Laptops have come a long way over the past few years. They've gotten thinner, lighter, and more powerful. Plastic has been eschewed in favour of premium metals, and many now boast screens with ludicrously high pixel densities. The exception is the humble gaming laptop, which--aside from the excellent Razer Blade--is very much stuck in the '90s school of laptop design. Origin's EON15-S is no different. Sporting a "l33t gamer" aesthetic, it's a weighty chunk of plastic covered in the kind of garish lights and angular moulding that a 12-year-old me would have lusted over. For sure, the EON15-S's quad core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 250GB SSD, and Nvidia GTX 880M GPU make it a very powerful machine, but it's hard to love something that's so lacking in the design department.
When you lift the EON15-S out of its imposing (although optional) wooden packing crate, it's striking just how big it is. Weighing 8.8lb (4.1kg), and coming in at 1.7 inches thick, this is not a laptop you're going to want to carry around with you too often. Scattered around the sides are a plethora of ports, including a multicard reader, an esata port, two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, Firewire, mini and full-size display ports, and HDMI; separate line in, headphone, S/PDIF, and microphone jacks; and a DVD writer. You're certainly not going to be stuck for places to plug things in.
Our EON15-S's lid came in red (you can customise your lid to taste) and was finished in a nice soft-touch plastic. I'm not a fan of the angular moulding on top, which adds yet more thickness to an already chunky laptop, but hey, maybe that sort of thing floats your boat. When you open it up, there's a classic, non-chicklet keyboard, along with a garish '80s-style graphic EQ setup above it, and a large and impressively loud set of speakers above that. Indeed, the sound quality out of the EON15-S is so good that you can easily use it as a makeshift boombox, or for watching films when you don't have any headphones to hand.
Below the keyboard is a large touchpad complete with yet more lights, which is surprisingly good as Windows laptops go. The two buttons below it are a little feeble in action, but they get the job done. There's also the unnecessary addition of a fingerprint scanner, which you can use to unlock the PC, but it proved unreliable enough to make it quicker and easier to just type in a password. Speaking of typing, though, the backlit keyboard isn't great. It feels cramped, despite full-size keys, and the key travel is spongy and indistinct. It's not a great typing experience, but is just about passable for games. I'd happily lose the number pad for a cleaner design. Thankfully, Origin hasn't committed cardinal keyboard sin, and the Ctrl key is on the far left, just where it should be.
Build quality is good, and there's none of the creaky plastic that you get from cheaper laptops. That said, the EON15-S doesn't "feel" expensive. For a laptop that starts at $1,542 and rises sharply upward from there, I'd expect something with a little more finesse, and certainly something slimmer and lighter. I also find it incredibly unattractive. Maybe it's an age thing, but blinking lights and garish moulding just don't do it for me these days. Razer, Sony, and Apple have shown that powerful laptops can be just as attractive as their less-powerful cousins, so for the money the EON15-S demands, I want better.
What you give up in design, portability, and battery life, you gain in sheer customisation options. The EON15-S starts at $1,542, for which you get a dual-core Intel i5 4340M, 4GB of DDR3 1333MHz RAM, an Nvidia GTX 860M, a 15.6-inch 1920x1080 display, 320 GB HD, and a DVD writer. From there, you can go ahead and add different GPUs (all Nvidia), processors, mSATA drives, raid setups--you name it, and chances are you can do it with the EON15-S.
Our machine came kitted out with a quad-core Intel i7 4810MQ processor, 8GB of 1600Mhz RAM, a top-end Nvidia 8GB GTX 880M, wireless AC, integrated SoundBlaster XFi audio, 250GB Samsung EVO SSD, 750GB 7200 RPM HD, Windows 8.1, a 15.6-inch 1920x1080 display, and a DVD writer. Battery life is rated at six hours, which is wildly optimistic. Expect well under half that if you're hammering the CPU and GPU. Our spec of EON15-S will set you back an eye-watering $2,621, which puts the machine firmly in the high-end camp. It makes the inclusion of a 1920x1080 display something of a disappointment.
It's not a bad display by any means, and the anti-glare coating is a nice change from the hyper-reflective displays that seem to grace laptops these days. But since competing machines at this price are coming equipped with high-DPI displays, it's not the best value. Indeed, the price puts the EON15-S in the same price bracket as the 512GB Razer Blade 14, which comes with a gorgeous 3200x1800 display and costs $2,699.
As you'd expect with such high-end specs, the EON15-S handles games extremely well. At the display's native 1080p resolution, I could max out the settings on every game I threw at it, and get playable frame rates above 30fps. The GTX 880M's massive 8GB of memory is great for cranking anti-aliasing and texture settings, and with a few tweaks, you can hit that magical 1080p/60 performance that's all the rage these days.
|Game||Settings (all @1080p)||Average FPS|
|Battlefield 4||Ultra preset||47|
|Titanfall||High, "Insane" Textures||60|
|Crysis 3||Ultra preset, TXAA||40|
|Tomb Raider||Ultra preset, TXAA, Tres FX||50|
|Bioshock Infinite||Ultra preset||79|
|Watch Dogs||Ultra preset||40|
The EON15-S's general performance was good too, with the SSD making light work of booting Windows and loading up apps; it could easily double up as a speedy video- and photo-editing machine.
The EON15-S is an admirable performer, and the GTX 880M powering it is a very impressive mobile GPU. But would I buy one? Absolutely not. Sure, it's easier to carry around to LAN parties than a tower, but it's not something you're going to be able to carry around with you to surf the Web or knock out a few emails. There are those who will have another device for that task, but if I'm spending upwards of $2,500 on a computer, I want one that's going to be useful for more than just a single task.
For the money, the likes of the Razer Blade, or even something like a Macbook Pro (if you're happy to bootcamp it for games), are better choices. In particular, the Blade's high-res touchscreen display; slim, light, and attractive enclosure; and much better battery life make it the go-to gaming laptop. Sure, you're more limited when it comes to customisation options, and its GTX 870M isn't quite as powerful as the 880M, but you gain so much in terms of portability and design that the trade-offs are more than worth it. If boutique gaming PC brands like Origin want to stay on top, they need to seriously step up their game.