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Ultra High End Gaming Notebook Roundup

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Gaming notebooks have gone from brick-like, underperforming duds to platforms that can rival all but the most powerful of desktops in a relatively short amount of time. Much of this change has been brought about by new graphics, storage and processor architectures that put an emphasis upon efficiency without sacrificing high level performance. The result is some increasingly blurred lines between desktops and more mobile platforms.

No other category personifies this shift better than the high end gaming notebook category and that’s exactly what we’ll be focusing on in this roundup. While all of the usual players like ASUS, Origin, Eurocom, Gigabyte, Acer and MSI are present and accounted for in this market, there’s not all that much variation from one product to another. AMD has for the most part been pushed out of every $1500+ price point since their processor and GPUs just haven’t been able to compete on the efficiency against alternatives from Intel and NVIDIA. We’re actually starting to see fully-enabled desktop components make their way into the portable space.

The performance delta between desktops and notebooks may have shrunk but that doesn’t mean high end gaming laptops are what I would call inexpensive. The price / performance ratio still lies very much upon the shoulders of desktop PCs and you’ll still need to make some pretty large financial sacrifices if you want to combine portability with high in-game framerates.

Competitors for this roundup come from two different categories: a prebuilt MSI system that doesn’t allow for customization along with options from Eurocom and Origin, both of which offer a large variety of options for personalizing components.


Before I get too far ahead of myself the commonalities between these somewhat disparate notebooks need to be discussed. First and foremost, they’re all set up with a primary 256GB M.2 SSD that’s backed up by a 1TB HDD for storing game files and other data-heavy items. Samsung has a stranglehold on the solid state storage for most notebooks but not every product here is equipped with their drives. However the EON is equipped with the Samsung 950 Pro while the SKY X9 has the newer but slower SM951 SSD. The MSI on the other hand uses Toshiba NVMe’s THNSN5256GPU7 which is known to be one of the fastest drives available right now.

It also looks like Killer Networking has made some massive inroads with their 1535 Wireless AC solution and dual e2400 Ethernet since both are included on every one of these notebooks. Those make up the components for Killer’s Double Shot Pro setup.

Starting with the lowest price we have MSI’s new GT72S Dominator Pro in its Dragon Edition form. It boasts an enviable set of specifications like a desktop GTX 980 8GB, 32GB of memory and a 17.3” IPS screen that runs at 75Hz while also supporting NVIDIA’s G-SYNC. While MSI hasn’t equipped it with a desktop processor like the Origin and Eurocom options have, that i7-6820HK provides eight threads, high clock speeds and substantially better efficiency than the standard voltage parts. Now the GT72S isn’t a lightweight by any stretch of the imagination, it also happens to be the lightest here at a relatively svelte 8.4lbs and includes the longest warranty.

The Origin EON17-SLX is a pure desktop replacement with an unlocked and overclockable i7-6700K, a GTX 980 8GB (which can also be overclocked) and the same 17.3” 75Hz G-SYNC panel which MSI is using. Perhaps the largest two differences between Origin’s entrants and the other competitors here is their 16GB of memory and hard drive selection which is actually a 1TB SSHD from Seagate. With all of that taken into account, I initially had a tough time justifying the $460 price tag this thing commands over the MSI but the EON does have a significantly faster processor, its warranty won’t be voided if you want to upgrade the memory and Origin has a much more personalized experience. Our sample also game with Origin’s Professional Overclocking which boosted the processor to 4.5GHz and about a 10% GPU speed increase, all while retaining the original warranty.

Eurocom came into this roundup with a sledgehammer in an effort to demolish the competition. The SKY X9 not only packs an i7-6700 desktop processor (unfortunately not the K-series iteration), a whopping 32GB of fast 2400MHz memory and two GTX 980M 8GB GPUs working together in SLI. Perhaps the crowning –or pointless- addition here is the 4K IPS panel. We also have a stand-alone desktop-class GTX 980 with on an MXM 3.0 add-in card so we can test framerates with what amounts to a less expensive option in Eurocom’s extensive setup page.

