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Admittedly, the audience for these gaming PCs wasn’t large to begin with. But Beast Canyon is a surprisingly harder sell than I expected.Design
Like its predecessor Ghost Canyon, its strength lies in its easy CPU and GPU upgrades. Rather than a separate processor, motherboard, and cooler, you’ll instead find Intel’s newest Compute Element inside Beast Canyon. It contains your choice of a Core i7-11700B or a Core i9-11900KB, the cooling for the CPU, slots for RAM SODIMMs and M.2 SSDs, system ports, and a wireless module. You pull it as a whole unit from the system and only ever open it up to install storage and/or memory, as the CPU is soldered on.
When you outgrow the processor, you simply buy the latest version of the Compute Element, switch over RAM and storage drives as applicable, and then swap the old Compute Element for the new one. The idea is that you can upgrade your system like a DIY system, but in a mere handful of minutes. No need to deal with parts lists, chipset compatibility, or BIOS updates.
Alaina Yee / IDG
A top-down view of Beast Canyon’s interior layout. The fans at the top flip up to give access to the Compute Element and graphics card. Sandwiched between the two is a separate fan shroud for the Compute Element’s fan, which directs the hot air out the back of the unit.
Similarly, your GPU is whatever two-slot, off-the-shelf graphics card you get your hands on. And with Beast Canyon, you can fit a full-length video card up to 12 inches long. Ghost Canyon, which was a daintier five liters in size, could only hold small-form-factor cards eight inches or shorter.
In theory, working within Beast Canyon should be straightforward. You have just two components to deal with when trying to maneuver parts in and out of this NUC. However, I found getting into the case more frustrating than expected. Ghost Canyon tore down easily, with few tricky spots to navigate and sturdy material. In contrast, Beast Canyon has more plastic (and fragile plastic clips holding panels in place), plus a very specific order for disassembly. Go off script and you might break one or more of those clips by accident.
Alaina Yee / IDG
Beast Canyon entirely makes up for Ghost Canyon’s lack of rainbow LEDs with a customizable RGB front panel, plus RGB accent lighting over the front I/O ports and along the underside of the chassis.
Perhaps as compensation for its more complex layout, Beast Canyon does boast RGB lights, with a default rainbow pattern. The front panel showcases an image of a glowing skull, while the USB ports and the underside of the case have accent lighting. You can change the light patterns, colors, and even the image itself if you so choose.Price, specs, and ports
Our review unit is the higher-end option, the $1,350 NUC11BTMi9, which sports the BNUC11DBBi9 version of the Compute Element. Inside is an 8-core, 16-thread Core i9-11900KB with a base frequency of 3.3GHz, a Max Turbo frequency of 4.9GHz, and an “Intel Thermal Velocity Boost” frequency of 5.3GHz. (The Thermal Velocity Boost clock speed only applies if CPU’s temperature is below 50 degrees Celsius.) This 65W Tiger Lake H chip is very similar to the Core i9-11980HK, which has near-identical TDP and clock speeds. Note that if you choose to overclock this chip, which is only possible through Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility, you lose the protection of Intel’s warranty should something go sideways.
If that’s too rich for your blood, you can opt for the $1,150 NUC11BTMi7 and its BNUC11DBBi7 Compute Element, which features a Core i7-11700B with a base frequency of 3.2GHZ, a Max Turbo frequency of 4.8GHz, and an Intel Thermal Velocity Boost frequency of 5.3GHz. That’s as cheap as it gets—Intel isn’t offering a Core i5 version of Beast Canyon.
Willis Lai & Adam Patrick Murray / IDG
The 650W power supply included in Beast Canyon may look like a standard SFX power supply, but it’s a proprietary design that can’t be easily replaced. Intel does say that has tested it with up to an RTX 3080 Ti with no issue, however.
Aside from which Compute Element they come with, both of these NUCs are otherwise the same. You can install up to three M.2 SSDs (two slots support either NVMe or SATA drives, and are compatible with RAID 0 or RAID 1, while the third is NVMe only), and all slots are compatible with PCIe 4.0 drives. The Compute Elements also support Optane SSDs and memory (M10, H10, and H20), as well as up to 64GB of dual-channel DDR4-3200 RAM.
Intel outfitted our Beast Canyon sample as you’d expect from a mid-range gaming PC (assuming you could get your hands on a graphics card at a reasonable price)—no Optane drives with eye-watering prices this time around. Our configuration has an Asus Dual RTX 3060 12GB graphics card, 16GB 3200MHz RAM, an Sabrent Rocket 4.0 500GB M.2 NVMe SSD, and a Windows 10 Pro license.
Alaina Yee / IDG
From top to bottom: Ghost Canyon (5 liters), Beast Canyon (8 liters), and a SSUPD Meshlicious case (14 liters). Beast Canyon is roughly the same size as an eGPU enclosure.
All told, this system comes out to a little under $2,000, assuming a list price for the GPU. That’s cheaper than Ghost Canyon was at launch, but still on the high side for what you get. So can this machine deliver on performance enough to justify the premium you’ll pay?Performance
Beast Canyon’s competition is pretty much most other gaming machines. And yet, they’re not direct rivals, either.
As you’ll see, Beast Canyon falls pretty much where you’d expect for a gaming PC that has a mobile CPU but a discrete GPU—making it vulnerable to said competition.General performance
Let’s kick off with a look at how Beast Canyon’s Core i9-11900KB handles itself in tests that focus solely on processor performance.
First up is Cinebench R20, a popular 3D-rendering benchmark. This benchmark takes just a handful of minutes to finish, and generally the more cores you have, the faster it goes. We use it as a way to ballpark how the chip will handle brief periods of full utilization.
