Origin PC’s EVO16-S (starts at $1,806; $2,903 as tested) is its thinnest and lightest gaming notebook. In a slight twist, it has a 16.1-inch display as opposed to the usual 15.6-inch panel. This model packs all the usual refinements for a gaming notebook in its lofty price range, including a 144Hz display, an Nvidia GeForce RTX-class GPU, and a per-key-programmable RGB backlit keyboard. It even gets decent battery life in our tested configuration. Consider this Origin offering from a solid, if slightly less polished, alternative to the MSI GS65 Stealth and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced (2019), our current Editors’ Choice picks for thin-and-light gamers.
A Portable Gamer
The EVO16-S measures up to what’s expected in a high-end 15.6- or 16.1-inch notebook when it comes to hardware. Its only available CPU is a good one, an Intel Core i7-9750H with six cores and 12 threads. GPU options start with the GeForce RTX 2060 6GB, with options to upgrade to an RTX 2070 8GB or an RTX 2080 8GB, both of which use Max-Q to keep power consumption down. (See the benchmarks later in this review for insight into how Max-Q affects GPU performance.)
The EVO16-S also hits the mark in memory and storage. Our review unit has 16GB of DDR4-2666 Corsair RAM running in dual-channel mode, while Origin offers up to 32GB, the maximum supported. This notebook supports two storage drives; ours has a 500GB M.2-format Samsung SSD, onto which Windows 10 Home is installed free of bloatware, plus a large 2TB mechanical hard drive for storage. It’s all backed by a one-year warranty, though I’d like to see three years of coverage at even the base price of this notebook, let alone that of our kitted-out tester. I priced a Razer Blade 15 Advanced at $2,999 with similar specifications, and an MSI GS65 Stealth about the same, making the EVO16-S competitive in pricing as equipped for this review.
It’s a Looker
I didn’t realize the EVO16-S had a 16.1-inch display until I read its specifications sheet. A half-inch increase in the diagonal versus a traditional 15.6-incher isn’t a lot, and probably won’t be noticeable unless you put it side-by-side with one, but it adds uniqueness while keeping a much more portable profile than a 17.3-incher. The outside of this notebook (at 0.78 by 14.9 by 9.9 inches, HWD) is, predictably, larger than that of the 15.6-inch-screened Razer Blade 15 Advanced (0.7 by 14 by 9.25 inches, HWD), but it’s still trim for its screen diagonal. The Origin also weighs a little more. (It’s 5.2 pounds, as tested, versus 4.6 pounds for the smaller Razer.) If I was nitpicking (and I am), the Razer has thinner screen bezels, though the ones on the EVO16-S are still skinny enough to give it the modern vibe.
The lines of this notebook are conventional. That’s a compliment; it doesn’t try to stand out like the Alienware m15 R2 (2019) or, to a lesser extent, the Acer Predator Triton 500. That said, it can stand out in other ways if you want it to. On the back of the lid, our test unit shows off Origin’s HD UV printing (a $149 option factored in our unit’s price) with a custom Cyberpunk 2077 game-themed graphic …
It’s an eye-catcher, for sure. This isn’t just a sticker; the image is printed on the back of the display in a matte finish. If you’re looking for something reflective, Origin offers metallic painting and themes for a little more. The EVO16-S comes with a plain black or red lid at no charge.
The construction materials for the EVO16-S are a mix of metal and plastic. The former covers the majority of the exterior surfaces, including the lid and the top and bottom of the chassis. It gives a premium feel, if not a premium look; from a distance, the matte finish doesn’t look different than smooth plastic. Up close, though, it’s cool to the touch (well, at least if you’re not gaming…more on that later) and makes a pleasant scratchy sound while running a finger across it, both telltale signs this isn’t plastic. The chassis and lid have reasonable stiffness, and the notebook feels very solid in the hand.
Get Your Full-Size Keys Here
The 16.1-inch screen on this notebook means its chassis is wide enough to fit a full-size keyboard …
The layout is very desktop-like. Even the number-pad keys are full-size, although the arrow keys aren’t divorced out below the main area. Nonetheless, I’ll take this number-pad layout any day over the two-thirds-size number pads commonly found on 15.6-inchers, such as the MSI GE65 Raider. (Notably, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, the MSI GS65 Stealth, and the Alienware m15 R2 (2019) don’t have number pads.) The keys have a healthy up-and-down movement and satisfactory feedback.
