Tagged: Hardware

My first laptop was a Dell XPS M1530. It was a monster of a thing that stood up to a lot of hardcore gaming, university and an month-long overseas trip. Ultimately, it was the overseas trip that killed my precious laptop, but it served me well. It’s the gaming laptop that I hold all laptops up to as my standard – despite its age, and the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop held a pretty good candle to my ol’ faithful.

Unpacking the Inspiron 15, the first thing that struck me was the matte black finish on the laptop, with the red Dell logo standing proudly in the centre. The edge of the keyboard has a red metallic pattern which brings just enough colour into the picture without being overpowering. As I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews, I like the look of more understated laptops with a minimalist feel. The other option you’ve got for the lid cover is matte red with a black logo – so at least you’ve got some choice in the design.

Since gaming laptops are made for gaming on the go, I carried this thing around with and sat down where ever my legs decided – it feels deceptively light. I stuck it in a backpack and carried it around in my arms, and it wasn’t ever uncomfortable, even while carrying around extra weight with the charging pack, a mouse and a few other bits and bobs. While it’s one of the bigger laptops I’ve reviewed, it carries the weight well.

But like all these laptops, it’s about how good they are to game on. The Inspiron 15 holds a Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti as standard – you know it’s going to take everything you throw at it in stride. The only time I had an issue was with State of Decay where the whole operation thing crashed – although, I think that had more to do with the optimisation of the game, more than the laptop itself. Other than that minor trip up, everything I played ran beautifully – and can be played up to a 4K resolution. Like I’ve said in earlier reviews, 4K Gaming isn’t really my bag but if you’re into that, you’re going to be very happy. However, the screen can take some getting used to and can sometimes look a little lacklustre when you’re looking for real exuberance – especially in 4K.

Big exhaust vents on the rear of the laptop make sure that you’re not going to see spikes and dips because of the hardware shutting down. The only time I really noticed any uncomfortable heat was while I was working in bed and had the laptop sitting on my lap against the quilt – but even this was a minor issue.

I also loved the fact that I could get a good few hours out of the Inspiron 15 while I was working. Not having to rely on the power pack and an available plug means that you could easily take it to university or to your favourite spot and work without a worry. I can’t say the same for a hardcore gaming session, but when you’re running your resources at full speed, battery life is the trade off.

Since I’m a writer, that was another big test. I was working on a few other commissions on Inspiron 15 and the keyboard was comfortable and easy to use. The touch pad gave me the most issues – it’s very touchy. Although, since I’m used to typing on standalone keyboards and spend half the time adjusting my cursor on my everyday laptop because I’ve accidentally knocked the touch pad with my palm, I’m not sure if that’s an issue with the pad or me. Probably me.

The thing that urks me the most is the lack of an optical drive. Call me old-fashioned, but I like having the option – especially if I was to run older programs that aren’t easily downloaded. Although, there are 3x 3.0 USB ports, 1x HDMI and a media card reader to keep you happy if you need to load something on the laptop – If you’ve got the space.

Dell are big on being able to customise your laptop with various options available through their range. Their base laptop only has a 256GB solid state drive which isn’t huge in the grand scheme of things. Game downloads are getting bigger and bigger (60GB+ downloads are a regular thing), you would have to be very selective about what games you install on your hard drive if you end up purchasing the entry-level laptop. Spending the extra $400AUD to move to the middle-tier doubles your RAM and gives you an extra 1TB of space – although the compromise is downsizing your SSD to 128GB.

Overall, it’s a good-looking quality laptop for a decent price if you’re looking to get into the gaming laptop market. Some of the faults (HDD space and screen) can be frustrating but don’t make the Inspiron 15 unusable. It’s compact, pretty and packs enough power to get you through whatever you need to do without breaking the bank – although it’s probably worth throwing a few extra bucks towards the second tier laptop if you’re looking to load your entire Steam list.

Laptop provided by Dell for consideration.

When you think of gaming laptops, a lot of people automatically think about Razer or the previous champion, Alienware. What not a lot of people understand is that ASUS also create some of the most powerful gear for gamers today. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to review the ASUS ROG G550J laptop and this year I’ve been able to get my hands on the ASUS ROG GL552; an equally impressive beast.

