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 recentand are desktop-only parts that push game performance to a level where it's challenging to even find a game that can give the 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.