If there’s one thing Valve’s Steam Machine initiative has taught us – aside from confirming that Valve is totally incapable of releasing anything on time – it’s that there’s a lot of interest in powerful PCs that don’t take a sore thumb in out of the living room. . But if you’re not interested in a turnkey solution like the Alienware Alpha, there are few options for building a small, fully expandable home PC with enough cooling capacity to overclock.
At Computex 2015, Corsair stepped in to fill the gap with Project Bulldog, a mini-ITX PC kit designed to sit comfortably in a living room while also giving enthusiasts the cooling capability to overclock its components. The $400 price (UK/EU price TBD) may seem steep at first, but that includes the case, a 600W SFX power supply, a mini-ITX motherboard and a Hydro Series H5SF low-profile liquid CPU cooler. Unfortunately, the expected release date is a little way off: Q4.
Now, I’m hesitant to use the word “small” to describe the case, because judging by the company’s product video (embedded below) it doesn’t appear to be particularly compact and looks noticeably bigger than a PlayStation 4, Xbox One. or even something like SilverStone’s RVZ01. Unfortunately, Corsair isn’t revealing the exact dimensions of the case just yet (which, let’s face it, is probably indicative of this thing’s non-Lilliputians).
Project Bulldog isn’t exactly subtle either, with an angular design that screams “I’m an l33t PC gamer!” rather than being something more sophisticated that would fit nicely in an A/V rack. That said, there are some interesting things going on under the hood with Bulldog.
For starters, there’s the included H5SF low-profile all-in-one liquid cooler that Corsair says can cool up to 150W of CPU TDP (thermal design power). 150W should be enough to run and overclock virtually all of Intel’s regular Core chips, as well as AMD’s A-series APUs. Unfortunately, on paper, 150W precludes overclocking Intel’s Haswell-E-series chips (yes, there’s a mini-ITX X99 motherboard that you could replace the included board with), due to their stock 140W TDP.
The water cooler itself features a unique fan-style fan, with short tubes and a low-profile design to draw air from above the motherboard and exhaust it through the radiator to cool the CPU. Also included with the case is a Corsair-branded SFX Modular PSU, rated for up to 600W of 80 Plus Gold power. While not mentioned, hopefully the PSU will also include short cables to help with airflow in the small case.
Not included with Bulldog, but recommended by Corsair, are the HG10 liquid cooling bracket and H55 liquid cooler. The pair (bundled together for $100) attaches to reference design boards from AMD and Nvidia after removing the existing cooler. That voids most warranties, so Corsair has teamed up with MSI to release versions of the GeForce GTX Titan X, GTX 980, GTX 970, and the just-announced GeForce GTX 980 Ti with the bracket and water cooler pre-installed.
Corsair is tight-lipped about the rest of Bulldog’s specs, though judging by the photos, it looks like there’s room in the case for at least one SSD and a traditional 3.5-inch hard drive. However, the folks at PC World confirmed with Corsair that the included motherboard would support Intel’s upcoming Skylake CPUs and up to 32GB of DDDR4 memory.
To go along with Bulldog, Corsair has also taken the wraps off Lapdog, a dock for its smaller K65-series mechanical keyboards. Ambitiously dubbed a “portable gaming control center,” the dock combines the keyboard with a mouse pad, a hub for connecting USB devices and headsets, and a memory foam cushion underneath to rest on your lap. There are two problems with Lapdog, though: first, it costs $90 without a keyboard, or an eye-popping $199 with a keyboard—and two, for some odd reason, it’s wiredwhich negates the usefulness of a nice and tidy living room.
Still, there are some fun ideas in Project Bulldog and Lapdog, and you can certainly cram them in a lot of of technology in the Bulldog case: a Bulldog equipped with a high-end Skylake CPU and Nvidia GTX 980 Ti would make for a formidable 4K gaming machine. Plus, there’s still plenty of time for Corsair to make some tweaks ahead of the expected Q4 2015 release date. Yes, it’s all a matter of taste, but something with a more grown-up friendly look could be a good start.