Slowly but surely, we are reaching a point where mobile graphics chips are good enough to play all but bleeding-edge games. As these chips become more capable and power-efficient, PC vendors can design slimmer gaming laptops.
Bulky gaming laptops still rule the roost because hardcore gamers tend to value performance over looks or mobility. But we may soon have our cake and eat it, too.
Aftershock's latest high-end laptop is a step towards sleek, powerful gaming machines. It weighs 3.3kg, which sounds like a lot until you learn that one of its biggest rivals, Asus' ROG G751 is over 5kg.
To be fair, the Asus laptop comes with an optical drive, unlike the S-17. But this feature is vanishing as gamers buy and download their games directly from online services such as Steam or Origin.
More importantly, both laptops are equipped with Nvidia's latest flagship GeForce GTX 980M graphics chip. Basically, the only way to better the GTX 980M is to have two of these chips running in tandem.
But they will not fit into the Aftershock's relatively slim chassis. In short, the S-17 will fulfil most of your gaming needs for at least a few years.
What it lacks is flair. Mind you, it has a fairly polished design with its aluminium lid and palmrest. But its chassis, sourced from Taiwanese company Clevo, is plain compared with those of its more flamboyant competitors.
To address this, Aftershock offers custom paint jobs for its laptops for a fee. While this will give the laptop a unique look, it will not knock you off your feet.
A new addition for Aftershock's gaming laptops: An app that lets you configure the keyboard bindings and create your own macros.
The first thing I did was to disable the Windows logo key, as I tend to hit it accidentally while gaming. The keyboard itself has decent key travel.
The 17.3-inch matte screen is not an in-plane-switching one, but viewing angles are good even from the sides. The 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution is just right for a gaming laptop.
You can customise the S-17's hardware and upgrade the components yourself by removing the bottom panel. But my review set with a 128GB solid-state drive paired with a 1TB hard drive was quick and responsive enough.
Gaming performance lived up to expectations, with over 40 frames per second in Crysis 3 at Very High setting.
Despite improvements over the years, battery life remains anaemic for such gaming laptops. The S-17 lasted 3hr 35min in our battery test, which involved video playback.
This sounds decent, but this uptime is much lower when running a game. You will be lucky to get more than an hour of gameplay before your battery dies.
Competitive pricing and custom options give the S-17 the edge over its rivals.
Processor: Intel Core i7-4720HQ (2.6GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M 4GB GDDR5
Screen size: 17 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Connectivity: 3 x USB 3.0, USB/SATA combo port, HDMI, 2 x Mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet port, SD card slot, audio jacks
Battery: 60 watt-hour
Value for money 4/5
Battery life 2/5
This article was first published on Jan 14, 2015.
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