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Origin EON17-SLX review: Windows 8 comes to this massive gaming laptop

Along with overclocked components, you can now add a new OS to this $4,500 game machine.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
9 min read

It's telling that the very first thing I did with this new Windows 8 version of the Origin EON17-SLX desktop replacement gaming laptop was to try and swipe past the Windows 8 lock screen with my finger.


Origin EON17-SLX

The Good

The insanely powerful <b>Origin EON17-SLX</b> can easily handle any PC game, and is configurable enough to fit many budgets. Service and support are stellar.

The Bad

The generic-looking off-the-shelf body isn't becoming in a $4,000 laptop; Windows 8 feels odd without a touch screen.

The Bottom Line

No one puts together custom high-end gaming laptops, including this desktop-busting 17-inch EON17-SLX, better than Origin, but you'll pay for that expertise.

But, unlike the majority of Windows 8 laptops we've tested and reviewed so far, this is not a touch-screen laptop. Instead, it's essentially the same EON17 you'd have been able to buy prior to the October launch of Microsoft's new operating system, just with Windows 8 included as the default (the company says that most customers still opt for Windows 7 at this point). As such, you'll probably spend a good deal of time in the classic desktop view, from which games may be easier to launch, and where expert users will find more of the tools and settings they'll want to experiment with to maximize performance.

This very high-end configuration includes an overclocked Intel Extreme Core i7-3940XM Quad-Core CPU, dual overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M graphics cards, and a combination of two 120GB solid-state drives (SSDs) and a 1TB hard-disk drive for storage, all of which adds up to $4,522. The inclusion of the three hard drives means no built-in optical drive, but you can add an external Blu-ray writer and CyberLink's PowerDVD 12 Ultra software for about $140.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This is without a doubt one of the most powerful laptops to ever cross the threshold of the CNET Labs, and it easilly handled any PC game I threw at it. It's expensive, to be sure, even if you dial down the customization options to the $1,888 starting point, which brings me back to my primary longstanding complaint about nearly every boutique gaming laptop -- almost all are built into a slightly customized version of a Clevo 17-inch laptop chassis (Clevo is a Taiwanese manufacturer that makes generic laptops that other computer companies tweak and rebrand as their own), or some other similar outer shell.

It's functional, but also looks like a laptop from several years ago, before the massive 2011-2012 shift to thinner, lighter laptops across the board. It doesn't look like you something you spent $4,000 on. You end up with a real powerhouse laptop that falls down on design, but adds value through Origin's hand-assembling and testing process, optional overclocking, and excellent service and support, far beyond what mainstream PC makers can offer.

It's a fantastic gaming machine -- especially important with this being such a great year for high-end PC gaming -- but as Doctor Zira said in "Planet of the Apes" to Charlton Heston's character: "All right, but you're so damned ugly."

Price as reviewed / starting price $4,522 / $1,858
Processor 3.0GHz Intel Extreme Core i7-3940XM
Memory 16GB, 1,600MHz DDR3
Hard drive 120GB SSD (x2), 1.0TB 5,400rpm HDD
Chipset Intel HM77
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M (x2) / Intel HD4000
Operating system Windows 8
Dimensions (WD) 16.5x11.3 inches
Height 1 - 2 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 9.3/13.2 pounds
Category Desktop replacement

Design and features
The matte black chassis of the EON17-SLX might look familiar -- again, that's because Origin and other PC makers have used some variation of this Clevo case to make high-end laptops for years. It's a trade-off, to be sure: the best parts and expert assembly and service, in exchange for a less-than-sexy outer wrapper.

This latest version is ever so slightly different from the last 17-inch Origin laptop we saw, but you'd have to compare them side by side to notice. Different parts of the keyboard tray have a brushed-metal finish now, and the audio output jacks have moved from the left side panel to the right side panel. The rear of the system now tapers slightly, instead of being squared off.

The end effect of the changes is minimal, and you won't see any major structural changes, such as adding separate media control buttons or rearranging the keyboard. The touch pad, however, has been upgraded to a button-free clickpad, with the fingerprint sensor that used to sit between the left and right mouse buttons now being set off to the far right side. If you choose Windows 8, the new touch pad supports all the new multitouch gestures for Win 8 navigation, but I still find using a touch pad less than optimal for a lot of Windows 8 tasks.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The keyboard is a less common variant of the typical island-style keyboards found on most laptops. The key faces are widely spaced, but the base of each key is wider and nearly touches its neighbor. The large keys and full-size number pad make typing easy and error-free, but the keyboard has a lot of flex, especially in the middle -- another example of a nonpremium feel. A few layout oddities add frustration; most notably, the Windows key, which is very important in Windows 8, is now on the right side of the spacebar instead of the left.

The keyboard is backlit, which makes it easier to find media control button combos during a low-light PC gaming session (such as Fn+F3 to mute the speakers). You can launch a command center app that lets you adjust the color and pattern of the backlight across three different zones on the keyboard. It's not as advanced as the keyboard backlight options offered by Alienware, but it's still probably more options than you'll ever need.