PCWorld PCWorld PCWorld
Content creators intent on having a small, portable PC may be less convinced that Beast Canyon is the right choice for them, though. In our Handbrake test, which involves transcoding a 4K video formatted as an MP4 file to a 1080p MKV file, Beast Canyon’s i9-11900KB chews through it pretty quick…but is still 15 percent slower than the 5900HX. Pick up a heftier laptop with an, ahem, beastly Ryzen 9 5900HX and you can tear through encodes faster—with the benefit of having a truly work-from-anywhere machine, to boot.Gaming performance
We already know from Ghost Canyon that Intel lets its top-tier mobile chips stretch their legs adequately within the Compute Element, allowing them to post strong numbers in games. Beast Canyon’s CPU benchmarks don’t contradict that, but how much performance do you sacrifice compared to a DIY gaming PC?
In these first few charts, the only machines with desktop graphics cards are Beast Canyon and Ghost Canyon. And they fall right where I’d expect—mobile discrete GPUs typically perform at about one level down compared to their desktop equivalents. The main benefit to Beast Canyon here is that you can easily swap out that RTX 3060 for a beefier, more powerful GPU in minutes. (In a world where GPUs can be widely found at list price, that is.)
These charts also show that upgrading Ghost Canyon with Beast Canyon’s Tiger Lake H-based Compute Element isn’t really worth the cash, if you only use that NUC for gaming. As our review of the RTX 3060 showed, its performance is about on par with the RTX 2070, and that bears out here. In games that lean more on the CPU, the gap in performance begins to widen, but not by a lot.
You can see that in a few of the more punishing benchmarks that I ran, where our Beast Canyon unit went up against Ghost Canyon with the same RTX 3060 card. Shadow of the Tomb Raider had the largest margin, with Beast Canyon pulling ahead by about 15 percent compared to Ghost Canyon when using the same graphics card in both systems.
For the most part, that’s really how you can boil down Beast Canyon’s performance. Depending on the game, it’ll outperform laptops that have similar or even better specs on paper when those systems are constrained by available space for cooling, while sometimes being able to hang with bigger desktop PCs with more powerful CPUs.Acoustics
As for noise levels, Beast Canyon stays fairly quiet during regular tasks. It’s more silent than Ghost Canyon was—a benefit of larger case fans. Ghost Canyon had 80mm fans at the top, while Beast Canyon has three 92mm fans.Final thoughts
Intel’s gaming NUCs have always carried this air of the ultimate luxury product. Sure, they were expensive, but you couldn’t replicate them as a DIY builder without serious compromises. Even when Ghost Canyon showed up as a much bigger system (relative to those predecessors that could fit into the front pouch of a backpack), it carried on the legacy of being a dead-simple, ultra-compact gaming PC worth its premium price.
But at eight liters, Beast Canyon doesn’t stand as strongly against its competition. Its larger footprint, proprietary power supply, and higher teardown complexity would make me weigh a couple of alternatives before committing to a purchase. Depending on the situation, a laptop plus an eGPU or a DIY SFF gaming PC could work out better. (Were I better equipped in my home testing setup, I would have spent time pitting Beast Canyon against those two options, rather than just gaming laptops and larger gaming PCs.)
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
Pairing a laptop with an eGPU isn’t necessarily cheap, but if you’re considering Beast Canyon, price probably isn’t the most important factor for you. (And if it is, there’s the DIY SFF route.)
But even in the abstract, it’s clear to see the strengths of those two alternatives. You can travel freely with a laptop, without worry about a mobile GPU aging horribly. Yes, you’ll have to deal with some nerfed performance because of eGPU bandwidth limitations, but that compromise is palatable. You can at least upgrade the graphics card down the road.
Beast Canyon still represents an option for a thin slice of PC gamers and content creators who want a very small, very powerful, and very simple DIY-ish PC. It does streamline the small-form-factor building experience, and you can bypass even that work by buying a fully built out system.
But unlike with Ghost Canyon (or even older gaming NUCs), I would question someone much more closely if they expressed an interest in Beast Canyon. This NUC best fits someone who prioritizes a small footprint and ease of upgradability over everything.
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The XPERIA Play’s Gaming Appeal Is Practically Non-Existent
Apple’s iPhone has done quite a bit to change the mobile market. It has ushered in the touch-screen craze, delivered an easy way to get third-party programs onto the platform, and generally changed how all other mobile phones are judged. But one of the most significant changes the iPhone initiated was the growth of gaming on smartphones. Thanks to the Apple App Store, more and more people are downloading games like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and countless others. The iPhone is now a full-fledged gaming device that, by all measures, can be compared to the Nintendo DS and Sony’s PSP.
That success has prompted Apple competitors, like Sony Ericsson, to double down on gaming for mobile phones.
Announced at the Mobile World Congress, Sony Ericsson’s upcoming XPERIA Play runs Android and includes a 1GHz processor. But perhaps its most obvious difference compared to the rest of the competition is that it features slide-out gaming controls. Sony also says that users will be able to download games to the device.
Now, some might be excited to see what the XPERIA Play has to offer. After all, Sony has been a gaming giant for years, and the company has proven in the past that it knows what it must do in order to be a success in that space.
But I’m not excited about the XPERIA Play. I understand that Sony bringing games to the Android platform is an important step for the company, but at this point, when we consider the full feature-set the XPERIA Play offers, I just don’t see all that much value.
For one, I’m disappointed to see that the XPERIA Play will come with only about 50 games at launch. That figure will of course be higher over time, but considering there are thousands of games available on the iPhone, and hundreds of outstanding options on the Nintendo DS, I just don’t see a reason to turn to the XPERIA Play as my gaming choice.
Moreover, the device doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile smartphone choice. Sure, it’s running Android, but until Sony Ericsson can prove that it can deliver a device that can compete on the same level as some of the top Android devices on the market, I don’t see why I should opt for the XPERIA Play simply because it offers gaming functionality.
