Gaming laptops have made great strides in the past year or two, delivering highly competitive performance and a wide range of configuration options. Mainstream models have slimmed down in size, using Nvidia's GeForce 860M graphics card to offer better-than-console experiences, as in the case of the HP Omen, while enthusiast laptops from Asus, Origin PC, Razer and others have used the higher-end GeForce 980M card to push games at 4K resolutions.
But gaming desktops have not been left out of the PC gaming renaissance. Nvidia's recent Titan X GPU and Intel's Haswell-E processors are desktop-only parts that push game performance to a level where it's challenging to even find a game that can give the highest-end gaming desktops a serious workout, as seen in our recent tests of two Titan-X desktops, the Maingear Shift and Origin PC Millennium.
But where you previously had to choose between laptop portability and desktop power, Origin PC is now offering a combination system that uses laptop parts, such as the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU, but paired with a desktop CPU, in this case a 4GHz Intel Core i7-4790K. This specific combination, which includes a 240GB SSD and a 1TB HDD, is currently $2,549 (that would be roughly £1,670 in the UK), although prices for build-to-order components can shift quickly, and many configuration options are available.
We've actually seen gaming laptops that have used desktop CPUs before, but traditionally those systems have needed chassis that are so big and bulky, they're completely impractical, and one might as well switch to a dedicated gaming desktop at that point.
What's different about the Eon15-X is that Origin PC is using a chassis that, while not exactly svelte, isn't much bulkier than the standard gaming laptops we're used to seeing. It's an off-the-shelf laptop body from a third-party original equipment manufacturer, so it's conceivable that you'll run into other boutique PC makers using the same basic body. The unique value a company such as Origin PC (founded by former Alienware guys) brings is in choosing the components and tuning them for maximum performance.
With Origin PC, what you're really paying a premium for is a high level of personalized service and support, including lifetime tech support, in the form of access to phone or email assistance, and free labor on future upgrades and repairs.
The performance boost in this system, versus a slightly less bulky gaming laptop that pairs mobile graphics with a mobile processor, is more pronounced in non-gaming tasks than in PC game frame-rates. The added expense and size won't make a huge difference for games, but, the application performance was good enough that it's worth considering the Eon-X line versus the slimmer Eon-S line, if you don't mind a slightly larger desktop footprint.
While there are ways to get decent gaming performance in a smaller package, and ways to stack three Nvidia Titan-X cards together for a rig that laughs at 4K resolution, the desktop/laptop hybrid hardware in the Eon15-X strikes me as a combination that works surprisingly well.
Origin PC Eon15-X
|Price as reviewed||$2,549|
|Display size/resolution||15-inch, 1,920x1,080 screen|
|PC CPU||4GHz Intel Core i7-4790K|
|PC memory||8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz|
|Graphics||8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M|
|Storage||256GB SSD + 1TB 5,400rpm HDD|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)|
Design and features
When PC makers such as Origin PC buy these third-party laptop bodies and then fill them with custom components, you're stuck dealing with a thick, heavy machine that doesn't feel as if it was designed from the ground up for gamers, at least not for those spending in excess of $2,000. To make it feel a little more custom, you get a handful of physical tweaks for character, such as a custom A-panel, which is the panel covering the back of the lid.
Previous Origin PC A-panels have been sculpted and angular, reminiscent of older Alienware laptops, but this one is subdued and nearly flat, although painted in a brilliant automotive red (other colors are available). Here, we don't get the backlit Origin PC logos on the back of the lid or on the touchpad that some other systems we've tested from that company have included, but when it comes to laptops that are already so large and bold-looking, less can be more when it comes to branding.
The key faces on the keyboard are widely spaced, as in a standard island-style keyboard, but the base of each key is wider and nearly touches its neighbor. The large keys are great for WASD gaming, and the backlighting control can set different zones with different colors under the keyboard, plus a separate zone for a light on the front lip.
The display is a vital component for any gaming laptop, and the 15.6-inch screen here has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. That's the longtime standard for multimedia and gaming PCs, but many laptops are pushing past that now, from Apple's Retina displays to the better-than-HD options available in gaming laptops from Lenovo, Razer and others. Bowing to that, Origin PC now offers a 4K 3,840x2,160 option for an extra $144. We haven't seen that version in person, but Origin PC notes that it has a glossy finish, as opposed to the matte finish on the 1080p display we tested.
