Gigabyte P35W v5 Gaming Laptop Review

Introduction


Consumers typically purchase gaming laptops over their desktop counterparts due to portability and requiring hefty processing power on the move. Saying that, it’s exceedingly difficult to offer adequate thermal dissipation in a slim form factor which limits the convenience factor of many flagship gaming laptops. These tend to be rather bulky and difficult to carry around on public transportation where space is quite restricted. Thankfully, efficiency improvements on mobile graphics chipsets and CPUs have enabled manufacturers to create a better balance between performance and size. Granted, the top-tier options with dual GPUs still feel heavy but less extreme alternatives can be surprising portable. For example, the Gigabyte P34W v3 provides a superb gaming experience and weighs a mere 1.81Kg. Back when I reviewed this, the performance to size ratio astounded me. Although, the system’s load temperatures were higher than I hoped and felt like a concession too far.

The latest gaming laptop to prioritize a thin design from Gigabyte is the P35W v5 sporting an Intel i7-6700HQ, ultra fast 128GB NVMe boot drive, and GTX 970M. Unlike the P34W v3, Gigabyte has opted for a 6GB variant of this graphics chip but I can’t see the increased video memory making a substantial difference. On the other hand, some games with high memory utilization might fare better with an improved minimum frame-rate. Another key benefit is the inclusion of DDR4 memory, and a greatly improved battery. As always, you can customize the specification to suit your needs and the standard package utilizes a 1920×1080 display. If this seems a little underwhelming, you can select a 4K panel for an additional fee but this has some drawbacks when it comes to performance. Given the P35W v5’s marvellously thin design, I’m interested to see the thermals under stress and determine if the cooling hardware is up to scratch.

Specifications

  • Name: Gigabyte P35W v5
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz base frequency, 3.5GHz turbo)
  • System Memory: 16GB Dual Channel DDR4 2133MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: Samsung NVMe MZVPV128 M.2 128GB SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): HGST 1TB 7200RPM HDD
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M 6GB
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Display: 15.6-inch 3840×2160 IPS LCD
  • Optical Drive: MATSHITA DVD-RAM UJ8G2
  • Wireless: Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 8260
  • Battery: Li-Polymer 11.1V, 75.81Wh
  • Weight: 2.3Kg with Battery
  • Dimensions: 385(W) x 270(D) x 20.9(H) mm
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Warranty: 2 Year
  • Price: £1399

Packing and Accessories

Gigabyte has adopted a fairly understated theme to the packaging which showcases the beautiful display and professional aesthetic design. Furthermore, there’s a brief description about the laptop’s unique selling features but I have to say the translation is confusing and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps, this is because the press sample originates from the factory and I’m sure Gigabyte will update the message for western markets.

The opposite side is almost identical barring another stunning snapshot of the product’s thin profile. This level of uniformity works well and evokes a premium feel. The packaging’s durable cardboard shell and soft inserts protect the item during transit meaning you shouldn’t encounter any cosmetic imperfections.

Included with the laptop is a power adapter, user’s guide, warranty card, driver disk, PowerDVD 12 software, swappable storage bay and light stickers. The swappable storage bay is an ingenious extra which allows you to remove the optical drive and fit an internal 9.5mm SSD instead. This is a great idea because many people use flash storage devices instead of optical media and the ability to easily house a traditional SATA SSD greatly enhances the laptop’s flexibility.

The 4K model contains a removable orange sticker near the lid which can be replaced with either a green or turquoise colour. Gigabyte even provides a complimentary pair of tweezers to obtain a neat finish and customize the theme to your own personal taste. Small touches like this creates the perception every customer’s needs have been attended to.

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MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro Gaming Laptop Review

Introduction


MSI is an established player in the gaming laptop scene and produces a huge range of products to suit various usage scenarios. Whether you’re prioritizing portability or simply require raw horsepower, MSI has a laptop to suit your specific needs. The company’s quintessential styling and robust construction beautifully balances performance with unique features and includes a comprehensive software package. This magical combination has proved to be incredibly popular among the gaming audience. Previously, we reviewed the budget-orientated MSI GE62 6QD Apache Pro which performed remarkably well in 3D benchmarks despite its relatively affordable price point.

While the gaming prowess of laptops around the £1000 mark are good, some users have higher demands to reach 60 frames-per-second at extreme graphical presets. The type of laptop which caters to this demographic is the GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro and comes in a number of top-tier configurations. The review unit we’re looking at today features an Intel i7-6820HK, 16GB DDR4 2133MHz RAM, GTX 980M and 128GB NVMe PCIe SSD boot drive. Furthermore, the system opts for a 17.3″ 1920×1080 display, 9-cell battery, and 1TB data drive. As you can see, this is a stunning specification and more than capable of competing with high-powered desktops. On another note, the pioneering MXM graphics module offers an upgrade path for the future and makes the investment seem more worthwhile. Overall, I expect the system to shine in gaming tests at extreme graphical settings.

Specifications

  • Name: MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro
  • Case: Brushed Aluminum Laptop Chassis
  • Processor: 6th Gen. Intel Core Skylake i7-6820HK @ 3.6GHz
  • System Memory: 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 2133MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: Toshiba 128GB NVMe PCIe SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): HGST 1TB 7200RPM  
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 980M 8GB GDDR5
  • Battery: 9 Cell Li-Polymer
  • Optical DriveBlu-ray Writer
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n/ac Killer Double Shot Pro AC
  • OS: Windows 10 64 Bit
  • Display: 17.3″ 1920 x 1080 FHD Anti Glare Wide View Angle with NVIDIA G-SYNC
  • Weight: 3.78Kg (With Battery)
  • Dimensions: 428(W) x 294(D) x 48(H)mm
  • Warranty: 2-Year Collect and Return (1 year global)
  • Price: £1962.20 as configured delivered.

Packing and Accessories

Given the laptop’s hefty construction, MSI decided to employ a thick cardboard box to adequately protect the sample during transit and reduce the impact of any small knocks.

The inner packaging adopts MSI’s iconic gaming dragon logo and outlines the system’s key specification.

Once opened, we can see the laptop’s accessories are divided into segments which makes the unboxing process a more pleasant experience. Furthermore, MSI opted for a durable plastic cover, and luxurious protective cloth which reduces the likelihood of damage occurring during shipping.

In terms of accessories, the laptop is bundled with a soft cleaning cloth, documentation, driver disk and power supply. The felt cloth feels beautiful in the hand and evokes a sense of luxury. While the power supply is on the larger side, this is expected given the laptop’s immense specification.

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MSI GE62 6QD Apache Pro Gaming Laptop Review

Introduction


MSI’s GT and GE gaming laptop range have been a phenomenal success due to the feature-rich package, astonishingly-high build quality, and affordable pricing compared to the competition. The combination of class-leading components in a cool and quiet chassis creates a wonderful laptop experience which legitimately rivals large full-tower PCs without having to make too many concessions. Furthermore, each unit is designed with portability in mind opting for a sleek profile and surprisingly light weight even with the battery installed. MSI’s design team managed to maintain a slim profile without impacting on battery life or cooling proficiency. As a result, the final build is perfectly balanced and feels like a meticulously planned piece of equipment.

