Nvidia’s new GTX 980M graphics chip has taken mobile gaming by storm with its excellent efficiency and performance. Our review showed it’s over 30 percent quicker than the preceding GTX 880M in most games, and it comes surprisingly close to the GTX 980 desktop video card. We can’t remember the last time a new GPU so clearly dominated its predecessor.
If one GTX 980M is good, two must be incredible, right? That’s the logic behind Origin’s EON17-SLX, a huge laptop that bundles twin GPUs alongside an Intel Core i7-4940MX quad-core processor and 16GB of DDR3 RAM. A look at the specifications is sure to make any gamer drool with desire.
In the past, though, dual-GPU laptops have proven expense, loud and hot, traits that make them impractical for most buyers. Origin’s new EON17-SLX is certainly pricey, starting at $2,000 for the base model and running up to $4,500 as tested, but improvements in efficiency may help this laptop keep its cool. Let’s put it to the test.
Hands on video
The incredible bulk
Origin’s EON17-SLX is not designed with travel in mind, and it shows. The system is about two inches thick, weighs over ten pounds and is over sixteen inches wide. We haven’t tested a laptop this large since the last EON17-SLX arrived in late 2012.
Origin’s EON17-SLX is not designed with travel in mind, and it shows.
The system’s not much to look at, either. Origin, like most its competitors, has settled on black as the default color. Little is done to break up this monotony, though some LED lights shine near the rear of the system when it’s on or charging. The company logo on the back of the display lights up, as well.
What the EON17-SLX lacks in attractiveness it makes up for with functionality. Four USB 3.0 ports are available along a single eSATA/USB combo port. A total of four jacks provide audio output while video is handled through HDMI 1.4a and Thunderbolt. Ethernet, and SD card and a Blu-ray optical drive round out the physical options. All models come with 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi standard and Bluetooth; our review unit had a $30 upgrade to 802.11ac.
That’s a keyboard, alright
Our hands found no shortage of space while using the EON17-SLX. The large display and bulky footprint translates to a big interior with a full-size keyboard and numpad. A few keys, like right-side Shift, are smaller than normal because of where the arrow keys are located, but that’s a very minor complaint.
We were less satisfied with key feel. Typing quickly revealed a spongy nature to key activation that made deciding when a key was registered difficult. Touch typists may find quick work a chore.
Backlighting is standard and controlled via a combination of keyboard shortcuts and bundled software. There are four distinct lighting zones, each of which can be customized for brightness, color and pattern. The strobe pattern is a gimmick, but the multitude of colors isn’t. Owners can adjust to backlight to exactly the level they find most comfortable.
The touchpad has a backlit logo, too, which helps users find where to place their fingers. That’s the most positive thing we can say of it, though, as the reasonably large surface wasn’t sensitive enough by default. The left and right buttons are part of an awkward rocker switch with a significant dead-zone in the middle. Gamers usually connect a mouse to play, but they’ll want to bring one for everyday tasks as well.
Matte packs a punch
Origin ships every EON17-SLX with a 1080p matte display. While full HD is longer cutting-edge, we were generally satisfied with the sharpness of the panel. 1080p on a 17.3-inch display translates to 127 pixels per inch. That’s about 20 PPI higher than a 27-inch 1440p monitor and only 30PPI less than a 28-inch 4K monitor.
Quality was strong. Our test equipment found the Origin can render 96 percent of the sRGB gamut and 71 percent of AdobeRGB with a contrast ratio of 640:1. These numbers basically tie the Asus G751 and beat the latest Alienware 17.
The customizable keyboard backlight can be adjusted for color and brightness across four different “zones.”
We also measured an average color difference of deltaE 1.5, the lowest result we’ve seen from a laptop this year. That figure is a tad misleading, though, because all the error was concentrated in Cyan and images look a bit cool and clinical as a result. Gamma came in at 1.7, as well, which is way off the ideal of 2.2.
What all this means in reality depends on the content viewed. Well-lit HD video looked excellent but the gamma problem was obvious in dark scenes, which sometimes looked washed-out. Games follow the same pattern; the colorful League of Legends looked great, but dark hallways in the intro to Battlefield 4 sometimes lacked depth and detail. Taken as a whole, though, the display holds its own against the competition.
The same can be said of the built-in speakers. Audio was clear, strong and bassy when volume is set between 25 and 80, but distortion became more noticeable as volume reaches its mediocre maximum. Quality was better than most laptops on the market, but gamers are more discerning than the average consumer. We think most will want to augment the EON17-SLX with external speakers or headphones.
Strong CPU, heroic GPU
Our tricked-out review unit arrived with Intel’s Core i7-4940MX processor, a quad-core chip with a base clock of 3.1GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost of 4GHz. How’d this monster fair?
On paper the EON17-SLX is the quickest laptop we’ve reviewed, beating the older EON17-S that had a Core i7-4930MX. In SiSoft, though, the new model came in slightly behind its cousin. That isn’t a huge surprise. The old 4930MX had a maximum Turbo Boost of 3.9GHz, so even the slightest thermal throttling could diminish the 4940MX’s tiny advantage.
The gap grew larger in 7-Zip’s compression benchmark. The EON17-S hit a score of 21,857 in that test, but the EON17-SLX only managed 18,241. The Asus G751JY exceeded it, as well, with its score of 18,873.
In Geekbench, though, the Asus fell behind with a single-core score of 3,140. That’s far lower than the EON17-SLX’s score of 3,428.
While the processor didn’t exceed our expectations, we were caught off-guard by the pair of Samsung 840 EVO SSDs that Origin shipped in a RAID0 configuration. HDTune recorded an average read speed of 1,022 megabytes per second with bursts of up to 3,127Mbps. That’s absolutely destroys the ASUS G751JY, which had a single SSD that managed up to 609Mbps and held the storage performance record for laptops.
