Just a few weeks ago we reviewed the AVADirect Clevo W230ST, a white-label gaming ultraportable designed to provide excellent performance in a small package. As mentioned in that review, small boutique PC manufacturers often pick up such bare-bone laptops, tweak or modify them, and then resell them as their own models. Such is the case with the Origin EON 13-S, a W230ST with a brand name slapped on its lid.
The Eon 13-S is perfect for two things; playing games, and emptying your wallet.
These improvements provide are an obvious boon, but they also drive up the price. A basic Origin EON 13-S is $1,296, slightly more than AVADirect’s version, and upgrading to the hardware found in our review unit sets the MSRP at a stiff $2,030. That’s a lot more – can the EON 13-S justify the price?
Origin hasn’t made a significant effort to define the EON 13-S from the white-label laptop it’s based on. In fact, other than the Origin logo on the lid, this system is identical to AVADirect model; everything from color to label placement is the same. Origin also does not offer the customization options available on the larger EON 15-S and 17-S.
This is particularly disappointing because the 13-S is a rather boring system. The silver plastic interior and matte black lid won’t make anyone’s heart skip a beat, while the thick chassis gives the impression the laptop should have been sold three years ago. Gaming laptops are generally thicker than others, of course, but competitors like the Razer Blade and Alienware M14x are aesthetically superior.
Build quality is better than it looks, thanks to thick plastics and a pleasing soft-touch finish to lid. The chassis is stiff as a board, as well, even when handled roughly, an advantage not all gaming laptops can tout.
The flanks of the 13-S contain four USB ports, three of them 3.0, as well as HDMI, VGA, Ethernet and individual headphone/microphone jacks. This is a solid selection of connectivity for a 13-inch laptop, and great for a modern system; current competitors of similar size often have just two USB 3.0 ports and will rely on HDMI alone for video-out. The USB ports are placed on the right side, however, which means devices connected to them could conflict with an external mouse.
A good set of keys
While the Eon 13-S’s thick chassis isn’t beautiful, it does work wonders for the keyboard. The laptop’s ample space is used to provide a wide, broad layout with full-sized keys that have good travel and tactile feel. A narrow palmrest is the only problem, and users with large hands may find the edge of their palm hanging off the front of the laptop.
LED backlighting is standard and suffers from only moderate backlight bleed. Unlike the AVADirect version of this system, the Eon 13-S does not show uneven bleed from a handful of keys. This may just be the result of variances in manufacturing, or it may be that Origin looks over its laptops more closely; we can’t say for sure after seeing just two systems. There’s no option to change LED color from the default white and only two brightness settings, a disappointment compared to the multi-colored keyboards available in MSI and Alienware systems.
Touchpad quality is a sore point, as the surface is much smaller than most 13-inch systems and poorly defined from the surrounding palmrest. Discrete left and right buttons are provided, but they have a cheap feel and don’t provide much travel. These problems are even more noticeable on the Eon 13-S because it ships with Windows 8, which has new multi-touch gestures. Accidentally triggering them is easy because there’s not enough space to use the touchpad normally without entering the gesture’s zone of activation.
Great display, terrible speakers
The Eon-13’s display is the same as that found on the AVADirect Clevo W230ST, and that’s great, because it’s a nearly flawless panel that can render 92 percent of sRGB, handle 1080p resolution, and provide a contrast ratio of 710:1. All of this comes along with a semi-gloss finish and incredible maximum brightness of 320 lux, which means the Eon 13-S can be used even in bright rooms or outdoors.
These numbers translate to outstanding image quality that shows games and movies at their best. Colors have punch and depth while dark scenes boast significant shadow detail and can reach a level of black that’s convincingly inky, rather than the hazy gray that plagues lesser displays. While the 1080p, 13-inch panel does cause some text to appear small, Windows 8’s improved scaling helps reduce the issue’s impact. Only legacy software designed for use with 720p resolution (or lower) can pose a problem.
Unfortunately, the excellent display is supported by a set of terrible speakers. Almost no bass is delivered, which means audio often sounds weak and tinny, yet there’s still some distortion at high volume. This is most apparent when explosions or bass-heavy music plays alongside dialogue. External speakers or headphones are mandatory.
No road warrior
Though it packs a 13-inch display, the Eon 13-S’s 4.6 pound weight and 1.3 inch thick profile make it no easier to carry than a typical 15-inch laptop. Whether the Eon qualifies as portable depends on perspective. Relative to an Alienware M14x or a 15-inch ASUS G-Series, the Eon 13-S is slim. Place it next to a Razer Blade, however, and it looks like it ate all the pies.