The latest addition to MSI’s gaming laptop series, is the GE62 6QD. This model features Intel’s latest Skylake mobile architecture and high-bandwidth DDR4 memory. In this particular configuration, the unit is bundled with an i7-6700HQ, 8GB DDR4-2133MHz RAM and the remarkably efficient GTX 960M chipset. This works splendidly with the 1920×1080 PLS panel and provides enough graphical horsepower to tackle demanding 3D tasks. In terms of storage, the laptop includes a 128GB M.2 boot drive, and 1TB 7200 RPM mechanical data disk. As you might expect, MSI incorporates an expansive software suite containing tools to monitor the core components or stream like a professional with the free 1-year XSplit license. Overall, the main specification and premium extras make the GE62 6QD an exciting prospect and I expect to see fairly impressive benchmarks given the reasonable price point.

Specifications

  • Name: MSI GE62 6QD Apache Pro
  • Case: Brushed Aluminum Laptop Chassis
  • Processor: 4th Gen. Intel Core Skylake i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz Core, 3.5GHz Turbo)
  • System Memory: 1x8GB DDR4 2133MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: Toshiba 128GB M.2 SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): 1TB 7200RPM mechanical disk drive
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Polymer
  • Optical Drive: HL-DT-ST DVD-RAM
  • Wireless:  Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 3165
  • OS: Windows 10 64 Bit
  • Display: 15.6″ Anti-Glare (1920×1080) PLS Wide Viewing Angle
  • Weight: 2.4kg with battery
  • Dimensions: 383(W) x 268(D) x 27(H)mm
  • Warranty: 2-Year Collect and Return (1 year global)
  • Price: £1079 as configured delivered.

Packing and Accessories

MSI opted for a durable outer cardboard box which doesn’t increase the shipping weight too much but manages to reinforce the main packaging. The top is sealed using heavy-duty tape and prevents the package from uncoupling during transit.

Once the outer packaging has been removed, we can now see the aesthetically pleasing retail box which employ MSI’s gaming dragon theme. This red and black colour scheme evokes a premium tone and illustrates the laptop’s target market. On another note, the strong handle, taped top section and thick tabs adds a great deal of protection and should eliminate any kind of accidental damage by a courier.

The laptop edges are protected by two cardboard cutouts which helps to maintain the packaging’s default arrangement and stop the unit from moving around. Also, the GE62 6QD is cushioned by a gorgeous MSI-branded felt cover to stop any cosmetic imperfections from occurring.

In terms of accessories, the system comes with a huge array of documentation informing the purchaser about key features, the setup process, and a thorough warranty guide.  There is also a fairly large power brick and UK AC adapter. It’s certainly not the most intrusive I’ve seen and should be portable enough to fit in most laptop bags without any problems.

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Kensington SD4000 Universal USB 3.0 Docking Station with 4K UHD Review

Introduction


For today’s review I’m venturing a little bit out of my normal area of storage, network, and server components and take a closer look at a very useful gadget for everyone that has a laptop of some sort. Kensington might be most known for their locking system that is present on almost any electronic device, but they do make a lot of different products too. Today I’m taking a closer look at the SD4000 Universal USB Docking Station for laptops.

While a docking station like this would work with any system and as such isn’t limited to portable ones, it will be a rare scenario that someone will connect it to their desktop. That said, it could still provide some beneficial uses there too.

While most laptop manufacturers also provide docking stations for some of their models, they are usually very expensive and only compatible to very few models. The use of a universal docking station like this opens a lot more options and best of all, you can take it with you to any other system that you might upgrade to in the future.

The Kensington SD4000 Universal Docking Station connects to your system via a single USB 3.0 host port and in return it offers you three USB 3.0 connectors, a DVI port, a DisplayPort or HDMI, a Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 port, and headset connections. Those are all useful connections to have, especially on ultrabooks and netbooks that barely have any native connections at all anymore.

The Docking Station doesn’t just serve as USB hub, it also enables 4K Ultra HD resolutions, even when your laptop doesn’t have a graphics card that supports these resolutions. You can connect a single 4K monitor or TV via an HDMI or DisplayPort connection for Ultra HD resolution at 3840 x 2160 pixels.

4K Ultra HD resolution sadly only works with one monitor connected, but you can run up to 2K when using dual monitors. Ideal for users not ready to make the transition to 4K, this option can support the typical two-monitor setup with 1920 x 1200 and 2048 x 1152 resolution for each screen.

Speedy charging for power hungry devices such as tablets is also supported thanks to the 2.1 AMP fast charging USB port labeled with an extra lightning character. The Gigabit Ethernet port is also one that’s often missing on netbooks as they rely solely on wireless.

Features

  • 4K Ultra HD resolution (3840×2160) to one monitor via an HDMI cable or DisplayPort connection
  • Enables 4K UHD even if laptop does not have 4K graphics card
  • 2K resolution (1920×1200/2048×1152) for two-monitor setup via DisplayPort or HDMI/DVI
  • 3 universal USB 3.0 ports for seamless productivity with your accessories
  • 2.1A fast charging port to power up a tablet or smartphone
  • Gigabit Ethernet port for wired connectivity to the Internet
  • Includes speaker port, microphone jack, Kensington Security Slot
  • Compatible with Windows 8.1/8/7

Specifications

  • UPC: 085896339830
  • Best For: Convertible and 2-in-1 Laptops, Laptops, Ultrabooks, Windows Tablets
  • Compatibility: Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1
  • Connections: 1 x RJ-45 Ethernet (LAN) Female, Host Interface: USB 3.0, Host upstream link: USB (B Type)
  • Female, HUB downstream link: USB (A Type) Female
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Features: Extended Display, Kensington Security Slot, Mirrored Display, Power Indicator (Blue), USB Hub Link
  • Indicator (Green)
  • Dimensions: 7.71” x 3.34” x 1.08” (19.5 cm x 85 cm x 2.75 cm)

Packaging and Accessories

The package of the SD4000 Universal Docking Station comes in s a simple yet elegant wrapping. It shows what it does on the front without much extra.

The rear of the package explains what type of connectors it has, what’s in the box, and what it is compatible with. Everything you’ll want to know before you purchase.

Inside the box, we find a power supply with both an EU and UK replaceable plug, a setup guide, a USB cable to connect it and the docking station itself.

Gigabyte P34W v3 Gaming Laptop Review

Introduction


The Gigabyte P34W v3 is touted as “the world’s lightest GTX 970M gaming laptop” and exemplifies how portable modern gaming laptops can be whilst offering an impressive level of graphical prowess. After growing up with a number of 17″ behemoths that almost weighed the same as my Desktop; it is staggering how far technology has come. From the outset, the P34W v3 looks more like a fashionable ultrabook designed for basic tasks instead of an enthusiast-grade laptop. However, don’t be deceived by its slim design; the P34W v3 packs an enormous punch with an Intel Core i7-4720HQ, 8GB of RAM and GTX 970M. This combination provides a stellar 1080p gaming experience without requiring a bulky setup. The question is, have Gigabyte made too many concessions in a bid to reach a compact form factor?

