The first full day I spent actually playing games on the Origin PC EON17-S gaming laptop was a day filled with the wonders of 3D PC gaming, NVIDIA 3D Vision glasses only leaving my face during brief trips to see my newborn sons at the other end of the hospital.
I hadn't planned on spending several days in Georgia's Kennestone Hospital alternating between bouts of PC gaming and marvelling at the wonder of the two tiny new lives I helped create. My original plan was much more brilliant.
See, I had recently been the victim of a robbery, leaving me without a laptop computer, a tool essential to covering last month's E3 Expo in Los Angeles. I caught wind of Origin's EON17-S, a state-of-the-art gaming laptop equipped with a 1920x1080 3D-capable display. Four days before I was to fly out for the show, the EON17-S arrived. The next day I discovered I wasn't going to E3 due to a pair of tiny people that had been hiding in my fiancée's uterus for quite some time.
I'll never forget the delivery date. The panting, the pushing, the wheezing. Hunched over and sweating profusely the UPS delivery man lugged the wooden crate to my door. Yes, just like the gaming PC our own Brian Crecente purchased for himself last year, the EON17-S arrived packed inside a rugged wooden container, impervious to both harm and game journalists, at least until they found their power screwdriver.
The machine itself is a majestic beast, an unforgiving black monolith that had me humming music from 2001: A Space Odyssey as I freed it from its packaging. There is no glowing nEON, no sculpted surfaces; simply a brushed black finish with smooth bevelled edges and the Origin logo in silver across the top (optional painting is available). At 16 by 11 by 2 inches and weighing nearly 4kg with battery, this is not a system you casually lay out on the table at the local coffee shop to check Facebook. This laptop establishes a base camp and dares anyone passing by to comment on the fact that you've been taking up one of the comfy chairs at Starbucks all day after only ordering a regular tall coffee, and if they do comment, you can beat them with it.
Once freed from its packaging, it was time to play.
Well, it was time enough to load up a copy of The Witcher 2, patch the living hell out of it, and ensure it would start. Then I found out I was becoming a father the next week. Between that and handling home base duties for the first few days of E3, I was rather busy.
To my credit, I didn't fire up the EON17-S again until at least four hours after my children became outside pets. Archer Daniel Fahey and Seamus Christopher Fahey were born around 10.30pm on June 9. At 1am on June 10 their mother sent me home to fetch a few things for her hospital stay. One of those things happened to be the EON.
That first sleepless night was spent going over details of the birth with my fiancée as I familiarised myself with the EON's form and function. My fingers played over the keyboard, a solid bank of flat plastic buttons rising from the flat surface as is the fashion for today's laptops. I fiddled about on the internet, the Killer Wireless-N gaming network card giving the hospital's ancient wireless network a sound thrashing. As sleep finally crept up I slipped a copy of the Kurt Russell classic Big Trouble in Little China into the laptop's Blu-ray player to help me along.
While it's an honour for any Blu-ray player to feature the adventures of Mr Jack Burton, a $US3000 laptop powered by an Intel Core i7-2720QM processor, eight gigs of Kingston HyperX dual-channel memory, and a two gig NVIDIA GeForce GTX 485M graphics card wasn't built for playing John Carpenter movies. It was built for gaming, so the next day I got my game on.
I was a bit disappointed to discover that The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings defaulted to low settings after running the auto-configuration utility, but then it is a bit of a resource hog, and this is a lower-end version of a laptop computer with available configurations reaching into the $US9000 range. It made even more sense when I took into account the fact that the laptop was running the game in 3D, essentially delivering two full images to the display at once.
The 3D version of the Origin EON17-S comes with built-in support for NVIDIA's 3D Vision, the same 3D technology I reviewed back in December 2009. The difference here is that the receiver from the PC version is integrated with the laptop; all the player needs is the 3D glasses and a USB cable to keep them nice and charged. It only took me a half-hour of searching for the receiver, bitching about it not being included, and avoiding reading the accompanying documentation to figure this out.
Somehow the 3D effect felt more natural on a laptop than it did on the PC I originally tested the tech on. I spent a good eight hours playing The Witcher 2 on the EON17-S, and aside from some discomfort from having to wear a pair of silly plastic glasses over my prescription pair, I found myself more comfortable with 3D gaming using this machine than I ever have before.
My days in Kennestone passed quickly, thanks to the EON17-S and The Witcher 2, Red Faction: Armageddon, and an abortive attempt to play World of Warcraft on the ridiculously feeble internet connection. The EON and the NVIDIA glasses (and I suppose my future wife) were my constant companions, providing the sort of gaming experience my desktop only wishes it could deliver. My children were in for an extended stay at not one but two hospitals (one of the week tykes had to have a procedure performed across town), and with the prospect of spending the next few weeks driving back and forth across Atlanta day in and day out, having a powerful gaming laptop by my side was a definite bonus.
Through extended use I was able to ferret out a few of the system's more noticeable flaws. For instance, the sleek and sexy black keyboard becomes all but invisible when the 3D Vision glasses kick into play. Once I familiarised myself with the unit I didn't have to look as much, but the first few days I spent a lot of time librarian peeking over the rims to see what I was doing. Then there's the battery life. With as much juice as this monster pulls in, I was lucky to get more than an hour and a half before having to hunt for an outlet. Then again I don't expect any gaming laptop to give me hours upon hours of battery-powered World of Warcraft. That's just not how these things work.
I imagine the biggest drawback for many prospective laptop buyers is the price. This is a $US3000 laptop. I've never spent more than $US1000 on a PC in my life; I've never seen the point. I've been plodding along happily with my Best Buy purchased laptops, telling myself they are just as good as the big budget machines. The power, performance, and sturdy construction of the Origin EON17-S has made me realise how wrong I've been. It's worth every penny.
Let me try to put the price in perspective. The hospital bill for one of my children (pre-insurance) was nearly $US12,000. That's nearly four EON17-S machines, or one fully tricked-out model and some snacks. I could have saved myself a lot of money and simply had one child and a gaming laptop. Unfortunately the hospital (and Emily's womb) has a strict no return policy, and I've grown quite fond of the little guys. Sure, they won't run The Witcher 2 in their current state, but that's nothing a few choice upgrades later on down the line can't fix.
Now both children are home and screaming healthily, and the EON17-S 3D laptop is ready to head back to its point of Origin. I'll miss the solid feel of its keys beneath my fingertips, the crisp glow of its glossy high-definition LED display, and the power Origin managed to pack into its modest frame. But most of all I'll miss the escape I found by slipping on a pair of stereo headphones, charging up the NVIDIA Vision glasses, and losing myself inside fantastic 3D worlds, for just a moment forgetting that there were a pair of screaming babies down the hall, eager for a chance to throw up all over their daddy.
You can buy the EON17-S at Origin PC's website. Configurations start at $US1647.
Origin is not getting this crate back. I'm going to build a fort.
With a little optional paint work, your laptop can look like the opening credits to an X-Men movie.
The EON17-S is just as sexy facing left...
...as it is facing right.
The keyboard wants you to touch it. Such soft, supple action. I may need a moment alone.
Simple, elegant, and potentially concussion-causing if applied forcefully to someone's skull.