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Origin's NT-15 Quadro is a slim laptop with pro video-editing power

Battery life is limited, though, and the touchpad is weak.
AOL/Steve Dent
AOL/Steve Dent
Steve Dent
Steve Dent|@stevetdent|October 16, 2017 1:00 PM

I'm obsessed with lightweight, discrete graphics laptops, especially models that excel at video editing and 3D. So when I first saw Origin's 4.3-pound NT-15 Quadro, equipped with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and NVIDIA professional-level Quadro P4000 Max-Q graphics, I had to try it. And not just for the specs and charts, but to see what it's like in everyday use. The quick verdict? It's not perfect -- battery life and the touchpad aren't great, and it's pricey -- but as a video production machine that you can tote around, it won me over.

The NT-15 Quadro is Origin's first wave of laptops that use NVIDIA's Max-Q graphics, which bring nearly the same power as regular laptop chips but with significant weight and power savings. On top of Max-Q versions of the GeForce GTX 1080 (used in the ASUS ROG Zephyrus), GTX 1070 and other gaming chips, NVIDIA also offers professional, Quadro graphics cards: the P3000, P4000 and P5000 Max-Q.

You pay for that. The desktop version of the 8GB Quadro P4000 costs around $800, about double the price of the GTX 1070. However, NVIDIA has lowered prices a bit for Quadro products over the past few years -- the Quadro K4000 was about $1,200, for instance. That's possibly because video editors and others are switching to nonprofessional GeForce cards, which generally work just fine for graphics chores.

Gallery: Origin NT-15 Quadro professional graphics PC | 10 Photos


With the P4000 you're getting a bit less power than you would with the GeForce GTX 1070, but with the added benefit of tuned, certified graphics drivers with more precision for demanding apps like 3DS Max, Maya and Adobe After Effects. It also gets you a longer warranty, better support for certain applications and less chance of a graphics glitch. That's just an annoyance in a game, but it can ruin a video render for a film or TV show.

The only display available at the moment for the NT-15 is a 15.6-inch 1080p IPS model with no touch capability. That lack of touch might be a problem for artists who use a stylus, but for video editing, compositing and 3D animation, I didn't miss it.

Other specs and features are top-notch. The NT-15 Quadro comes with 32GB of RAM, on top of the 8GB on the NVIDIA P4000, so suffice to say that memory isn't an issue. Similarly, it has a 512GB M.2 SSD, which I tested at 2.7 GB/s, and a 2TB hard disk, so you won't suffer from a lack of speedy storage. It has most of the ports you could want, including three USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.1 Type C, a mini-Display port, an SD(XC/HC) card reader, headphone and microphone ports, an HDMI 2.0 port and, yep, a good old RJ45 Ethernet port. WiFi is via Intel's Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 and Bluetooth 4.2 combo, and the touchpad has a built-in fingerprint reader.

The Origin NT-15 Quadro's industrial design is, well, nondescript. It's an all-aluminum, basic black laptop that doesn't particularly stand out, unless you choose to customize it with laser-etched flames or a metallic paint job. Ergonomically, it's excellent, with the keyboard and trackpad in the right spot (centered below the keyboard, unlike the one on the ASUS ROG Zephyrus) and a handy numeric keypad at right.

It bears noting that the Origin NT-15 Quadro and MSI WS63VR look identical, right down to the ports, power switch and side vent holes, so it appears that they're made by the same company.

Professionals want all these ports, RAM and storage, and the fact that Origin managed to squeeze them into a 4.3-pound laptop is quite a feat. At the same time, I took the laptop with me to Valencia, Spain, for an Audi A8 test drive, and I never felt overburdened by it in terms of weight. I wouldn't have minded if they had added a few ounces to fix a few details, though.

Like the touchpad: It's not very good, unfortunately. The clicking pad itself is too stiff -- not nearly as smooth as on Dell's and Microsoft's latest models, and a far cry from Apple's exemplary MacBook touchpads. To use it with any speed, I was forced to enable tapping, which often results in unwanted actions if you brush the touchpad by accident.

The screen is good for what it is, with accurate colors bolstered by Origin's (optional, no-brainer) $29 professional calibration service. Thanks to Microsoft's Surface Book and recent models from Dell and others, however, most graphics artists expect a touchscreen with something beyond 1080p resolution -- 1440p would have been ideal, for me.

