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Origin EVO15-S review: A portable, powerful Max-Q laptop that does everything right


Say hello to one of the most intriguing high-end incarnations of Nvidia’s new Max-Q technology.

The Origin EVO15-S is powerful and portable, delivering GeForce GTX 1070 graphics in a sleek sub-five-pound frame. That’s amazing—but it’s also true of every Max-Q gaming laptop. Origin stands out from the crowd with a superb out-of-the-box customer experience and the ability to configure the EVO15-S hardware any way you see fit, unlike the overwhelming majority of the Max-Q masses.

More importantly, you can use this gaming laptop as a laptop. The first two GTX 1080 Max-Q laptops we’ve tested, the Asus ROG Zephyrus and the Acer Predator Triton 700, suffered from dismal battery life and atrociously positioned touchpads. The more conservative GTX 1070 Max-Q in the Origin EVO15-S still won’t survive the day away from a charger, but it lasts much longer than those others, and it has a straightforward touchpad, right under the keyboard where you’d expect it.

The Origin EVO15-S isn’t trying to be an exotic showpiece. It’s just a damned good gaming laptop you can actually carry around.

Origin EVO15-S specs, features, and price

Most Max-Q laptops stick to one or two preset configurations, which is unsurprising given that Nvidia claims the technology requires tight hardware and software integration. But Origin’s website lets you pick from a wealth of hardware options for the EVO15-S. Here are the specs, features, and price of the Origin EVO15-S that we reviewed. It’s ferocious for a laptop.

  • CPU: Core i7-7700HQ
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4/2400
  • Display: 15.6-inch, 120Hz 1920×1080 IPS, matte finish
  • Storage: 512GB Samsung 960 Pro, 2TB Seagate FireCuda hybrid drive
  • Weight: 4 pounds, 13 ounces, or 6 pounds, 9 ounces with power brick
  • Dimensions: 14.09 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Ports: HDMI, 2x Mini-DisplayPort, 2x USB 3.1, 3x USB 3.1 Type-C, SD reader, headphone, microphone, ethernet, lock slot
  • Webcam: 1080p
  • Price: $2,375 as configured on Origin PC

You can also customize the EVO15-S casing in all sorts of colors, textures, and themes for a price upgrade, or even a completely original airbrushed design for a quoted price. The version we tested stuck to the default grey aluminum but included several internal upgrades. The $1,626 baseline configuration of the Origin PC EVO15-S sports the same basic shell, but drops the hardware down to a GeForce GTX 1060, 8GB of memory, a 500GB hybrid hard drive, and a 60Hz display. Tinkering with your loadout understandably adds to shipping time. Origin PC’s online EVO15-S configuration page cites 9 to 11 business days for the baseline model, compared to 14 to 16 for the custom-tuned system we reviewed.

origin evo15 s Gordon Mah Ung/IDG

The Origin PC EVO15-S.

The 15.6-inch, 120Hz IPS display on the EVO15-S looks great and runs at a bright 343 nits max, but it also shows one of the compromises Origin had to make to offer such a customizable laptop. Many available Max-Q laptops augment their screens with G-Sync, the Nvidia display technology that eliminates tearing and stuttering in games. But those rival laptops—and Origin’s own EON15-X—stick to a single display configuration to include G-Sync. In the case of the EVO15S, however, Origin offers the aforementioned 60Hz and 120Hz 1080p screens plus a 4K IPS option. The 120Hz and 4K displays require the GTX 1070 Max-Q, though; you can’t configure them with the GTX 1060.

The GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q powers the 120Hz screen like a champ. Aside from the benchmarks we’ll cover later, I spent many, many hours blasting through Destiny 2 ($60 on Amazon) on this rig and saw buttery-smooth 80-plus frames per second throughout with nary a hitch or tear on the highest graphics settings. Nvidia’s Max-Q variants are severely downclocked compared to their non-Max-Q brethren to fit into such slender laptops. You could think of the GTX 1070 Max-Q in the EVO15-S as almost more of a “GTX 1060 Ti,” but that’s still plenty of power for a laptop like this.

maxq IDG

Nvidia Max-Q GPUs offer you the same memory interface and CUDA cores as non-Max-Q version, but the clock speeds take a big hit depending on the GPU load.

The other hardware proves just as capable. Intel’s Core i7-7700HQ is one of the fastest mobile CPUs you can buy, the tandem of a Samsung 512GB 960 Pro NVME SSD and a 2TB Seagate FireCuda hybrid drive creates both blisteringly fast performance and plenty of capacity, and the 16GB of DDR4 memory is plenty for all but the most strenuous content creation tasks. Heck, gamers could even get by with 8GB of RAM.