And all this fails to mention that Sony is prepping for the release of the Next Generation Portable at the end of the year. That device promises PlayStation 3-like graphics and a full gaming experience (complete with dual analog sticks — another major XPERIA Play omission) that I’m after.
The way I see it, I can satisfy my desire for casual games with my iPhone. And later this year, I can get my hands on the NGP if I want more-capable titles while I’m on-the-go.
In other words, the XPRRIA Play is a decidedly middle-of-the-road product for me. It’s not the most ideal smartphone or the most ideal casual-gaming offering. And it won’t be able to compete with so-called “hardcore” gaming devices.
So, count me out on the XPERIA Play. I’m just not seeing much of a reason to buy it.
Premium design touches
120Hz smooth viewing
Weak macro camera
No headphone jack
LCD not OLEDOur Verdict
Punching well above its weight, the Realme X50 5G strikes an outstanding price-versus-performance balance. Along with 5G, a powerful processor and a smooth 120Hz screen, the X50 also impresses with both its camera and battery longevity.
When the Realme X50 Pro made its debut in the first half of the year it redefined expectations for how much a powerful 5G flagship phone should cost in 2023 and now the standard Realme X50 5G is looking to do the same in the mid-range market.
A glance at the spec sheet and the X50 5G has a pretty sizeable overlap with phones at twice its sub-£300 asking price, meaning that although Realme doesn’t yet have the brand recognition of other phone makers, it has the potential to win customers over simply on the impressive price/performance balancing act that this phone appears to strike.Design and build
You can’t blame Realme for finding a design that works and sticking with it. On the upside, the X50 doesn’t look half bad – not least because it supports an eye-catching back with the company’s signature reflective patterns etched into it; looking great in both colours but particularly the Jungle Green finish we tested. At the same time, it can be hard to tell Realme’s various phones apart, which is an issue if you’re looking to stand out from the crowd.
The use of a glass back isn’t something we’d necessarily expect at this price point, especially considering what else the X50 brings to the table, hardware-wise. That gloss finish picks up fingerprints incredibly easily, so the provided clear case, although bulky, is a must if you want to enjoy the reflective light show unabated.
From the rounding along the sides to the hardware controls, the X50 sports a nice hand feel, with the most obvious admission to the phone’s more affordable nature evident in its thickness, at 8.9mm. It’s a tad weighty too (194 grams), which edges towards the realm of being a little too heavy to feel elegant. But these are, admittedly, nit-picky criticisms.
There’s no headphone jack, despite that waistline and no IP-certified dust or water resistance, but Realme does pre-fit a screen protector to accompany that case and there’s a snappy fingerprint-cum-power key cut into the right side of the phone’s frame, which seems reliable and responsive.Display and audio
The X50 is actually larger than its Pro-branded namesake, with a 6.57in display (compared to a 6.44in panel on the Pro) that boasts Full HD+ resolution (2400×1080) and, most impressively, a Galaxy S20-matching 120Hz high refresh rate.
It makes navigating around the UI feel extra responsive, rendering interface animations with an appealing fluidity and ensuring that the X50 appears to operate with the same degree of ‘snap’ as any top-tier flagship would.
The caveat to the display is that Realme opted for LCD technology over a pricier OLED panel (as on the Pro), meaning aspects like vibrance and contrast aren’t as competent (also unlike the Pro model, there’s no HDR viewing to speak of). The X50’s maximum brightness also falters against bright sunlight, although the phone remains wholly usable.
As for audio, with no headphone jack, you’ll have to turn to USB-C headphones or connect a pair of buds wirelessly over Bluetooth (5.1), while the single down-firing loudspeaker is exactly that – fine for calls but not built for music playback, primarily due to a lack of bass.Software and features
Realme’s own UI is one of the heavier-handed skins out there, in this instance running atop Android 10, but its foundation – Oppo’s ColorOS – had already come on leaps and bounds before Realme even existed as a brand.
The home screen and apps drawer operate as they do on stock Android, with an ever-present Google search bar, support for button or gesture navigation and the ability to summon the Google Assitant by swiping in from the bottom corners or long-pressing the power key. It’s beyond this where the experience is more unique to Realme UI specifically.
Some elements, like the settings menu, will likely come across as a little overwhelming to most users, at first, while other quirks and features will appeal to some more than others, generally speaking.
The Smart Assistant screen (to the left of the main home screen) and the pull-down universal search bar don’t bring much to the table, while in contrast, the Smart Sidebar is great for keeping frequently used apps or utilities (like screen recording) at hand and being able to jump into split-screen multitasking in an instant.
One-handed mode is an appreciated must-have on a phone of this size while Game Space adds some additional controls over notifications, performance and networking when gaming, to streamline the experience for competitive play.Camera
Most phones nowadays sport multiple camera sensors but Realme’s phones consistently clock in with the highest component count. The X50, like it’s Pro-branded sibling, totes a total of six cameras: four on the back, two on the front, although the setup is a little different in this instance.
Realme isn’t really known for its camera prowess – although the X3 SuperZoom is mighty impressive in specific situations – as for the X50, the sensor setup is a real mixed bag. The main 48Mp snapper undoubtedly outperformed our expectations, particularly in low light, and that’s before you factor in its night mode.
Then there’s the 8Mp ultrawide sensor, to add a little more versatility to the shooting setup, while the 2Mp macro snapper is easily the weakest camera on the entire phone. Letting you take close-up shots that lack detail or flexibility to be used out of specific social media situations.
Shots generally offer a Samsung Galaxy-like vibrant finish and surprisingly good detail in the shadows, without blowing out the highlights that often. That fourth sensor – a 2Mp monochrome portrait lens – presumably lends its talents to the phone’s capable edge detection and bokeh, when shooting portrait shots.