The EVO16-S includes a per-key RGB keyboard. (That is, each key is able to take on any one of the 16.7 million colors in the RGB spectrum.) The included app for customizing the lighting, called Control Center, is a little unpolished, though. Changing key color, tweaking overall brightness, and switching among preset lighting patterns are all it can do. There’s no ability to create layered effects, custom patterns, or profiles in the lighting section of the app.
Another part of the app allows you to reassign keys. The macro editor is basic but usable. You can create profiles to save your settings, although they don’t include the keyboard lighting settings.
Despite its limitations, the app still lets you create a fun look and squeeze extra functionality out of the keyboard. It’s just not on the same level as the SteelSeries Engine app found on MSI notebooks with per-key backlighting, or Razer’s Synapse app on its notebooks.
The EVO16-S has a first-class touchpad. Effortless finger swiping comes courtesy of its slick glass surface, while the two dedicated buttons have ample travel and quiet clicking action. The pad is plenty big relative to the notebook’s screen, too. Something unique about the touchpad is that it has a fingerprint reader embedded at its top center. The area where to put your finger is automatically backlit when your fingerprint is required…
Gaming notebooks are usually lacking when it comes to built-in biometric features, so the EVO16-S gets a nod here.
Beneath the touchpad, the EVO16-S’s twin speakers reside at opposite ends of the palm rest. Saying they’re usable are the kindest words I can bestow. Their tinny sound signature and an almost complete lack of bass more or less mandates an external audio source for immersive sound.
The Unicorn 16.1-inch Display
The 16.1-inch display on the EVO16-S has a 144Hz refresh rate, an anti-glare surface to eliminate reflections, and in-plane switching (IPS) technology for wide viewing angles. The colors are nicely saturated. The brightness isn’t overwhelming, but some of that is because the display on our review unit has Origin PC’s optional calibration service (a $29 extra). The display looks slightly less bright because its color hue isn’t as blue as it would be out of the box. (Displays are usually tuned to be bluer from the factory to appear brighter, at the expense of accurate colors.)
All this display lacks from a gaming standpoint is Nvidia G-Sync technology to further smooth out the gameplay experience. Had that been included, however, the EVO16-S wouldn’t manage battery life as long as it can. Without G-Sync, the notebook is able to switch to the Intel CPU’s onboard UHD 630 integrated graphics silicon to preserve power using a technology called Nvidia Optimus. The only other downside I can point to is the lack of OLED display options, which are starting to appear in the mainstream. This display is the only one available on the EVO16-S.
The EVO16-S has good connectivity for a high-end gaming notebook. Internally, it sports an Intel 9560AC wireless adapter that supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5. On the outside, the port loadout includes HDMI and mini-DisplayPort video-out connectors, a pair of USB 3.1 Type-C ports, two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, separate headphone and microphone jacks, and Ethernet. I give it props for including a full-size SD card reader as opposed to microSD. It also has a Kensington-style cable lock slot. What’s missing is Thunderbolt 3, something that should be included in this tier of notebook.
The ports are all located on the sides of the notebook. I don’t like that they’re mostly bunched up towards the front edge; plugging something into them can stick out and potentially interfere with external mouse space. The included power adapter has a right-angle prong to help avoid that issue.
There’s a 720p resolution webcam above the EVO16-S’s display. It’s grainy, as is expected for a small-sensor cam like this, but ultimately usable for casual chats.
Light on Weight, Not on Performance
The EVO16-S will go head-to-head with the following high-end gaming notebooks in our comparison charts. These competitors all sport 15.6-inch displays and, as we tested them, occupy similar price points…
The MSI GE65 Raider has the most powerful CPU, a Core i9 with eight cores, while the other units use Core i7 chips with six cores. The Acer uses the Core i7-8750H, which is almost the same chip as the Core i7-9750H in the others. The GPU choices are where this gets interesting. The MSI is the only one without a GPU that uses Nvidia’s Max-Q power-limiting technology. The RTX 2080 Max-Q-equipped units, the EVO16-S included, should lead the overall charge in 3D performance, but we’ll see what happens.
Productivity, Storage & Media Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, Web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
PCMark 8, meanwhile has a Storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s storage subsystem. This score is also a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.
