Review: Origin EVO15-S

Introduction and design

After going in the general direction of thinner is better, gaming laptops are getting thicker again, thanks to the new desktop part fad. This includes the Nvidia GTX 980-powered Asus ROG GX700 and Origin EON-17SLX, the latter of which utilizes both a desktop processor and GPU.

While some gaming laptops have let themselves go, a few stand-out mobile rigs are sticking to maximizing portability, including Origin’s updated EVO15-S. Measuring slightly over half an inch thick, this 15.6-inch gaming laptop utilizes the same new thin and light chassis used to great effect by MSI in the GS60 Ghost Pro.

Despite the thin profile of this svelte machine, the EVO15-S still packs an impressive Intel Skylake Core i7 processor and heady Nvidia graphics with room for an SSD and hard drive. That’s a lot of power stuffed into one small package when other systems, like the Acer Predator 15, are twice as thick and weigh almost double the amount.

Origin EVO15-S review

Design

You might notice that this notebook looks exactly like the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro, and you would be completely correct. Upon closer inspection, the Origin machine dons the same thin aluminum frame down to its brushed metal finish. Beyond sporting an identical exterior, this 15-inch gaming laptop also features a massive intake bar and a fully customizable RGB keyboard.

The Ghost Pro was one suave looking piece of machinery, and the Origin EVO15-S inherits all of its dashing good looks. The notebook is entirely made of metal, save for the fat bezels around the screen, but at least the new aluminum bottom helps to passively cool it while gaming.

Origin EVO15-S review

Once again, like the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro, this rig looks the part of a premium business laptop more so than a gaming machine. The laptop’s exterior is devoid of any red pinstripes or dragon insignias. Instead, it’s pretty much a featureless aluminum clamshell with a jet black paint job, save for the Origin branding in the middle of the screen lid.

You’ll be able to easily pull out this gaming notebook in a crowded Starbucks without drawing too much attention – that is, until you start playing Fallout 4, like I did.

Origin EVO15-S review

The only thing I don’t appreciate about the laptop’s design is the way its aluminum sides simply fall off to a sharp edge. It’s not a detail you’ll notice unless you turn it upside down, but I’ve seen other manufacturers create a cleaner transition between the bottom of the laptop and the rest of the chassis.

A series of bright LED’s light up the front edge of the EVO15-S to keep users informed of how the laptop is operating. Likewise, the ring of light surrounds the power button flips between blue and red, the latter of which denotes when the laptop kicks it into high-performance mode for gaming.

Origin EVO15-S review

Welcome to the wind tunnel

One of the returning annoyances with the EVO15-S is that its fans spin fast enough to fill the room with a whirring sound. It’s not an exaggeration to say the laptop sounds like a little turbine. Worse yet, there’s no escape: the laptop’s two main intake fans draw air through the speaker grill-esque perforations strewn across the keyboard deck.

The good news is that the fans are doing their part to keep the laptop nice and cool. The fan noise itself is also a few octaves lower compared to the previous EVO-15S. You can partially drone out the sound by pumping up the volume on the notebook’s downward pointed speakers. But you’re best bet for good acoustics is to throw on a pair of headphones.

Specifications and performance

You would be right to call the Origin EVO15-S and the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro twins. They both share the same exact dimensions of 15.35 x 10.47 x 0.78 inches (39 x 26.6 x 1.98cm). The two machine even weigh the same at 4.2 pounds (1.9kg).

Similarly, the last iteration of Origin’s 15-inch gaming laptop also used the same chassis, but the newer model is 0.01 pounds lighter despite incorporating a more complex RGB keyboard.

The EVO15-S is much more compact than hardcore gaming rigs, like the Acer Predator 15, which measures in at 15.4 x 11.8 x 1.5 inches (39.1 x 30 x 3.8cm) and weighs 7.5 pounds (3.4kg). This notebook is particularly thicker because it has a bit more going on, with its swappable optical drive.

Still, the EVO-15S is a bit larger than most contemporary, 15.6-inch laptops, so it might be a tight fit even for bags designed to carry notebooks of this screen size.