Dive into the settings and you’ll find manual controls – including RAW capture – via Pro mode, while video tops out at 4K/30fps. With no optical setup, image stabilisation when shooting video is wholly electronic but does a respectable job of keeping footage both level and sharp.Performance
Along with that high-refresh-rate screen and 5G support, one of the other aspects of the X50 that belies its price is its processor. The extremely popular Snapdragon 765G that’s found in a myriad of 2023 mid-rangers – including the excellent OnePlus Nord – as well as fully-fledged flagships, like the Google Pixel 5 and LG Velvet, is running the show on the X50.
Paired with (at least) 6GB of RAM (up from a baseline of 4GB on rivals like the Moto G 5G Plus), the X50 seems wholly comfortable with demanding actions; from multitasking to gaming.
Our review sample (as with the devices that served a number of publications’ reviews) wouldn’t allow benchmarking, however, the retail versions of the phone should. Previous issues like Widevine L1 are also a non-issue, with Full HD streaming from platforms like Netflix and Prime Video on offer.
In practice, navigating around the X50’s UI did reveal the occasional stutter occasionally but these were so infrequent that it was chalked up to the software build tested – something the company has undoubtedly fixed for retain or could easily address with future software updates.Battery and charging
One of the big surprises of the X50 was its battery life. With a capacity of 4200mAh, the cell inside this phone is big but not to a degree that would instil confidence in its longevity without proper testing.
While benchmarking the battery with artificial tests was off the table, in real-world usage – which is arguably more useful – the phone defied expectations, consistently delivering up to eight hours of screen-on time between charges.
Charge in percent (%) after 30 minutes from flat
This translated to about to around two days of fairly demanding use at a time, which included spats of GPS navigation, video streaming, social media usage, gaming and camera usage.
We’ve tested phones with larger batteries that don’t come close to this, suggesting that Realme UI includes some heavy power management behind the scenes to keep apps and background processes in check.
There’s also the matter of fast charging, and while the standard X50 doesn’t boast the Pro model’s astounding 65W wired charging, the 30W ‘Dart Charge’ fast charging on offer was still able to refill the phone’s battery by over two thirds in just 30 minutes, with a full charge in approximately an hour.Price and availability
The Realme X50 5G burst onto the market part way through 2023 with an impressively competitive £299 price tag; undercutting other excellent Snapdragon 765G-powered rivals like the OnePlus Nord and the Moto G 5G Plus.
The crazy thing is the price has already started to drop even further, meaning much like the Realme X50 Pro did within the flagship market, the standard X50 presents itself as one of the most compelling value-for-money propositions available right now.
You can pick the phone up direct from Realme’s website or retailers like Amazon – where the discounts and deals seem more prevalent (it’s already down to £279, at the time of writing).Verdict
As with the Pro model, Realme had to choose carefully about what to cull and what to keep in order to have the Realme X50 5G stand out from the crowd and still have it remain as affordable as it has.
Against similarly-priced rivals, like the Moto G 5G Plus, Xiaomi’s Poco X3 NFC and OnePlus Nord, it beats them out on one or more areas, and while it might not offer as well-rounded a package as pricier alternatives using the same chip, there’s little that can compete when it comes to that all-important price/performance balancing act.Related stories for further reading Specs Realme X50 5G: Specs
6.57in Full HD+ 120Hz IPS LCD
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor
128GB UFS 2.1 storage
48Mp main camera, 8Mp 119° ultra-wide sensor, 2Mp macro camera, 2Mp depth camera
16Mp main + 2Mp portrait front-facing cameras
30W Dart Charge fast charging
Android 10 w/ Realme UI
Colours: Ice Silver/Jungle Green
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that when you hit pay dirt, you might do so again if you keep digging in the same area. That’s the tack Dell takes with its redesigned XPS 15 laptop: It’s easily summed up as a bigger, more powerful version of the super-popular XPS 13.
The model I reviewed is mid-range. That means a 1920×1080 resolution non-touchscreen, though a 4K Ultra HD screen with touch is available. Regardless of screen type, you get that 5.5mm-skinny bezel, and it makes for an impressive presentation—for comparison, HP’s Spectre X360 15T has a 15mm-wide bezel. But oddly, the XPS 15’s bezel didn’t wow me the same way the original XPS 13’s did, even though both bezels are basically the same size.The narrow bezel looks great except from this angle
Like its sibling, that thin bezel results in the same awkward camera placement. Instead of residing at the top of the screen, the XPS 15’s camera sits in the lower lefthand side. That means people who do a lot of typing during video calls had mind their cuticles.
Dell XPS 15
The price of that narrow bezel is the odd webcam placement on the XPS 15
The slender bezel also means Dell had to do some gymnastics to backlight the screen properly. This isn’t something you would notice under normal circumstances, especially because it’s an IPS panel and has good off-axis viewing angles. However, when I placed the XPS 15, HP Spectre X360 15T, and Samsung’s Book 9 Pro in a dark room and cranked up the screen brightness of each, the XPS 15 showed more backlight bleed. I’d rate the Spectre X360 15T first in quality, with the Samsung Book 9 second.
The image quality on the XPS 15 is fine, but it’s worth noting that the anti-reflective screen on our test unit will, basically by definition, look duller than the glossy displays on the HP and Samsung. What you give up in eye-catching pizzazz, though, you get back in greatly reduced glare..
Gordon Mah Ung
You get Thunderbolt 3 on the new Dell XPS 15 (bottom) and the new Dell XPS 13 (top).Ports: a note about the USB-C
For ports, you get an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 Type A port, and a Kensington lock on the left side. On the right, you’ll find a full-sized HDMI and second USB 3.0 Type A port, combination analog audio jack, and a USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps Type C port with Thunderbolt 3 support. Nothing wrong with this selection, but I’d like to put in a good word for those of us with older hard drives that require dual Type A plugs to get enough power. On the XPS 15, such an accessory wouldn’t work without an optional adapter cable.