Specifications

  • Name: Gigabyte P34W v3
  • Case: Gigabyte ABS and PC Chassis with Aluminium Lid
  • Processor: 4th Gen. Intel Core i7-4720HQ (2.6GHz, 3.6GHz Turbo)
  • System Memory: Transcend TS1GSK64W6H – 8GB Memory Module 1600MHz DDR3L Unbuffered Non-ECC CL11 204-pin SO-DIMM
  • Main Boot Drive: Lite-On LMT-128L9M-11 MSATA 128GB
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): WD Blue WD10JPVX 1TB 5400 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 2.5″ Internal Notebook Hard Drive
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 970M GDDR5 3GB
  • Battery: Li-polymer 15.2V, 16.25h, 4030mAh
  • Optical DriveNone
  • Wireless:  Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 7260 2×2 mini-PCIe card
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
  • Display: 14″ 1920×1080 AVHA
  • Weight: 1.81kg
  • Dimensions: 340(W) x 239 (D) x 20.9 (h) mm
  • Warranty: 2-year Global Warranty
  • Price: £1187 as configured Delivered.

Packing and Accessories

Gaming laptops incur a rather hefty price tag which means the packaging and presentation should be impeccable. In this case, the P34W v3 was sent without any bubble wrap, additional boxes or reinforced padding. I wouldn’t be too concerned though as this particular unit is a second-hand press sample and shouldn’t reflect the retail version.

Once the top flap has been removed, you can access the interior packaging which contains a cardboard section for the power cable and adapter. This is constructed from fairly thick-grade cardboard and protects the cables pretty well. Additionally, the laptop is hidden underneath a rectangular foam cutout which adds a luxury feel. Gigabyte decided to position the accessories on top of the cushioning foam to allow for easy removal.

The laptop is bundled with a soft and luscious protective bag which adopts an understated but classy appearance.In terms of accessories, the P34W v3 includes a user’s manual, warranty card, felt cleaning cloth, power adapter, power brick, and selection of software. The user’s manual is 12-pages long and contains clear diagrams to help you setup the device. It does seem rather silly though to provide a drivers disk considering the laptop doesn’t have an optical drive. This shows a lack of thought because many laptops require a disk to enable network functionality before downloading additional drivers. I hope Gigabyte take this feedback on-board and put the data on a USB flash drive in the future.

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PC Specialist Lafité Notebook Review

Introduction


When I found out I’d be reviewing this laptop from PC Specialist I decided to check out their site and do some homework to see what I was getting.  Having no hands on experiences with Intel’s new Broadwell chips previous to this meant I finally get a chance to see what all of the Broadwell fuss was out, or perhaps to discover it was just marketing hype. After a while of making the cheapest and most expensive builds possible to curb my curiosity my very own review unit had arrived. Reading the spec list I was given ahead of the arrival, features like “5th Gen i5 Broadwell CPU”, “1080p 13.3″ screen”, “250GB SSD” were all ticking the right boxes to me, but when I seen how remarkably thin the chassis was on the website photos it was then my interest peaked.

The question is though, is it as good as it looks or is it all style and no substance? Let’s get this unboxed and find out!

Specifications

  • Name: PC Specialist Lafité
  • Case: PC Specialist Lafité Silver Aluminium Chassis
  • Processor: Intel® CoreTM i5 Dual Core Processor i5-5200U (2.20GHz, 2.7GHz Turbo)
  • System Memory: 8GB Kingston SODIMM DDR3 1600MHz (1 x 8GB)
  • Main Boot Drive: 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD, SATA 6Gb/s (upto 540MB/sR | 520MB/sW)
  • Graphics card: Intel® HD Graphics 5500
  • Battery: Lafité Series 4 Cell Lithium Ion Battery (6,300mAh)
  • Optical Recovery MediaWindows 8.1 (64-bit) DVD with paper sleeve
  • Optical Drive: None
  • Wireless: Gigabit LAN & Wireless Intel® AC-3160 M.2 + Bluetooth
  • Screen: 13.3″ Matte Full HD IPS LED (1920 x 1080)
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
  • Warranty: 3 Year Standard Warranty (1 Month Collect & Return, 1 Year Parts, 3 Year Labour)
  • Price: £599 as configured Delivered.

Opening the outer box reveals shows the majority of the notebook inner box is surrounded by extremely strong air padding

Removing the air padding reveals the inner box, it may be plain, but there’s no chance of damage in transit here.

The contents merely a few items, including AC Adapter, SSD Manual and PC Specialist handbook

Up close on the power supply.

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Diamond DS3900V2 UltraDock Docking Station Review

Introduction


It doesn’t matter if you got the new Apple Macbook with just one USB port or any other system, you always have too few, especially on your portable computers. The Diamond DS3900 Ultra Dock Dual Video USB 3.0/2.0 docking station enables multiple USB devices, monitors, and a network to be connected to the computer using a single USB3.0 cable. It doesn’t matter if you want to connect to your large screen displays, stereo speakers, external hard drive, optical disk drive, printer, USB keyboard, mouse or any other USB devices, the DS3900 has it covered.

Any laptop, Ultrabook, MacBook, just as well as any other PC, can connect to the Diamond DS3900 Ultra Dock docking station, eliminating the need to plug in all USB peripherals and external monitor every time you come into the office or go back home. Just plug in the one USB 3.0 cable from the docking station to any USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 port on the laptop and your displays and accessories will be activated in seconds.

Most laptop manufacturers also build some sort of docking station for their systems, but they usually come with a pretty hefty price as well as being limited for use with specific models. Not so with Diamond’s universal solution. One of the big advantages of having a docking station at home, is that you don’t need to connect every single cable when you get home, a single one will do the trick and all your hardware is hooked up. Even audio is covered.

The single USB 3.0 uplink provides two USB 3.0 ports where one of them supports quick charge (BC1/2 battery charging function) for iPad and iPhones. Further, it has four USB 2.0 ports as well as an IEEE 802.3, 802.3u, and 802.3ab compatible RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet port with full support for IPv4 and IPv6, full-duplex, and flow control. Just like it should be.

On the video side of things, the DS3900 is using a DisplayLink DL-3900 chipset and it supports 1080p HDMI and DVI dual digital video output. Extend or mirror your display onto another monitor or set an external connected monitor as your default one, you won’t notice any difference between the use of this docking station and a native connection. It supports High Resolution up to 2048 x 1152 and the entire unit is DisplayLink certified. Audio connections shouldn’t be left out, and they aren’t. It has two 3.5mm stereo jacks for audio output and microphone input.

The Diamond docking station measures 234 x 86 x 33 mm and weighs just 450 grams, light enough to make it portable as well. It does require Windows 7 Mac OS X, and newer versions to work, 1GB of memory, a 1.2GHz or faster SSE2 supporting CPU and 30MB free space for the installation and 10MB hard disk space for the drivers.

Besides the large rubber foot underneath the docking station, it also features a vertical stand for different optics and a smaller footprint. The metal foot is heavy enough to give the station a sturdy stand, even when heavy cables are connected to it. The rubber foot can be slid off and then you just hang the station onto the stand. Very simple and it looks awesome.

Diamond created a what looks to be a solid docking station, one where you only need to connect one cable to your system and in return you get full connectivity including dual display, audio, network, and USB 3.0 speed.

The package includes everything that you need, including a DVI to VGA adapter, power supply, vertical stand, USB cable, manuals, and driver disk.

