E3 2010: Origin PC EON15 3D Gaming Laptop Hands-On Review

by Reads (17,913)

At E3 this year, ORIGIN, the boutique PC maker, was showing off their updated line of gaming notebooks and desktops.  Of particular interest was the new EON15 gaming laptop, which, for an additional $210, can be figured with 3D capabilities using NVIDIA’s 3D standard. We went hands on and got some impressions.

Founded by three men who each worked at Alienware for a decade, the company focuses exclusively on providing higher-end and higher-performance gaming machines. From the website:

For a PC to be deemed ORIGIN certified it must have:

  • True Personalization {The complete package has to ‘look’ as good as it performs}
  • Hand-Built by Certified ORIGIN Specialists {Just because anyone can build a PC, doesn’t mean they should}
  • Lifetime phone and online service guarantee {Once you join ORIGIN, we will have you covered for life}
  • Lifetime labor for all your service and upgrade needs included with every ORIGIN system
  • Gaming Performance & Quality Testing {1 cycle of a benchmark does not mean it is ready, this is a gaming PC. Every ORIGIN PC runs through at least 72 hours of testing}
  • Component Quality Assurance {Only the best quality/performing components}
  • Wired for Thermal Optimization {No, a bird’s nest is not allowed in a gaming PC}
  • Inspected and Approved {Over 100 point quality checklist signed by your dedicated team of professionals}
  • Dedicated Support Team {Never deal with anonymous agents that don’t know your name}

Like the rest of the notebooks that ORIGIN sells, the EON15 is a rebrand of another ODM’s creations – in this case, Clevo. It’s not the first 3D notebook, either – Acer, ASUS, Toshiba and most recently Lenovo – have all introduced their own versions of a notebook with the technology.  It’s definitely the first one that I’ve personally seen, though, and the result was a lot better than I was expecting.

First, the good.  The EON15 3D looks pretty slick – granted, a lot of this is determined by the base Clevo chassis, but it isn’t an ugly notebook for all that it is pretty beefy.  The keyboard was solid, and the touchpad seemed usable. I didn’t spend much time playing with the keyboard and touchpad, however, because they had gaming controllers hooked up to the notebooks so you could just pick up and play.

The games in this case were Just Cause 2 (which we’ve played in the office and enjoyed immensely) as well as the unreleased Mafia 2, which isn’t due out until this August.  In either case, the 3D effect was fantastic.  The EON15 3D comes with an NVIDIA-powered 3D gaming setup, with a pair of wireless active LCD shutter glasses and a USB dongle that controls the 3D effect.

A switch on the back of the USB device can instantly turn the 3D effect on and off.  Additionally, there’s a dial that controls the depth – so if you find the 3D effect a bit disorienting, but don’t want to turn it off entirely, the jog dial can tone it down a bit.  Conversely, if you want things to feel extremely deep, turn it up! Somewhere in the middle seemed to be the best fit – too far was disorienting, too little seemed pointless.  A green bar meter, similar to the way some notebooks show volume up and down on screen, pops up when the dial is scrolled back and forth.

One of the criticisms levied at the growing use of 3D in the home – as opposed to the way most people have experienced it, in the theater – is that using it in such small screens ruins the effect. Some consider HDTVs to be too small to properly take advantage of the 3D effect, so a 15-inch notebook might seem way too small.  It really isn’t, though, under the right conditions.  Mafia 2 felt far more immersive with the 3D effect turned on, and the 3D works well enough such that when you move your head around, the viewing angle changes.

All in all, the game was fun, and the notebook didn’t seem to have any trouble driving it (more on that in a moment).  Additionally, Kevin Wasielewski, ORIGIN’s CEO was on hand and mentioned that the EON 15 3D can actually play the games in 3D on an external monitor.  So if you have a compatible larger screen, such as some 120Hz computer displays and HDTVs, the EON 15 3D can hook up and transmit the 120Hz signal via HDMI.  You can still use the USB dongle to modify the effect and the same NVIDIA shutter glasses.

And now, the bad.  The EON 15 3D is a pretty big notebook, all things considered, but that’s by and large something that mobile gamers have long since decided to put up with. The 3D also costs an additional $210 on top of the base EON 15 price. That’s not too bad, considering that’s basically how much it costs to buy the kit on your own, but the EON 15 starts at $1700 or so, meaning that to buy into the 3D technology, you’re going to have to shell out a minimum of a bit over $1900.

For that $1900, you can expect an EON 15 3D with an NVIDIA GTX 285M.  It’s largely accepted that the 5870 is a bit more powerful in its mobile form, but moreover, the GTX 285M only supports DirectX 10.1, while the 5870 supports DirectX 11.  Considering the ever-increasing uptake of DirectX 11 by game developers, that’s a potentially important distinction.  Too, the way the 3D works, by tricking your brain, requires an LCD panel that can push up to 120Hz.  Whatever panel it is that ORIGIN is using for the EON 15 3D is limited to a simple 1366×768 resolution.  So you can choose between a 15.6-inch non-3D laptop with 1920×1200 resolution for $1700, or a 15.6-inch 3D-capable laptop with a 1366×768 resolution for $1900.  Tough call.  The fact that you can drive the 3D effect onto a larger external monitor with higher resolution helps.

ORIGIN was also showing off the Ostendo curved monitor that we’ve seen before in both Alienware and NEC guises.  Alienware, at least, seems to have dropped all plans to bring the monitor to production, and ORIGIN, all of whom used to work for AW, didn’t have much to say on the matter.

So the ORIGIN EON 15 3D gaming notebook was definitely pretty cool.  It does become something of a tough sell, however, with the 3D version starting at a minimum of $1900 and a lower resolution 1366×768 panel.  What do you guys think?  Is it a worthy buy? Sound off in the comments, and we’ll try to answer any other questions when we get one in for review.



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