Update: After initially testing the XPS 15 with several USB Type C power bricks, I assumed there was no support for for charging through the laptop’s USB Type C port using USB Power Delivery. It turns out I was wrong. At least about Dell wiring the port that way. The XPS 15’s USB Type C port does indeed support charging but it appears to be pretty picky about what it supports. The unit would not charge with Innergie’s PowerGear USB-C nor with a 45 watt brick for the HP Spectre X2. It also understandably failed to charge (when on) with two other lower power USB Type C bricks for a Samsung Windows convertible and Google’s Pixel C brick. The one brick that did run the XPS 15 was the new Google Pixel and its 60 watt power brick.
Still, it’s nifty Dell also wired its XPS 15 to charger over both plugs but the success rate with Power Delivery over USB Type C really makes me thinks it’s a mess.
Gordon Mah Ung
Dell’s new XPS 15 gives you a lot more screen real-estate over the award-winning Dell XPS 13.Keyboard and trackpad Configuration
Just like mom told you, it’s what’s inside that counts—and the XPS 15’s specs are mostly a win.
Dell actually offers two battery options for the XPS 15. Our review unit features the smaller standard 56 watt-hour cell, but you can also get a much larger 84 watt-hour cell in some configurations. Generally, the bigger battery comes in models with the M.2 SSD, while the lower-end hard drive configurations get the smaller battery.
Our particular configuration straddles the fence, though. It uses an M.2 SSD and has the room to fit the larger battery, but it comes with the smaller battery. I wouldn’t mind giving up that battery capacity (which spills over into the hard drive caddy) if the XPS 15 had the user option to install a second hard drive or SSD in the bay. Dell, however, doesn’t include the actual ribbon cable that connects to a drive, so phooey. I suspect you could get the ribbon cable as a replacement part, but it would be a nice inclusion for upgraders.
Gordon Mah Ung
Getting inside the Dell XPS 15 is a snap and gives you access to the two RAM slots and M.2 drive.
Getting inside this laptop is super-easy. You just have to back out a few Torx screws around the perimeter and two Phillips-head screws in the center.CPU performance
The Dell XPS 15 destroys dual-core laptops and is a tiny bit faster than Samsung’s new Book 9 Pro too in Cinebench R15.
Most of these laptops illustrate just what you get from a dual-core CPU versus a quad-core CPU. In a heavy-duty 3D rendering test, the quad-core shows that the price you pay for that level of processing power is worth every extra dollar gone from your wallet (and additional ounce on your back).
If you’re wondering why the XPS 15 is faster than the Samsung Book 9 Pro—despite having the same chip—it’s because the XPS 15 runs its CPU at a slightly higher clock speed under load.
No surprise: the quad-cores also smoke the dual-cores in our Handbrake transcoding test.Office drone performance
If you just want to know if it’s worth having that quad-core for office-drone work, both the long and short answer are No.
As you can see from our PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, which simulates everyday office tasks, this Dell is ahead of the pack—but not in any exciting way. For the most part, you’ll never feel the difference between a quad-core Core i7 and a low-power Core m in office tasks. If you really only do just office work, it makes more sense to buy a different laptop.
The Dell XPS 15 is the fastest here but who cares in when doing office drone work?Gaming performance
Besides the quad-core CPU, the other performance highlight of the XPS 15 is its GeForce GTX 960M chip. On paper, it’s very similar to the Samsung Book 9 Pro’s GeForce GTX 950M. Both have the same 128-bit memory bus, 80GBps of memory bandwidth, 640 shader cores, and a memory speed of 1,253MHz. The key difference between the two is clock speed: The Samsung’s GPU clock is set to 915MHz with a boost speed of 928MHz. The Dell’s GPU clock is rated at 1,033 with a boost speed of 1,098MHz.
After 45 minutes of the Furmark stress test, the Dell XPS 15 showed no signs of throttling back on performance. I can’t say the same of its competitors.
After five minutes of this torture test, the XPS 15 held strong with clock speeds at 1,085MHz range. After 15 minutes, it dropped down to a still very respectable 1,019MHz. As for the Samsung—I’ll get into its performance when I write that review, but for now, let’s just say its GPU clocks plummet off a cliff as time goes on. The Book 9 Pro’s fans are definitely quieter, though.
The GeForce GTX 960M has a nice edge over the other GPUsBattery life
For our battery rundown test, we play a 4K Ultra HD video file using Windows 10’s built-in media player. We set the screen brightness at 250 to 260 nits, which is good for watching a movie in office lighting. Considering its higher-wattage CPU and larger screen, the XPS 15 does reasonably well with just over five hours of run time.
The 56 watt hour battery gives you okay battery life but I wish Dell offered the larger 84 watt hour cell in this configuration too.
For this particular model, you can mitigate the shorter battery life with Dell’s optional battery pack, which will let you run and charge the laptop from it. In higher-end configurations with the 84 watt-hour battery, I’d expect to squeeze out at least another few hours out of it.It’s small but…
For its class, the redesigned XPS 15 is fairly compact and blisteringly fast. However, it’s not as revolutionary as the XPS 13’s overhaul. With that laptop, Dell basically crammed a 13-inch screen into a body that usually fit an 11-inch screen. Compared to the MacBook Air 13, for example, the XPS 13’s extremely small footprint was game-changing.
Gordon Mah Ung
Here’s the original Dell XPS 13 sitting on top of a MacBook Air 13. Both, by the way, feature the same size screen.
The XPS 15 certainly has the smallest footprint of the 15.6-inch laptops we’ve seen, but it’s not that much smaller. Here’s a shot of the XPS 15 next to its contemporaries and an XPS 13. HP’s Spectre X360 15T is almost comically wide, but that Samsung next to it is barely half an inch smaller in both directions.
The power bricks balance out the weight issue. The Dell’s is big and heavy, bringing the total weight to 5 pounds and 7 ounces compared to the HP and its tiny brick, which total 4 pounds and 8 ounces.