MSI GS60 2QD (Ghost) 470UK Gaming Notebook Review

Introduction


MSI have been busy lately, dishing out their latest range of MSI Gaming notebooks and they’re keen to show that they have a gaming notebook offering for virtually every budget range. Today we are looking at their mid-to-high range offering, the GS60 2QD (Ghost), and MSI kindly offered us a chance to review a red limited edition version instead of the usual black. A 15″ full HD 1080p screen, high-end i7 processor, PCIE storage and the brand new Nvidia GTX765 under the hood, we should be in for an interesting review!

Specifications
  • Name: GS60 2QD(Ghost)-470UK-
  • CPU: Sharkbay Core i7-4720HQ (2.6GHz – 3.6GHz)
  • RAM: 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 1.35w (8GB*2)
  • SSD: 128GB PCIE M.2 SSD
  • HDD: 1TB 7200RPM
  • GPU:NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M 2GB
  • LAN:10/100/1000/Gigabits Base T
  • WLAN: Killer DoubleShot Pro 11ac Built-in Bluetooth V4.0
  • Monitor:  15.6″ FHD, Anti-Glare (1920*1080) eDP Wide View Angle
  • Keyboard: SteelSeries FULL back lit keyboard with SteelSeries Engine
  • I/O: 3x USB3.0, 1x HDMI,1x Mini Display Port, SD Reader, Mic-in, Headphone-out, line-in, line-out, 1x 1Gb LAN, FHD Webcam
  • ODD: None
  • Battery: 6-Cell Li-Polymer(4840mAh 52Wh)
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Dimensions: 390 x 266 x 19.9mm
  • Weight: 1.9kg(w/ battery)
  • Warranty: 2 YR’s Collect & Return (1 YR Global)
  • Price:£1,299 Inc VAT

Packaging & Accessories

It arrived well packed and undamaged I’m pleased to report; nothing more to say, so lets open it up!

On opening the outer box we can see it has been divided into 2 sections

The smaller section contains a protective case, featuring the MSI shield logo.

Close Up, it wont protect the GS60 from drops much, though it should keep all normal wear and tear to a minimum.

The notebook box itself is very nice…

With the lid lifting straight off to reveal the sheathed notebook.

Putting the notebook to one side for the minute and exploring the rest of the box, there are 2 wide compartments under the notebook and a long compartment running alongside the notebook.

The left wide compartment contains various Warranty and documentation information, the right wide compartment contains the power brick, and the long compartment contained the 3pin to clover power connector.

Power brick close up

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MSI GT80 GTX 980M 8GB SLI Titan Laptop Review

Introduction


There are few things more exciting than reviewing a gaming laptop that you know has a reputation to live up to. Naturally, when the courier dropped off the GT80 Titan I couldn’t wait to get my claws into it. It has a specification list that puts most desktops to shame and has been paraded by MSI for a couple of months now as their latest and greatest flagship gaming laptop, promising nothing but the best for followers of MSIs “Dragon Army”. In preparation for meeting this monster in person, I had a brief look around the MSI website and was impressed to see just how much has been crammed into this machine. There were the usual claims of speed, “ultimate performance” and the likes, but below this was a tech spec list long enough to possibly justify these claims and had me wide-eyed with interest from the off.

I decided to leave to the official blurb behind and just dive in, as to not be influenced by big claims or rose-tinted glasses, so let the unboxing begin!

Specifications

  • Name: MSI GT80 Titan
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4980HQ @ 2.8GHz (up to 4.0GHz Turboboost)
  • RAM: 32GB 1600MHz DDR3 (8GB*4)
  • SSD: 4 x 256GB PCIE SSD
  • HDD: 1TB 7200RPM
  • GPU: 2 x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 8GB in SLI
  • LAN:10/100/1000/Gigabits Base T (Killer)
  • WLAN: Killer 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Built-in Bluetooth V4.0
  • Monitor: 18.4″1920 x 1080 Anti-glare LED backlit
  • Keyboard: SteelSeries Red backlit mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown Switches
  • I/O: 5x USB3.0, 1x HDMI, 2x Micro Displayport, SD Reader, Mic-in, Headphone-out, line-in, line-out, 1x 1Gb LAN, Optical Out
  • Webcam: FHD Webcam
  • ODD: BD-RW (6x)
  • Battery: Built-in 89 W/h lithium-Ion
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Dimensions: 45.6 x 33 x 4.9 cm
  • Weight: 4.5Kg (w/ Battery)
  • Warranty: 2 year collect and return, 1 Year Global
  • Price: £3499.99 Inc VAT

The box comes loud and proud with the MSI logo on it.  Now I know this laptop is big, but this box is huge. On opening it we see why, there are extra goodies in there too, I spy a backpack!

Removed from the outer box and separated from the backpack, this still weighs quite a fair amount

When you lift the lid of the outer box you are immediately presented with a rather nice black envelope sealed with an MSI sticker; we’ll open this in the next section

You can immediately see the laptop on the left in a protective bag and there is a cardboard section on the right which houses the power supply.

When you lift the laptop out of the box, there is a whole host of goodies waiting for you underneath

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Asus ROG G751JY-T7051H Gaming Notebook Review

Introduction


With every incarnation of Next-Gen mobile GPU releases there is always a high-end selection from each major manufacturer vying for the title of “World’s Fastest Laptop”, “Ultimate Portable Gaming Notebook” or similar, and Asus is no stranger for aiming for this accolade. Their Republic Of Gamers (or “ROG” as more commonly known) series is specifically designed towards this area, and has put out regular revisions of its G-Series laptops since the launch of the G70 in 2008. Fast forward to 2014 and we have the G751 series, aimed the highest point in the market in terms of price and performance, using the latest Intel Haswell CPU and the Nvidia GTX 980m GPU based on the new Maxwell architecture.

There was a point in time where most manufacturers could get away with purchasing the latest Clevo OEM motherboard and cramming it with the latest hardware and then shipping it out – though Asus was one of the few at the time to take thermals into account and actually create a custom cooling solution that helped gamers get the most out of their the high-end hardware. Add some aggressive looking “Stealth Fighter” design choices and you have the ROG series in a nutshell.

As an owner of gaming laptops over the years including the Asus G73 back in the day, I have high hopes going into this review that Asus have delivered a monster of a machine capable of gaming till my eyes go square. After briefly looking over the hardware specifications I am looking forward to pushing the G751 to its limits, while hopefully being met with a tremendous gaming experience that will keep me glued to my seat over the New Year. As a laptop pushing the £2000 boundary, this represents a significant investment and therefore we have high expectations going into this review.

