The handful of high-end boutique PC builders targeting gamers tend to concentrate more on desktops than laptops. After all, for a desktop you can use faster, more powerful components (although the difference is shrinking every year), as well as construct elaborate custom cases. When a company such as Origin, founded by former Alienware employees, turns its attention to gaming laptops, there are some additional design obstacles to overcome.
The Origin EON17-S is typical of a boutique gaming laptop. It takes the very latest high-end parts and stuffs them into a slightly customized version of a Clevo 17-inch laptop chassis (Clevo is a Taiwanese manufacturer that makes generic laptops other computer companies tweak and rebrand as their own). What you end up with is a powerful system, hand-assembled and tested, but without the inventive proprietary industrial designs companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell can bring to their own gaming systems.
The real advantage Origin brings is its ability to offer not only overclocked CPUs (not something you'd typically find in a laptop, but not unheard of), but also overclocked GPUs. Considering that the overclocked parts in our review unit were already top-of-the-line--an Intel Extreme Edition Core i7-2920XM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M--it's not too surprising that this config costs a whopping $3,599. The starting price for the EON17-S is a more reasonable $1,676 (with a Core i5-2520), but if you're playing in that end of the pool, more-mainstream brands such as Alienware offer better prices on the entry-level components.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$3,599 / $1,676|
|Processor||2.5GHz Intel Extreme Edition Core i7-2920XM (overclocked to 4.1GHz)|
|Memory||8GB, 1,600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||128GB SSD / 500GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M (overclocked)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||16.2x10.9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||8.5 pounds /11.1 pounds|
If the basic black design of the EON17's chassis seems familiar, it's because you've probably seen this case, or another very similar to it, before. The system is built around a Clevo laptop chassis, which is par for the course for smaller PC makers who can't design and fabricate their own custom laptop shells (as Apple, Dell, HP, and others do). Instead, companies such as Origin take an off-the-shelf body and customize it, adding value by hand-assembling and testing the systems, overclocking parts, and making minor cosmetic changes.
In this case, there's a custom back panel on the laptop's lid. The default is a black brushed-metal design with an Origin logo stamped on it. Different colors start at $179, with flamelike designs for $279. Origin can also airbrush or laser-etch nearly any art or logo you want, but those prices are on a case-by-case basis.
The nearly feature-free interior has a basic flat-key island-style keyboard, a power button, a row of indicator lights, and a two-button touch pad, but no quick-launch or media control buttons. Two branding tags, for THX audio and, oddly, HDMI, are stuck on the left side of the wrist rest, and will probably be the first thing you peel off.
The keyboard is serviceable but clacky, and there's certainly room for larger keys. The alternate function keys, for example hitting Fn+F3 to mute the speakers, have their functions printed in dark blue on a black key face, so it can be hard to find them, especially if you want to adjust the volume in the middle of a gaming session.
The touch pad is similarly basic, with a fingerprint reader nestled between the left and right mouse buttons. HP's 17-inch Envy systems have a larger clickpad-style surface, but for gamers it's not a deal breaker--you'll probably be using a mouse or gamepad most of the time anyway.
One of the system highlights is the 17.3-inch LED backlit display. It has a native resolution of 1,920x1080 pixels, but we'd expect nothing less in a pricey desktop replacement. A 3D-compatible screen option is available for an extra $191, but you'll also need sold-separately Nvidia 3D vision glasses for that, for $110 per set. While the display is crisp and bright, we were more excited about the explicit no-dead-pixels guarantee Origin offers. Customers have 45 days to return any system with a dead pixel, a type of coverage more-mainstream vendors do not offer.
|Origin EON17-S||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||HDMI plus DVI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||5.1 speakers with subwoofer, headphone, mic, line-out, optical line-out||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB/eSATA, SD card reader, mini-FireWire||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray player/DVD burner||DVD burner, optional Blu-ray player|
If you're looking for a wide variety of ports and connections, you've come to the right place. While other laptops slowly drop legacy ports to save a few bucks, the EON17-S has a few that we rarely see any longer, including a DVI port and FireWire. Even more exciting, this is one of the very first laptops we've seen to include two USB 3.0 ports. There are also a couple of regular USB 2.0 ports and a single USB/eSATA combo port.
Customization is the name of the game with Origin, and there are more possible component combinations than we could ever cover. The processor options start with a Intel Core i5-2520 (skimpy for a $1,600 laptop, to be sure), and go all the way up to an overclocked Intel Extreme Edition Core i7-2920XM set at 4.1GHz, for an additional $1,100 over the base price.
The GPU options are similarly impressive, with the default being a basic Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M. Our review unit had an overclocked GeForce GTX 580M, a $588 upgrade, and beyond that you can also get a workstation-level Nvidia Quadro GPU. Origin is the only PC maker we can think of at the moment overclocking both the CPU and GPU in a laptop simultaneously. Of course, nonoverclocked versions of these parts are available as well. It's worth noting that while overclocking can lead to overheating and stability issues if not done properly, we ran this system through extensive tests, including gaming, video encoding, and battery rundowns, and never had a problem.
Our configuration didn't hit every single one of the top-of-the-line options available in Origin's system-building utility, but the combination of the Intel Extreme Edition Core i7-2920XM and Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M, along with dual hard drives (one of them a 128GB SSD), all added up to $3,599. Performance-wise, it blew the doors off of other recent high-performance desktop replacements, from the Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G to the Toshiba Qosmio X775, both of which had the slower Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU. The EON17-S was closely matched with our other current big-budget gaming rig, Alienware's M18x, which had a similar set of components (but our kitchen-sink Alienware config was shockingly even more expensive than the EON17-S).
Both the Alienware M18x and Origin EON17-S performed impressively in our very challenging Metro 2033 test (M18x stats not included in this review), knocking out 29.7 and 39.0 frames per second, respectively, at full 1080p resolution. PC games that require this kind of power are few and far between (The Witcher 2 is the most recent system-crushing example we can think of), but for serious PC gamers, it's nice to have that kind of headroom to play with, especially with high-profile games such as Skyrim and Battlefield 3 right around the corner.