For all of the SKY X9’s impressive specifications, as configured its price reaches absolutely face-bleeding heights. We’re talking about nearly cool five grand with dual GTX 980M’s and about $400 less with a single GTX 980. For that kind of money, I could have bought two of my first cars. That 4K display is a $624USD option at the time of writing and not only costs as much as an entry-level 4K UHDTV but it also kicks G-SYNC compatibility to the curb. Meanwhile, the upgrade to 32GB of Hyper-X Impact 2400MHz memory goes for a cool $344 and the NVMe version of Samsung’s SM951 is $120 more expensive than the AHCI alternative. This all leads to Eurocom’s price being horribly high but quite justified since they simply threw the option book at our sample.


Another thing to note about this roundup is that two of our entrants –Eurocom and Origin- use a generic Sager-sourced chassis / motherboard combo upon which they install components. This means both will likely have the same limitations or strengths when it comes to things like the keyboard, trackpad, speakers and build quality.

So there you have it, three notebooks with a total retail value of just north of eleven grand. They’ll be pitted against one another and a gaming desktop with a value of about $1800 consisting of an i7-6700K, 32GB of DDR4 memory, a compact ASUS Maximus VIII Impact motherboard a GTX 980 and a 480GB Kingston Hyper-X SSD. It should be interesting to see whether or not MSI, Origin and Eurocom will be able to hold their own against a significantly less expensive dedicated gaming system?
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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The Eurocom SKY X9

A Closer Look at the Eurocom SKY X9


Pricing aside, the SKY X9 is something of a unique solution, even among the august company in this roundup since Eurocom has by far the most comprehensive configuration tool in the industry. The number of options is dizzying and can actually become a bit daunting for novices hence why several pre-configured setups are also offered. In this case I opted for something that would put desktop systems to the test so I can’t really fault Eurocom for the five grand price tag.

As with all Eurocom notebooks, when buying the system with Windows pre installed (the system is also available without an OS installed) it comes in a completely virgin state without any needless bloatware. Once I get to the MSI Dominator Pro, you’ll see why this is so important. However for the time being let’s just that it’s nice being greeted by a simple software stack containing applications for sound setup and performance modes rather than countless popups.


The Sky X9’s Sager-sourced chassis is a fully plastic affair but that doesn’t necessarily mean that build quality suffers since there’s very little top cover flex. With that being said, at just over 10lbs and two inches thick, Eurocom needed to add a good amount of structural stability to insure damage wouldn’t occur when this thing is being carried around. “Carried” is a loosely used term though since the X9’s massive size and weight leads to limited mobility.


With such a high price point one would assume there would be some distinct styling here but that isn’t the case with these stock Sager setups. Instead they use a plain, understated design that’s completely black with the only departure being a quartet of faintly glowing LED strips on the top cover.

On the X9’s inner areas there’s continuation of the same black motif and a vast expanse plastic once again. Larger 17” notebooks like this one typically exhibit a good amount of palmrest flex due to the large amount of uninterrupted surface area between the notebook’s edges and the trackpad but the X9 held things together nicely. There was only a slight amount of movement but that didn’t detract from the typing or gaming experience. That palmrest does pick up a ton of palm prints through.

While the design is utilitarian at best, there is certainly some room for improvement. It would have been great to see Eurocom or their partner Sager minimizing the 17” screen’s bezel in an effort to either maximize visibility or at least attempt to shrink down the bulky chassis. I just can’t emphasize enough how bulky the SKY X9 feels.


The keyboard and trackpad aren’t anything spectacular and like the rest of the Eurocom SKY X9 they can best be described as utilitarian, without any standout features. There are no gaming macro keys, the LED backlighting lacks options and, unlike the MSI Dominator I’ll be talking about later, the extra space alongside the keyboard hasn’t been used for value-added shortcut functions. It just feels like you’re buying a Ferrari and equipping it with cloth seats from a bargain-basement Mitsubishi Mirage; they do a good job of holding your butt but that’s about it.

Despite the X9 being marketed as an ultra high end portable gaming companion, I continually found myself reaching for my trusty Logitech G105. It isn’t that typing is particularly bad on this notebook but it simply lacks sufficient key travel and bounce-back is lethargic. This leads to a mushy feeling which not only negatively impacted typing but was detrimental to gaming, particularly due to the closeness of the keys to one another. Regardless of the title, I struggled to acclimate to the keyboard’s quirks and ended up avoiding it like the plague.