Specifications
  • Name: Asus G751JY-T7051H
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4860HQ @ 2.4GHz (up to 3.4GHz Turboboost)
  • RAM: 32GB 1600MHz DDR3 1.35w (8GB*4)
  • SSD: 512GB PCIE SSD
  • HDD: 1TB 7200RPM
  • GPU:NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB
  • LAN:10/100/1000/Gigabits Base T
  • WLAN: Integrated 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Built-in Bluetooth V4.0
  • Monitor: 3″1920 x 1080 Anti-glare LED backlit
  • Keyboard: Chiclet Red blacklit Asus ROG branded
  • I/O: 4x USB3.0, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, 1x Thunderbolt, SD Reader, Mic-in, Headphone-out, line-in, line-out, 1x 1Gb LAN, FHD Webcam
  • ODD: BD-RW (6x)
  • Battery: 8-Cell 6000mAh 88w/h
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Dimensions: 41.6 x 31.8 x 5.3 cm
  • Weight: 8kg with battery (10.6lb)
  • Warranty: 2 year Global Warranty, can be extended to 3 for an extra £65
  • Price: £1999.99 Inc VAT

Packaging & Accessories

The notebook box provides a decent amount of protection to the laptop inside, and both the machine itself and accessories have an extra layer of protection in that they are inside in thin foam bags. Having said that though for a laptop of this value, it would have been nice if it had been shipped inside a padded box for extra protection, in the same way the PC Specialist Cosmos 2 was packed.

The box is well designed, with carry handle and angled sides reminiscent of the laptop’s aggressively edged design. Upon lifting the lid of the box you are greeted with the line “In Search of Incredible” on the inner lid, and the system itself wrapped inside its afore-mentioned sleeve. The power supply is located in a compartment to the right of the system, and the accessories are stored in a compartment that is revealed under the laptop once it has been lifted from the box.

Included is a power supply, UK 3 pin plug with kettle connection to the power supply, an Asus branded cable tidy wrap, manual, quick start guide, warranty card and cleaning cloth.

CPU-Z

GPU-Z

PC Specialist Cosmos II 15.6″ Notebook Review

Introduction


When it comes to finding a decent-spec notebook you will be overwhelmed with options. If you’re after something slim and stylish you’re likely to be stung for a hefty premium by Apple, Sony, Samsung and so on. If you’re after something with a decent amount of CPU and GPU horsepower then you’re likely to be dragged into the depths of gaming notebooks (like those made by ASUS, MSI, Alienware and so on) even if you don’t want to game. So where do you go if you’re looking for something in between? Something that has style and is fairly slim but still has a fair amount of performance to allow you to be productive and game? Well PC Specialist are always a good place to start because you can customise just about any base notebook to have anything you want. Today we have a mid-range PC Specialist Cosmos II notebook in for testing and it looks like an epic all-rounder. With a dual core Haswell Core i5, an Nvidia GTX 850M 2GB graphics card, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB SSHD it has a great balance of performance, functionality and most importantly value. The design may be a little plain-Jane for the style conscious notebook buyer but if you’re happy for simplicity then this could be the ideal notebook for you. Below you can see the specifications of our PC Specialist Cosmos II notebook as we have it configured. You can change and configure just about every aspect of the Cosmos II if for whatever reason you need more or less of something.

Specifications

  • Name: PC Specialist Cosmos II
  • Case: Cosmos Series
  • Motherboard: Generic Intel HM86
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4210M dual core processor
  • Processor Cooler: Generic low profile integrated notebook cooling solution
  • System Memory: 1 x 8GB Kingston HyperX Impact 1600MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: 1TB Seagate Hybrid Gen3 5400RPM SSHD w/ 64MB Cache
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Not included.
  • Graphics card: Nvidia GTX 850M 2GB DDR3
  • Power Supply: 120W AC adapter
  • Optical Drive:Generic 8X DVD-RW/24X CD-RW
  • Wireless: Intel N135 802.11N 150mbps and Bluetooth
  • Monitor: 15.6 inch matte Full HD LED widescreen (1920 x 1080)
  • Peripherals: Integrated chiclet-style keyboard and 2 button touchpad-mouse
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
  • Warranty: 3 Year (1 month collect and return, 1 year parts, 3 years labour)
  • Price: £697 including delivery and VAT as configured. (Pricing links on final page of review)
  • Weight: 2.6kg

Packaging & Accessories

PC Specialist are no strangers to building and shipping systems and notebooks to customers so I wasn’t surprised to see our review sample come in virtually bomb proof package. Not only is the notebook box well protected inside another outer box, but you also find the notebook comes with more foam protection inside the inner box.

The notebook box comes with a convenient carry handle, if you ever need to move all the parts around or send it back to PC Specialist for repairs then you should definitely keep hold of this.

Included is a 120W AC adapter, 5600 mAh battery, UK power plug, a user guide, a driver & utility DVD and a Nero12 essentials trial version disc.

The included adapter is manufactured by Chicony Power Technology and is good for 120W of output which is required for this notebook.

The required battery provides 62.16 watt hours and is Lithium-Ion.

CPU-Z

GPU-Z

MSI GT70-2PE ‘Dominator Pro’ Gaming Notebook Review

Introduction


Over the last few weeks I’ve been looking at a few of MSI’s latest gaming notebooks, each featuring NVIDIA’s brand new 800 series GPUs. As we look back at the two units that we’ve seen already, the first of these being the GS60-2PE ‘Ghost Pro’ – which, as a mid range system, wows me with the amount of power that I has tucked away inside its slim and lightweight frame, giving it some credentials that could almost give it the right to be known as a Ultrabook. On the other hand, the GP70-2PE ‘Leopard’ that we looked at more recently brought some fresher and more up to date components over its older brother the straight up GP70. Although it featured a full solid state boot drive and the latest run of 800 series graphics from NVIDIA, the balance between some of the components such as the high-end processor and entry-level graphics card, along with a couple of note around the chassis such as the track pad left me a little disappointed as it has the right foundation to be a cracking budget option for the rapidly changing market.

The third and last system from MSI’s gaming series range that we’ve picked out for review today is targeted right at the top end of the gaming notebook market. Compared to the Ghost Pro which looks for the balance in performance and cost, along with functionality and the Leopard which is aimed more at the budget conscious gamer, the GT70-2PE ‘Dominator Pro’ is a no holds barred out-and-out performance system. Featuring a top end 880m GPU from NVIDIA, an i7 CPU from Intel, SuperRAID SSD and the capacity to upgrade its performance even further, the GT70 is set to be their flagship gaming notebook.

As we will see as we work through our tour of the GT70, like the Leopard we will see that its design and basic framework has been brought forward from a previous generation, meaning that even though it may looked like an older system on the outside, on the inside it is full of young blood that is waiting to get to work pushing pixels about like there is no tomorrow. Naturally, like many other things in life, top end performance does inherently bring with it a strong price tag and at £1,799.00 (inc VAT), this notebook is not for the faint hearted. Ultimately though, the most important question that we must ask as we look around this system is “does spending this much really pay itself off?” After all, you’ve not to feel that pleased if you’ve bought a Ferrari only to find that its got the gut of a typical four-door saloon.

  • Name: MSI GT70-2PE ‘Dominator Pro’
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4800MQ @ 2.4GHz
  • RAM: 16GB 1600MHz Kingston MSI16D3LS1KFG/8G (8GB*2)
  • SSD: 256GB SuperRAID RAID0 – 2x SanDisk SD6SF1M-128G mSATA SSD
  • HDD: HGST 1TB 7200RPM
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M 4GB
  • LAN: Killer E2200
  • WLAN: Killer Wireless-N1202 (802.11ac)
  • Monitor: 17.3″1920 x 1080 Anti-glare LED backlit
  • Keyboard: Steelseries chiclet RGB blacklit
  • I/O: 3x USB3.0, 2x USB2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, 1x mDP, SD Reader, Mic-in, Headphone-out, line-in, line-out, 1x 1Gb LAN, FHD Webcam
  • ODD: DVD-RW DL
  • Battery: 9-Cell 7800mAh 87Wh
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Dimensions: 42.8 x 28.8 x 5.5 cm
  • Weight: 3.9kg with battery (8.6lb)
  • Warranty: 2 year RTB
  • Price: £1799.00 Inc VAT

Looking down the crib sheet for this system, there’s no mistaking that MSI have got a ton of power behind the scenes, especially in the processing and graphics department. I’ll also note at this point that the SSD array and the stock memory has the potential to be pushed further and in some regions may come as a slightly different default configuration to what what I’ve got here today.