In use: Looks good, feels good

We’ve tested a few Max-Q notebooks now, but it’s still amazing that such powerful hardware fits into a laptop this portable. The EVO15-S stands a mere 0.7-inch tall and weighs 4 pounds, 13 ounces. It’s no MacBook Air, but this level of firepower used to be found only in laptops exceeding 8 pounds with incredibly thick bodies—true desktop replacements.

origin evo15s rear Origin PC

Origin PC says the EVO15-S design features “stealth jet-inspired style,” but it’s minimal—some slight edges carved into the aluminum lid, and large vents in the rear that resemble exhausts in both form in function. Overall, Origin skips the aggressively over-the-top “gamer” bling associated with many high-end gaming laptops. The result is a sleek aluminum chassis that looks awfully attractive by my eye. The only nod toward flashiness is a small glowing Origin PC “hurricane” logo at the top of the lid, and even that’s perforated so it doesn’t flare brightly. I dig it.

That lid is pretty thin, and while the EVO15-S hinges do an admirable job overall, there’s a very tiny bit of bounce in the lid when you jostle the laptop. That, in turn, creates a small area of screen rippling in the lower left-hand corner of the display over Windows 10’s Start button and Cortana input field. It’s minor but noticeable outside of gaming applications.

The input design is solid and good, yet unexceptional—a huge relief after suffering through the Acer Predator Triton 700’s dismal above-the-keys touchpad. The keyboard isn’t as divine the glorious mechanical keyboard with per-key RGB lighting found in Acer’s Max-Q laptop, but it’s still comfortable and competent, with plenty of key travel, anti-ghosting for those complicated gaming commands, and customizable RGB backlighting separated into three zones. It even has an all-too-rare number pad!

origin evo15 s keyboard Gordon Mah Ung/IDG

The touchpad lacks backlighting but includes a fingerprint reader for biometric authentication. Again, it’s a solid, unpretentious touchpad that handles well, includes discrete left- and right-click buttons, and is positioned in the right place. The keyboard and touchpad excel at staying out of your way.

The EVO15-S speakers aren’t anything to write home about. They get loud, but crunchy at high volumes, and the audio sounds hollow. They’re laptop speakers, in other words. As always, our advice is to snag a solid gaming headset and gaming mouse if you’re investing in a laptop like this.

origni evo15s power Brad Chacos/IDG

The power button.

Thankfully, Origin listened to complaints about the positioning of the power button in last year’s EVO15-S. That older model put its power button on the right-front edge of the laptop, and reviewers complained about accidentally shutting off the system when picking up the notebook. Now, the EVO15-S power button is centered above the keyboard, just beneath the display.

Unlike most slim laptops, Origin’s PC is positively swimming with ports: Three USB 3.1 connections, a pair of USB 3.1 Type-C ports, an SD card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, Ethernet, and a lock slot. You’ll also find a full-sized HDMI port and dual Mini-Displayports—everything you need to use the EVO15-S as a portable VR station.

The boutique PC builder difference

Boutique PC builders like Origin and Falcon Northwest tend to charge more than the big PC companies, but they offer more than just the ability to configure your computer to your heart’s content. Origin PC delivers a superb out-of-box experience. 

evo15s swag Brad Chacos/IDG

Swag.

The laptop ships in a large black box emblazoned with Origin’s hurricane-like logo. Open it up and you’ll find a veritable bounty inside before you even get to the EVO15-S. Origin includes a well-made oversized gaming mousepad along with a protective cloth laptop sleeve for your gear—both bearing logos, of course. We also found an Origin PC poster and a black Origin PC t-shirt in men’s XL size. More functionally, there’s a box containing driver discs, an instruction manual, a microfiber cloth for cleaning your screen, and a 16GB USB recovery drive so you can flash your Windows installation back to the factory default if needed.

Origin’s care carries over to the software, too. While most big-box PCs come with bundles of bloatware pre-installed, the EVO15-S is blissfully devoid of crap. Beyond icons for Windows 10’s own This PC and Recycle Bin, the only extra clutter you’ll find on the desktop is an “Origin PC ReadMe” PDF that explains how to contact support. If you misplace the ReadMe, you can find Origin’s contact details embedded in Windows 10’s system information page as well. Origin tunes Windows 10’s system theme and the keyboard’s backlighting to match the laptop’s red and black colors out of the box, with an Origin PC wallpaper set on the desktop.

origin evo15s screenshot 2 Brad Chacos/IDG

The ReadMe also directs you to an OriginPC folder in your C: drive. There, you’ll find installers for CPUz and Hardware Monitor, two particularly useful PC applications for gamers, along with an Origin PC Teamviewer link for remote assistance. Handy! Less handy: A link to Webroot security software, which you can thoroughly ignore. Props to Origin for not dropping it on your desktop, though. 

You get free lifetime email and 24/7 phone assistance for the EVO15-S, as well as free lifetime labor if you want to swap out any components, though you’ll need to pay for shipping to Origin’s offices if your warranty is lapsed. Origin’s default warranty offers one year of part replacement protection with free shipping on repairs for 45 days after purchase. You can also buy extended support plans.

origin evo15s screenshot 1 Brad Chacos/IDG

The utility used to customize the EVO15-S keyboard’s RGB backlighting.

All in all, opening the EVO15-S feels like a well thought-out, fully cohesive package—an experience designed to get out of your way and get genuinely useful tools and information in your hand (along with a fair share of Origin branding). I love it.

Next page: Origin EVO15-S performance, bottom line



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