Eurocom’s trackpad is just that: a trackpad that does its job but not particularly well. Its surface has a good amount of resistance and the two physical buttons are a welcome addition when compared to all of the horrible integrated setups out there. Unfortunately, palm detection ended up being a bridge too far and the fingerprint reader never did work properly.


Sound is handled via a pair of up-firing 2W Foster Audio speakers which are protected by these meshed-in areas. There’s also an accompanying down-firing subwoofer. Although the sound is processed through a SoundBlaster X-Fi DSP and these speakers are quite powerful, the audio quality they push out relatively clear though a bit on the muddy side when bass-heavy tracks are used. I also found that the meshed covers are magnets for dust or other fine particles and are almost impossible to clean.


In terms of connectivity, there’s certainly nothing to complain about though I would have liked to see an included mini Displayport to DisplayPort adapter so the X9 could have been easily hooked up to an external display. If anything, these pictures demonstrate just how massive this notebook really is.


On the left edge the X9 houses a pair of LAN ports that connect directly to the Killer NIC, a trio of USB 3.0 ports (one of which features AC/DC charging capabilities) and jacks for headphones, a mic, line-in and S/PDIF. Meanwhile, the right hand side includes two mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs, a combo USB 3.1 Type-C / Thunderbolt connector, another USB 3.0 port and finally a 6-in-1 card reader.


The SKY X9’s rear-facing area is mostly given over to ventilation but there’s a lone power input, another USB 3.0 connector and a HDMI 1.4b output. This would have been an excellent location for one of the Mini DisplayPort connectors but unfortunately those are oddly located on this notebook’s right edge.


Other than an epic amount of ventilation areas, there’s really not much going on below the chassis. The four large rubberized feed keep the X9 firmly planted in place while also adding a bit of height so the subwoofer can project its sound downwards with a minimum of roadblocks.


Getting access to the SKY X9’s interior couldn’t be easier and there isn’t a single Warranty Void if Removed sticker to be seen. Eurocom actually encourages you to upgrade their notebooks and have several upgrade kits available for their older systems to bring them up to today’s performance expectations.

In the configuration above, there’s a pair of GTX 980M cards installed on the left side in the motherboard’s two MXM 3.0b slots while the desktop-class CPU enjoys its own dedicated heatsink in the upper right hand corner. The memory is also easily accessible but the storage drives and M.2 slots are located below the battery so getting to them will require the removal of a few more screws. All in all this layout is extremely well done with nearly every component lying within reach and extremely clear ventilation pathways for all of the hot running items.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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MSI's GT72S Dominator Pro

A Closer Look at the MSI GT72S Dominator Pro


Unlike the Eurocom and Origin notebooks in this roundup, the GT72S Dominator Pro is cut from a different cloth. Instead of offering a myriad of customization options, MSI ships premade configurations out to retailers each of which is built ready to go with Windows pre-installed alongside quite a few other applications. While this plug and play approach does offer a lower overall price it also takes some of the fun out of buying a notebook that was built to your specific specifications.

One thing I need to mention is that MSI’s GT72S is by far the best built notebook here and it comes packing features which are sure to please gamers. Not only is a much more portable than the other two competitors –granted, this thing is still a portly 8lbs- but there’s a feeling of durability that just isn’t present in the Sager-based designs. The material junctions are seamless and chassis flex is nearly impossible to detect, all features which point towards MSI’s focus on engineering and construction details before customizability.


Coming from the understated black designs of the Origin and Eurocom notebooks, the GT72S stands out with its look-at-me design. In this case we received the Dragon Edition which incorporates a metallic plastic lid design with an etched dragon motif and a glowing eye. I’m not one for overly gaudy color schemes but there’s just something about this that works, particularly with the black accents.


The dragon theme continues on the inside though once again it is left to small and relatively tasteful accents rather than an all-encompassing approach. Past that, MSI has instituted a very logical layout to this area with function buttons off to the left (more on these below) the main keyboard and then a slightly offset number pad. Meanwhile, the screen’s bezel is left to a minimum to insure structural stability while still allowing for a reduction in chassis with. This makes the entire setup feel more compact and streamlined than the Sager-based designs from Eurocom and Origin.

