The Origin EVO15-S (starting at $1,739; $2,515 as reviewed) is a well-designed, no-nonsense gaming laptop that delivers smooth gameplay and beautiful graphics, all wrapped up in a smart interface. Having used the laptop as my primary gaming system for about a week, there's only one criticism I can level at it -- but it's a fairly major one: The Origin EVO15-S has slightly weaker performance, weighs more and lasts a shorter time on a charge than comparable, similarly priced systems.
Even so, the Origin EVO15-S does have its charms. If you pick up this system, you'll get an elegant chassis, a clean Windows installation and a solid gaming experience. But there's nothing it does that its competitors don't do better -- that is, unless you want to customize every last detail about the machine. Like most Origin PCs, the EVO15-S lets you choose just about any part you want, and you can build something almost exactly to your taste, provided you've got the money to spend.
In an era of overdesigned gaming laptops, where sharp angles and aggressive color schemes take the place of good taste, the EVO15-S is a breath of fresh air. The lid has an Origin logo and two subtle curves; the inside has a few bumps and curves around the bezel, but nothing distracting. (The keyboard is a glaring red by default, but because you can change that easily, I'm not inclined to complain too much.)
Otherwise, everything is a plain, black plastic that doesn't attract too many fingerprints. You could fire this up at an airport without getting too many stares. (And yes, I did test this theory firsthand.) There are some vents on the back and underside of the chassis, but there's nothing to draw your attention except for a tasteful little spiral of lights within the O-shaped logo.
As high-end gaming laptops go, the EVO15-S is admirably thin and light. At 14.9 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches, it's remarkably similar to competitors like the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (15.1 x 10.3 x 0.7 inches), the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin (14.1 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches) and the Razer Blade 15 (14.0 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches).
The EVO15-S weighs 5.01 pounds, which is more than the 4.1-pound GS65 Stealth Thin or the 4.5-pound Razer Blade 15. But considering the Origin's screen is a bit bigger, that's to be expected. The EVO15-S is a little lighter than the Zephyrus M GM501 (5.5 pounds), and from personal experience, it's not too much of a strain to carry around for a few hours.
In terms of ports, the EVO15-S is fairly generous. The right side of the laptop features a mic jack, a headphone jack, a USB port, an SD card reader, an Ethernet port and a spot for a physical lock.
The left side is where you'll find a power jack, an HDMI port, two mini DisplayPorts, two USB-C connections and two more USB ports.
The power jack is right in the middle of the left side rather than toward the back, but this is more of an aesthetic concern than a practical one.
One of the potential reasons to invest in an Origin instead of another brand is just how much stuff you can customize. In addition to choosing your preferred parts and manipulating tech specs, you have a lot of leeway in how the EVO15-S looks.
By default, the EVO15-S has the black chassis described above. For an extra $150, though, you can give it a (fairly garish) fractal design in a variety of colors. An extra $200 will net you a metallic sheen in any color you choose, $250 will get you an elaborate carbon-fiber print and $290 will get you flames or claw marks, if you want to channel your inner 15-year-old's math notebook doodles.
Perhaps the most intriguing option is an extra $100 for a custom laser etching or paint job, but you might want to make sure you have a solid grasp on graphic design first. Using this option, you provide your own images and let Origin take care of the rest, but the final product will only look as good as what you can produce.
In terms of performance, the options range from the cheap-and-skippable (a $30 color-calibration service) to the expensive-but-potentially-worthwhile ($1,570 for a 4TB SSD). To get the best processor (Intel Core i7-8750H), the best GPU (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070) and the most memory (32GB of RAM), you're looking at an extra $481, which is already a pretty significant percentage of the overall price.
The Origin EVO15-S packs a 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 matte screen with a 144-Hz refresh rate. While this puts it on equal footing with most of its competitors, it's still a bit disappointing that the display maxes out at full HD. A 15-inch screen might not really require a 4K option, but no matter which configuration of the EVO15-S you get, it will come with a graphics card that's more than capable of producing impressive quad-HD graphics.
Although the Origin's screen generally looked good, whether I was binging a Netflix show or building up a base in StarCraft: Remastered, the system doesn't quite measure up to most other laptops in the same category.
The display's 248.6 nits of brightness falls short of the 281-nit category average, as did its 125.9 percent of the color gamut (the average is 133.6 percent). However, the EVO15-S outperformed every close competitor in terms of gamut, save for the MSI GS565 Stealth Thin, which achieved an impressive 150 percent.
