Big gaming notebooks are nothing new to us. At least they weren’t until the Origin EON17-SLX showed up and redefined what “big” really means. And we aren’t just talking about the size of the notebook, or the massive wooden crate it showed up in. It’s big in terms of performance aspirations.
Review Origin EON17-SLX (2016, GeForce GTX 980)
To help understand why this notebook has such a large footprint, first consider that it includes a full-power Intel Core i7-6700K desktop processor, with a 91-watt thermal footprint (a.k.a. thermal design power, or TDP, rating). This top-end “Skylake”/6th-Generation Core processor runs at a blazing 4GHz, and can accelerate (“Turbo Boost,” in Intel’s lingo) to 4.2GHz under the right conditions. Origin even offers overclocking. Contrast that with Intel’s fastest notebook-specific Core i7 processors, spearheaded by the Core i7-6700HQ, which have a 47-watt TDP and run sub-3GHz, with a Turbo Boost that doesn’t even reach the base clock of the Core i7-6700K.
Now, that’s certainly impressive from a raw processing point of view. But it’s certainly not the first time a boutique-PC maker like Origin or Eurocom has stuffed a desktop CPU into a big, big laptop. That’s not what makes the EON17-SLX unique.
Most top-of-the-line gaming notebooks here in early 2016 include a GeForce GTX 970M or GTX 980M graphics processor—and in the most extreme cases, two of them configured in SLI. Despite naming conventions that make them sound similar to their desktop counterparts, the GeForce GTX 970 and GTX 980, they’re still mobile graphics cards, as in, not fully equivalent to the desktop versions they’re based on. (That said, the gap seems to be getting closer with each passing GeForce generation.) The mobile “M” versions have comparatively lesser performance, and they consume less power to fit in the thermal envelope of a notebook chassis. It’s the laws of physics.
The laws of physics got bent a bit when designing the EON17-SLX, though, thanks to Nvidia. Last fall, the chip maker introduced a full-strength version of the GTX 980 that would fit on a laptop MXM card and allow for a full-power GTX 980 graphics processing unit (GPU) in a laptop. Yes, that’s GTX 980 without the “M.”
This “mobile desktop” version of the GTX 980 has the same amount of processing units, the same memory clocks, and the same core clocks as the desktop model. Implemented via MXM module, the circuit board it comes on looks different than a desktop card, but the technical specs are otherwise identical. It is a desktop graphics card, with the same level of performance. A few of the major makers of gaming laptops (among them Asus and MSI) have announced a few elite-level machines that will use this undiluted GeForce GTX 980, among them the wild, liquid-cooled Asus Republic of Gamers GX700. But the first one we have had the opportunity to test is this model from Origin.
Origin also offers the EON17-SLX in configurations with dual-card Nvidia SLI mobile graphics, using pairs of the mobile-grade GeForce GTX 970M or GTX 980M GPUs. And in truth, a pair of GeForce GTX 980M chips in SLI will deliver higher levels of overall performance in games than a single desktop GeForce GTX 980 GPU. So why bother with Nvidia’s “mobile desktop” card?
Despite the fact that SLI has been around for some time, there’s still no guarantee that a given game will support it. (The support may come later in a patch, or it may never come.) In an instance where game-level SLI support isn’t there, or provides only a marginal performance boost, the single-GPU, desktop-grade GeForce GTX 980 will have the upper hand. Of course, there’s also the prestige of having a desktop-class graphics card in your notebook. And this GPU and panel both support G-Sync, for tearing-free rendering of gameplay. (See our primer Smoother-Gaming Showdown: Nvidia G-Sync Versus AMD FreeSync for much more on the technology.)
However, as a $742 upgrade over the base GeForce GTX 970M in the EON17-SLX, the GTX 980, even with G-Sync as a sweetener, could be a tough sell. The GTX 970M is already potent enough for today’s games with details cranked up at the Origin’s 1080p native display resolution. So, we have here a laptop with beastly muscle but, perhaps, an overqualified GPU for the screen it touts. And some considerations when it comes to value for money.
Apart from the desktop processor and graphics card, our EON17-SLX test machine packed 16GB of memory, a 256GB Samsung SSD 950 Pro NVMe M.2 SSD (as cutting-edge as SSDs come these days), and a 1TB hard drive for storage. The base price for the unit was $2,101 as of writing, but the options on our review unit pushed our test model to $3,299.
That’s a lot of change. But you’re also getting a lot of notebook for it.
With the exception of a few 18.4-inch models we’ve tested over the years, the EON17-SLX is about as big as “notebooks” get. This 17.3-inch-screened monster weighs 10.5 pounds, not including its equally massive power adapter, which weighs about four pounds by itself.
Visually, the EON17-SLX is an enormous slab, with its all-black exterior making it even more intimidating. The corners of the chassis are sliced off at an angle for an aggressive look. Our review unit was plain black, but Origin offers custom painting if you’re in need of a little flash.
The chassis is solidly constructed. The build materials are mostly thick plastic. There’s practically no chassis flex, even when applying abnormal pressure to the keyboard deck and wrist-rest area. (Not that we generally recommend doing that to a $3,000-plus laptop.)
The screen is big, so the lid is heavy. Be careful when closing it, as the hinge doesn’t have quite enough resistance in its design to keep the lid open once it gets down to 30 degrees from closing. The lid has a bit more play that we expected, but it protects the display panel well. Unlike on many machines, we couldn’t get ripples to show onscreen by pressing on the back (which—again!—we don’t recommend doing).
The reason why: The lid back is thick aluminum. Origin’s printed-on logo is centered at the top of the lid, and on either side of the logo are light strips in the shape of a “Y” or “T.”
You can set the lid strips to any one of eight basic colors and three levels of brightness via some included software, which you can launch by pressing Function plus the forward-slash key on the number pad. Their lighting action can also be set to pulse, flash, or morph between colors.
The EON17-SLX’s full-size keyboard would normally fill the width of a 15.6-inch notebook’s keyboard deck, but here in this 17-inch chassis it looks like an island in the immense palm-rest area. The middle, left, and right sides of the keyboard are individual backlighting zones. You can set their backlighting to any color you want via the software above.
The keyboard has a great feel, with plenty of tactile feedback, quiet keypresses, and no flex or rattles whatsoever. The key layout is similar to that of a desktop board. The only oddities in the layout are that the arrow-key cluster has been sandwiched into the main keyboard area, and there’s no gap between the main key area and the numeric keypad. This results in the half-size num-pad zero and right-Shift keys, which can trigger a few typos if you’re not careful. The number-pad keys are otherwise full-size.
The appropriately sized touch pad is offset to the left in the palm rest, centered under the space bar. It has a pleasantly smooth matte surface, making it easy to track your fingers across. Unlike most notebooks, the EON17-SLX has a traditional touch-pad setup with two physical buttons, as opposed to a clickable pad. The buttons are quiet when pressed, and have plenty of feedback. Between the buttons is a biometric fingerprint reader.