Top notch build quality is the name of the game here and I can’t repeat this enough. You could literally pound on the palm rests without experiencing any give and the amount of flex within the lid is almost imperceptible. The GT72S may be the lowest priced option in this roundup but its construction and attention to detail is head and shoulders above the other two options. Unfortunately the palm rests’ wonderful soft-touch material does tend to pick up an ungodly amount of grease from your sweaty hands but they are easily cleaned.


Ah the keyboard on this notebook…where do I start? This is the result of a collaborative engineering effort between MSI and SteelSeries and it is bloody spectacular. Despite a relatively shallow travel distance the keys have exactly the right feel for gaming and typing with short, precise throws and excellent bounce-back. MSI’s chiclet design even takes into account the proper separation between the keys so there will be very few mistaken keystrokes. The end result is a short learning curve and nearly seamless integration as you transition away from your old system.

That little space between the main keyboard and the number pad makes all the difference as well since there won’t be any wayward presses when gaming.

Above the keyboard lies a well-protected speaker strip which has been designed and implemented by the folks at Dynaudio. This is backed up by a downwards-firing subwoofer. Let me tell you, the sound emanating from these things is nothing short of amazing given the limited amount of space. While you won’t get crystal clear high notes or chest-kicking bass, the soundstage is wide, most sounds are faithfully produced and there’s a surprising amount of audio detail. This is a huge departure from the “well, at least they don’t completely suck” approach competing gaming notebooks take with their integrated speakers. It should also be mentioned there’s an integrated headphone amplifier as well so higher end cans won’t be left in a no man’s land.


Not only has MSI set up their GT72S with one of the best notebook keyboard’s I’ve come across but they’ve also backed it up with a robust software stack that allows for easy macro editing, RGB backlight modification and profile setup. Speaking of the RGB lighting, the keys are lined with a very thin layer of silver which allows the backlight to shine through in its natural form. This leads to a high level of legibility and faithful reproduction of the chosen backlight color.


One of the most notable features here is the quartet of buttons running alongside the keyboard. While these can’t be modified (using them for preset macros would have been nice) they do grant some additional control over the notebook right at your fingertips. The first one allows for quick booting of XSplit game streaming, there’s also a control to cycle through either preset or custom fan speed profiles and finally a toggle for the system’s lighting. Since there’s individual lighting zones on the keyboard and around the GT72S’ chassis, this allows you to quickly change the RGB LEDs through your presets and even turn them completely off. Its brilliant stuff and goes to show what can be accomplished when a company makes better use of the space next to their keyboard.



Like all notebooks in this category, the Dominator has an excellent connectivity selection. Along the left edge are four USB 3.0 ports along with gold plated audio connectors and a multi card readerwhile the right area holds two more USB 3.0 ports and what’s that? Yup, a DVD drive.


Moving to the back there’s a few more connectors. While I think locating the combo USB 3.1 Type-C / Thunderbolt port here is odd since most users will likely leverage it for device charging or for quick external storage access, locating the mini DisplayPort and LAN jack here is a great idea since their associated cables are now in a less visible place. Finally there’s a full sized HDMI 1.4b output and power input here too.

One thing to note is how small an area is given over to ventilation when the GT72S is compared to the Sager-sourced notebooks.


While the back edge doesn’t have all that much in the way of ventilation, there’s a good portion of the base dedicated to airflow. Other than that and a small opening for the Dynaudio subwoofer, there’s not much going on here other than a dreaded Warranty Void if Removed sticker.

Unfortunately it seems like MSI doesn’t want DIYers mucking around the interior of their notebook and installing additional memory or storage. This walled garden approach is a bit of a turnoff but I can somewhat understand MSI’s stance here given most people buying this system will do so at a big box store and may not be technically inclined.


Completely ignoring that sticker and opening this thing up reveals a somewhat cramped interior without much access to certain components but others are within reach. For example, the primary HDD is right there on the left and can easily be removed while the dual M.2 slots are hidden under a blanking plate attached with four small screws. The memory can also be removed without much trouble.