Origin EVO15-S review

Here is the Origin EVO15-S configuration given to techradar for review:

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.5GHz with TurboBoost)
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M (6GB GDDR5 RAM); Intel HD Graphics 530
  • RAM: 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4 (2,133MHz)
  • Screen: 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS anti-glare display
  • Storage: 256GB PCIe m.2 SSD, 1TB Origin PC-approved hard drive (7,200RPM)
  • Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x Thunderbolt 3.0 (USB C connector), HDMI, SD card reader, mini DisplayPort, Killer E2400 LAN, headphone jack, microphone jack
  • Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 and Bluetooth combo
  • Camera: Built-in 720p video camera
  • Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Size: 15.35 x 10.47 x 0.78 inches (W x D x H)

What you’re looking at is a largely stock EVO15-S available for a cool $2,294 (about £1,614, AU$3,278). The only little extra on our unit was Origin’s LCD screen calibration, which I recommend ticking on your custom configuration, as the display out of the box runs a little too cool for my liking.

In the grand scheme of gaming laptops, the base EVO15-S a pretty well-priced rig, though it’s not as customizable as Origin’s other machines. You’ll be pretty much be stuck with choosing an Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor and the Nvidia GTX 970M for graphics. The most annoying this is you won’t be able to increase the system’s storage and memory spec unless you put in a custom order or add the components yourself.

Origin EVO15-S review

The one option you do have is upgrading to a 3,840 x 2,160 glossy IPS display, which only brings the cost of this notebook up to $2,397 (about £1,673, AU$3,413). Not too shabby considering your quadrupling the display resolution for 103 bones.

Of course, there are plenty of options. If you’ve got the cash to burn, you could pick up a a comparable MSI GS60 Ghost Pro for $1,799 (£1,388, AU$2,699). Alternatively, the Acer Predator 15 goes for $1,999 or AU$2,999 (about £1,395) if you’re willing to pay up to upgrade the graphics to a Nvidia GTX 980M with 4GB of video RAM.

It might seem obvious to pick the MSI GS60 Ghost, as you’re getting virtually the same machine for a lower price. But Origin has upgraded a few of the components, such as the sound card. The boutique PC maker also offers more services than MSI, including an optional display calibration and a bundled year of part replacement and service.

So, while you’ll be paying more for the Origin EVO15-S, the price bump is somewhat justified, if you want the extras that come with it.

Origin EVO15-S review

Performance

With such a powerful chipset humming inside the laptop, I never experienced a single hitch, even when asking the EVO15-S to juggle a dozen tasks at a time. I was also able to play Shadow of Mordor at a decent 55 frames per second (fps) on ultra settings, just a slight step behind the 60 fps on my own desktop rig, fitted with a Core i5-3750K and GTX 970.

I was also able to easily coax this portable gaming rig to play Star Wars: Battlefront at a respectable 60 to 90 fps, even with the game running on Ultra settings.

Benchmark scores

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 21,574; Sky Diver: 19,195; Fire Strike: 6,673
  • Cinebench CPU: 676 points; Graphics: 65 fps,
  • GeekBench: 3,593 (single-core); 13,392 (multi-core)
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,416 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 1 hours and 49 minutes
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Ultra): 55 fps; (1080p, Low): 122 fps
  • Metro: Last Light (1080p, Ultra): 30 fps; (1080p, Low): 54 fps

Let’s just remind ourselves how that compares to the 2014 Haswell model’s scores:

  • 3DMark: Ice Storm: 85,137; Cloud Gate: 18,777; Fire Strike: 5,559
  • Cinebench Graphics: 101 fps, CPU: 649 points
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,239 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours and 2 minutes
  • Bioshock Infinite (1080p, Ultra): 71 fps; (1080p, Low): 165 fps
  • Metro: Last Light (1080p, Ultra): 28 fps; (1080p, Low): 101 fps

Origin EVO15-S review

As expected, the Origin put up some of the impressive scores, easily outpacing its two-year old predecessor. The 3DMark benchmark shows us just how much more weight Intel’s latest Skylake chipset and Nvidia’s Maxwell mobile chips can pull with such Cloud Gate and Firestrike scores.