In reality, our Eon15-X spent more than half its time outputting to external 4K displays, including a inexpensive Monoprice 28-inch monitor and a 55-inch Vizio 4KTV, with an Xbox 360 gamepad as its primary controller.
Ports and connections
|Video||DisplayPort (x2); HDMI|
|Audio||Headphone, microphone, S/PDIF output, line-in|
|Data||4 USB 3.0; SD card reader; eSATA|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
Connections, performance and battery
One nice thing about a big, bulky gaming laptop is that you're usually not going to run short of ports and connections. In this case, there are three separate video outputs, two full-size DisplayPort ones and a single HDMI, plus three USB 3.0 ports, and even an eSATA connection. That's a data port most commonly used in some external hard drives a few years ago, which shows that this isn't exactly the newest laptop design on the block.
With a desktop CPU, in this case an Intel Core i7-4790K, paired with a mobile graphics chip, the excellent Nvidia 980M, it makes sense to compare this system to both desktops and laptops. Our biggest, baddest desktops of the moment, from Origin PC and Maingear, have Haswell-E desktop CPUs from Intel, and each has three of the latest desktop GPUs, the new Titan-X. These desktops cost two to three times as much as the Eon15-X, and they perform much faster (we used the Maingear scores in our charts below), although the difference is less pronounced in nongaming applications, where the the desktop CPU in the Eon15-X really shines.
As we expected going in, the game frame-rates in this laptop closely match a couple of other systems with the same GeForce GTX 980M GPU, so trading up to this model over a laptop with a mobile CPU only really gives you an edge in nongaming performance, as in the case of our multitasking test.
In games, the Eon15-X, an earlier Eon17-S from Origin PC and the Asus G751J , all with the Nvidia 980M, scored within a few frames of each other in our Bioshock Infinite and Metro: Last Light tests at 1,920x1,080 resolution. The more-expensive desktops with the Titan-X cards blew all these laptops away in those tests, which is to be expected. Meanwhile, a laptop with the much more mainstream Nvidia 860M GPU gave us about half the frame rate in both of those tests.
Anecdotally, we hooked the Eon15-X up to a 4K display and loaded up the just-released PC version of Grand Theft Auto V. There, we were able to crank the resolution up to 4K, while turning nearly all the in-game graphics settings up to high or very high, while maintaining a solid frame rate and a very smooth, playable experience. When we did hit hiccups, dialing back things like draw distance and shadow complexity helped a lot.
Of course, playing a high-end game at either 1080p or 4K resolution is going to be something you do with the laptop plugged in to AC power. Gaming laptops aren't known for great performance when unplugged -- or for long battery life. Even though the large body on the Eon15-X gives it plenty of room for a big battery, this system has the shortest battery life of any of the gaming laptops we compared it to, running for only 2:30 on our video-playback battery-drain test. That's understandable because, unlike a laptop with a mobile processor, the included desktop CPU here simply isn't designed to run as efficiently or with the same eye towards battery life.
There are slimmer, lighter, more upscale-looking gaming laptops out there. But the audience for this unique laptop/desktop hybrid isn't looking for something that's as slim as a MacBook Pro, and that can play some games causally on weekends. This is for someone who is a serious gamer, but still just enough on the mobile side that the idea of going all-in on a standalone gaming desktop just doesn't make sense yet.
Adding a desktop CPU to a mobile GPU doesn't actually do all that much for gaming performance. But, it only adds a bit to the size and weight, compared to other high-end, 4K-ready gaming laptops, and the price isn't much more than a decent comparable configuration with a mobile processor. What you do get is a nice bump in non-gaming performance in some of our tests, which can make this system more useful for all the hours when you're not gaming, when you just need a powerful desktop replacement computer.
|Origin PC Eon15-X||Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7 4790K ; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD 5,400rpm|
|HP Omen||Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 4710HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M; 512GB SSD|
|Asus G751J-DH71||Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ; 24GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M; 256GB SSD, 1TB 7,200rpm HDD|
|Origin PC Eon17-S (980M)||Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-4940MX; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 8192MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M; RAID 0 (2) 120GB SSD, 1TB 5,400rpm HDD|
|Maingear Shift (Titan X)||Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-5960X; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 12GB (x3) Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X; RAID 0 (2) 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD|