Often with gaming laptops, portability is something you describe with air quotes. Many are more than an inch thick and weigh an average of 8 to 10 pounds. But the Origin EVO15-S (starts at $2,073; $2,317 as tested) defies that convention. Slim and lightweight, it won’t break your back, but it still packs enough power with a new Intel Kaby Lake processor and VR-capable graphics. Among ultraportable gaming laptops, the EVO15-S delivers class-leading performance and oodles of storage—both compelling reasons to consider this gaming system. But the latest Razer Blade remains our Editors’ Choice pick for its longer battery life, comparable performance, smaller form factor, and sleeker style for a few hundred dollars less.
It’s Actually Portable!
As far as gaming laptops are concerned, the EVO15-S is one of the few that you can tote around with ease. It measures a slim 0.69 by 15 by 9.8 inches (HWD), and weighs a relatively light 4.3 pounds. Of course, that’s not going to impress by traditional ultraportable standards; you can get laptops that are about a half-inch thick or weigh as little as 2 pounds. But this is one of the thinnest you can still game on. It’s lighter and slimmer than the Alienware 13 (0.87 by 13 by 10.6 inches, 5.43 pounds), while featuring a bigger 15.6-inch display. It’s also much more compact than a typical 15-inch gaming laptop. The Acer Predator 15 (G9-593-72VT), for example, is bulkier and heavier at 1.52 by 15.39 by 11.79 inches and 8.26 pounds. Only the Razer Blade (0.7 by 13.6 by 9.3 inches, 4.16 pounds) comes close.
All this to say that the EVO15-S is one of the few systems you can use for everyday work and gaming. This is also reflected in its nondescript design. Unlike the Alienware 13, with its odd angles and light-up extraterrestrial head, the EVO15-S looks like a black corporate laptop. There is a simple Origin logo on the lid, but it doesn’t light up and that’s just fine. Fans of LEDs, decals, and science-fiction-inspired designs might be disappointed, but by default the EVO15-S is aimed at gamers who appreciate the ability to fly under the radar. For a little extra, you can add some pizzazz via a flashier metallic chassis ($199), a theme paint job ($289 to $339), or custom laser etching ($99) or painting (prices vary).
That’s not to say the EVO15-S is completely devoid of personality. The keyboard does feature attractive lighting, which can be customized across three zones and a number of different modes. In addition to the standard Wave and Breathing effects, you can also set the keys to light up in sync with audio—a nice feature if you might otherwise want to keep the light show to a minimum during non-gaming hours. The software, however, is not the most intuitive, and it takes a little fiddling to figure out how to turn off lighting. The application is not particularly easy to find, and sometimes you have to click a bit harder to make sure a change registers. The keys are good for both gaming and typing, though I did experience a minimal amount of flex toward the center of the deck. If you’re a keyboard masher, it might be wise to ease up a bit. The touchpad, which is outlined in chrome, is both responsive and comfortable.
In addition to the 15.6-inch full HD display, Origin has crammed an admirable number of features into the EVO15-S’s chassis. That includes a 2TB 5,400rpm hard drive and a 512GB PCI Express solid-state drive (SSD). Needless to say, that is a lot of storage for such a thin laptop. The Alienware 13 and the Razer Blade come with just single SSDs (the former 512GB, the latter 256GB) and the Asus ROG G752VS-XB78K Overclocked Edition, a 9.92-pound behemoth, has a full terabyte less. Granted, many gaming laptops opt for a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive—which is cheaper than an SSD but faster than a 5,400rpm hard drive, but it’s hard to imagine running out of space with the EVO15-S.
The EVO15-S also has ample port options, for connecting VR headsets and more. On the left side you’ll find a security lock slot, an Ethernet jack, an SD card reader, three USB 3.0 ports, a headset jack, and a microphone jack. The right side houses the power button, a USB 2.0 port, a USB-C port, an HDMI port, a Mini DisplayPort connector, and the power jack. In the top bezel, you also get a full HD 30fps webcam. For connectivity, you have dual-band 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1. Origin covers the laptop with a one-year warranty that includes free return shipping for the first 45 days.
Numbers don’t lie: The EVO15-S is a top performer in its class—and not only for gaming. That’s largely because it has the latest components. Inside, the EVO15-S packs a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, and 16GB of RAM.
The EVO15-S demonstrated strong performance on our 3D and gaming tests among systems equipped with the GTX 1060, though the differences were not so drastic as to position the EVO15-S as the unquestioned leader of the pack. At 1,366-by-768 resolution and with graphics quality set to Medium, it reached 130 frames per second (fps) on Heaven and 90fps on Valley. Cranked up to the Ultra graphics option at native resolution, its frame rates were 67fps on Heaven and 70fps on Valley. That’s better than both the Alienware 13 and the Razer Blade, but only slightly. Both of those laptops were within 10fps of the EVO15-S, and the Acer Predator 15 had a slight edge on Ultra and a significant edge on Medium. For a thinner gaming laptop, these numbers are quite good, and they mean you don’t really have to worry about choppy frame rates. The EVO15-S did distinguish itself more on the 3DMark Cloud Gate and Fire Strike Extreme tests. With top scores of 24,716 points and 5,068 points respectively, it surpassed the Alienware 13 and the Blade, and was not too far behind the HP Omen 17 (25,433 on Cloud Gate, 7,118 on Fire Strike Extreme), which features a more powerful GTX 1070 and is our Editors’ Choice for midrange gaming systems.
One of the main strengths of the EVO15-S is its portability, so it’s a good thing that it’s a winner at productivity tasks, too. Scoring 3,609 points on our PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, the EVO15-S outperformed the Acer Predator 15, the Alienware 13, the Razer Blade, and the HP Omen 17—as it should, considering its newer processor. It’s also top of the heap with multimedia, finishing our Handbrake encoding test in 1 minute, 3 seconds, scoring 739 points on CineBench R15, and rendering 11 Photoshop filters in just 2:58.
All things considered, a lightweight gaming machine with tons of storage that’s also good for everyday tasks is an attractive buy. In theory, it could be the holy grail of a laptop that can handle heavy duty gaming while remaining truly portable. There’s just one snag to this narrative, and that’s the Origin’s less-than-stellar battery life. It only lasted 3 hours, 28 minutes, on our battery rundown test. That’s typical for gaming laptops as a category, but behind rival systems. The Razer Blade clocked in with a phenomenal 7:23—more than double the battery life of the EVO15-S. The Acer Predator 15 (5:16), the Alienware 13 (4:56), and the HP Omen 17 (4:35) all lasted longer, too.
Pricey by Nature
The Origin EVO15-S has a lot going for it: low-key aesthetics, a lightweight yet sturdy build, and excellent performance. But in addition to somewhat disappointing battery life, it’s pricier than most of the competition. The latest Razer Blade has an older 6th-Generation Intel Core processor, but its gaming performance isn’t so far behind that of the EVO15-S, and it can still handle VR (as can the Alienware 13). And for about $500 less, you get more than 7 hours of battery and a sleeker design—major reasons why the Blade remains our Editors’ Choice for ultraportable gaming laptops.