The EVO15-S acquitted itself well in terms of color accuracy, too, scoring 0.43 against a category average of 0.92, where lower numbers are better. However, both the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 and the Razer Blade 15 scored better, with 0.39 and 0.25, respectively. Only the GS65 Stealth Thin scored worse, with a surprisingly high 1.49.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The EVO15-S features a keyboard with a complete number pad, which is by no means guaranteed on a 15-inch laptop. This is a tremendous boon for productivity users, although you can squeeze a few gaming applications in there as well, for titles that don't rely too heavily on a mouse. With a key travel of 1.8 millimeters and a required actuation force of 61 grams, the keys require only a light touch, even though you can't press them too far without bottoming out. You can control media with Fn key shortcuts.
I found two flaws on the keyboard layout -- both obnoxious, neither catastrophic. The Caps Lock key is a bit shorter than it is on a full-size keyboard, and as such, I hit it a lot more often than I meant to. I'd often reach for the Shift key and then find that I'd inadvertently written half a sentence like a teenager breathlessly describing a Jimmy Eat World concert on a Xanga page somewhere.
Speaking of Shift keys, the left Shift is quite short, probably to accommodate the arrow keys. I'd often hit Enter to start a new line and then reach down to create a capital letter, only to find myself inserting a lowercase letter in the previous line. Both of these issues will probably go away with enough use, but the keyboard is by no means perfect.
One interesting feature of the EVO15-S' keyboard is that you can set up three distinct lighting zones with the simple Control Center 2.0 software. It's hardly as robust as the RGB lighting you'd find on many premium gaming laptops, but your keys don't have to be red all the time, which is a plus. You can even set the colors to cycle or breathe, although most effects happen so quickly that they're distracting rather than charming.
The 4.2 x 2.4-inch touchpad is responsive and accurate, and there's plenty of room for all but the fattest fingers to maneuver. There's a fingerprint reader in the upper-left corner, which makes sense from a design perspective but limits how much you can scroll.
Although you can opt for some pretty fancy audio cards when you customize the machine, the EVO15-S comes with integrated Sound Blaster tech by default. It's just OK.
The internal speakers have very little bass or definition; I could barely make out the bass line during songs from Old Crow Medicine Show or Flogging Molly, and the choir in Handel's Messiah sounded like a mishmash. But the audio does get decently loud, and I had no trouble parsing dialogue in episodes of Star Trek or sound effects in StarCraft: Remastered.
Once you connect a pair of headphones, at least, the sound quality can get pretty good. The same music, dialogue and sound effects sounded much more defined with a quality pair of Sennheiser headphones than with the muddy-sounding speakers. But there's no real way to tweak the audio options, and the PC was sometimes a little hesitant to recognize a pair of headphones if I plugged them in during the middle of a song.
The mic works fine. My co-workers could hear me during video calls, with only a bit of fuzz around my voice. I wouldn't stream or podcast with it, but if you just need to shout a few frenzied commands during Overwatch, you probably won't need to invest in a separate mic or headset.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
Our EVO15-S model packed a very powerful Nvidia GeForce 1070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of memory. This allowed me to crank everything from Overwatch to The Witcher 3 up to max or near-max settings and still score somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 frames per second. (Your mileage may vary on a quad-HD or 4K monitor; there will always be a trade-off between performance and resolution.)
Against the competition, though, the machine once again didn't quite live up to expectations. We put the EVO15-S through its paces with benchmarks from a variety of demanding games, at high or very high graphical settings, and it fell short of the category average each time.
Running Hitman, the EVO15-S reached 821.7 fps against an average of 86.4 fps. Metro: Last Light ran at 53 fps (average: 63.4 fps),; Grand Theft Auto V ran at 64.0 fps (average: 77.0 fps) and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War reached 69 fps (average: 90 fps).
It's worth pointing out, however, that while the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 hit 88 fps for Hitman, 66 fps for Metro and 70 fps for GTAV, the other comparable machines didn't score much better than the EVO15-S. Even so, the EVO15-S missed the mark by at least a few frames per second in almost every test; of the group, only the Razer Blade 15 had shakier stats.
With a score of 9.3 out of 11 on the SteamVR Performance Test, the EVO15-S performed similarly to the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin but fell short of the category average (10.2) as well as the Zephyrus M GM501 (10.9) and the Razer Blade 15 (10).
Thanks to the EVO15-S' Intel Core i7-870H, 2.20-GHz processor and 16GB of RAM, only the most demanding games will throw it for a loop. At one point, I had about a dozen tabs open in Chrome, including Netflix and YouTube, with Microsoft Office, Spotify, Steam and the Battle.net client running in the background. The computer got a little hot, but there was no discernible slowdown.
