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Boutique PC builders: When you want the very best

By Bill O'Brien
November 16, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Origin PC

Apparently, not all Alienware staffers were happy with the Dell purchase. Former employees Kevin Wasielewski, Richard Cary and Hector Penton broke away to form their own boutique builder company: Origin PC.

Origin PC was established in May 2009 and launched its Web site in November that year. In the interim, it developed its basic lineup of desktops (called Genesis) and laptops (EON).

Boutique Builders
Origin Genesis

The site is a bit unconventional and can be confusing at first. For example, after you select an option, you have to follow up by accepting it manually -- an extra and unnecessary step. You get to select every detail about the PC you're buying, from case to mouse, in the process.

I had no trouble running up a $9,206 tab on a $1,300 base Genesis PC that I overclocked to 4 GHz, housed in a Level 10 enclosure and stocked with 12GB of RAM and three 1.5GB GTX 480 graphics cards, to which I added a 23-in. monitor.

Origin PC sells three basic laptop units: EON15 ($1,651), EON17 ($2,499) and EON18 ($2,297); the numeric values indicate the screen size. I pushed the price of the EON18 to just over $6,000 with a processor upgrade, multiple hard-drive RAID storage, a Blu-ray drive, a 23-in. desktop monitor, and a three-year replacement warranty, among other options.

But if you really want to talk about being over the top, you need only look at one of Origin's latest desktop offerings: the Big O. The system features dual Intel Xeon X5680s overclocked to 4.3 GHz and Nvidia's Quad SLI EVGA GTX 480 FTW video cards -- all liquid-cooled. It also contains a fully functional liquid-cooled Xbox 360. The basic configuration for the Big O, touted as a "one of a kind system, customized to its owner's desires," is $7,699. Origin has a dedicated sales team to handle system configurations at this level.

Origin offers personalized service that keeps you with the same support team that knows what your system specs are. The company has a lifetime phone and service guarantee that even includes free parts shipping if something needs to be replaced. There's also a lifetime labor guarantee that applies to systems returned to Origin for repair.

In short, Origin has an in-depth understanding of the combination of exaggeration and performance that are hallmarks of the boutique PC genre.

At a Glance

Origin PC Corp.

Phone: 1-877-ORIGIN-0
Business start date: May 2009
Desktop lines: Genesis, Big O
Laptop lines: EON15, EON15 3D, EON17
Warranty: Lifetime phone and online service; dedicated support team; lifetime labor; free replacement shipping
Refund policy: 30-day money-back guarantee; 15% restocking fee

Conclusions

Customers of boutique builders now have a choice. They can keep costs near-to-reasonable by purchasing prebuilt computers (while still acquiring the cachet of using a boutique builder) or they can go all-out, raid their bank accounts and create their own built-to-order high-end systems. Either way, these vendors offer a great alternative for tech enthusiasts who know exactly what they want and don't want to deal with the limited selection offered by most consumer-directed vendors.

Bill O'Brien has written a half-dozen books on computers and technology. He has also written articles on topics ranging from Apple computers to PCs to Linux to commentary on IT hardware decisions.

Read more about Hardware in Computerworld's Hardware Topic Center.



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