Cooling shouldn’t be too much of a challenge since both the CPU and GPU are placed in close proximity to their respective heatsinks but the amount of space dedicated to the key fin arrays is minimal at best.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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The Origin EON17-SLX

The Origin EON17-SLX


Even though Origin’s EON17-SLX utilizes the exact same chassis as Eurocom’s model, there are some differences lying below the surface which we have already covered and similarities which need to be highlighted. However, there’s much more to the EON than the rebranded Sager chassis which first meets the eye since Origin offers an extremely broad set of configuration options for it. While not as extensive as Eurocom’s cornucopia of component choices, Origin’s site is dedicated to walking users through the process of choosing the right set of specifications to fit their needs. In addition, they have many personalization options which aren’t offered by any other competitor in this roundup like custom paint jobs, a zero dead pixel guarantee and the possibility to have the system come pre-overclocked without affecting the warranty.

In many ways Origin’s EON17-SLX strides into the gap between MSI’s “take it or leave it” approach which foists preset configurations onto retailers’ shelves and the truly boutique building experience Eurocom grants. Origin still has a dizzying number of options but they’re spoon fed to buyers so newcomers won’t be overwhelmed but experienced builders will be able to find exactly what they want. One thing to note is that while Eurocom’s model didn’t come with any third party software installed and MSI had a boatload of bloatware, Origin went with a strategic approach and installed just a few key applications to support their hardware.


While the EON which was sent to me features the basic black Sager color scheme, I wouldn’t go so far as to call this stealth-like since the chassis itself is absolutely massive. It weighs a ton too even though plastic abounds everywhere without any touches of metal. As I said with the Eurocom model: this thing is ultra expensive and while there isn’t a overt amount of flex, it would have been nice to see since different finishes. Luckily Origin offers those aforementioned painting services, though they will cost you.


From an interior perspective there’s a continuation of the black, no-nonsense coloration alongside up-firing speakers and center-mounted power button. It all feels quite generic which is a bit disappointing given this thing’s price point even though there’s nothing typical about totting around a 17” laptop. The plastic in this area tends to pick up oil from your palms quite easily as well.


Much like the SKY X9, the best thing I can say about the EON’s backlit keyboard is that it is functional for typing and passable for gaming scenarios. Barely passable that is. There simply isn’t enough separation between the keys to allow for accurate presses when you are under fire and searching for the right action key. Meanwhile, the whole affair feels overly mushy and there’s a slight amount of keyboard flex as well, which is a serious no-no for gamers. I’m sure many buyers will use the EON-17SLX as a quasi-desktop and hook up a dedicated mouse and keyboard to it, it still would have been nice to see some homage given to the system’s gaming roots.

The trackpad isn’t anything to write home about either. While it does have a fairly accurate fingerprint scanner and physical left / right clicks with good actuation, the surface’s responsiveness was often sluggish, it failed to register some movements and palm detection wasn’t all that accurate.



The Origin EON-17SLX is a portly gaming notebook but that means a good selection of I/O ports which mirror those are Eurocom’s model. So, like on the X9 (expect a complete copy / paste here folks), on the left edge there’s a pair of LAN ports that connect directly to the Killer NIC, a trio of USB 3.0 ports (one of which features AC/DC charging capabilities) and jacks for headphones, a mic, line-in and S/PDIF. Meanwhile, the right hand side includes two mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs, a combo USB 3.1 Type-C / Thunderbolt connector, another USB 3.0 port and finally a 6-in-1 card reader.


The rear-facing area is mostly given over to ventilation but there’s a lone power input, another USB 3.0 connector and a HDMI 1.4b output. This would have been an excellent location for one of the Mini DisplayPort connectors but unfortunately those are oddly located on this notebook’s right edge.


On the EON’s bottom there’s plenty of air intakes (hot air gets safely exhausted out the back) along with a quartet of large anti-slip feet to provide a stable gaming platform. There’s a pair of secondary grills placed mid way, of which one holds a small subwoofer.

Unlike some manufacturers, Origin doesn’t have any problem with you opening their system up to perform upgrades or regular maintenance so actually getting in there is a straightforward process of removing a few strategically placed screws and popping open the lower area.


