As an IT professional at heart, I always tell people to build their own PCs if at all possible. The parts are often cheaper, it's not that hard to do, and with the right amount of thrift, you can spend nearly the same amount of money on a semi high-end PC as a comparable current-gen gaming console.
But for a lot of people out there building a machine isn't an option. So basically, your choice is to go with a high-end manufacturer and pay the price, but as the years have gone by said choices have gotten better and better. For instance, I had the chance to test out an Origin laptop for some time and came away extremely impressed.
A gaming laptop is often a pricey investment, but it can pay off if you're always on the go. The prospect of playing anything while traveling, and the ease of use in terms of hooking it up to any TV in any room or floor of your house is tempting depending on your lifestyle. I usually tend to buy top-end PCs and lower-end laptops, but after testing out the Origin EON17-S I'm considering making the investment in the future.
I had two weeks total to test out the Origin EON17-S, and I was initially intrigued by the manufacturer. I've heard good things about Origin, and from the hardened crate packaging that arrived to ensure that the laptop wouldn't break in transit, to the comprehensive QA paper that came with the unit, I was impressed. I also gave the 24/7 support line a try and came away satisfied.
The laptop itself has a good build, and it's just about perfect in terms of weight. It's not light by any means, but most people could pick it up and lug it around without issue. The signature Origin logo on the back is minimal, and the indents in the back cover help the laptop stand out a bit without being too abrasive. For the price I would have liked to have seen a packaged laptop bag, but it does come with a soft plastic cover that fits over it when its closed.
In terms of overall usability the keyboard feels great, and the keys have this matte feel to them that makes typing very smooth. The "0" key on the numpad is a bit odd since the arrow key overlaps into the numpad, but you can customize the keyboard depending on the model. The trackpad is solid and easy to move around, but also easy to accidentally touch with your palm.
Thankfully you can customize the pad itself, use gestures, and use the tap functions if you aren't keen on pressing the left or right click buttons below the pad. It also comes standard with a biometric fingerprint reader by way of Bioexcess software (it's right below the trackpad, and it registered my prints perfectly).
There's two USB 3.0 ports on the left side, and another on the right. For the base price, I would have liked to have seen more, as well as a Blu-Ray disc drive without an upgrade (the standard is DVD+/-RW). I've had no problems with the Wi-Fi Link 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN w/ Bluetooth -- unlike some other laptops I've used, I've had zero drops with my Wi-Fi connection.
The EON17-S is mostly quiet, exhibiting a really soft purr, but if you start to demand more from it the fans kick in -- even then it's not too loud. The power brick is roughly the size of an Xbox 360's, and the cable could stand to be a bit longer. It plugs in directly from the back (as does an HDMI cable), which can be awkward depending on your setup since you typically need to close the lid to plug it back in. Based on my tests the claim of 360 minutes of battery life is accurate -- this is something you're going to want to keep plugged in.
During spot tests, I found perfect 60fps minimum results on WildStar, Final Fantasy XIV, Watch Dogs, and every other game I tested on the highest visual setting. The 1920 x 1080 17.3" LED Backlit Matte screen is stunning, and large enough on this model to essentially function as a TV. In fact, I found myself setting it up and using it as a second screen often. I think it's the perfect size where it's not so large that it's not portable, but large enough to want to game on it.
To trump anecdotal evidence, I ran the latest version of 3DMark to see what it could really do. The most intensive test designed for high-end PCs kept a consistent 30fps on the extreme setting. It blew the notebook test out of the water though, running 160fps on test one, and 150fps on test two, with the GPU temperature peaking at 72 degrees centigrade. Overall it scored an impressive 83 percentile rating, which more than doubled the average gaming laptop.
During my tests, I found that the on-board speakers are better than your average laptop, pumping out a decent amount of bass when you're just running it off the machine, and the sound bars below the display are also a nice touch. Sound Blaster XFi audio support also ensures great HDMI out support, which worked perfectly during all my TV tests. So if you forget your headphones or your speakers, you should be okay for the most part.
Look, it goes without saying that gaming laptops are often niche products and luxury items that have a finite relevancy. For the most part, you're going to want to go with a fully customizable desktop PC, so you can easily interchange the motherboard, processor, and graphics card at will, future-proofing you for years to come. But for those of you who are actively looking for a high-end laptop, Origin should be on your list of companies to check out while you comparison shop.