By comparison, the Ghost Pro, equipped with half the amount of video RAM, completed the Fire Strike benchmark with 6,558 points. Meanwhile, the Gigabyte scored 8,277 points on the Fire Strike test, thanks to its higher-end GPU.

The results from the crucible we’ve come to know as Metro: Last Light on Ultra are even more telling. The EVO15-S was able to play this taxing game at an average 30 fps. Comparatively, the MSI rig was able to keep up, rendering the benchmark at a nearly identical 29 fps, while the Acer Predator 15 performed even better with 33 fps.

Origin EVO15-S review

Pixel perfect

As if the EVO15-S’s excellent gaming performance wasn’t enough, Origin has also equipped its thinnest laptop with an equally pleasing 1080p screen. Even at a quarter brightness, the display is more than bright enough to counterbalance bright sunlight.

Meanwhile, the anti-glare coating does an excellent job at subduing reflections and glare. The screen also produces a wide color gamut and stellar contrast, everything I expect out of any self-respecting IPS panel.

Origin EVO15-S review

Running short

The only area I find the Origin EVO15-S lacking in is battery life. PCMark 8 quickly drained the battery in a matter of 1 hour and 49 minutes – that’s actually a 14 minute decrease from its predecessor.

The Origin laptop also ran for a short-lived 2 hours and 15 minutes (also 3 minutes shorter) with my own basic everyday tasks of browsing on Firefox and writing in Microsoft Word. Overall, this rig lasted for its longest stretch of 2 hours and 23 minutes while barely finishing a locally-played run of Guardians of the Galaxy in its entirety.

The MSI GS60 Ghost Pro, on the other hand, managed to hang on for an equally short for 2 hours and 2 minutes while running the PCMark battery test. Lastly, the longest lasting machine crown goes to the Acer Predator 15, with its 3 hours and 17 minutes-long run time.

Bundled software

Origin has done a great job of trimming the fat on preloaded software, even going so far as to stick with just one audio controller, as opposed to the usual two to four (seriously).

  • Soundblaster Cinema: Here you’ll find sound profiles and the underlying audio controller. Unlike some other audio tools, Creative has made and excellent visually driven interface.
  • SteelSeries Engine: Of course when you have a gaming laptop there has to be a tool for setting up macros and and customizing your keyboard colors. This is your go to application.

Verdict

Dolling out over two grand for a mobile gaming machine is a lot of money to spend on a laptop, but the EVO15-S is one of those unique packages that manages to deliver on all fronts.

This mobile PC gaming machine comes with enough power to rival a desktop. Meanwhile, Origin got all the other key components right, from the screen to the speakers and keyboard and even an excellent trackpad.

We liked

The Origin EVO15-S hews closely to the design of MSI’s GS60 Ghost Pro, but Origin offers a few upgraded components and services, including an optional screen calibration. More importantly you’ll also get an included year of repair service and part replacement.

Intel’s latest Skylake chipset combined with Nvidia’s Maxwell GPUs launch the performance of this laptop into the stratosphere. It closes the performance gap between gaming laptops and desktops just a little bit more with a stylish and thin frame, proving once again size isn’t everything.

We disliked

Short battery life is almost part and parcel to the gaming laptop experience, but the EVO15-S ran dry surprisingly sooner than its competitors. At most, you could look at three hours of battery life with ECO mode turned on this Origin machine.

Another thing that turned me off from the Origin laptop is the incredibly noisy fans. Luckily, there’s an easy fix for the problem by downloading the SpeedFan application to manually control fan rpms while monitoring temperatures throughout the laptop.

Final verdict

There’s plenty to like about the EVO15-S, and while it comes at an expensive premium, it’s one of the few laptops that are well worth the expense. This Origin machine is one of the thinnest and lightest gaming laptops you can possibly buy.

Of course this machine is easily comparable to the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro – from which it’s derived directly. So, picking between the two comes down to saving a few bucks or getting extra services and improved components.

If you do pick the Origin option, you can be confident in this system as it doesn’t skimp on cutting edge parts, an excellent 1080p panel for all types of media, plus the option of throwing on a 4K screen for a marginally-priced upgrade.

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