The terms "portable" and "gaming" aren't usually synonymous with laptops, but there are a handful of vendors attempting to undo that train of thought. As Alienware quietly sent its aging M11x out to pasture, Origin PC stepped up with its 11-inch EON11-S. While Origin PC is just one of many companies offering rebranded versions of Clevo's 110ER, there's more under the hood of its rendition than initially meets the eye.
The diminutive EON starts at $1,009, but as of publication, GameSpot's midrange configuration goes for $1,302. The backbone of the EON11-S (and all rebranded 110ERs) is Nvidia's GeForce GT 650M GPU with 2GB DDR3. It's not the beefiest mobile GPU around, but it's no slouch either. It slightly outperforms the ever-popular GTX 560M from 2011 and is currently ranked third among Nvidia's Kepler mobile GPUs in terms of raw power. Each EON11-S also comes with two USB 3.0 ports, a media card reader, and a built-in webcam.
GameSpot's review unit was configured with savings in mind, but not all corners were cut. In addition to the aforementioned components, we opted for an Intel Core i5 3320M 2.60 GHz CPU, 8GB of DDR3 1333, and a 256 GB Samsung 830 SSD, again, checking out at $1,302. Origin PC includes a reassuring one-year parts replacement warranty, on top of its promise of lifetime labor and 24/7 customer support.
The build quality is solid and the chassis is compact, consisting primarily of hard plastic, with a few panels of soft, rubberized plastic. The wrist rest and touchpad have a gridlike texture, unlike the rest of the interior. The rubberized portions pick up some fingerprints, but overall, the EON11-S isn't what we'd call a fingerprint magnet.
The EON11-S's LAN, VGA, HDMI, Audio, and USB 3.0 Ports
The EON is not just small, but light as well. It weighs in at 3.9 pounds, roughly 50 percent heavier than a MacBook Air, but far lighter than larger gaming laptops. Origin claims 7 hours of battery life for the EON11-S, but during a day of word processing and web browsing, our battery was empty after 5.5 hours. While gaming, the EON11-S's battery lasted roughly 3 hours before kicking the bucket, but that's still a respectable figure among gaming laptops in general.
When pushed to the limit, the EON11-S does have a tendency to warm up rather quickly while gaming. The GT 650M's fan kicks into high gear frequently, doing its best to combat the heat. Overall, we wouldn't call the EON11-S "hot" or "loud," but expect a little warmth and a little noise whenever booting a game up.
Now, each PC vendor offers a different selection of parts, but comparable builds from a handful of vendors consistently clocked in cheaper than the EON11-S. With that in mind, why would an informed customer pay more for the same hardware? If they are truly informed, it's because of Origin's exclusive partnership with LucidLogix and their recently launched Virtu MVP software. Before passing it off as an abject cross-promotional deal, it's important to understand what Virtu MVP is and why it may be worth the extra cost, especially in a gaming laptop.
At its essence, Virtu MVP offers a threefold approach to GPU management and optimization: GPU virtualization, Virtual V-Sync, and HyperFormance.
The primary goal of GPU virtualization is to delegate various tasks to the appropriate GPU--either the discrete Nvidia card, or the Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU, integrated in every Ivy Bridge GPU. You may be familiar with Nvidia's Optimus tech, which intelligently switches control to the discrete GPU when the integrated GPU tops out. With GPU virtualization from LucidLogix, tasks are dynamically assigned to either GPU based on the nature of the task at hand, rather than waiting for the integrated GPU to reach its performance limit. Even better, both GPUs can function simultaneously. This delegation takes place in LucidLogix's software layer.
Now, you can leverage the strength of both GPUs, maximizing your PC's potential. Intel's second- and third-generation CPUs feature Quick Sync video encoding technology as a part of the integrated HD Graphics GPU. Now, instead of sitting on the sidelines, for example, it can encode video while you game away on the GT 650M.
Virtual V-Sync is the second part of LucidLogix's Virtu MVP software. V-Sync traditionally limits frame rates to your monitor's refresh frequency, typically 60Hz. In doing so, it also limits peripherals to the same rate input. The main advantage of enabling traditional V-Sync is the elimination of tearing, which results from the frame buffer passing more than one frame per refresh cycle of the monitor. LucidLogix's Virtual V-Sync allows your GPU to hit higher frame rates, without screen tearing, and without limiting the responsiveness of your peripherals.
As purported, each game we tested exhibited increased frame rates with Virtual V-Sync enabled and, to our eyes, did so sans screen tearing. Now, objectively testing the effectiveness of these higher frame rates is difficult, as peripheral responsiveness felt roughly the same whether or not Virtual V-Sync was enabled. What's definite is the increased frame rates, which will reduce frame stuttering (occurs when frame rates are lower than the monitor's refresh rate) while also preventing screen tearing.
The final trick up LucidLogix's sleeve, HyperFormance, might be the feature that seals the deal for some customers. In an ideal scenario, HyperFormance boosts frame rates by roughly 30 percent. We disabled V-Sync and Virtual V-Sync during our testing to maximize frame rates. Here are our results
When using the Virtu MVP configuration utility, you need to manage settings for individual games, as each must be verified by LucidLogix before receiving official support. Some games aren't on the list and must be manually added or tested. Others may be present but have features disabled, as is the case with Arkham City and the HyperFormance option. While we were able to find a mix of settings that did benefit from HyperFormance, we were unable to test Arkham City with DirectX 11 features enabled, as it resulted in serious rendering errors.
LucidLogix's exclusive partnership with Origin PC is enticing; Virtu MVP boosts frame rates while optimizing battery life and processing potential. Since Origin PC offers a laptop that, from a hardware standpoint, goes toe-to-toe with the competition, its slightly higher price tag must be justified. Virtu MVP does what's promised and will only improve as LucidLogix continues to update support for games, but its worth is subjective. If 30fps is too low for your standards, then HyperFormance should soothe your woes. If V-Sync is important, Virtual V-Sync will allow you to enable it without limiting performance and responsiveness. If you need a functional, well-built, portable gaming laptop, with a generous warranty and round-the-clock support, and all the benefits of Virtu MVP sound enticing, then the EON11-S is right up your alley.