The package that comes alongside the notebook is strikingly similar to that of the Leopard, with a bundle of manuals and setup guides, a regional kettle lead and a 180W power adapter – this alone carries a bit of weight to it and considering the spec, it#s no wonder why.

MSI GP70-2PE ‘Leopard’ Gaming Notebook Review

Introduction


Running off the tail end of our look at MSI’s GS6 ‘Ghost Pro’ gaming series notebook, which features NVIDIA’s latest 800m series graphics, MSI have been keen to show us what else they have in their artillery for the everyday gamer. Where the GS60 is a strong and well-balanced system, packing some Ultrabook-like credentials such as its slim and lightweight design, the GP70 Leopard that we’re looking at today is aimed more at the budget gamer who wants a competent system that packs all the features and credentials needed to be classed as a gaming notebook, but without such a strong price tag that surpasses the £1000 barrier.

The GP70 is by no means a new system in its design and layout, having been around for at least one generation now, the GP70 ‘Leopard’ is effectively a refreshed model, taking advantage of NVIDIA’s latest 800m series graphics to give this more budget conscious notebook a performance boost, bringing it up to date with the latest games and the growing needs of today’s gamers.

As we have seen from our first look at the 800m series graphics on the Ghost Pro, there is a notable gain in performance to be seen over the previous generation 700m series chips. To put the latest generation graphics into context, a current generation 870m GPU provides frame rates and performance similar to that of a 780m core whilst a 860m should give performance similar to that of a 770m and so on. What this means for the Leopard is that we should see a notable difference in performance between the new GP70 Leopard, with its 840m GPU and the older GP70 with its 740m offering.

Aside the GPU there are a handful of other areas where MSI have done some housekeeping, the network adaptor has been upgraded to the KillerLAN E2200 series gaming NIC, whilst the wireless adaptor sees an upgrade to support the latest 802.11ac standard. The audio sees a refresh with MSI’s Audio Boost technology to give a deeper adn richer audio experience. Finally the storage sees a huge boost in performance from a hybrid system that uses 24GB of NAND cache with a 1TB hard drive for all of its storage needs over to a setup that uses two separate drives; a 128GB mSATA drive for the boost drive and a 1TB hard drive for bulk storage needs. All the other key areas of the systems specification, including the processors, chipset, memory and I/O features, plus the design of the system remain the same as before.

  • Name: MSI GP70-2PE ‘Leopard’
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4700HQ @ 2.4GHz
  • RAM: 8GB 1600MHz ADATA MIF4D1D167HZ1
  • SSD: Toshiba 128GB mSATA SSD
  • HDD: Western Digital Blue 750GB
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 840M 2GB
  • LAN: Killer E2200
  • WLAN: Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 3160
  • Monitor: 17.3″1920 x 1080 Anti-glare LED backlit
  • Keyboard: Steelseries chiclet
  • I/O: 2x USB3.0, 2x USB2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, SD Reader, Mic-in & Headphone-out, 1x 1Gb LAN, FHD Webcam
  • ODD: DVD-RW DL
  • Battery: 6-Cell 4400mAh 49Wh
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Dimensions: 41.8 x 26.9 x 3.9 cm
  • Weight: 2.7kg with battery (5.96lb)
  • Warranty: 2 year RTB
  • Price: £899.99 Inc VAT

For any gaming laptop, let alone a system as thin as this, there is a lot of ‘oomph’ behind the keyboard – especially in the graphics department and considering the fact that gaming laptops these days are generally considered as bulky and heavy, a thin and light system is certainly a welcome addition to the market.

Every part of MSI’s gaming series is just as important as the notebook itself and thus everything follows the same colour scheme. Bearing the red dragon and the tagline ‘Top Player – Top choice’, the box print looks like the brushed effect paint that we will see on the notebook. Inside the notebook comes protected inside a plastic bag and then a cloth liner to prevent marks and scratches during transport, further more a soft-touch layer sits between the keyboard and screen to ensure the notebook arrives with you in the same way that it left the factory. A series of guides, manuals, warranty paper work followed by a driver CD and regional power adaptor round off the GP70 package.

MSI GS60-2PE ‘Ghost Pro’ Gaming Notebook Review

Introduction


Over the last few weeks we have been bombarded with the launch of Intel’s Z97 chipset and the release of the Haswell-Refresh processors, however whilst all of this has been going on, there has been another launch that has taken place, although it seems that it was completely missed out due to the rumours and speculations surrounding Z97. This launch that I’m referring to has come from the green team over at NVIDIA. On the desktop market we are well and truly settled with the latest range of 700 series GeForce GTX graphics cards, however the notebook side of the market has taken a step forward into the next generation with the release of the 800m series of discrete mobile graphics solutions. Now before I go any further, I will answer a very quick question that has been asked over the last few days; “800 Series…? Does this mean that the desktop cards are soon going to be making a step forward as well?”

Whilst I can understand where to question is coming from, after all it makes perfectly good sense to ask this, sadly the introduction of the 800m series is not a flag to indicate that the 800 series desktop GPUs are on their way. If anything I don’t expect to hear anything about the GTX 800 series desktop cards until the end of this year or the start of next. This said though, the 800m series is still a generation up from the 700m as we would expect and along with it comes new levels of performance and more features and technology. Over the 700m series cards, the 800m chips are set to offer a performance boost of around 10% over the previous generation, along with new technologies such as battery boost, where the power drain from the GPU core is reduced, whilst keeping the frame rates over 30fps. The battery boost technology doesn’t just give us a small gain in life either, NVIDIA say that in some cases we could expect to see notebook batteries lasting up to twice as long (compared to a similar system with a 700m series GPU) and alongside the more power conscious Haswell processors, mobile gaming is becoming more of a reality and not just a dream.

A new graphics line-up means, for mots brands. a brand new line up of gaming notebooks and MSI are just one of these big names. As far as gaming notebooks go, MSI is one of the market leaders, alongside other names such as Gigabyte and Dell and their line-up covers virtually every level of performance and a huge range of price points. For the consumer this huge range of systems means that no matter what your budget is, MSI are almost certainly going to have the right system for you.

The GS60 Ghost Pro that we’re taking a look at today sits towards the higher end of the performance and pricing scales and not only does it pack top end components, its design and construction has led to the GS60 claiming the title of ‘the lightest NVIDIA 800 series laptop’ available on the market. At 1.96kg, we are talking about a system that is no heavier than a 15″ MacBook Pro and only a fraction more than some of the top Ultrabooks that are available on the market today. The build of this system is so light, we could almost call it a gaming Ultrabook.