The EON17-SLX can also equip mechanical drives. Our review unit came with a single one terabyte unit from Seagate that managed an average read speed of 116Mbps. While that’s slower than the SSDs by an order of magnitude, it’s reasonably quick for a big, inexpensive hard drive.
Now we come to the real star of the show: twin GTX 980Ms. To see how they stack up we threw them into 3DMark. The results were impressive.
You’d better hold on to your breeches, ’cause the EON17-SLX will give you a wild ride. In Fire Strike the dual GTX 980Ms came very close to doubling the single GTX 980M found in the Asus G751JY. These results also whooped the lone GTX 980 desktop video card, which scored 9,513 in our review.
Benchmarks are well and good, but the games are what really matters. To test the Origin EON17-SLX we loaded our usual test suite and played all three titles at 1080p.
Total War: Rome II
This demanding strategy game ran at an average of 81 frames per second, with a maximum of 95 and minimum of 61, when we set detail to medium. This performance slightly exceeds the Asus G751JY, which averaged 77 FPS.
Turning detail up to extreme, the highest preset, reduced the average to 61 FPS. The maximum was 74 and the minimum was 59. This again exceeds the single-GPU Asus, which hit an average of 58 FPS.
DICE’s demanding first-person shooter was no sweat for the Origin EON17-SLX. It managed 145 FPS at medium with a maximum of 170 and minimum of 105. That decreased only slightly at ultra detail, where we recorded an average of 123 FPS. The minimum was 138 and the maximum was 78.
Battlefield 4 at ultra, its highest preset, really highlights this laptop’s power. Its average of 123 FPS is 40 FPS greater than the Asus G751JY with a single GTX 980M.
League of Legends
This popular free-to-play game predictably offered little challenge for the EON17-SLX. At medium detail it scored an average of 269 FPS with a maximum of 340 and minimum of 206. Upping the setting to very high decreased the average to 180 FPS with a maximum of 247 and minimum of 129. What this all means, of course, is extremely smooth gameplay with every detail turned on.
Lugging a brick
Talking about this laptop’s portability is like arguing how easy an eighteen-wheeler is to parallel park. The verdict doesn’t matter; it’s still going to suck. Origin’s EON17-SLX is thicker than most college textbooks and too large to fit in an average backpack. Only plus-size bags built for big laptops will accommodate it.
In a sense, then, this is less a laptop and more for a portable desktop. Origin’s monster is for people who travel but don’t need to use their laptop while traveling. It’s for gamers who go to LAN parties. And it’s for anyone who desires the power of a gaming desktop without a huge, 40-pound tower.
It’s not for anyone who expects to spend much time away from a power socket. We recorded two hours and two minutes of battery life in the Peacekeeper web browsing benchmark with display brightness normalized at 100 lux. That’s the worst result we’ve seen this year.
At a whopping 89 watt-hours, you can’t blame the enormous battery. It’s just a thirsty machine. We recorded 86.3 watts of draw at idle with the display set to maximum brightness and up to 320 watts while gaming. The idle result is higher than the AVADirect Z97 Quiet Gaming desktop or the Falcon Northwest Talon. At load the EON17-SLX draws slightly less power than either, but the difference is only 40 watts. The Asus G751, which has a single GTX 980M, sucks down almost 140 watts less at load.
More power, more noise
The Asus G751 we recently reviewed used the GTX 980M’s efficiency to craft a refreshingly quiet computer. Origin’s EON17-SLX, packing two of the same chips, unfortunately doesn’t do the same.
Discussing this laptop’s portability is like arguing how easy an eighteen-wheeler is to parallel park.
At idle we recorded 44.3 decibels of noise: more than most desktops. Gaming increased noise to 46.1dB, which is a tolerable number in line with competitors like the Alienware 17. The Asus G751, however, emitted only 38.4dB at load.
The cooling system does its job. External temperatures rarely exceeded 80 degrees Fahrenheit at idle and hit a maximum of 88 degrees at full processor load. Gaming ramped heat up to 101 degrees, which is a bit high but not unreasonable. The Asus G751 and Alienware 17 ran up to ten degrees cooler in games but other systems, like the AVADirect Clevo P157SM, flirt with the 100-degree mark.
All EON17-SLX systems ship with a one-year warranty that offers 45 days of free shipping in the event a repair is needed. Labor costs and lifetime 24/7 phone support are covered. Buyers can upgrade the warranty to two years for $169 or three years for $269.
This is roughly comparable to the competition on the whole, though some offer free shipping for the entirety of the first year. Alienware offers one year of in-home service for $100, but its two-year warranty is $90 more than Origin’s and its three-year warranty is $130 more.
Conclusion: Performance over practicality
Earlier this year Origin stopped using off-the-shelf enclosures for its desktops and opted for a custom solution. The results have been excellent. The company’s desktops are among the most cohesive available and provide outstanding performance without an outrageous price tag.
Its laptops, however, haven’t received the same treatment. Like many custom builders, Origin buys notebooks from manufacturers in Asia and tweaks them to meet its needs. That’s why the EON17-SLX offers outstanding performance but doesn’t look as nice as its $4,500 price tag might suggest.
This laptop is a great choice for buyers who want desktop-caliber performance but for some reason can’t affordable an actual desktop. That’s a niche, though, and its flaws can make this Origin difficult to live with on a day-to-day basis.
- Solid 1080p display
- Performance exceeds some desktops
- Ridiculously quick SSDs
- Boring looks
- Touchpad could be better
- Mediocre speakers
- Not remotely portable
- Runs loud at idle