Origin PC Genesis Review: Defining A Luxury Computer
With just how advanced the computer industry is, it is incredibly odd that there is no coherent and definable "luxury computer" market. I mean, there are "luxury" branded computers, but they would hardly pass muster to any even basic computer enthusiast. I am sorry, but adorning a laptop with a leather wrap or building a desktop computer out of mostly varnished wood is not my idea of a luxury computer. Especially when it is what is on the inside that counts.
If you see a computer being advertised as for the well-to-do-segment, it is often a ruse with a semi fancy exterior, and nothing special happening on the inside. This doesn't cover everything out there of course, but has been most of what I could find.
You might argue that computers are tools and advance too fast for someone to invest a lot of money in one as a luxury item. Regardless of whether you are right or not, the automotive market has for years been making luxury cars that aren't the peak of technology for very long, and then there Is that almost amusing high-luxury mobile phone market. It appears that there are plenty of consumers wanting nice items, even if they only remain "special" in the short term. It isn't that I am not a fan of luxury. Quite the opposite – I making a living by writing about luxury. It is rather that I see a big hole open for a luxury computer industry - and I want it filled with something satisfying. The good news is that there is a luxury computer industry, but it isn't called by that name, and luxury consumers could quite easily miss it.
Ask many luxury buyers today what computers they have, and they will point out an Apple desktop or laptop, or something similar by Dell, Sony, Lenovo, etc... Why did they buy it? Probably because they enjoy how it looks, and it had a "reassuringly high price tag." Though if you are interested in exclusive, hand-made goods that have a good eye for detail and quality, such massed produced machines are not what you should be looking at. Better to find a product made in limited numbers, individually, using the best parts, by passionate people who want you to have highest performing machines around. Does this exist? Yes, it does, and it is called the 'enthusiast gaming computer' market. Wait, what?
I am telling you that today's most "viable" luxury computers are those labeled as machines for hardcore gamers. Ironic? Yes. We don't tend to think of "gamers" as the luxury crowd. In my heyday of playing computer games I was perhaps 14 years old and could only afford what my parents were willing to shell out for an "educational machine." Are gamers the best demographic to market luxury computers to?
It isn't that simple. The people making these computers don't see them as luxury machines – but they are. The gaming computer industry was formed by gamers themselves who wanted computers powerful enough to play the most modern computer games with as much speed performance as possible. It is about making a machine using the best parts available that will give your first person shooter game the highest frame rates possible.
The best computers out there are made by hardcore nerds – a statement meant as a compliment. These guys aren't interested in wearing ties and selling computers in fancy showrooms to people who don't understand their lingo. They are interested in using the best stuff out there, in clever ways to achieve peak performance. If there is anyone they want to impress, it is their t-shirt wearing, game playing, Dr. Pepper drinking comrades. They aren't interested in appealing to people who bug them for "tech support." So consider that there is a bit of a hole in the market in that area.
These high-end gaming computers don't stop as just shoving in the best and fastest components they can find. Not even close. Often times these machines are available in cases that can be ordered with automotive quality paint jobs, or with totally custom designs. They have systems to water cool the various processors and other areas that create the most heat (the colder the computer, the better it performs). The parts are placed in cases specially made to offer views into the case that show off the computer assembler's handiwork. This latter point is of particular interest to me because I write about luxury wrist watches that do the same thing by showing off the movement through segments of transparent sapphire crystal.
Just like high-end watch makers, these gaming computers give you a view into the case through special windows to see what you just paid for (though you'll have to be quite trained to identify the parts yourself). The better ones have assemblers who carefully arrange wires around the components so that they are neat and out of the way. They will tell you that this is to improve airflow to help cool the machine – which it likely helps a bit. Equally important to "cable wrangling" is a sign of the care and attention the assembler put into the machine. This is highly detailed work and when done properly makes it hard to even see where the cables are.
Each of these elements has a functional purpose, but takes a lot of time and effort. Isn't that basically what the foundation of any luxury item should be? Perhaps one of the only non functional decorative elements inside a high-end gaming computer is the placement of LED lights that offer a colorful show when the computer is operating. A little bit of fin and dazzle in a computational masterwork.
You'll be surprised to learn that there is a not so little cottage industry dedicated to production of such computers. My focus here is on Origin PC. I have one of their Genesis PC desktop computers and would like to share it with you. While Origin PC is not the only company around to do many of these things, the people behind Origin PC are some of the best, and their work is spectacular.
One of the first mainstream (relatively speaking) high-end gaming computer to get serious attention was Alienware. One of the interesting things they did from a personal branding standpoint was to develop their own computer cases. Much of the time high-end gaming computer use existing parts, but in a way that ensures optimal compatibility for computer system performance and stability. Alienware made a lot of people pay attention with a proprietary case that looked a bit like a stylized alien head. This was a visual indicator to PC buyers that there was something special about an Alienware PC.