Carrying the XPS 15 around in your hands is a pleasure, thanks to the rubber strips on the bottom. A lot of these metal-bodied laptops feel like they’re just one slip away from disaster, but you’d have to try to drop the XPS 15 for destruction to happen.
Gordon Mah Ung
The XPS 15 has the smallest footprint of the 15.6-inch laptops we’ve seen. Clockwise from top left: Dell’s XPS 13, HP’s Spectre X360 15T, Samsung’s Book 9 Pro, Dell’s XPS 15Conclusion
The XPS 15’s keyboard could be bigger. The backlight-bleeding issue could use some work. But the overwhelming amount of people interested in this size of laptop buy these machines for performance, and that’s where the XPS 15 shines.
Correction: After getting a report from a reader that the XPS 15 does indeed support charging over USB Type C, I have updated the review to reflect the information. PCWorld regrets the error.
Gordon Mah Ung
Dell’s new XPS 15 gives you a lot more screen real-estate over the award-winning Dell XPS 13.
Note: Since our review was written, the specific model we tested is no longer available. However, a virtually identical 6QD model is available for the same price and has the GTX 950M instead of the 940M.
MSI GL62-6QC 065UK review: Price
The main appeal of the MSI GL62 is that it starts at £599, and this is the specific model we’re looking at here. You can buy the MSI GL62 6QD from Ebuyer for £599.99.
This version has a GeForce GTX 950 GPU, a quad-core Core i5 CPU and hard drive storage rather than an SSD.
The GL62’s rivals include the HP Pavilion Gaming 15 which costs from £719 and is similarly a subtle gaming laptop. However, you should also read our roundup of the best gaming laptops to buy right now.
MSI GL62-6QC 065UK review:
It’s not hard to spot a gaming laptop, but the MSI GL62 has little bits of gaming flair here and there rather than opting for an outrageous colour scheme or flared vents and mad logos. The keyboard font, the badge insignia on the lid, the odd bits of red trim and some of the GL62’s angles are all obvious ‘tells’ to an experienced eye.
This laptop has a metal-covered lid but the rest of the laptop is plastic, as used in the vast majority of gaming machines. It doesn’t try to push its luck with thickness or weight either.
At 2.3kg and 29mm thick, the MSI GL62 isn’t light or small enough to be considered a portable laptop. You’ll want to keep it at home most of the time.
MSI GL62-6QC 065UK review: Ports and features
While it has a sensible, slightly conservative design for a gaming laptop, the MSI GL62 does have up-to-date connections. It features two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port on the right side and an additional USB-C. It’s reassuring to see MSI has added has effectively added an extra USB with the USB-C socket, rather than using it as an excuse to pare down the total number of plugs.
It’ll be a while before everything uses USB-C, after all.
The MSI GL62 also has the main connections required of a desktop-replacer. It has HDMI and Mini DisplayPort video outputs and a full-size Ethernet socket. Many of you may be happy with using Wi-Fi, though, particularly as Wi-Fi ac is supported.
Around on the other (right) side of the MSI GL62 are a DVD Multiwriter optical drive and a full-size SD card slot. Just as the MSI GL62 strikes a good balance between a gamer-tinged look and an ordinary one, the laptop has an ultra-accessible set of connections that’ll suit the sort of buyer to whom a lower-cost gaming rig might appeal.
Just using mobile grade connections like a 12in MacBook just wouldn’t work here.
MSI GL62-6QC 065UK review: Screen
There’s a similar melding of worlds in the MSI GL62 in the screen too. The laptop has a 15.6in 1080p resolution display, but unlike most modern £500-plus laptops does not use an IPS screen.
It’s not a plain old TN screen either: MSI using something a little different. The GL62 has TN-based screen, but its tweaked architecture makes it look much better than other TN displays. MSI calls it a “world first”.
Its colour is fantastically vivid for a laptop of this price. It can display deeper, richer tones than many a £1000 laptop.
Setting our colorimeter loose on the MSI GL62, it hits 99.7 percent of sRGB, the usual standard for laptops, as well as 77.8 of Adobe RGB by volume and 85.7 percent of the cinema-grade DCI P3 standard. We’ll admit to being genuinely surprised to see such an affordable laptop provide such rich colour. An IPS laptop at this price might hit 70 per cent of sRGB and be considered more than fine.
It’s the colour that helps give the MSI GL62 screen a bold look, because its contrast alone can’t. Thanks to raised blacks that become really quite obvious even in good lighting when you crank up the backlight, the screen only has contrast of 300:1.
Viewing angles are not close to those of an IPS screen either, despite MSI’s claims. When viewed from a severe vertical angle, there’s severe contrast shift, a typical feature of a TN screen. The effect is nowhere near as bad as a regular TN screen, though. There’s clever ‘wide angle’ tech going on here that’s particularly effective at improving horizontal angled viewing.
If you’re prone to noticing poor black level and are going to be playing in dimmed lighting, maybe this isn’t the best laptop for you. However, its colours look a lot more vivid than most laptops at the price.
The screen has a matt finish, a type that tends not to make colours pop as much as glossy ones. As we’ve said, this is a decent screen for colours. although its 253cd/m2 brightness is nothing special. This isn’t a laptop you’re likely to want to use outdoors much, though. If you’re after a portable workhorse, take a look at the Asus UX range.
MSI GL62-6QC 065UK review:
At this price, you’re probably expecting some compromises. And you have to compromise more than with a desktop PC at £599.
The GL62 6QC spec we’re reviewing uses a GeForce GTX 940M CPU, one of the lower-end Nvidia cards. Despite being a solid dedicated GPU, you will need to use fairly low settings in order to get smooth-feeling frame rates in today’s more demanding games at native Full HD resolution.
