Alienware, Acer, MSI, Asus and Razer all make pretty cool gaming laptops. But a gaming laptop is a compromised device from the outset; it has to have enough graphical and computational power to handle the demands of a modern triple-A PC title like Fallout 4, but still be compact enough to transport around. And it has to have sufficient cooling power to keep those internal components from melting, but still be thin enough to actually fit inside a backpack or briefcase. The latest iteration of Origin PC's EON17-X hits on all these marks pretty damn well.
It's massively, massively powerful. The spec delivered to Gizmodo by Origin used an Intel Core i7-6700K, running at 4GHz and Turbo Boosting up to 4.2GHz under load, with 16GB of Kingston HyperX Impact Black DDR4 RAM running at 2133MHz, with a GeForce GTX 980M for graphics on its 17-inch 1080p G-SYNC display, and two 256GB Samsung SM951 NVMe solid-state drives in RAID 0. This thing is bonkers — an overclockable CPU, twin super-fast SSDs, plenty of fast RAM. And that genuinely does translate into some great performance when you're gaming — enough for smooth, over-60fps game play in Star Wars: Battlefront and enough for the same Fallout 4, basically the only two games I've been excited about in 2015. Because it's a G-SYNC display, too, the EON17-X will handle graphical slowdowns with poise, and so should remain useful for AAA games well into the next couple of years.
You can customise its lid with your own design. There's a reason that skins like dbrand's are so popular — they look cool. Origin has just introduced a custom skin option for some of its laptops that, at a cost of a couple of hundred dollars, lets you choose your own graphics or select one of the company's suggested designs, and have it printed onto the laptop's lid. It's a pretty sturdy transfer process and looks better than any vinyl sticker; it can chip though, and I've noticed it getting a little bit worn towards the edges of the lid in the last month, but it still looks great and is a hell of a lot more interesting than a boring, staid, generic black lid. Other laptops are more refined overall, of course — Origin works with off-the-shelf chassis from Clevo and that means the keyboard and mouse aren't quite up to MSI's SteelSeries quality — but looks are equally important and Origin doesn't disappoint. It's the price you have to pay to get desktop-grade components inside a laptop, for what it's worth.
It's a lot thinner than the old model. Don't get me wrong, it's still a gaming laptop, and it's still chunky, there's no getting away from that no matter how hard you try. It's 3.9kg and 37mm thick; that's no MacBook Air. But considering the gutsy internal components and the great deal of cooling hardware that has to be hidden away inside, 37mm is really pretty skinny, and 4kg is portable, if you're just lugging it out to a LAN party at your neighbour's house. Just don't try to take it from home to work and back every single day of the week, unless you're weight training for Tough Mudder. And last year's model — look at them side by side — was massive by comparison. That's a pretty impressive weight loss program.
It's still pretty damn expensive. The cheapest price at which the Origin EON17-X starts at in Australia is $3399; if you want the customised lid, that's $300 more. The basic spec is gutsy with a GTX 970M and a desktop-spec Core i5-6400 at 2.7-3.3GHz; as tested, though, with that pair of Samsung SSDs and G-SYNC display and GTX 980M graphics card, it's nudging over $5000. That's a lot of money, even for a machine that's future-proofed for a couple of years at least, with the specialisation of being a compact all-in-one gaming machine. It's up to you whether you want to make that investment, and just how crazy you want your gaming laptop to be — whether it's your only machine, probably powering an external monitor, or whether it's just a more portable backup of your regular desktop gaming tower.
If you want good graphics, it should be your go-to. The combo of fast processor, plenty of RAM and fast storage aside, internal graphics is the key benchmark for a gaming laptop. And, I'm confident in saying this, 2015 is the first year where I've been able to say that the combo of GTX 980M plus G-SYNC does absolutely pay off; if you're running games at the EON17-X's default native 1080p resolution, you'll get smooth gameplay and no noticeable slowdowns; even if frames drop, G-SYNC keeps things smooth. If you want to get even more expensive and off the chain, though, Origin's chunkier chassis is now reinvigorated as the EON17-SLX, with twin Nvidia GTX 980M graphics cards in SLI or a single desktop-grade GTX 980. That, my friends, is overkill.
Origin PC sells the EON17-X exclusively online in Australia. If you're prepared to drop a giant stack of pennies for one, you'll even get it before Christmas if you order really, really soon.