  • Name: MSI GS60-2PE ‘Ghost Pro’
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4700HQ @ 2.4GHz
  • RAM: 8GB 1600MHz Kingston MSI16D3LS1KBG
  • SSD: MSI Super RAID 256GB (RAID0) – 2x Toshiba HG5d 128GB M.2 6Gbps
  • HDD: HGST 1TB 5400RPM
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M 3GB
  • LAN: Killer E2200
  • WLAN: Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 7260
  • Monitor: 15.6″1920 x 1080 Anti-glare LED backlit
  • Keyboard: Steelseries fully backlit RGB chiclet
  • I/O: 3x USB3.0, 1x mDP, 1x HDMI, SD Reader, Mic-in & Headphone-out, 1x 1Gb LAN, FHD Webcam
  • Battery: 6-Cell 4840mAh 52Wh
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Dimensions: 39 x 26.6 x 1.99 cm
  • Weight: 1.96kg with battery (4.32lb)
  • Accessories: Padded sleeve
  • Warranty: 2 year RTB
  • Price: £1399.99 Inc VAT

For any gaming laptop, let alone a system as thin as this, there is a lot of ‘oomph’ behind the keyboard – especially in the graphics department and considering the fact that gaming laptops these days are generally considered as bulky and heavy, a thin and light system is certainly a welcome addition to the market.

Once we’ve opened up the fantastic looking box which bears the MSI gaming logo to the top left and the tag line ‘Top Brand – Top Choice’ in the middle, we find the notebook itself sealed inside a protective cloth sleeve (after taking it out of a plastic bag). Alongside the notebook we get a grey zipped carry case with a stitched MSI gaming logo in one corner and inside the case is well padded and holds the notebook snug and well. Having the carry case is quite a surprise considering notebooks typically don’t carry such an accessory.

With the notebook and case aside we can look a little closer at the box. Whilst I don’t normally look at the box itself, the attention to detail here is far greater than I’d usually see with a foam insert in the lid and a neatly presented layout inside. The red band around the perimeter of the box adds some contrast to the packaging and adds to the details that MSI have put in to this system.

In the three boxes we first of all find the AC power adaptor in the right hand box, with a regional power cord in the left. The middle box comprises of all the manuals, warranty leaflets, hot-key guides, quick start guide and so on, with a driver CD rounding off the extras.

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite Notebook Review

Introduction


Before I even start this review, I’m going to lay down the law so to speak. The term Ultrabook adheres to a device that follows Intel’s strict guidelines and while the device that we’re looking at today may look Ultrabook-esque, it features AMD CPU architecture and therefore cannot be claimed as an Ultrabook, though for the most part (barring the exclusion of an Intel processor) it pretty much is an Ultrabook.

What Samsung have done to create this notebook is to take the fundamental aspects of their Ultrabook range (Ativ Book) and given it the same treatment as its big brother; the Ativ Book 9 Plus, but to keep costs down an AMD quad-core processor has been used as opposed to the more expensive and slightly more powerful Intel equivalent. While Intel fan-boys across the world will be shouting at their screens right now, you have to remember that a device such as this has limited purposes and no matter what CPU the manufacturer favours, it will not see Crysis 3 being  run with all the settings turned right up to the max.

The term Ultrabook and the very similar AMD equivalent offer an unrivalled range of features in a convenient, small form factor that allows for superb battery life, fantastic connectivity options and of course the added portability factor due to the size and most importantly, the weight of a lightweight product like this.

As a journalist (as that is effectively what our line of work falls under) you’ll generally have a stereotypical view in your mind of me sitting in Starbucks with a Macbook Air/Pro in front of me and a large Americano steaming away as I ponder the latest happenings in the tech world; but whilst I am a typical journalist and I have coffee running through my veins, I don’t spend all my hours sitting in a coffee shop such as Starbucks or Costa waiting to chase the news. What I do instead is to attend pre-arranged press conferences and launches – typically in London and to get the news out as soon as possible or to make taking note down easier, I prefer to take either a tablet or more ideally a small laptop with me to type my notes on to – I still keep my trusty notebook and pen in the bag though!

This scenario is exactly where the Ativ Book 9 Lite comes into play. With a lightweight design, lightning fast performance and small form factor, on paper it ticks all the right boxes and to top that all off that it features a touchscreen panel. What’s more the Ativ Book 9 Lite retails at just a fraction of the price of an equally spec’d Ultrabook the features an Intel CPU at its heart.

This notebook that I’m having a look at today comes in one of two almost identical specifications, but with one component that is different between the two, but one that also affects the price quite considerably. This sole item that I’m referring to is the screen. Many laptops, notebooks and Ultrabooks that are coming to the market are now featuring touch-screen capabilities and the Ativ Book 9 Lite is yet another system that has this option available, although if you’re not a fond user of this new feature, or you simply don’t need it, then the Book 9 Lite does offer a non touch panel for a slightly lower price point.

In terms of the specifications, Samsung are a bit vague as to the CPU but after some digging we can see that it’s Socket FT3 (BGA769) A4/A6 APU 1.4GHz Quad Core offering which of course supplies the GPU side of the machine too.

The box in typical Samsung stylish is clean, crisp and to the point with a large image of the device and subtle branding. The image on the front showcases the Mineral Ash Black colour, though the model we have today is Marble White.

MSI GT60-2OK 3K Mobile Workstation Review

Introduction


When we look across the wide range of groups and user bases that technology is designed for, typically the first class of devices that one would think of is consumer level; in other words what you find on the high street in retail stores or most commonly these days on the internet. This range goes from your typical memory card, right through to televisions, laptops, phones, cameras and so forth. What most people tend to forget though, is that consumer based hardware is not the only major part of the technology world. Whilst we all see what is front of us, you have to take into consideration is that behind the scenes, the type of hardware that is hidden away is of a completely different class and is designed in a totally different manner, after all it has got a completely different job to undertake and without it, your consumer grade technology won’t even function. This grade of technology is what we refer to as the enterprise level.

Whilst I’m talking about the two extremes of the technology world here, there is yet another crucial sector that for many of us is just an everyday thing. This is the business and professional grade sector. Whilst gamers and enthusiasts push for the fastest frame rate that they can or the best level of detail that is possible in a gaming environment, professional users have a totally different set of requirements for their system and this typically includes the likes of video rendering and design work. For this type of work, the specification that a system needs does vary quite considerably and when we look at the major building blocks such as the graphics cards, we see different line of GPUs being used as the type of performance that this type of system needs is in a whole different league.

For namesake, we are taking about the difference (in the case of NVIDIA) between GeForce Cuda based cards which are at the forefront of today’s enthusiast line-up and Quadro which we rarely see on the consumer market. Now when it comes down to the point of saying what makes each card different from the other, taking out all the little fine details and getting down to raw essentials, there is one major fact that sets these apart; this is OpenGL. In the early days of graphics engineering, OpenGL was miles ahead of Direct3D in all of its performance areas, but as time has moved on and technology advanced in leaps and bounds, Direct3D – or as it’s more commonly known, DirectX – has overtaken OpenGL in the gaming sector and consequently games are now built to run more fluidly on this platform. OpenGL however is still the go-to place for operations such as CAD work or image rendering from the ground up. The applications that do this type of workload are heavily optimised for OpenGL and as a result is DirectX is, in most instances, useless.

