For a long time, gaming laptops have been too big, too heavy and too ugly. At least over the past few years, the gaming power in these semiportable rigs has closed the gap with gaming desktops , but for the most part these laptops were were still back-breaking monsters. The big change over the last two years is that PC makers have finally decided it was time to work on the look and feel of these systems, and that's put us much closer to achieving my dream gaming laptop.
The Origin PC Evo 15-S is one of this new generation of gaming laptops that slim down, while running graphics cards powerful enough to work with virtual reality hardware, such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Razer was a trailblazer in this category, and mainstream brands like Alienware are catching up. Now even Origin PC, a boutique PC builder known for massive no-compromise systems, has a slim 15-inch gaming laptop with one of Nvidia's new GeForce 1060 GPUs inside.
It's a break from the traditional look of the many Origin PC laptops we've tested or reviewed previously, even if the overall look of this matte black laptop chassis is a bit generic. That's because boutique PC builders like Origin PC, Falcon Northwest and others typically don't design and produce laptop bodies -- which is a very expensive endeavor only a handful of big PC makers can take on. Instead they take off-the-shelf bodies from component suppliers such as MSI (which also sells its own systems direct to the public), and tweaks and fine-tunes the components and software to create a custom gaming masterpiece. (Interestingly, Origin PC has designed a couple of custom desktop PC designs, the Chronos and Millennium, and both are excellent.)
By choosing this slim body for the basis of the Evo 15-S, Origin PC sets itself up nicely to provide excellent gaming power, reasonable design and portability, and very importantly, enough connectivity. The Achilles' heel of many slimmer laptops aimed at power users is the lack of ports. Especially when hooking up VR gear, in addition to a mouse and/or gamepad, you're going to need a lot of ports, and not just a couple of USB-C ones, as offered by the latest MacBook Pro .
Pay to play
Of course, you're going to pay a premium for packing this kind of power into a slim, well-built laptop. The Evo 15-S is offered in a single basic configuration, with a Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, a fast 256GB PCIe SSD combined with a big 2TB hard drive (but note it's a 5,400 rpm drive), and the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphic card, which is essentially the same part whether you get it in a laptop or desktop. That very capable combination of parts runs $2,099, which is more than some other laptops with that new Nvidia 1060 cost. For the UK or Australia, the company can provide a custom quote, and the US price converts to about £1,659 or AU$2,816, but there may be a hefty shipping fee and additional taxes.
Origin PC Evo 15-S
|Price as reviewed||$2,099|
|Display size/resolution||15-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 display|
|PC CPU||2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ|
|PC memory||16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060|
|Storage||256GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Micorsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
The newly redesigned Alienware 15 or even a stock version of this from MSI can cost a few hundred less, but the Origin PC version doubles the storage to 2TB compared to those other two. Other interesting options include the Alienware 13, which has the same CPU and GPU, but adds a higher-res OLED touchscreen for the same $2,099. That's a really fun system, but suffers from a lack of ports. You could also go whole-hog and get a big 17-inch Eon-17X from Origin PC, it's flagship gaming laptop. We've tested one of these impressive beasts recently and it's very powerful, but has a more old-school design.
The Evo 15-S shares a design sensibility with the classic 15-inch MacBook Pro, although it's closer in size to the recently retired version than the new slimmer Touch Bar model. It has a minimalist interior, with an expansive wrist rest and large touch pad, but also has a grille for airflow above the keyboard. Cooling is clearly important here, there are also vents on either side and a slightly raised felt-like cover on the bottom, giving the bottom fan vents a little more room to breath.
It's also surprisingly light, just about 4.3 pounds, versus 4.0 pounds for the new 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Hooking up an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive is easy, as there are ports to spare, including three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, HDMI and mini-DisplayPort, an Ethernet jack, a USB-C port, and even separate headphone and mic audio jacks.
That's a marked difference to the VR-ready Alienware 13, which had only two standard-size USB ports, and led to some cable juggling for VR, where you might need one port for a headset, another for a camera, and at least a third for a controller. One thing I didn't like, all those ports push the power button down to the very front of the right side panel -- good luck not hitting it accidentally every time you pick up the system.
But once everything is connected and running, the Evo 15-S proved itself to be great for mainstream gaming. The Nvidia 1060 card isn't the highest-end graphics card you can get in a laptop, but every new game I tried, from Battlefield 1 to Mafia III, played just fine at high settings and 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. VR was likewise excellent, playing games like Eve Valkyrie and Project Cars.
Gaming on battery power isn't going to net you more than a couple of hour of play at most, but when running our streaming video battery drain test, the system ran for a decent 4:13, which is longer than current gaming laptops from Alienware and HP.
You can definitely find a gaming laptop that offers similar performance for hundreds less, but it's the hard-to-quantify extras that make an Origin PC system (along with a handful of other premium boutique vendors) worth the extra investment. In this case, there's the expert system tuning, tweaking and testing that goes into it. Plus, the company currently includes two years of part replacement and free shipping, along with its standard lifetime tech support. That support comes from actual company techs, not an outsourced call center. If I'm investing $2,000 or more in a gaming system, I'd want to feel like I could count on some serious help if I ran into a problem.
Still, a few things bugged me, almost entirely tied to the off-the-shelf chassis design. The touchpad is serviceable, but twitchy for two-finger scrolling; the speakers get a bit crunchy at high volumes; and that misplaced power button on the right front edge drove me absolutely mental.
|Origin PC Evo 15-S||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Alienware 13 R3 (OLED)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 512GB SSD|
|HP Omen||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Origin PC Eon-17X||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2016)||Apple macOS Sierra 10.12.1; 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-6820HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 2GB Radeon Pro / 1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 530; 512GB SSD|