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Origin PC Evo 15-S review: A VR-ready laptop that won't break your back

Origin PC's new Evo 15-S combines a big 15-inch display with a slim, modern body.

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Dan Ackerman
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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 semi-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

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5 min read

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.

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8.1

Origin PC Evo 15-S

The Good

This slim, modern-looking laptop has VR-ready graphics, and enough ports to plug in all the accessories PC gaming often requires. Origin PC has a great rep for service and support.

The Bad

The minimalist laptop body lacks personality, and its power button is poorly placed. You can find other laptops with the same Nvidia graphics card for less. The display is non-touch, and limited to standard full-HD resolution.

The Bottom Line

The Origin PC Evo 15-S shows a premium gaming laptop, even a VR-ready one, doesn't have to be a backbreaker.

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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The Evo 15-S, compared to larger gaming laptops from Origin PC and Asus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Hooked up

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.

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Watch out for this power button...

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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You'll need plenty of ports for VR gaming.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Premium support

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.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Origin PC Eon-17X 131HP Omen (17-inch) 184Origin PC Evo 15-S 186Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 195Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2016) 202
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

Origin PC Eon-17X 18,961Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2016) 14,451HP Omen 13362Origin PC Evo 15-S 13,253Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 13,093
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2016) 605HP Omen 270Origin PC Evo 15-S 253Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 226Origin PC Eon-17X 121
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Origin PC Eon-17X 4,919HP Omen 3,816Origin PC Evo 15-S 2,671Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 2,609
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Origin PC Eon-17X 214HP Omen 137.56Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 116.69Origin PC Evo 15-S 112.48
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System Configurations

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
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8.1

Origin PC Evo 15-S

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 9Battery 7
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