Origin EVO15-S review

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OUR VERDICT

The Origin EVO15-S packs powerful components in a super slim body that makes it perfect for the gamer on the go. It’s not cheap but you get what you pay for.

FOR

  • Desktop performance
  • Understated, light-weight chassis
  • Solid build quality

AGAINST

  • Loud fans
  • Awkward keyboard layout
  • Dim display

Over the past few years, the computing industry has seen the release of thinner and lighter laptops, even for gaming-focused machines. Razer popularized the ultra-powerful thin and light gaming laptop with its Razer Blade and others, like Origin, followed suit.

The Origin EVO15-S has been a popular choice amongst gamers who want a powerful laptop that won’t require hitting the gym to carry it around. This year, Origin performed a minor refresh of the EVO15-S by updating it with the latest Intel Kaby Lake processors and NVIDIA graphics. The new processor and graphics cards are so powerful now that the EVO15-S is VR capable.

While the EVO15-S may not be a huge leap forward in terms of performance or design, it remains one of the best options for gamers looking for a thin-and-light 15-inch gaming laptop.

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Pricing and availability

The total cost of our EVO15-S test sample comes out to $2,317 (about £1,847, AU$3,003) with the only option being the larger 512GB SSD and the ridiculous $41 wooden crate option to help protect the machine during shipping. The only other option worth considering is Origin’s screen calibration for $29 (about £23, AU$38) if you plan on doing work that requires color accuracy.

However, you’re stuck with the Intel 7700HQ and Nvidia GTX 1060 chips as there are no other options to choose from. Not that it’s a bad configuration to be stuck with and for the price, the Origin EVO15-S is a relatively good deal for the performance you get.

The smaller 14-inch Razer Blade is $2,099 (£1,999, AU$3,100) with the same CPU, GPU and 512GB SSD. The Razer lacks the space for a 2.5-inch hard drive found in the EVO15-S and full number pad.

If you want to save a little bit of money and don’t care about the customization options Origin gives you or the 1 year parts and service guarantee, the near-identical MSI GS63VR starts at $1,799 (£1,999, AU$2,799).

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Design

If the Origin EVO15-S looks familiar to you that’s because it shares the exact same chassis as the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro. That’s because Origin buys the laptop chassis from MSI and put in its own parts. That’s not a bad thing as the GS63VR is a handsome laptop to start with.

The 0.69-inch thick body of the Origin EVO15-S is made entirely out of aluminum which helps with heat dissipation and makes the laptop feel sturdy in the hand.

The design is understated and looks more like a business laptop than a gaming laptop, which is great for gamers who want a bit more subtly over crazy fins, angles and enough LEDs to rival an airport landing strip (looking at you, Acer).

The design is so subtle that it almost looks generic. The laptop is a basically a black slab with the only branding being the Origin logo on the lid and the “ORIGIN” spelled out on the top right of the keyboard.

Build quality is good, but not class leading. While the EVO15-S is made of aluminum, it’s not as sturdily built as the Razer Blade, which feels like it’s milled out of a single block of aluminum. The EVO15-S features an thin aluminum frame that flexes slightly and groans when held from a corner.

We also noticed some imperfections on our test machine with dented aluminum near the SD card reader and the HDMI port. However, this could just be an issue with our press review unit, but it’s something to keep in mind.

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Great keyboard with a few quirks

Speaking of the keyboard, the EVO15-S features a full sized keyboard with numberpad so Excel junkies will love its layout. It’s also RGB enabled so you can customize the lighting just the way you want it – though not to the per-key level of the Razer Blade. The lighting software lets you set single colors, different colors for different zones, a wave effect and you can even make the lights react to audio and games.

The keyboard feels great to type on with ample stroke and good tactile feel. It’s also very quiet so you don’t upset everyone in the library or coffee shop. However, the layout leaves something to be desired.

The biggest annoyance is that there’s no Windows key on the left side of the keyboard, which means you don’t be able to use one-handed Windows key shortcuts. Origin, or MSI, rather, got rid of the left Windows key to make the Ctrl key extra wide, which is great for playing FPS games.

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The keyboard awkwardness continues to the arrow keys, which share the same key sizes as the Alt, Windows and Ctrl keys next to them making it difficult to find the arrow keys by feel especially since they double as controls for brightness and volume. It takes some time for muscle memory to kick in to find the arrow keys.

The number pad is useful, but cramped because of the tight space. The keys are about 75% the size of the rest of the keys, making it a little awkward to use at first but not a deal breaker by any means.

Below the keyboard you’ll find a average sized touchpad with a polished silver ring around it. There’s no RGB lighting for the trackpad, which a few competitors do offer. The trackpad features a nice low friction coating and tracks well.

The biggest problem with the trackpad is that it doesn’t support Windows 10 trackpad drivers so you won’t be using three or four finger gestures. The trackpad also doesn’t register two finger taps for right click so you’ll have to actually click the bottom right corner to get a right click, which is frustrating. Do yourself a favor and buy a portable gaming mouse to use instead.