Given the battery life, though, perhaps it's good that Origin stuck with a lower-resolution screen. The company claims up to 240 minutes (four hours) of battery life, which is awful compared with the promised times of the MacBook Pro (10 hours) and Microsoft Surface Book (12 hours), even taking the more powerful Quadro discrete graphics into account.

But in real-world usage, I was lucky to get that doing my normal Engadget work (using a CMS, the web and occasionally Photoshop). Running Premiere Pro CC or After Effects, you'd be doing well to get a couple of hours, so you'd better have a wall outlet handy when covering events, etc. I managed to get three hours and 29 minutes playing a 1080p movie (The Matrix, of course).

The screen, touchpad and battery are the negative points of the Origin NT-15, so now let's focus on the good ones. First off, it's ridiculously powerful for its size. Even though it packs speed-throttled Max-Q graphics (to prevent overheating), it managed an 8800 PassMark graphics score in my tests, below that of the Max-Q GeForce 1080 card, but well above the 1070 model. On Cinebench's OpenGL tests, it managed an equally impressive 105 fps score.

The quad-core i7-7700HQ chip, used in a lot of high-performance laptops, also performs as well as you'd expect. It scored a 720 on Cinebench's R15 tests, not far below the Xeon-equipped HP ZBook 15 G4-Y4E80AV.

Translated into the real world, editing on Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2017 at 1080p was extremely snappy, with the warp stabilizer and other graphics-dependent filters especially fast, and multiple layers of video, color correction and graphics playing in real time. I was able to export a three-minute, 15-second H.264 1080p video file from Adobe Premiere in one minute and 47 seconds, as compared with two minutes, 55 seconds on a three-year-old Quadro M1100–equipped Dell M3800.

The same applies to 3DS Max. Viewport performance is particularly zippy, thanks to the NVIDIA P4000, which supports both NVIDIA Mental Ray final rendering and NVIDIA ActiveShade preview rendering. The latter is particularly important for 3D artists who need to test materials, lighting and so on. (For what it's worth, I played Crysis 3 on the machine at 4K on an external monitor at 30+ fps with most settings maxed.)

The screen is readable outside, as long as you're not in the sun.

The Ethernet port provided the entire 1Gbps upload and download speeds supported by my internet provider, while the WiFi maxed out at 250Mbps -- a limitation of the router, not the Intel WiFi model.

During the most taxing chores, like video exports and 3D rendering, the NT-15's fan would crank up, but noise levels were always tolerable, thanks to the Max-Q tech. CPU temperatures hit 90 degrees Celsius on certain 3DS Max renders (194 F), which is below Intel's 100-degree (212 F) tolerance but still pretty darn hot. On your lap when you're watching movies, it also gets pretty warm, but not scorchingly so.

In sum, Origin's NT-15 is a strong pro graphics performer, though the price, battery life and touchpad are drawbacks. However, if you're the right kind of user -- someone who needs to do video editing and graphics in lots of different places and usually has access to AC power -- it's going to provide the power you need without breaking your back on the way.

More important, the laptop is one of the first to pack high-end graphics into a very light package, showing the enormous potential for NVIDIA's Max-Q system -- not just for gaming, but for the professional segment, too. If NVIDIA can keep increasing the performance while lowering the power draw and size, it bodes well for the future. Considering that Intel's eighth-generation laptop chips are more powerful than anticipated, expect upcoming professional laptops to be even faster and more lightweight.

There isn't a lot of competition for Quadro Max-Q laptops -- yet. Along with the NT-15, MSI makes the very similar WS63VR, which features nearly identical specifications. MSI's model is cheaper, however, at $3,400, as compared with $3,883 for the Origin model. It also packs a 4K (non-touch) screen, so the price difference is quite substantial in MSI's favor. Origin is known for having lifetime support, free labor and repairs, a USB 3.0 drive backup and a fancy wooden shipping crate, so you'll have to decide whether it's worth the nearly $500 price difference for those items.

Perhaps the main question: Buy now, or wait? If you need a workhorse machine today, you can't go wrong with the Origin NT-15 Quadro or its slightly cheaper MSI WS63VR doppelgänger. Knowing that Intel is now rolling out its eighth-gen laptop chips, you might want to wait for a model that supports those and NVIDIA's Max-Q as well.

Origin's NT-15 Quadro is a slim laptop with pro video-editing power