The interior layout is an interesting one since it shows the differences between the Eurocom’s dual GPU design and how that same interior arrangement is also used for a single GTX 980 setup. Basically the GPU uses a single contact plate which transmits its heat to a set of large heatpipes and then onto the integrated fin array in front of the left-hand fan. However, instead of the middle fan being dedicated for the second GPU of an SLI configuration, a number of heatpipes deviate towards its integrated copper fins in an effort to better balance the large amount of heat being output by the overclocked desktop-class graphics card.
 

SKYMTL

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Thoughts About Display Quality & 4K Panels

Thoughts About Display Quality


Actually analyzing the displays on these notebooks from a purely subjective standpoint is a pretty straightforward affair since they fall into two categories. Both the Origin and MSI models have the same 1080P 17” 75Hz IPS panel with an integrated G-SYNC module while the Eurocom incorporates a 60Hz 4K IPS display which commands a hefty premium. With that being said, opting for the faster panel may not be for everyone since some professionals may appreciate the 10-bit nature Eurocom’s offering which covers 100% of the Adobe RGB spectrum versus the 70% coverage from the other two models. If gaming is what you’re after though, go with a faster G-SYNC equipped 1080P option. It should be noted however that the SKY X9 does have a 1080P G-SYNC screen that’s selectable in Eurocom’s online configuration tool.


Front-On Viewing



Eurocom Top / MSI & Origin Bottom

Discussing the merits of these two display options using pictures is like playing Where’s Waldo since the differences between the two panels are subtle at best and likely won’t make a difference if they’re being used to play games. However, the 10-bit panel on the SKY X9 does have slightly better contrast and brightness output which can make a significant difference when using Eurocom’s notebook in brighter environments. Even though every notebook in this roundup has a matte panel coating, that extra backlight output tends to boost visibility.

While I can nit-pick about either panel, the fact of the matter remains that both offer excellent color fidelity and faithful reproduction of every scene. For gaming I personally prefer the lower resolution since it’s easier to hit higher framerates and G-SYNC adds a dose of much-needed fluidity, something the expensive 4K panel just can’t hope of recreate.


Off-Angle Viewing



Eurocom Top / MSI & Origin Bottom

Moving to off-angle situations (not something that most notebook users ever experience) and there’s a few more aspects that differentiate the panels from one another. While contrast and color reproduction remains extremely consistent in both, the 4K IPS panel does boast slightly better results than its more affordable sibling. Does this warrant the massive premium? I personally don’t think so.


The Problem with 4K Gaming Notebooks


The usefulness of 4K in the PC gaming has been a hotly contested topic as of late since many companies are using these UHD screens as a means of marketing while the actual benefits in some scenarios are non-existent. When spread across a large canvas, 4K can impart a visual experience like no other. However, when utilized within the constrained spaces of a 17” notebook screen it becomes nearly impossible to differentiate between 4K and lower resolutions like 1440P or even 1080P.

The number of pixels per square inch may be off the charts with a 17” UHD screen but after using all the notebooks in this roundup I still struggled to note any benefits associated with the higher resolution. More to the point, even a pair of GTX 980M cards in SLI weren’t up to the task of delivering acceptable (40FPS and higher) framerates in most titles. This is a problem endemic of 4K gaming notebooks since mobile and even most desktop-class GPUs are simply incapable of rendering newer games at such a high resolution without sacrificing detail levels or, at the worst, lowering the resolution. Neither option will be acceptable for gamers who just spent five grand on their new notebook.


There’s another slight (or major depending on the way you look at such things) problem and that’s text scaling in applications. You see, many applications –both professional and otherwise- have yet to make the jump to native 4K compatibility. This leads to the situation you see above which shows a small section of the screen of about 2”x2” physical size and how small the text in Blender is. Meanwhile, Notepad’s top-level menu bar show proper scaling. There are certainly ways to overcome this problem but constantly switching resolution quickly becomes tedious, particularly when jumping between applications.