To make that into a clear statement of which is which, GeForce / DirectX is for the consumer market and gaming, Quadro / OpenGL for design work and professional rendering.

Moving on the system that’s in hand today, workstation laptops are not necessarily new to the market, but up to this point, the performance difference between a mobile workstation and a full fat desktop system up to this point has been quite considerable and thus they have not really been that popular. With technology moving as fast as it is and the amount of computational power that we now get per square inch of PCB massive compared to what was on offer only a few years ago, the ability to pack workstation credentials into a laptop sized frame has now been made possible and the performance that is on offer is just as good, if not better in some cases.

The first thing that a number of readers will note about this system as we head over to the next page is the uncanny resemblance between this and MSI’s latest ultra high-end gaming laptop which we saw last year at Computex 2013 in Taiwan; and when it comes down to the main specifications, it is in fact the very same system. The crucial difference between the two lies in the graphics, which takes this system away from the gaming market and introduces it into the business / pro-sumer user group where the need for high performance systems that can perform OpenCL rendering is in high demand.

With this being an engineering sample system, we won’t find any end-user accessories included, with little more than a power cable and box for us to busk at.

OcUK Professional W540 UltraNote 14″ LED Ultra Book Review

Being mobile is more important for many of us today than ever before, having the right tools for the job where ever you are in the world can make all the difference and the system were looking at today aims to offer high performance and portability that could allow us to be highly mobile and have no concerns about getting our work done.

Ultra books are proving massively popular recently and for good reason too, with many offering high performance solutions that are slim, light and very portable. Given that the high power and highly portable market has been dominated by Apple Mac Books for many years its great to see so many Windows-based solutions on the market, and of course a few Linux, Android and Chrome models too.

The model we are looking at today has been slightly customised and should set you back around £580 from OCUK. It features a 128GB SSD, i5 3210m 2.5GHz processor, 8GB ram and a 1366 x 768 resolution display. While that may not be the most ideal resolution for some people it’s more than enough for web browsing, word processing and maybe even some light gaming.

We often kick things off by benchmarking a system to within an inch of its life, but that isn’t something that is going to show this system in its best light, sure it packs an impressive mobile CPU, some good ram and a decent SSD, but it’s also tailored towards being highly energy-efficient to extend the battery life. So lets take a different look at this system, it’s built to be mobile and that’s exactly what we are going to do, road test it!

The system came in a fairly nondescript box, which contained another fairly bland box, although given this is a custom-made system I was hardly expecting a full finished retail package covered in images.

The system comes with a fairly standard power brick adaptor with a nice long cable.

PC Specialist Vortex IV X780 Gaming Notebook Review

Introduction


Gaming away from home is definitely becoming more and more popular, with eSPORTS rising up and consumers living in a mobile lifestyle, and this is a perfect place for a desktop replacement notebook that allows you to play some of the most extreme games on the planet, while on the move.

Generally speaking, if you want to play extreme games like Crysis 3 and Metro Last Light, then you’d be restricted to a fully fledged desktop system with enough power to deal with anything that you throw at it, but this has all changed over the past couple of years. More notebooks are being released that can rival these power hungry systems and still incorporating powerful processing power and extreme GPU performance.

The new notebooks that are hitting the market are making the divide between desktops and notebooks in terms of performance so fine that they are now overlapping by quite a margin with many of today’s laptops being produced having far more power than some of their desktop counterparts. Because of this overlap in performance and the number of users who want a compact system to take to gaming events such as iSeries (the UK biggest gaming festival) growing, its more and more common to see people attending these events with desktop replacements as their primary system.

PC Specialist are one of the UKs leading system integrators and since 2002 they have seen multiple awards across many publications for their systems, including the Vanquish X200 Gaming Rig that Peter had a look at a few months ago. The companies dedication towards selecting the best components for each build and the option to customise each and every system they have available with a whole hopst of options means that there are hundreds of ways in which a particular system can be configured. This means that there is with out a doubt a system for every persons needs out there.

After having a look at one of PC Specialists desktop systems, we want to see what their top end laptops have to offer to the table so let’s take a look at the specifications as this system arrived with us:

  • Name: Vortex IV X780
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 4700MQ
  • RAM: 16GB Kingston HyperX Genesis 1600MHz (2x8GB)
  • SSD: 120GB Kingston SSDnow V300
  • HDD: 750GB Western Digital Scorpio Black SATA (7200RPM)
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 780M 4GB
  • ODD: 4x BluRay ROM/8x DVD-RW Combo Drive
  • Network:  Killer Wireless-N 1202 Dual Band/Gigabit LAN/Bluetooth 4.0
  • Warranty: 3 Year Silver (1 year collect & return, 1 year parts, 3 years labour)
  • Price: £1,449 inc VAT + Delivery

Click here to buy this laptop with the above spec for the offer price of £1449 inc VAT and delivery

The specifications listed above – even for a desktop system – is highly impressive so to see such a top level of performance packed into a 17.3″ laptop chassis with room to spare is even more impressive. The custom system features components from Western Digital, Kingston, NVIDIA, BigFoot Networks and Intel

Looking at the box that the laptop is shipped in, first impressions are that there is nothing over the top hiding inside, but this is far from the truth as inside is one mammoth laptop that – on paper- can pack one hell of a punch.

Inside the box alongside the laptop, PC Specialist include a driver CD, cleaning cloth, multi-lingual user manual and a PC Specialist welcome booklet. On top of this there is also an 8 cell, 5200mAh/76.96WHr battery and a whopping 230W AC adaptor.

Clausoft Meenee Laptop

Laptops are becoming more popular as of late with the likes of schools giving them out to students and the prices dropping so that they are more affordable. Over time they have developed more and use newer technology whilst the prices are still coming down.

Back in the day, the laptop of choice came from the likes of Dell, HP, IBM and Toshiba but other brands have developed and are offering more competitive deals which leads to better offers for the customer.

Today we’re taking a look at a specialist laptop made by a company called Clausoft. The laptop is called the Meenee and comes in a choice of black or white and features a small compact design and very attractive pricing.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Atom N455 1.66GHz
  • 13.3” WVGA LCD screen @ 1280 x 800
  • 2GB Samsung 1333MHz DDR3 memory
  • 400GB Toshiba 5400RPM SATA hard drive
  • Black or White

Virgin Media Freedom Netbook Video Review

Today we are looking at the Virgin Media Freedom netbook.

This particular netbook comes free when you sign up to a Virgin Media broadband package and comes supplied with an Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz processor, 1gb ddr2, 120gb hard drive and integrated sound and graphics.

It’s perfect for travelling with but be warned it’s quite small.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPnDO6oQDrI[/youtube]

 

Novatech Xplora E16 Home Laptop Video Review

Today we are looking at the Novatech Xplora E16 Home Laptop.

This is a budget laptop for anyone who wants to perform general desktop work including internet surfing, word processing and facebook. Still maintaining 2gb DDR2 and an ATI Radeon X1200 graphics card, enables this laptop to be used for other tasks including gaming, photo editing and video rendering.

All for the low price of under £300. What more could you ask for?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P1NHrPtCjQ[/youtube]