Want a truly powerful gaming laptop? You’ll probably have to settle for a little bulk. Nvidia’s Max-Q technology, which allows performance-capped high-end graphics cards to fit in super-slim laptops, is helping to change that. The Origin PC EVO15-S (starts at $1,615; $2,429 as tested) is the latest Max-Q machine we’ve tested, and it’s the best yet. At just 0.7 inches thin, it’s as compact as the Editors’ Choice Asus ROG Zephyrus, but with more storage, a better battery, and a sturdier build for less money, the EVO15-S is our new top pick for high-end gaming laptops.
Max-Q, Max Portability
The EVO15-S prioritizes a thin, low-profile design. It’s sleek and somewhat plain, but not boring; muscle lines on the lid and around the keyboard give it some personality. It might not be visually stunning, but I prefer that to an ostentatious or overly busy design. The metallic gunmetal color and lid styling add up to an appealing, stealth jet aesthetic.
The metal build feels high-end. There’s a little flex on the keyboard deck, particularly toward the bottom, but otherwise, the EVO15-S feels rock-solid. It’s thin with a small footprint, measuring just 0.7 by 14.9 by 9.9 inches (HWD). It’s on the lighter side at 4.3 pounds and is almost featherweight compared with some gaming machines. The more traditional-size Alienware 15 R3 measures 1 by 15.3 by 12 inches and weighs 7.8 pounds. Conversely, other Max-Q laptops are similar to the EVO15-S: The ROG Zephyrus is 0.66 by 14.9 by 10.3 and 4.9 pounds, while the Acer Predator Triton 700 comes in at 0.7 by 15.5 by 10.5 inches and 5.4 pounds.
Nvidia borrows the Max-Q name from the aerospace industry term describing the maximum amount of aerodynamic stress an aircraft can sustain. In the case of PCs, it’s referring to the combination of hardware and software modifications that allow higher-end graphics cards to fit into thinner chassis than traditionally possible. These changes most crucially include capping a graphics card’s power ceiling to reduce the amount of heat it outputs. Doing so means less space is required for heat dissipation and cooling. The power cap doesn’t mean a huge performance cut (we’ll go into specifics below), so this solution can be appealing to those who prioritize portability or style.
The display measures 15.6 inches diagonally, and comes in three flavors. Our unit bears an HD (1,920-by-1,080) resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate and a matte finish. The other two options are a non-matte HD In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen, or a matte QHD (3,840-by-2,160) IPS display, both without the 120Hz refresh rate. The matte finish cuts down on glare (though dulls picture sharpness somewhat), while 120Hz is a sought-after item for gamers looking for smooth performance. The ROG Zephyrus offers the same resolution and refresh rate, plus G-Sync, as does the Triton.
Although it doesn’t offer the per-key lighting seen on some competitors, the keyboard is backlit with customizable lighting split across three zones. The keys are comfortable to type on; they’re flat and not contoured, which may bother some, but they have a satisfying bounce with good travel. Origin managed to fit a full number pad to the right side of the keyboard, too, without making it cramped. The touchpad is smooth and tracks well, with two dedicated left and right click buttons below, rather than the click-in style touchpad. It also includes a fingerprint reader in the top left corner for secure sign-in. The speakers aren’t booming, but offer quality audio at reasonable volumes, good for playing video or games, if you go without a headset.
Despite its slim frame, the EVO15-S is loaded with ports. The left flank includes an HDMI port, two Mini DisplayPort connections, two USB-C ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. The right side holds another USB 3.0 port, an SD card slot, an Ethernet jack, and headphone and mic jacks. There’s a considerable amount of storage inside in the form of a 512GB boot SSD and a 2TB Seagate FireCuda hybrid drive. The SSD will keep your system launching quickly and provide a faster location for your favorite applications, while the larger drive offers plenty of room for games.
Other features include an HD webcam, dual-band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Origin supports the laptop with a one-year part-replacement warranty, as well as lifetime call support and a 45-day no-dead-pixel and shipping warranty.
Slim and Speedy
Running the show are a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, 16GB of memory, and the Max-Q GTX 1070. The processor isn’t part of Intel’s latest generation, but it’s still proficient. Its high PCMark 8 Work Conventional score demonstrates as much, ranking right alongside the other quickest laptops. Combine that with its speedy multimedia test scores, and you can rely on the EVO15-S for plenty of tasks outside of gaming. All three of the media scores were on the higher end, so this may be a quick and portable solution for those who need to work on photo or video projects on the side. The Zephyrus edged the tests overall in comparison, but the EVO15-S beat the Triton and the MSI GS63VR 7RG Stealth Pro, another Max-Q laptop.
Of course, 3D and gaming performance is the focus of the EVO15-S. The tuned-down GTX 1070 was up to the task at 1080p, averaging 85 frames per second (fps) on both the Heaven and Valley gaming tests turned up to Ultra-quality settings. That cleared the 60fps target, and offers some headroom for more demanding titles. While there was some clearance, cutting-edge or particularly straining games will likely stress the system at maximum settings.
The non-Max-Q GTX 1070, as shown by the $1,299 PowerSpec 1510, pushes noticeably more frames. (We’ll be publishing our full review of the 1510 soon.) Given the price discrepancy between the two, paying so much more for inferior 3D performance may be a hard pill to swallow. There are, of course, other differences between the systems contributing to the cost, but there is a bit of sacrifice to be made with a Max-Q card in terms of raw 3D prowess. Hamstrung or not, the Max-Q GTX 1070 is also fully capable of VR.
Since the slim size promotes toting your EVO15-S along with you, battery life should ideally be strong. The EVO15-S lasted for 4 hours and 27 minutes on our rundown test, enough to give you some time off the charger. It’s a modest length, but reasonable considering the components, and fares better than the Triton (2:34) and the Zephyrus (2:31). The Stealth Pro just barely edges it (4:29), while the Alienware 15 R3 is on the higher end for this size (5:33).
Form and Function
By and large, Origin’s EVO15-S succeeds in its design goals. It looks good, feels luxurious, and can play any game in HD at or near the highest settings. The 120Hz refresh rate is a great bonus, and you get more ports and storage than you’ll likely need. The main compromise is the Max-Q graphics card, which is still very proficient, but less so than its uncapped version, but you’re getting the thin build.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus is tough to beat, but the extra storage and the lower price of the EVO 15-S are enough to sway us. Asus’ system offers better performance thanks to the Max-Q GTX 1080, but you’ll pay about $300 more. The EVO15-S is also more solidly built and has a longer-lasting battery to maximize the the portability factor. For all of these reasons, it earns our Editors’ Choice.