So should you look into ponying up the cash for a 4K screen on a gaming notebook? In my opinion the answer is a definite “NO!”. From the price to the performance expectations to compatibility hiccups and a true lack of visual benefits, it just feels like more of a marketing upsell than a beneficial add-on.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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System Benchmarks; Synthetic Testing

System Benchmarks; Synthetic Testing



CineBench R15 64-bit


The latest benchmark from MAXON, Cinebench R15 makes use of all your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene using various different algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects containing more than 300,000 total polygons and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights and shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. This particular benchmarking can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. The result is given in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.



PCMark 8


PCMark 8 is the latest iteration of Futuremark’s system benchmark franchise. It generates an overall score based upon system performance with all components being stressed in one way or another. The result is posted as a generalized score. In this case, we didn’t use the Accelerated benchmark but rather just used the standard Computational results which cut out OpenCL from the equation.



RealBench


RealBench is an integrated benchmark distributed by ASUS which incorporates several real-world tests which are run, after which a score is calculated. In the standard combined test we are using, there are four consecutive tests being run: GIMP photo manipulation, Handbrake h264 video compression, OpenCL rendering using LuxMark and a Heavy Multitasking scenario using all three other tests at the same time. This may look like a simple benchmark result but it combines multiple tasks with single and multi threading in an effort to replicate an accurate depiction of system performance.



WPrime


wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're squaring, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum. This is a highly multi-threaded workload but we have also included single thread results. Below are the scores for the 1024M benchmark for multi thread and 32M for single thread.




These results are pretty much where we expected them to be with the Origin EON17-SLX being the clear winner since it uses an overclocked desktop i7-6700K Skylake processor. Naturally, the standard i7-6700 (non-K) in the Eurocom machine can’t keep up and neither can the MSI’s mobile-centric i7-6820HK but both alternatives do put up a valiant fight.
 

SKYMTL

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System Benchmarks; Memory & Storage

Memory Benchmarks



AIDA64 Memory Read / Write

Memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write) measure the maximum achiveable memory data transfer bandwidth. The code behind these benchmark methods are written in Assembly and they are extremely optimized for every processor variant by utilizing the appropriate x86/x64, x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE4.1, AVX, and AVX2 instruction set extension.



CPU PhotoWorxx Benchmark

This benchmark performs different common tasks used during digital photo processing. It performs a number of modification tasks on a very large RGB image:

This benchmark stresses the SIMD integer arithmetic execution units of the CPU and also the memory subsystem. CPU PhotoWorxx test uses the appropriate x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, 3DNow!+, SSE, SSE2, SSSE3, SSE4.1, SSE4A, AVX, AVX2, and XOP instruction set extension and it is NUMA, HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.



From a system memory perspective, the Eurocom SKY X9 with its higher frequency modules comes out ahead in both of these benchmarks. One thing that needs to be mentioned is that even though Origin has the least amount of memory installed at 16GB, neither test above tests capacity but rather focuses upon total bandwidth.


Storage Performance



Crystal Diskmark

Crystal Diskmark is a simple storage subsystem benchmark which measures sequential bandwidth across a large number of file sizes. For the purposes of this test, we are using a 1GB file size and measuring both read and write performance.


That Toshiba NVMe SSD within MSI’s Dominator is a real barn burner and it absolutely tramples all over the Samsung drives within Origin’s and Eurocom’s competitors. However, the SM951 is actually able to overcome the other drives in Write-focused tests.

Moving on to the hard drives that will be used to the bulk of storage needs (the SSDs simply house the OS and a few key programs) we can see that Origin’s choice of a 5400RPM Seagate drive doesn’t really do them any favors here. However, we have to remember that it is an SSHD so performance will likely be much better with your most-used programs since it effectively caches constantly used files in an effort to speed up access times.
 

SKYMTL

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Real-World Productivity Benchmarks

Real-World Productivity Benchmarks



7-Zip

At face value, 7-Zip is a simple compression/decompresion tool like popular applications like WinZip and WinRAR but it also has numerous additional functions that can allow encryption, decryption and other options. For this test, we use the standard built-in benchmark which focuses on raw multi-threaded throughput.



Blender

Blender is a free-to-use 3D content creation program that also features an extremely robust rendering back-end. It boasts extremely good multi core scaling and even incorporates a good amount of GPU acceleration for various higher level tasks. In this benchmark we take a custom 1440P 3D image and render it out using the built-in tool. The results you see below list how long it took each processor to complete the test.



