working to counter AMD's upcoming Navi graphics cards by producing revised 2000-series GPUs. According to a new rumor, it's planning to launch revised RTX cards with faster memory.
Computing

HP packs second screens, liquid metal, and RTX graphics in new Omen laptops

HP's new lineup of gaming laptops includes some unique specimens from the Omen range. They all offer high-end Nvidia RTX graphics, but a new Omen X model sports a second screen in the base purely for chat and media functions.
Computing

These top-five budget gaming rigs prove that PC gaming is for everyone

If you're looking for the best cheap gaming PCs you can buy, you have plenty of options. Our list of affordable gaming rigs includes the latest hardware from AMD and Nvidia, plus full support for VR headsets.
Computing

Windows on a Chromebook is a dead dream, but something better could replace it

Recent code updates posted in Chromium Gerrit indicate that Google has canceled Project Campfire, ending its plans to let Chromebooks dual boot Windows and Chrome OS. Is hope all but lost on this popular feature?
Computing

Zombieload forces a choice between performance and security. What will you do?

Intel has handled the recent discovery of a security vulnerability in its CPUs with confidence, a contrast to its reaction to Spectre and Meltdown. But with ZombieLoad, performance and security seem to be at odds, and you have to choose.
Product Review

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 launched last year, but already feels old

Released in fall of 2018, the Surface Laptop 2 was competitive at the time but now must deal with new competitors that were announced at CES 2019. How does the popular Surface Laptop 2 hold up six months later?
Computing

The Dell XPS 13 headlines the best laptop deals for May 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we have you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Deals

The best Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals: Everything you need to know

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is still a few months off, but it's never too early to start preparing. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what to expect this year.
Computing

Is Threadripper dead? If so, AMD has made a huge mistake

Think Threadripper is dead? Think again. AMD's flagship CPU line might not be on this year's roadmap, but it's not dead and could well bring some amazing new enhancements when it returns.
Social Media

6 easy ways to archive all of your favorite Instagram videos

Saving Instagram videos should be just as easy as taking a screenshot. So, we've put together a list of the best apps and tools that save your favorite Instagram videos onto your phone or computer.
Computing

Cybercrime gang that stole $100M busted in international effort

A major cybercrime gang that used powerful malware to steal an estimated $100 million from bank accounts has been dismantled following an international effort that spanned six countries.
Computing

G-Sync is a game-changer. These are the best monitors with Nvidia's display tech

Looking for a monitor that plays well with Nvidia GPUs? You need G-Sync and we have picked the best G-Sync monitors available. Take a look and find out which monitor works best for your PC upgrade.
Computing

Microsoft is discounting this Surface Laptop 2 by a sweet $300

Microsoft is offering a nearly 14-inch Surface Laptop 2 with 256GB of storage at a $300 discount until May 18, 2019. The laptop comes with a PixelSense display, and Intel Core i5 processor and a 720p HD camera.