“Look, I know you’re trying to work but…” – My cat, Ivy.

ASUS sent this laptop for review purposes. All of the opinions in this review are true at the time of publishing.

With the formalities out of the way, let’s get into the fun.

ASUS Republic of Gamers laptops are designed for your most hardcore LAN sessions and to look like you’ll beat the opposition. Before you even open the laptop, you’re faced with a lid that’s inspired by a F-22 Stealth Fighter Jet and I can definitely it in the sharp edges and brushed steel detailing on the front. The ASUS ROG “guitar pick”, as I like to call it, sits proudly among the simple design.

Once you open the laptop up, you’re greeted with a black and red full-sized alphanumeric keyboard and intricate detailing above the function keys. The keyboard is also backlit with red LEDs and the WASD keys are highlighted red, too. It’s also fantastic to use. Laptop keyboards can be a little funny when it comes to using them on a regular basis. While I’m used to typing on laptop keyboards and free-standing keyboards, using the keyboard on the GL552 wasn’t like using a new keyboard; everything feeling like it’s one inch to the left. While the very two-tone palette might be a little much for me, the keyboard makes up for it. Most of this review was written using the laptop, so I’ve got a good handle on how it goes with long sessions of writing.

The ROG “Guitar Pick”

When you strip the GL552 down, it’s clear this is a laptop meant for some serious gaming sessions. Armed with a Intel® Core™ i7 6700HQ Processor, NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 960M with GDDR5 VRAM graphics card and 8GB of DDR4 RAM (with the option to expand up to a whopping 32GB), ASUS have given this laptop everything it needs to be functional for years to come. And with easy access to the HDD and RAM stations, becoming obsolete isn’t an issue with the device since you’re able to pull it apart and install more memory or space with ease. Although with a 1TB HDD and a 256GB SSD as standard, you’re pretty good with space straight out of the box.

While playing a variety of games on the laptop (Borderlands 2, The Witcher 2, Portal 2, The Sims 4), it handled what I threw at it in its stride. The games auto-detected all settings and the laptop was happy to play then in high or ultra-high spec. I had some minor framerate issues in Borderlands 2 and The Witcher 2, but with some minor tweaking in the settings, it was  pretty easily fixed. What was a little unimpressive was the on-board GPU crashing. This happened two or three times while I was using the laptop as an everyday carry. The GL552 recovered well from the crashes, but it was a little worrying while I was writing or browsing the internet.

Sexy, sexy keyboard

Like I mentioned, I used this laptop like an everyday carry. During the day, it replaced my standard laptop so that I could get an idea of how the GL552 handled. It’s bigger than what I’m used to, boasting a 15.6” screen (I use a 13” laptop normally.) The screen makes watching Netflix or YouTube great; but since it’s an LCD screen, you do need to adjust it a little to make sure that you don’t get the weird viewing angle. It also did a funny thing where it shifted into a blue tint when viewing certain parts of a website. It wasn’t every website and it seemed to only happen when I was viewing a GIF or small video, but it was weird.

The sound while watching video or gaming is where I was disappointed. It wasn’t necessarily bad, it was just… underwhelming. It sounded a little tinny in places and while I was playing high-action games like Borderlands, it didn’t quite have the kick to it like I was hoping. It was easier to plug my headphones in and keep going.

When it comes down to it, this laptop is actually quite decent. A lot of PC gamers discount gaming laptops as expensive and limiting. ASUS have tried to address some of those complaints with the ability for users to upgrade their HDDs and RAM in the future. The ASUS ROG GL552 is stylish (but maybe not to everyone’s tastes) and carries a lot of potential under the hood. While I have some minor complaints about the sound and on-board GPU, overall, this laptop was a joy to use. It’s not so large that you couldn’t use it daily or take it anywhere, but it’s not so small that you lose details in games or videos to size.

The ASUS ROG GL552 is now available at Harvey Norman, Dick Smith and JB Hi-Fi, starting from $2,099 – $2,199 depending on your specifications.

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Well, that was unexpected. (more…)