Handbrake

Video conversion from one format to another is a stressful task for any processor and speed is paramount. Handbrake is one of the more popular transcoders on the market since it is free, has a long feature list, supports GPU acceleration and has an easy-to-understand interface. In this test we take a 6GB 4K MP4 and convert it to a 1080P MKV file with a H.264 container format. GPU acceleration has been disabled. The results posted indicate how long it took for the conversion to complete.



GIMP Photo Manipulation

GIMP is a free, open source photo manipulation program which features several GPU-accelerated algorithms. In this benchmark we use a 30MB, 5K image and load a custom script to apply the following filters: gaussian blur, distort rotation, flare, stained glass and extrude. The score indicate is the time it takes the notebook to complete all tasks when run sequentially.



WinRAR

WinRAR is one of those free tools that everyone seems to use. Its compression and decompression algorithms are fully multi-core aware which allows for a significant speedup when processing files. In this test we compress a 3GB folder of various files and add a 256-bit encryption key. Once again the number listed is the time to completion.



The real-world benchmark results were pretty straightforward: the notebook with the best set of specifications typically wins. That means once again Origin’s all-powerful EON17-SLX took the crown, in some cases by a long shot. The only area that was slightly close was WinRAR but that benchmark seems to be constrained by the application itself rather than any set of hardware.
 

SKYMTL

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Wireless Network Performance

Wireless Network Performance


Testing wireless network performance isn’t an easy thing since everything from environmental conditions to latent secondary network load can influence the results. In order to eliminate as many variables as possible, we used ASUS RT-AC5300 which is considered to be one of the most powerful 5GHz Wireless AC routers currently available and set up a dedicated access stream for just the notebooks being tests. We gave this access point absolute priority so its spatial steam wouldn’t be interrupted to constrained by any other elements.

The 5GHz Wireless AC spectrum has some amazing potential throughput numbers but the actual range in which those theoretical performance figures are attainable is limited at best. In this situation, the better the onboard router, the better the achievable performance but the situation is far from cut and dried. As such, we are testing through three separate zones. Zone 1 is located within 10 feet of the router and has a clear line of sight to it. Zone 2 is about 20 feet away but also forces the signal to pass between 3 walls. Finally Zone 3 is not only about 30 feet away but it also requires the signal to pass through walls, floors and a single concrete slab.

In order to achieve the benchmark numbers, we timed how long it takes to transfer files from the notebook in question, through the router and onto an Ethernet-connected external SSD. The first test focuses upon transferring a huge 2.62GB folder containing everything from images to word documents to program executables. Meanwhile the second test transfers a simple 4K video file.





These results are a bit interesting since even though every notebook in this roundup utilizes a very similar Killer networking solution, their actual antenna arrays differ somewhat. This is an important aspect of notebook design since engineers are constantly striving to locate their transmission equipment as far from inference-causing components as possible. Sometimes that means separating the wireless solution from the primary areas by a metal isolator while other notebooks simply mash everything together and hope for the best.

Form our testing it looks like MSI did an admirable job of optimizing their wireless performance while Origin and Eurocom, with their Sager-sourced chassis, didn’t do quite as well. Oddly enough no matter how many times we tested, the EON17-SLX didn’t want to deliver optimal results in the Zone 2 testing. Meanwhile, Eurocom’s results were simple OK but they weren’t able to match the competitors in Zone 3.
 

SKYMTL

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Synthetic Gaming Performance

3DMark


Synthetic testing is never an accurate way to depict potential in-game results but Futuremark’s 3DMark has the capability to run some straightforward tests and spit out a reasonably good representation of where a given system will land once we get into the actual games. In this test we run the Fire Strike and Fire Strike Extreme benchmarks, the latter of which puts additional stress on the CPU while the former typically causes a GPU-centric bottleneck.




3DMark’s synthetic benchmark results don’t typically translate into actual in-game performance but they can be used as a reasonably good metric of where the notebooks will stand in relation to one another. That means the beastly SLI setup from Eurocom trumps all comers while the overclocked Origin is able to overcome the Dominator.
 

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