The 11-inch gaming laptop is the textbook definition of a niche product. In fact, up until now, there's really only been one serious entry in that category,. Origin (coincidentally co-founded by some former Alienware employees) has recently gotten into the game with the Eon 11-S, which the company describes as a "compact high-performance laptop."
And it's just in time, too, as the Alienware model has been unceremoniously discontinued. That's a shame, as we liked the M11x, even if it wasn't the most practical for either serious PC gamers or portability obsessed travelers.
The Eon 11-S isn't anywhere nearly as portable as other 11-inch ultraportables, or even 13-inch ultrabooks, but it's at least small enough to fit into a messenger bag.
The system starts at $999, but that number can be a bit deceiving. For that entry price, you only get a Intel B960 Pentium Dual-Core Processor (trust me, you don't want that). At least it's coupled with a Nvidia GeForce GT 650M GPU, but plan on upgrading to at least a current Intel Core i5, bringing the starting price to $1,136. Our review unit included an Intel Core i7-3612QM CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive, and an external Blu-ray drive, bringing the price up to $1,542, which actually seems like a much better bang for your buck than the $999 configuration.
Of course, having high-powered hardware and using it to play a game on the 11-inch 1,366x768-pixel screen may be overkill, but I suspect many gamers will use the Eon 11-S like I did, by connecting it to a 1,920x1,080-pixel monitor, and only using the built-in screen occasionally.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$1,542 / $999|
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM|
|Memory||8GB, 1333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||750GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 650M / Intel HD 4000|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.2 x 8.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||11.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.8/4.8 pounds|
Like Origin's other laptops, the Eon 11-S has a thick, generic look to it. That's because it's based on a slightly customized version of an 11-inch laptop body from Clevo, a Taiwanese manufacturer that makes laptop bodies that other computer companies tweak and rebrand as their own. This is par for the course from smaller PC makers who can't design and fabricate their own custom laptop shells (as Apple, Dell, HP, and others do).
In its current lineup, Origin adds a custom back panel on the laptop's lid. It's an angular, finned look that's clearly Alienware-inspired, but in the case of the 11-inch version, it fortunately doesn't add much extra thickness. Still, if you're spending $1,500 or more on a high-end laptop, you'd probably prefer a sleeker, more unique look.
The keyboard -- again part of the generic Clevo design -- is workable but underwhelming, with small island-style keys. There's a full compliment of media and system controls as Fn+F-key alternate functions, and the left Shift, Tab, and other important keys are nice and big. The right Shift key does get unfairly shrunken down, and the WASD keys used in many games may be too small for hefty fingers.
The touch pad is no-frills, with small, clacky left and right mouse buttons. For gamers it shouldn't be a deal breaker -- you'll probably be using a mouse or game pad most of the time anyway. For casual Web surfing or times when you're not using a mouse, I found the surface to be big enough for comfortable scrolling, at least in relation to the 11-inch body.
The 11.6-inch screen is one of the system's big selling points, but also it's weakest link. The native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels is the same as you'll find on a majority of 11-, 13-, 14-, and 15-inch laptops. That one-size-fits-all approach isn't always the best, and I find that the 1,366x768-pixel resolution works better on 11- and 13-inch laptops than larger screens, where it can start to feel toy-like.
It becomes an issue here if you have a high-powered CPU/GPU combo, but can only crank games up to 13x7. I suspect that most of the time you'll do what I did, which is to connect the HDMI output to an external monitor running at 1,920x1,080 pixels.