Reviewing Origin PC Evo 15-S

THE GOOD This slim, modern-looking laptop has VR-ready graphics, and enough ports to plug in all the accessories PC gaming often requires. Origin PC has a great rep for service and support.

THE BAD The minimalist laptop body lacks personality, and its power button is poorly placed. You can find other laptops with the same Nvidia graphics card for less. The display is non-touch, and limited to standard full-HD resolution.

THE BOTTOM LINE The Origin PC Evo 15-S shows a premium gaming laptop, even a VR-ready one, doesn’t have to be a backbreaker.

For a long time, gaming laptops have been too big, too heavy and too ugly. The big change over the last two years is that PC makers have finally decided it was time to work on the look and feel of these systems, and that’s put us much closer to achieving my dream gaming laptop. At least over the past few years, the gaming power in these semiportable rigs has closed the gap with gaming desktops, but for the most part these laptops were were still back-breaking monsters.

Razer was a trailblazer in this category, and mainstream brands like Alienware are catching up.The Origin PC Evo 15-S is one of this new generation of gaming laptops that slim down, while running graphics cards powerful enough to work with virtual reality hardware, such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.  Now even Origin PC, a boutique PC builder known for massive no-compromise systems, has a slim 15-inch gaming laptop with one of Nvidia’s new GeForce 1060 GPUs inside.

It’s a break from the traditional look of the many Origin PC laptops we’ve tested or reviewed previously, even if the overall look of this matte black laptop chassis is a bit generic. That’s because boutique PC builders like Origin PC, Falcon Northwest and others typically don’t design and produce laptop bodies — which is a very expensive endeavor only a handful of big PC makers can take on. Instead they take off-the-shelf bodies from component suppliers such as MSI (which also sells its own systems direct to the public), and tweaks and fine-tunes the components and software to create a custom gaming masterpiece. (Interestingly, Origin PC has designed a couple of custom desktop PC designs, the Chronos and Millennium, and both are excellent.)

The Achilles’ heel of many slimmer laptops aimed at power users is the lack of ports. By choosing this slim body for the basis of the Evo 15-S, Origin PC sets itself up nicely to provide excellent gaming power, reasonable design and portability, and very importantly, enough connectivity. Especially when hooking up VR gear, in addition to a mouse and/or gamepad, you’re going to need a lot of ports, and not just a couple of USB-C ones, as offered by the latest MacBook Pro.

Pay to play

Of course, you’re going to pay a premium for packing this kind of power into a slim, well-built laptop. The Evo 15-S is offered in a single basic configuration, with a Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, a fast 256GB PCIe SSD combined with a big 2TB hard drive (but note it’s a 5,400 rpm drive), and the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphic card, which is essentially the same part whether you get it in a laptop or desktop. That very capable combination of parts runs $2,099, which is more than some other laptops with that new Nvidia 1060 cost. For the UK or Australia, the company can provide a custom quote, and the US price converts to about £1,659 or AU$2,816, but there may be a hefty shipping fee and additional taxes.

The newly redesigned Alienware 15 or even a stock version of this from MSI can cost a few hundred less, but the Origin PC version doubles the storage to 2TB compared to those other two. Other interesting options include the Alienware 13, which has the same CPU and GPU, but adds a higher-res OLED touchscreen for the same $2,099. That’s a really fun system, but suffers from a lack of ports. You could also go whole-hog and get a big 17-inch Eon-17X from Origin PC, it’s flagship gaming laptop. We’ve tested one of these impressive beasts recently and it’s very powerful, but has a more old-school design.

The Evo 15-S shares a design sensibility with the classic 15-inch MacBook Pro, although it’s closer in size to the recently retired version than the new slimmer Touch Bar model. It has a minimalist interior, with an expansive wrist rest and large touch pad, but also has a grille for airflow above the keyboard. Cooling is clearly important here, there are also vents on either side and a slightly raised felt-like cover on the bottom, giving the bottom fan vents a little more room to breath.

It’s also surprisingly light, just about 4.3 pounds, versus 4.0 pounds for the new 15-inch MacBook Pro.