Thief is a classic example of a game that the GL62 struggles with. At 720p with Low settings it averages 35.6fps, but that rate drops to an unusable 14.9fps when resolution is increased to 1080p and graphics settings increased to ‘High’: unplayable.
The much less demanding Alien Isolation test brings better results, but is still too slow in the GL62 with visuals at 1080p/High. It averages 20fps, increasing to 49fps at 720p, Low settings. A GTX 960M or even a GTX 950M (which you get in the HP Pavilion Gaming 15) would let you get closer to the mid-level settings that represent the sort of experience offered by today’s game consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One.
CPU power is without contest the strongest part of the MSI GL62’s performance. The Intel Core i5-6500HQ is a ‘full power’ laptop CPU rather than one of the efficiency-leaning ones used in more portable laptops, and its Geekbench result of 9247 (3034 single) is excellent for the price. It scores a similarly good 2681 points in the PCMark 8 Home test.
This CPU could be paired with a much, much more expensive GPU and still not be the bottleneck for performance.
The shame is that you probably won’t get to appreciate all that power on a daily basis. The reality is that, fitted with a plain 1TB hard drive rather than an SSD, it’s relatively slow to boot-up and come out of sleep mode. It also increases application load times.
Storage speed is such an important part of creating a perception of good performance that the GL62 6QC actually feels a bit slower than a lot of much less powerful laptops. It has the power for photo and video editing of large files, but again you’d ideally want a machine with an SSD if that’s what you’re going to be doing.
The fact that the 6QC’s drive spins at a slow 5400rpm (rather than 7200rpm) makes matters even worse. It’s the second reason, behind the graphics chip, to avoid this particular configuration of the GL62.
Under heavy yse, the laptop’s fans are significantly more obvious than those of the comparable HP Pavilion Gaming 15. Higher-pitched and noisier, they can be a little distracting in quieter rooms.
There is an interesting little keyboard shortcut that lets you ‘switch gears’, to use MSI’s terminology. The eco mode helps keep the GL62 quiet when just performing basic tasks.
MSI GL62-6QC 065UK review:
Keyboard and trackpad
The rest of the MSI GL62 keyboard is interesting too. It’s a SteelSeries-branded keyboard, and has a different feel to the average chiclet keyboard.
It takes a little while to get used to, when the crispness of most chiclet designs is designed to make up for lesser key travel. However, the keys still feel good, and the layout is conventional. There’s no backlight, something you’ll have to pay a little more to get.
A lack of pad ambition pays off better with the keys. The MSI G62’s mouse buttons are separate and sit below the pad, a smart move for a gaming laptop.
Finally, let’s mention speaker quality. It’s not a highlight. Despite being a gaming machine the MSI GL62’s speakers are unusually weak. The sound is thin and relatively quiet, outdone even by some recent phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7.
MSI GL62-6QC 065UK review:
A laptop like this that uses dedicated GPU and an HQ-series CPU is never going to offer particularly good battery life. The MSI GL62 lasts 3 hours 55 minutes when playing back a 720p MP4 video file at 120cd/m2 brightness.
While it’s unrealistic to expect eight hours’ use out of a laptop with an HQ-series CPU, some others in this category will last perhaps 30 minutes more.
Clad in an aluminum chassis with glittering RGB keys, the Triton 700 makes one hell of a first impression—and it only gets better once you actually start gaming. This is one of the most impressive gaming laptops ever.
But the touchpad. Why the hell did Acer do this with the touchpad?
Gordon Mah Ung/IDG
Yes, that glass strip below the display is the Triton 700’s touchpad.Predator Triton 700 prices, specs, and features
To be fair, the transparent trackpad set over the keyboard looks stunning, providing a faintly illuminated glimpse of the potent hardware lurking within. Let’s talk about that hardware first.
CPU: Core i7-7700HQ
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q
RAM: 32GB DDR4/2400
Display: 15.6-inch, 120Hz 1920×1080 IPS with G-Sync
Storage: 2x 256GB LiteOn NVMe SSDs in RAID 0; 512GB total storage
Weight: 5.27 pounds., 2.04-pound power supply
Dimensions: 15.5 x 10.5 x 0.7 inches
Ports: HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 2.0, 3x USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, mic jack, headphone jack
Price: $3,000 on Amazon
The Triton 700’s main rival
Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501
Read our review
The Acer Predator Triton 700 joins the Asus ROG Zephyrus ($2,699 on Amazon) in the GTX 1080 Max-Q’s vanguard. We’ve covered Nvidia’s technology in-depth in both a standalone Max-Q article as well as the ROG Zephyrus review, and won’t retread the same ground here.
In a nutshell, Max-Q uses careful hardware and software tuning to reduce the GTX 1080’s TDP from 150 watts all the way down to roughly 100W, which allows it to fit into far slimmer laptops than before, like the Triton 700. The process requires the Max-Q GPUs to run at much lower clocks than a standard GeForce GTX 1080, which does result in slightly lower frame rates. You won’t notice it with the way the laptop’s configured, though.
Gordon Mah Ung/IDG
Nvidia’s Max-Q and G-Sync deliver a solid gaming combo in the Predator Triton 700.
An option for a 4K or 1440p display would be nice, but both G-Sync and Max-Q require careful technical tuning, so I can’t begrudge Acer for sticking to this single superb setup.
Ports on the rear, including the power connection.
Ports on the left side.
All in all, the Acer Predator Triton 700 and Nvidia’s Max-Q tech prove truly impressive. This beast is packing some serious firepower, and it’s wild that this much high-class hardware fits inside a package this slim. Again: A laptop like this wouldn’t—couldn’t—have existed mere months ago.Keyboard, audio, and the terrible touchpad
Not in every aspect. The Gorilla Glass touchpad, situated just underneath the display, shows off one of the system’s Aeroblade fans and glimpses of the copper heatpipes that keep the GTX 1080 cool, gently illuminated by a blue LED light. It sure is pretty! And the touchpad itself is smooth and responsive.
