The newest piece of hardware in the Aftershock XG15 is Nvidia's GeForce GTX 860M chip. Launched last month, the chip is based on a new Maxwell graphics architecture touted to provide more performance while consuming less power.
Performance has definitely improved. The XG15 produced frame rates (in Bioshock Infinite and Crysis 3) higher than the GeForce GTX 770M, but lower than Aftershock's former flagship GeForce GTX 780M chip. Despite the improvements,
Crysis 3 still does not run smoothly at the highest settings.
The GTX 860M chip comes with new features to improve battery life while running games, as well as a video-capture function to record and broadcast your in-game experience.
The XG15 is equipped with a Haswell-class quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM. Its chassis has two drive bays - one with a 120GB solid-state drive and the other with a 750GB hard drive - to improve speed and storage space. These components can be customised on Aftershock's website.
Aftershock describes itself as a system builder as it does not manufacture laptops. Instead, it buys the chassis from Clevo, a Taiwanese manufacturer, and assembles the machines according to customers' preferences.
Hence, its laptop designs, including the XG15, often appear generic and with little flair. Custom paint jobs are also offered, so users can decide how their laptops look.
Basic options, such as changing the colour of the laptop lid, cost between $30 and $65, while a quote will be provided for more extensive work. You can preview how the laptop looks with various colour schemes on the Aftershock website.
The XG15 review set which I tested has a lovely blue cover that is less bland than the default silver version, but it probably needs a full-body paint job to stand out.
One expects to get a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen on a 15-inch gaming laptop and the XG15 does not disappoint. But the laptop does not have an in-plane switching display, so the vertical viewing angles are not as good as its wide horizontal angles.
What is new are custom keyboard backlights. You can choose multiple colours for different keys, although this will cost more.
The keyboard has good depth, although I often hit the Num Lock key by mistake when trying to hit the Delete key because of its layout. The Windows logo key on the left of the spacebar is a potential minefield as accidentally hitting it during a game will switch you out.
The Onkyo-branded speakers can fill a room with their sound, but they lack bass. I recommend using headphones to benefit from the built-in amplifier for a more immersive experience.
The battery life of 3hr 40min is decent for a gaming laptop, although this was rated using Digital Life's standard video playback test and not while running a game.
While the Nvidia graphics chip improves performance significantly, it is the extensive customisation and value for money that differentiates Aftershock from other laptop brands.