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Ready for take off

On the bottom of the EVO15-S is a thin cloth lining that feels supple to the touch and prevents the shock of putting a cold laptop on your lap. You’ll also get a glimpse of the red fans that help keep the laptop cool during gaming. The fans draw air from the grill located on top of the laptop and pushes it out to the sides and the back.

At full tilt, the EVO15-S fans are deafening. When gaming, the laptop sounds like it’s about to take off. You’ll definitely want to put on headphones when you want to game – though, be aware of how loud your laptop as to not bother your neighbors.

Noise the trade off you make with a laptop this thin. The fans may be loud but they are effective in cooling the machine. Maxed out, we never saw the GPU reach above 75 degrees Celsius and never observed any thermal throttling, with both the CPU and GPU operating at maximum frequency.

You’ll also want to use headphones at home as the EVO15-S speakers don’t sound very good. They don’t get very loud and lack any bass response. Thankfully, they don’t distort at higher volumes.

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Throughout testing, the Origin EVO15-S handled everything I threw at it without drama.

The latest Intel Kaby Lake chips handles games well and multitasking with two dozen tabs open was no problem for the 16GB of RAM.

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 offers a nice bump in graphics performance over the previous generation, with increased frame rates in the same games across the board.

Untethered

The scores show a noticeable jump in gaming performance but the largest jump can be seen in the battery life. Where last year’s Skylake model only managed 1 hour 49 minutes in the PCMark 8 battery life test, this year’s Kaby Lake model managed 2 hours and 52 minutes.

Our real world test, which involved looping the Guardians of the Galaxy move, resulted in just over four hours of battery life.

This isn’t anything to write home about when ultrabooks are getting 10 to 12 hours of battery life now, but four hours is pretty great for a gaming laptop. You’ll still want to carry around the rather large power brick (628 grams to be exact) to charge on the go, but at least you won’t be tethered to an outlet if you simply want to get some work done at a cafe.

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Pixel peeping

The 15.6-inch full HD screen is a good compromise between size and resolution. The EVO15S gives you a bit more screen than the 14-inch Razer Blade, which is great for gaming or watching video.

It’s also coated in a matte finish to help prevent glare, which works very well to keep the screen visible in a bright room. However, the display is a bit too dim to work outside in the bright sun or next to a big window.

While competitors like the Razer Blade offer 4K resolution displays as an option, we think the 1920 x 1080 resolution of the EVO15-S is perfect for gaming and productivity. 4K screens may look better with specific content, but sacrifice battery life and usability. And with a GTX 1060, you won’t be pushing 4K games at playable framerates anyway.

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Software you’ll actually want

Since the laptop comes equipped with Creative’s Soundblaster card, there’s a Creative Soundblaster Cinema app installed to let you tailor simulated 3D effects to your liking. The simulated 3D sounded artificial to our ears so we left it off.

Since the laptop comes equipped with Creative’s Soundblaster card, there’s a Creative Soundblaster Cinema app installed to let you tailor simulated 3D effects to your liking. The simulated 3D sounded artificial to our ears so we left it off.

We liked

The Origin EVO15-S is a handsome, understated gaming laptop that has more than enough power to play most modern games at smooth frame rates. While there aren’t many options when configuring the machine, the package that Origin has built is extremely compelling with a great blend of power and storage in a svelte form factor.

The latest Intel Kaby Lake CPU and Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU offer a noticeable bump in performance over last year’s model. While the design hasn’t changed much the EVO15-S is still one of the lightest gaming notebooks out there with an understated design that you won’t be embarrassed to take out to use in a business meeting.

We disliked

Build quality is acceptable, but not great compared to the competition. Razer still leads the pack when it comes to bullet-proof build quality for a gaming laptop. The thin aluminum may be prone to bending in the long run so take care to protect the laptop with either the included neoprene sleeve or an aftermarket sleeve of your choice.

The display, keyboard and trackpad are just average. We expect Windows laptops to begin using universal trackpad drivers so that everyone can enjoy multi-touch gestures. The keyboard takes some getting used to since there’s no left Windows key and the number pad is small but these aren’t deal breakers.

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Final verdict

Origin has done a stellar job creating a compelling package of power and lightness with the EVO15-S. It may not have changed dramatically over last year’s model, but the increased performance and battery life are welcomed.

While spending two grand may seem like a lot, the EVO15-S is actually not a bad bargain when looking at the competition. The Razer Blade costs almost the same but is smaller and doesn’t feature a number pad. The MSI GS63VR is slightly cheaper with a few less customization options.

If you want a laptop that’s a beast when it comes to gaming and productivity but don’t want to tote around a laptop that weighs as much as a cinder block, the Origin EVO15-S should be at the top of your list.

(techradar.com, https://goo.gl/k4O0p9)

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