Size concerns are ultimately irrelevant, however, because the battery isn’t up to serious travel. In our testing we found it returned only 4 hours and 12 minutes of life during our light-load test, which was reduced to 3 hours and 36 minutes in the Peacekeeper Web-browsing benchmark. These are poor results for any laptop boasting a fourth-gen Intel Core processor, and inadequate for real travel, as even a short flight will test this Eon’s endurance.
Power testing revealed the reason for poor battery life: high power draw. At idle the system consumers 25 watts with the display at maximum brightness, a figure that runs as high as 91 watts at load. That’s a lot, but not unusual for a gaming laptop, and slightly less than the AVADirect Clevo W230ST.
Flexing its performance
The Origin Eon 13-S comes standard with a Core i5 processor, but our review unit was upgraded to a Core i7-4900MQ. This quad-core posted strong results in our compute benchmarks, scoring 108.6 GOPS in SiSoft Sandra’s Processor Arithmetic benchmark and 19,506 MIPs in the 7-Zip compression test. These numbers virtually tie the Asus G750, which scored 107.84 GOPs and 19,634 MIPs, and beat both the Razer Blade and AVADirect Clevo W230ST in the configurations we reviewed.
Origin’s Eon 13-S is, in many ways, an excellent gaming laptop. There’s just one big, fat, massive problem; price.
Synthetic game testing through 3DMark returned good results with a Cloud Gate score of 12,843 and a Fire Strike score of 2,533. Both figures beat the Razer Blade and AVADirect Clevo W230ST, but the larger Asus G750 is noticeably quicker, scoring 14,765 and 3,353, respectively.
That may not matter, however, because the Eon 13-S is more than capable of handling modern games. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim ran at its V-sync maximum of 60 FPS during our ultra-high quality test loop, while Deus Ex: Human Revolution was enjoyable at an average of 54 FPS with all settings turned to maximum. Even Total War: Rome II, a notoriously demanding strategy title, managed a perfectly playable average of 40 FPS on the campaign map under the Ultra preset.
A portable jet turbine
The Origin Eon 13-S, unlike its AVADirect cousin, dishes out fan speed conservatively. At idle, and during most normal usage, the fan is usually happy to spin at its lowest setting. This generates just 40.4 decibels of noise and keeps external temperatures from exceeding 93.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
At load, however, the fan aggressively ramps up to maximum speed and doesn’t stop until the system is back at an idle state. This generates an annoying 50.4 decibels of fan noise, one of the highest results we’ve recorded for a laptop over the last year. An Asus G750, by contrast, only reaches 45.7 dB at full load.
External temperatures, however, never exceed the idle maximum of 93.5 degrees Fahrenheit, not even during a full-load graphical stress test. While we’re happy to see heat kept to a minimum, this result suggests the cooling system does not need to be as aggressive as it is. We think a warmer, quieter laptop would be a better compromise.
Origin’s Eon 13-S is, in many ways, an excellent gaming laptop. There’s plenty of performance on tap for modern games, even at maximum detail, and the high-quality display makes media look its best. At the same time, though, the laptop remains enjoyable to use on as any everyday basis because of its pleasing keyboard and high maximum display brightness. Origin actually sells a version of this laptop as a portable workstation, and it’s easy to see why.
There’s just one big, fat, massive problem; price. Our review unit’s MSRP of $2,030 is a lot to ask for a white-label laptop with an Nvidia GTX 765M graphics chip. Alienware’s M14x can be had with almost identical hardware for less than $1,800 and the AVADirect version of this laptop goes for $1,750 when upgraded to the same processor (the version we reviewed, which had a slower quad-core and eight gigabytes of RAM, was just under $1,200). Even the Razer Blade, which is a bit slower but also far more portable, starts at $1,799.
What does the extra money Origin asks provide? Not much. The Eon 13-S has the same meager one-year warranty offered by competitors and isn’t bundled with any games or other value-added features. The only significant boon is Origin’s 24/7 support, a helpful hand that competitors can’t match. But is it worth hundreds of dollars? We don’t think so.
- Small for a gaming laptop
- Good keyboard
- Excellent 1080p display
- Great performance in games
- Dull exterior
- Terrible touchpad
- Harsh speakers
- Loud at load
- Poor value