While desktop PC sales went on the decline as laptop computers become more preferable to the mainstream consumer due to their size, the desktop computer industry did something unexpected. After years of plummeting prices, suddenly prices start to go up again for desktop tower units. In the enthusiast gaming world a laptop could never have parts suitable for the performance you needed for graphically intensive games. So performance hungry gamers (among others) stuck to desktops. As such, an industry was created to cater to this demographics' needs, and as a result desktop computer prices took a sharp rise. Incredible.
Alienware become popular enough that Dell Computers, the then 800 pound gorilla of the computer market, purchased them. Those from Alienware not wanting to deal with Dell, its corporate oversight, or potential loss of soul in the band simply formed a new brand. And that was Origin PC.
No enthusiast computer maker produces their own computer parts (for the most part). That would be foolish. They merely handpick the best and most up-to-date (often way before stores) parts from companies such as Intel, Nvidia and Asus (among many others). Though it is true that sometimes they have their own special cases and other "housing" elements for their machines. The magic - like I said - is in choosing the components, cleverly arranging the parts, and the assembly and presentation of the case. You don't need to be a hardcore computer geek to look at a machine bought at Office Depot and one from Origin PC to immediately tell the striking differences.
My wish would be to provide some quantifiable measure of how much better the performance of an Origin PC would be over more mainstream models. This proved to be really tough because of the nature of the computer market and the products themselves. When you buy an Origin PC from their website, you select from a dizzying array of parts and options. The site is geared toward the enthusiast who knows what he or she is doing, but calling Origin PC can help you with your purchase decision if you are a novice. The parts you choose as well as the software you are running will ultimately dictate the performance of a specific machine. What a company like Origin PC offers is the ability to have the very best and highest performance components in your machine.
Origin PC takes special measures to ensure that all the options are good choices, and that your machine will have parts that "play nice together." The experience of having a dedicated enthusiast help you with your decision is nice as well.
Origin PC's have one basic goal, to blow the pants off the competition and exceed your expectations. Is this the makings of a luxury item? I'd like to think so. Part of luxury is presentation, and the Origin PC, in its own way, does not fail to impress.
Arriving at my apartment the Genesis system came in a large wooden crate. I've never before had anything delivered to me in a wooden crate. Does Origin PC have to put their machines in crates? Probably not, but it is a signal of the impressive nature of what is inside. The computer itself is sheathed in a velvety fabric material showing you just how much love was given to it out of the factory. There are a few highly trained technicians who put the computers together at Origin PC's Florida facility. The case they use (while not proprietary being made by Corsair) does have their badging on it, and is excellent in a matte black finish. Very minimalist but impressive. Of course, any number of paint job options are available for the guy who perhaps wants a bright yellow computer sitting in his office.
Years of having, building, and working with computers allowed me to realize that little if anything was being held back with this computer. My machine had an interesting quality in terms of the storage that is becoming popular among today's high performance machines. There are two types of hard drives in the machine as storage. First is a traditional disk platter based hard drive that will be used for mass storage, but for speed, the operating is installed on a solid state flash memory based hard drive. It is the same technology that is used for memory cards that digital cameras have – only here with boosted space. Compared to applications installed on traditional hard drives, these allow your computer to 'fly.'
There is a group of people who build their own computers part by part as opposed to buying a ready-made system. The guys that started Origin PC likely began as guys like this. The fact remains that most of the parts used in high-end computers such as the Origin PC Genesis are available to buy piece by piece by any consumer if you visit the right stores or websites. At the same time, the combination of stability testing, performance testing, and the craftsmanship applied when putting these machines together often outweighs building a machine like this on your own. In addition, the average luxury consumer will not have the time, nor often the skill to put something like this together by themselves.
If high-end gaming computer makers wake up to the potential of the luxury market, they could be having a field day competing with brands such as Apple or Dell that simply cannot offer the same type of exclusiveness, quality, attention to detail, and quite honestly, luxury buying experience as a brand like Origin PC can offer. Even their purchase orders are written up by hand showing you that an actual human being sat there and took came to "compile" the parts of your system, and test it personally.
Given the amount of time everyone, even the wealthy elite, spends online or on a computer, it makes sense for there to be a more thriving luxury computer market. And until that name becomes vogue, you can claim your machine to fit for "today's most discerning 3D graphics addict." Prices for these machines vary wildly given the costs of the parts. I would say that a computer I would call a luxury machine will run you from about $3,000 - $10,000 for the computer itself. Peripherals such as monitors, mice, keyboard, etc... will be on top of that. To see what this is all about, you can meander over to Origin PC's website and see what I am talking about for yourself.
Ariel Adams publishes the luxury watch reviews site aBlogtoRead.com.