The 17.3-inch display has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, which we've seen become more common even in smaller 13- and 15-inch laptop screens recently. The display is crisp and bright, and is additionally covered by Origin's No Dead Pixel Guarantee. Customers have 45 days to return any system with a dead pixel, a type of coverage more-mainstream vendors do not offer. Audio from the Onkyo speakers is loud and fine for basic gaming or video playback, and can be adjusted via a Sound Blaster control panel, but you'll still want headphones or external speakers for a realyl immersive experience.

Origin EON17-SLX Average for category [desktop replacement]
Video HDMI, DisplayPort 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 4 USB 3.0, 1 USB/eSATA, SD card reader 2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None (External options available) DVD burner or Blu-ray player

Connections, performance, and service
I may knock the Clevo case design as old-fashioned, but this newer version is ruthless in cutting out-of-date ports such as DVI and VGA video outputs. You get a healthy number of USB 3.0 ports, and something I always appreciate, an eSATA port -- especially useful for hooking up a large external drive to store game downloads, movies, and other big files.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There are nearly limitless ways to configure the EON17-SLX, which is part of the appeal of Origin's offerings. Even the base config, at around $1,800, gets you a quad-core Core i7-3610QM processor and Nvidia GeForce 670M graphics, but only 4GB of RAM and a 320GB HDD. This build is close to being over the top, with its overclocked Intel Extreme Core i7-3940XM Quad-Core CPU, dual overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M graphics cards, and a combination of two 120GB SSDs and a 1TB HDD, and it costs just over $4,500. If you're leaning toward the base configuration, there are less expensive ways to get those same parts, but if you're aiming for premium performance, you definitely can find some builds between those two price bookends that will hit your personal price/performance ratio.

It's not a surprise that this system was well ahead of most of the other recent gaming and performance laptops we've tested recently. It's hard to imagine, outside of cranking the details settings in high-end games all the way up to "ultra," how even an enthusiast would even be able to make use of that much raw processing power, but at least your sizable investment will be future-proofed for a long while to come (of course, the laptop shopper most interested in a $4,000 gaming system is likely to want to get upgrade envy at least annually).

The key metric here is gaming, and it's also no surprise that the EON17-SLX turns out great scores, thanks to its dual overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M cards. It's almost silly to even run this basic test on a laptop such as this, but at 1080p resolution, our Street Fighter IV test ran at 258 frames per second. Our very tough Metro 2033 test ran at the same resolution at 44.3fps, which is the best laptop score we've seen for that test. Anecdotally, Just Cause 2 ran at 59fps, and newer games, such as Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Modern Warfare 3, all played great, even at 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, with all settings set to high or ultra.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's also not surprising that this kind of power comes at a cost, and the EON17-SLX is not going to run for very long away from a power outlet, even if you're not actively playing games. In our video playback battery drain test, the system ran for 2 hours and 12 minutes, which is not long at all, especially if you consider that our test is not really hitting the GPU at all. Other gaming laptops, while not as full-featured, have been able to turn in longer running times by 40 to 70 minutes, or more. That said, gigantic laptops such as this rarely spend much time away from a rooted desktop position.

One of the things you're really investing in with Origin is service and support. The default policy feels a bit thin, with one year of coverage and only 45 days of free shipping for service, but the phone line is manned by actual in-house experts 24-7, not third-party operators reading from a support script. Two- and three-year plans are available for $169 and $269, respectively, and seem like a good investment for a $4,500 laptop. Unlike with a lot of other PC vendors, having spent a reasonable amount of time talking to the guys at Origin, I feel confident that you'll get a receptive ear to any issues you have.

With current-gen game consoles well past retirement age, 2012 has been a great year for PC games, from XCOM to Far Cry 3, and a great year to invest in high-end PC gaming hardware to make your console-playing friends jealous. It's expensive, because you're paying for both the parts and the expert assembly, testing, and support. There's also still the seemingly insurmountable issue of finding or building a chassis worthy of such a heavy investment, but the Origin EON17-SLX goes about as far as the current laptop performance needle can be pushed, short of jumping to actual desktop-level components.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Street Fighter IV (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Native Resolution, 2X AA, V Sync Off  
Origin EON17-SLX
Razer Blade

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Razer Blade
Origin EON17-SLX

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:

Origin EON17-SLX
Windows 8 (64-bit); 3GHz Intel Core i7-3940XM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; (x2) 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M; HDD #1: 240GB Intel 520 SSD / HDD #2: 1TB Western Digital 5,400rpm (RAID 0)

Samsung NP700G7C-S01US
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M; 750GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Dell Inspiron 17R SE - 2051BK (7720)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 1TB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Digital Storm x17
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7970M / 2GB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Maingear Nomad 17
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/SP1; 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-3820QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M; 750GB Western Digital 7,200rpm

Razer Blade
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-3632QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 7,200rpm


Origin EON17-SLX

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 9Battery 6Support 8