Laptop review: Dell XPS 17 9710 - Good performance, excellent design:  Digital Photography Review

Man in the middle: The unexpected joys of a 16-inch laptop


For a brief, shining moment, it looked like 16-inch laptops were going to be a thing. For the longest time, traditional 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch laptop screens dominated. Then 14-inch screen grabbed some market share about five years ago, and is now a solid, established choice. At the same time, 11-inch and 12-inch laptops are still a viable alternative, briefly popular during the heyday of the netbook (yes, that was a long time ago), but still not all that common.

Apple was long-rumored to be working on a 16-inch MacBook Pro. Ever since the 17-inch Pro was dumped in 2012, MacBooks have been stuck with a 15-inch upper screen size limit. A 16-inch screen would have returned at least some of that lost real estate. If anything was going to make 16-inch laptops a mainstream reality, it would be Apple. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, and the latest from the rumor mill is that the 16-inch MacBook idea has been shelved, at least for now.

At CES 2019, we started to see a handful of laptops with 16-inch screens, initially from Origin PC and a couple of other boutique gaming brands. These RTX-ready gaming laptops were based on the same Clevo chassis, so there wasn’t a ton of daylight between them. Still, I was intrigued.

Physically, the look and feel of the Origin PC Evo-16S is much closer to a 15-inch gaming laptop than a massive 17-inch one. At 5.1 pounds, vs. 9.3 pounds for the top-end Eon-17X, it’s much more portable. Yes, the 17-inch version has better performance, thanks to a desktop-class CPU and full-power Nvidia RTX 2080 (vs. the 2080 Max-Q version in the Evo-16S), but the 16-inch laptop isn’t too far behind. In fact, during our testing of gaming laptops from 2018 to 2019, it currently sits at the No. 5 spot on the list (as ranked by 3D Mark scores).

That insanely massive 17-inch version with the desktop CPU? It’s No. 2.Laptop review: Dell XPS 17 9710 - Good performance, excellent design:  Digital Photography Review

Road trip laptop

In gaming laptops, performance is pretty much great all-around these days. That’s why I was somewhat surprised to find myself on an extended out of town trip with the Origin PC Evo-16S as my only laptop.

I had wanted to do some graphics design work, in Photoshop and Illustrator, and maybe a little gaming, too (mostly The Division 2). So that meant I needed a high-powered PC. But I also wasn’t about to drag around something massive, like the Alienware Area-51m or pretty much any other 17-inch laptop. Since I was going to be in one location for most of my trip, a smaller 13- or even 15-inch screen didn’t appeal.

And that’s how I ended up in the country with a 16-inch laptop. Before that, I hadn’t spent much time with the Evo-16S, and its generic look hadn’t especially caught my eye.

But in practice, I quickly warmed to its careful balance of screen size, portability and power. The slightly bigger 16-inch display felt generously sized, and close enough to a 17-inch one that it was just right for designing and gaming. It’s not every day that you’d find a 16-inch gaming laptop hitting your power-plus-portability sweet spot, but in this specific instance, it worked for me.

The most notable demerits were the overall generic design and the sometimes overactive keyboard backlights, which aren’t intuitive enough to wrestle into submission without putting in some trial-and-error.

The version tested here configures at $2,800, and the Evo-16S starts at around $1,800. The company has an Australian site, but doesn’t offer the 16-inch laptop there at this time. Origin PC doesn’t have a UK site, but our test configuration price converts to roughly £2,100. Note that shipping one from the US may be prohibitively expensive.

In the charts below, I compared the 16-inch and 17-inch Origin PC gaming laptops, along with an also excellent 15-inch Lenovo Legion Y740-15. This aptly demonstrates what you can expect going from an Nvidia RTX 2070 to a 2080 (both Max-Q versions), then maxing it out with a full RTX 2080 and a desktop CPU.

With Apple out of the picture for now, it seems unlikely the idea of a 16-inch laptop is going to take off anytime soon. But having used one extensively for a couple of weeks, it’s not a terrible idea at all.

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