In terms of overall functionality, the EVO15-S did quite well in synthetic tests. On Geekbench 4.1, which evaluates a system's overall prowess, the laptop earned a score of 20,472. That beats the category average of 20,281 by a small margin, as well as the 18,046 from the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin and the 20,256 from the Razer Blade 15. Only the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 did better, with 21,735.
Other metrics were mixed. The system took 12 minutes and 57 seconds to transcode a 4K video in HandBrake, which falls far short of the 9:51 category average as well as all of its close competitors.
The Origin just barely beat the 44-second average to match names with addresses in an Excel spreadsheet, but it achieved a transfer rate of 462 Mbps when copying a 4.7GB mixed media file. That's slower than the 490 Mbps average. (To be fair, only the Zephyrus M GM501 beat the average in this category.)
The EVO15-S can probably handle whatever day-to-day tasks you throw at it, but it's hard to shake the feeling that it's falling just a bit short of its potential.
If there's one area where the EVO15-S doesn't really deliver, it's battery life. Granted, no one expects a gaming laptop to provide a dozen hours of untethered power, but the EVO15-S' 2 hours and 22 minutes of runtime on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (surfing the web constantly at 100 nits of brightness) doesn't even come close to the category average (3:27).
With a runtime of 2:47, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 managed to edge out the Origin. The MSI GS65 Stealth Thin got 5:40, and the Razer Blade 15 survived for 5:54. Keep the Origin plugged in, or else you'll have no one to blame but yourself when it goes dead during an important Overwatch match.
The 1080p webcam built into the EVO15-S is pretty good. Located front and center in the top of the lid, the webcam rendered my face and surroundings in sharp detail, giving my blue shirt a lifelike color and the surrounding kitchen realistic reds and browns.
My only quibble with it is that it's highly sensitive to bright lights, and if you sit with your back to a window, you're just asking for your face to get washed out. Still, I can't imagine a gaming laptop needing anything more elaborate than this.
Whatever you do, don't keep the Origin in your lap for too long. When we tested the machine's temperature while streaming video files, the touchpad topped out at 99 degrees Fahrenheit, which exceeds our 95-degree comfort threshold. And the rest of the system ran even hotter. During regular operation, the keyboard reached 100 degrees, and the underside hita scorching 111 degrees. In the midst of protracted gaming sessions, the EVO15-S has the potential to become even hotter.
Software and Warranty
The EVO15-S is mercifully free of bloatware. The Windows 10 installation is remarkably clean, with just a desktop background and the Control Center 2.0 software signifying it as an Origin device.
Control Center 2.0 lets you customize the keyboard colors, control the fan speed and set up macros, all of which are useful but not really necessary in day-to-day operations. Don't uninstall it, but don't feel compelled to run it 24/7, either.
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Origin's warranty is fairly generous. Buying a laptop entitles you to lifetime customer support and lifetime free labor, plus one year of part replacements. Shipping is covered for the first 45 days, as is anything to do with dead pixels in the screen. You can extend various parts of the warranty up to two years, for charges ranging up to $300. It's an expensive way to protect your machine, but the warranty page is clear about what each option covers and how much it costs.
The customization options for the EVO15-S are staggering, as described above. The default configuration costs $1,739, with the processor described above, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card. Add in options like an optical drive, a 4TB SSD, improved thermal compounds and a wooden crate for shipping (!), and your costs could skyrocket north of $4,000.
It's not worth describing every single price combination, as there are so many. But our model cost $2,515 and seems to be roughly the middle of the road. If you have a lot of money to burn, you can make a very fancy Origin indeed. (You can also knock off a few hundred bucks by opting for a less powerful processor, but it doesn't seem worth the price break.)
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Origin EVO15-S. It's an attractive machine that's full of quality parts, and it's capable of running demanding games at high settings. Its customization options are impressive, so you can tailor a machine exactly to your taste.
At the same time, the keyboard design isn't perfect, the laptop gets quite hot and the battery life leaves something to be desired. Furthermore, the EVO15-S often falls a bit short of similarly priced gaming laptops on performance benchmarks. That doesn't hurt the overall product too much, but it does raise some questions about whether your $2,000 can buy a better machine.
Overall, the EVO15-S is well worth considering for gamers who are looking for a portable, no-nonsense gaming laptop. But the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 and the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin offer better performance for a similar price, so don't click that Buy button without checking out those two machines first.
Credit: Laptop Mag