Introduction, Design, User Interface
Cutting edge hardware equals absurd performance.
This summer is shaping up to be an amazing time to buy a gaming laptop. Intel has launched its Ivy Bridge processors, bringing faster performance to the entire range without increasing power consumption. Nvidia’s new Kepler based parts, although technically launched a couple months ago, are only now widely available.
We’ve already looked at many low-end solutions including Trinity, HD 4000 and the Kepler-based Nvidia GT 640M. We’ve also looked at one high-end gaming solution in the form of the ASUS G75V.
Today we’re reviewing the Origin EON17-S, an obvious competitor to the G75V. It’s packing an Nvidia GTX 675M. An Intel Core i7-3920XM joins the party as well. Clearly, this laptop is meant to provide maximum performance – as the other specifications make clear.
Though it has gobs of high-performance hardware our review unit did not arrive with an internal optical drive (it did come with an external Blu-Ray). The drive had been removed and a 1TB hard drive installed in its place. This is a clever bit of packaging that makes a lot of sense and isn’t offered by Alienware, Maingear or ASUS. While I know some gamers do still use optical drives, I personally can’t remember the last time one was required for install.
Our review unit tallies up at about $3500 bucks, which is expensive but not outrageous. Spending much more is difficult and requires that you either pony up for every frivolous option available or buy Nvidia Quadro graphics cards instead of the consumer-market GTX. Or you can put the price in reverse by downgrading to a Core i7-3610QM, which saves you over $1000.
In my ASUS G75V review I reiterated my belief that gaming laptops are on their way towards becoming thinner and easier to use every day, perhaps to such a point that they’re hard to distinguish from a normal multimedia laptop. The EON17-S proves that we’re not there yet.
This laptop has a serious case of thunder thighs. The 17.3” panel means that it is going to be rather large no matter its thickness, but the maximum girth of nearly two inches doesn’t do the laptop any favors.
Since there’s so much laptop here, it needs to be attractive. Origin has introduced a new lid design that is meant to distinguish its laptops from other companies and make it more visually appealing. The latter goal has been accomplished, but the former hasn’t – this new design looks similar to the muscular lid panels found on Alienware and ASUS Republic Of Gamers products. You can obtain it in several different colors, however, or even request a custom paint job. That’s something that only botiques like Origin can offer.
The interior of the EON17-S is plain but luxurious. The palmrest, for example, has a brushed aluminum finish that feels great to the touch but is so subtle you may miss it at first glance. Though the EON17-S is primarily sold as a gaming computer, it could work well as a professional portable workstation. Build quality is just okay, but that’s typical in this market. Building a large and heavy laptop that doesn’t feel squishy here or there is extremely difficult.
Connectivity is astounding. On the left side you’ll find a couple USB 3.0 ports and a combo eSATA/USB 3.0. There’s even FireWire. For display output you have DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort while audio includes not only the typical headphone/microphone jacks but also Line-In and S/PDIF out.
Given the size of this laptop it’s not a surprise to find that it has a full-size keyboard with numpad. It is a bit surprising, however, to find that it’s not chicklet-style. I would actually prefer this if it was a well-executed example, but it’s not. Or – at least – it has some productivity issues.
None of the keys have a linear action. Press down and the key resists, resists, resists – then gives way. This might seem as if it would improve accuracy, but because there’s not much tactile response when a key bottoms out, it has the opposite effect. I wrote most of this review on the EON17-S and found myself constantly dealing with letters that I’d thought had been pressed but were not actually registered. This is far from the only laptop with poor key action, but this is one of the few where it’s resulted in real-world productivity problems.
The backlighting, on the other hand, is good. Instead of going with some outrageous or bright color the EON17-S by default uses a subdued blue hue which illuminates without distraction. Other colors are available in a software application accessible via a keyboard shortcut. Most keys are evenly lit and turning there is a keyboard shortcut that turns the backlight off entirely.
Touchpad quality usually is not a high point on gaming laptops and the EON17-S is no exception. The surface is large enough, but doesn’t feel particularly responsive. Multi-touch gestures work but are finicky in the typical Windows style. The individual left/right buttons don’t have much travel.
Yes, most gamers will use a mouse rather than the touchpad. But this is an expensive system. At this price a great touchpad should be part of the package, and there are other laptops that do much better. The ASUS G75V is the best example.