The EVO16-S ekes out the narrowest of victories in PCMark 10 with an excellent 5,897-point performance. It practically tied the eight-core MSI GE65 Raider while leaving the others behind. That basic benchmark is hardly a challenge for these notebooks. Meanwhile, the spread amongst the PCMark 8 Storage scores is small as expected for systems like these, with fast SSD system drives.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. The Photoshop test stresses CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
The EVO16-S scored on the tail end of what we usually see from its Core i7-9750H CPU in Cinebench, but it’s in the ballpark. It wins out in Photoshop by a couple of seconds against all but the MSI GE65 Raider. That machine’s Core i9-9880H eight-core CPU made it uncatchable in both of these tests.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
We’ll concentrate on Fire Strike since it’s the more demanding of the tests. There, the EVO16-S soundly beat the Acer and Alienware units (the former with an RTX 2080, the latter an RTX 2070, both Max-Q-enabled) and slipped by the Razer (equipped with an RTX 2080 Max-Q) to make it the fastest of the Max-Q-equipped lot. However, it stopped short of the bar set by the MSI GE65 Raider and its full-power RTX 2070, which shows just how much the RTX 2080’s potential can be suppressed by the Max-Q treatment. This isn’t the first time we’ve observed this phenomenon among Max-Q cards in gaming notebooks, where a lower-tier, full-power card outperforms it. Origin charges $454 to upgrade from the RTX 2070 Max-Q to the RTX 2080 Max-Q, which is hard to justify for the relatively modest gain. (Reference the Alienware’s numbers, as it has the RTX 2070 Max-Q.)
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark, for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess.
The 1080p High preset results show a more level playing field among these machines than did 3DMark Fire Strike, as the CPU is largely removed from the equation. The EVO16-S has the lead, though the MSI GE65 Raider is right on its heels. Even the Alienware, the slowest of the bunch, doesn’t lag far behind. Now we’ll try some non-synthetic tests.
Real-World Gaming Tests
The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world video games at various settings. These are run on both the moderate and maximum graphics quality presets (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5, Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider) at native resolution to judge performance for a given system. Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11 based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do for the benchmark.
From the synthetic tests, these real-world gaming results more closely mimic Superposition than they do 3DMark Fire Strike, which makes sense as the CPU isn’t a big bottleneck in these titles. The EVO16-S deserves credit for its excellent overall gaming performance at a 1080p resolution, though the others here can stake the same. Its performance is roughly the same as that of the Alienware, equipped with the lesser RTX 2070 Max-Q. The Max-Q treatment indeed hurts the RTX 2080 chip in the EVO16-S quite a bit. Again, it’s probably hard to justify its upcharge over the RTX 2070 Max-Q.
Video Playback Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in Airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Blender short demo film Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.
The six-plus-hour time from the EVO16-S is longer than usual for a gaming notebook this size. This notebook will let you go to class (or two) or watch a few episodes of your favorite show without needing to lug around its adapter, lending credence to its thin and light chassis. The Alienware and Razer units largely owe their lengthier runtimes to power-saving OLED displays.
Gaming Turns Up the Heat
The EVO16-S has two cooling fans located at its back corners. Their primary air draw is from under the chassis…
The exhaust air goes out the back edge and left side of the chassis. For less demanding tasks, I found the fans either stayed off or ran at an unobtrusively low speed. They fortunately didn’t develop a whine or excess motor noise while gaming, although the sound of the fans moving air is hard to miss. Provided you’re not in a classroom or another environment where silence is golden while trying to game, the noise shouldn’t be a bother.
The topside of the EVO16-S does tend to heat up while gaming. Here it is under our FLIR One Pro towards the end of a 30-minute stint in Shadow of the Tomb Raider…
The upper area was over 120 degrees F, which is too balmy for my liking. The WASD keys on the keyboard were slightly cooler at 111 degrees F, though that measurement is the keyboard deck; the tops of the keys were cooler and didn’t cause me any discomfort.
Internally, the RTX 2080 Max-Q averaged 75 degrees C, a relatively low temperature for a thin gaming notebook with this caliber of GPU. It did a fair job of maintaining its core clock, averaging 1,334MHz during my gaming session. On the CPU side, the Core i7-9750H CPU spent most of its time in the upper 80 degree C range. That’s high, though ultimately within Intel’s rated temperature range for the chip.
A Mainstream Alternative
The EVO16-S is a reasonable value for a high-end gaming laptop. When it comes to gaming performance punch, it has no trouble matching up to the mainstream offerings from Alienware, Acer, MSI, and Razer, among others. It also offers its share of unique features, such as a slightly larger 16.1-inch display and custom exterior visual options, as our review unit was decorated.
That said, the EVO16-S lacks polish in some areas. For one, its RGB keyboard customization software is too basic, and it lacks a Thunderbolt 3 port. It furthermore doesn’t offer an OLED display like some of its competition. None of those is likely to be a deal breaker, in the grand scheme, and thus don’t prevent the EVO16-S from being a mainstream surrogate, especially if you’re looking for custom vibes like the kind presented on our sample’s lid.