Origin EON17-SLX review: blurring the line between desktop replacement and desktop
I’ve been reviewing laptops—especially huge, hulking, desktop replacement laptops—for several years now, the term “gaming laptop” still seems like a paradox. After all, is it still a “laptop” if it’s got a 17.3-inch screen and weighs 9.2 pounds (sans accessories)? Not really.
But it is Origin’s latest Extreme Gaming Laptop: the Origin EON17-SLX. This monster of a desktop replacement, which costs $3785 as configured, sports a third-generation Intel i7-3940XM Extreme Edition processor, 16GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M discrete graphics card.
It’s also got a 1TB hard drive (spinning at 5400rpm) located in the system’s optical bay and two 120GB Intel 520 Series SSDs in Raid 0. The EON17-SLX has built-in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Onkyo speakers, and a customizable color-changing backlit keyboard with a 10-key numberpad. The laptop runs a 64-bit version of Windows 8, but it does not have a touchscreen (nor is there the option for a touchscreen on Origin’s website).
The Origin EON17-SLX may be a hulk of a machine, but at least its size translates to power. In our WorldBench 8 benchmark tests, the EON17-SLX scores an impressive 115 out of 100, which means it’s 15 percent faster than our testing model—a desktop with a third-generation Intel i5 processor. It’s also the fastest laptop we’ve tested on WB8 by a long shot (second place is a tie at 76: the HP EliteBook 9470m and the Vizio CT15-A4).
Needless to say, the EON17-SLX whizzes through most of our individual performance tests. It is, however, a slow starter: it takes about 34 seconds to start up on average, which is a good 15 seconds longer than most of the laptops we’ve tested. In the PCMark 7 productivity test, the EON17-SLX scores 5324, light-years ahead of the HP EliteBook 9470m (3903) and the Vizio CT15-A4 (3890).
Graphics performance on the EON17-SLX is excellent. In our Dirt Showdown graphics test, the EON17-SLX manages an impressive 139.5 frames per second (1366 by 768 pixel resolution, maximum quality settings). By comparison, the HP EliteBook 9470m managed just 32.9 fps on the same test, while the Vizio CT15-A4 managed 33.6 fps.
Of course, it’s not totally fair to compare the Origin EON17-SLX’s graphics with the other laptops we’ve tested, as none of those laptops have discrete graphics cards. However, the EON17-SLX can keep up with even the most impressive desktops we’ve tested on WB8. For example, the Puget Serenity Pro managed 140.7 fps on the aforementioned Dirt Showdown test (the best score so far), while the Digital Storm Aventum managed just 129.5 fps.
Battery life on the EON17-SLX is pretty bad—being a gaming powerhouse does have its drawbacks, after all. The laptop barely lasted two and half hours in our battery life test (two hours and 28 minutes was the official time), which is below average even for the desktop replacement category. Plus, the laptop’s power block weighs a whopping 3.8 pounds—heavier than most ultraportables on the market today.
Design and Usability
When a laptop has a 17-inch screen and weighs almost 10 pounds, there’s not a lot of room for design innovation. But Origin isn’t even trying with the EON17-SLX—this is probably the most uninspired performance laptop I’ve seen.
Don’t get me wrong—the EON17-SLX is sturdily built, and it looks nice for a solid hunk of laptop. It’s just not very exciting. The cover, which is made of soft, rubbery black material, has a silver Origin logo painted in the center. The sides of the laptop feature some angling where the ports are located, but nothing particularly sexy. Inside, the glossy screen is surrounded by a medium-sized black bezel. The wrist deck is made of the same soft-touch material as the cover, while the keyboard deck is made from black brushed aluminum.
Aside from the full-sized keyboard (plus a 10-key numberpad) and large one-piece touchpad, the Origin’s interior is fairly simple. Onkyo speakers are located above the keyboard, a small power button (with a surprisingly bright white LED) is located in the upper right corner, and there’s a fingerprint reader on the right side of the wrist rest.
The EON17-SLX’s keyboard is large and features regular style keys that are designed to give a bit of an island-style feel. Basically, the keys touch each other but have raised plateau tops so it feels like you’re typing on an island-style keyboard. The keyboard is comfortable to type on, though the tactile feedback is a little on the weak side. The keyboard is backlit and features three customizable lighting zones with seven different color options.
A large one-piece touchpad is located directly below the keyboard. The touchpad has a slick, slightly textured feel, and depresses at the bottom for right and left clicks. Performance-wise, the touchpad is just mediocre: the mouse drags very slowly across the screen, and multi-touch gestures are hit or miss. This isn’t a major issue, however, since the EON17-SLX is a gaming laptop and you’re likely to use an external mouse with this laptop most of the time.
As you might expect, the EON17-SLX is loaded with ports. On the left side, you’ll find headphone and microphone jacks, a line-in jack, an S/PDIF digital audio out, a 3-in-1 card reader, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock slot. On the right side, you’ll find a combination eSATA/USB 2.0 port and three USB 3.0 ports, and on the back you’ll find an HDMI out, a DisplayPort, and an additional USB 3.0 port.
Screen and Speakers
The Origin EON17-SLX’s 17.3-inch widescreen display has a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels and it looks fantastic. Our review model had a glossy display, but you can also nab the EON17-SLX with a matte finish. The display is extremely bright, and shows off gorgeous, crisp images and text. Colors are bright and accurate, contrast is deep, and blacks are very black. Off-axis viewing angles are pretty good, and very few reflections are thrown back despite the glossiness.
Overall, this screen would be perfect…if it were also a touchscreen. Now, I know that Windows 8 is supposed to be a flexible operating system that can work on both touchscreen and non-touchscreen machines, but let’s face it: for the full Windows 8 experience, you really need to have a touchscreen. Plus, the EON17-SLX could definitely benefit from a better-than-mediocre input device.
Video looks very good on the EON17-SLX, with virtually no artifacting, choppiness, or noise, even in high motion scenes. Audio, on the other hand, is a little disappointing. The system’s Onkyo speakers produce loud but somewhat noisy sound that lacks both depth and range. The headphone jack is clean, however, and the line-in and S/PDIF jacks mean you have plenty of sound options.
The Origin EON17-SLX is an absolute powerhouse, but I worry that it’s too much of a desktop replacement. Let me explain: the laptop is heavy (it weighs 9.2 pounds, and its power block weighs 3.8 pounds for a total weight of 13 pounds), it has poor battery life, and it will definitely benefit from several external peripherals. For example, you’ll definitely need to hook up a mouse, an optical drive (Origin sends a slim Blu-ray drive with the system for an extra $113), and possibly a speaker system.
Now that’s all fine if you’re sitting at home, at your nice, roomy desk. But if you want to take this laptop somewhere do you really want to be toting around several pounds of accessories? Probably not. So, while the EON17-SLX is an excellent machine, I hesitate to call it a laptop. Instead, it’s like a semi-portable desktop—perfect for, say, a college student who changes dorms every year.
Of course, it’s also $3785. You can get a much higher performance desktop at the same price. So you have to ask yourself if the relative portability and small size matters enough.