I can’t get over its placement though. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a gaming laptop slap its touchpad above the keyboard, but it’s still a terrible idea. You could argue that a great gaming mouse is all but obligatory for a notebook like this but I don’t buy it. Even simple acts like slinging emails and juggling Office documents prove frustrating with the weird trackpad position; it’s hard to reach comfortably, and years of muscle memory scream in frustration with every use.
Gordon Mah Ung/IDG
But it gets worse. Sure, seeing the glowing fan underneath looks badass, but in practice placing the touchpad over critical components results in hot temperatures during gaming sessions—uncomfortably so. You’ll want to let the touchpad cool down before using it again, and don’t even think about playing a game that could theoretically work well enough with a touchpad (a CRPG like Wasteland 2, say) on this. You won’t get far.
The Predator Triton 700’s mechanical keyboard is the yin to the touchpad’s yang.
The audio’s augmented by preloaded Dolby Atmos software. The volume gets loud, and while the sound is wee bit unbalanced and brassy compared to dedicated headphones due to the lack of a deep bass punch, the speakers hold up well overall for a laptop. All that said, I universally recommend a good pair of gaming headphones when you’re playing on a notebook. Built-in speakers just can’t compare.
Next page: Benchmarks, software, and bottom linePredator Triton 700 performance
Our second test uses an older version of the free HandBrake encoder and mostly focuses on CPU performance as well. Unlike Cinebench’s short run time, the file we encode for testing takes around 45 minutes on a quad-core processor, which lets you see how a laptop’s temperature throttling affects performance over time. Once again, the Predator is neck-and-neck with the Zephyrus, and the Alienware 17’s more powerful processor gives it a performance lead.
Enough with the CPU tests. Graphics are the real star in gaming laptops. We test the graphics chops of gaming laptops using 3DMark’s Fire Strike Extreme benchmark. Specifically, we rely on the Graphics sub-score, which focuses on pure GPU performance.
A 17-inch laptop with a full GTX 1080
Alienware 17 R4
Read our review
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That difference continues to show in actual games, with the Max-Q laptops falling slightly ahead of GTX 1070-packing Alienware 15, but solidly behind the GTX 1080-equipped Alienware 17. Don’t take that the wrong way, though: The Acer Predator Triton 700 still delivers blistering fast frame rates for its 1080p display, and G-Sync helps keep everything smooth.
Brad Chacos/IDG Brad Chacos/IDG
A recent Nvidia driver update significantly altered performance in Rise of the Tomb Raider, so we’re limiting our results to the Max-Q duo, both of which were tested with the new software. As we’ve seen in every benchmark so far, these identically equipped laptops deliver virtually identical performance results.
The fans ramp up the longer you game, striving to keep the GPU and CPU around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, though temperatures occasionally spike slightly higher. The noise is far from silent, but I was still surprised at how quietly the fans ran overall. Many hulking gaming laptops sound like airplanes taking off; the Predator Triton 700 doesn’t, though the fan’s noise is somewhat high-pitched. Overall, the cooling system and large exhaust manage to keep performance stable. I repeatedly re-ran the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark for 45 minutes and only saw a 2-fps drop from the initial runs.
In practice, these laptops pooped out in about two hours in PCWorld’s battery rundown test, which loops a 4K video endlessly—by far the worst we’ve seen in a notebook. Even the no-holds-barred Alienware 17 lasts a solid 40 minutes more, and that machine is put to shame by laptops like the Gigabyte Aero 15. Don’t leave home without a mouse and your charger.Acer PredatorSense
Like all laptops from major manufacturers, the Predator Triton 700 includes some preinstalled software—not too much, though. A couple of apps prove especially handy: The aforementioned Dolby Atmos if you’re using headphones, and Acer’s own PredatorSense.
Acer’s PredatorSense software lets you configure the Triton 700’s RGB lighting.
PredatorSense includes several sections devoted to the Triton 700’s key features. The Lighting section includes a wealth of customization options for the backlit RGB keyboard, including a profile manager if you want to swap between setups. You can tinker with the lighting on the fan beneath the glass touchpad. You’ll also find sections dedicated to fan control (yes, there are manual options) and system temperature monitoring.
PredatorSense makes overclocking easy.Bottom line
Let’s end where we began.
The Acer Predator Triton 700 ($3,000 on Amazon) is one of the most impressive gaming laptops ever created, full stop. Every inch of this rig oozes quality, from the sleek, slim aluminum chassis to the fantastic mechanical keyboard to the no-compromises gaming experience provided by the GTX 1080 Max-Q and its accompanying 120Hz G-Sync display. And that doesn’t even take into account that it was literally impossible to cram this much power into a laptop this thin until very recently. There’s a lot to drool over here.
Gordon Mah Ung/IDG
The overwhelming excellence makes some serious compromises all the more painful. The horrible, poorly placed, disappointingly hot touchpad is a major negative. It can be mitigated by using a discrete mouse, but you’ll always need to keep it handy because the Acer Predator Triton 700’s touchpad is almost unusable, especially if you plan on actually gaming with it. And like the Asus ROG Zephyrus ($2,699 on Amazon), this GTX 1080 Max-Q laptop makes severe battery life sacrifices to achieve its sleekness.
Mentioned in this article
Predator Triton 700
You pay big-time for the Triton 700’s mobility, though. If you don’t mind massive desktop replacements, the 17-inch Alienware 17 R4 packs a more potent, full-fat GTX 1080 with a higher-resolution 2560×1440 G-Sync display for about $2,550 on chúng tôi The Alienware’s processor also outpunches the Triton 700’s. Yet it’s almost twice as heavy at a staggering 9 pounds, 12 ounces. Pick your poison. But for the first time ever, gamers on the go have some choices.
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