PC Specialist Lafite III
£938 | $1,240 www.pcspecialist.co.uk A laptop with a compelling spec sheet, but some drawbacks
We came across this laptop’s predecessor, the Lafite II, at the beginning of 2016, and it was an encounter that left us pleasantly surprised by the potential of the PC Specialist brand.
The company has since rejigged its portfolio, but is still heavily reliant on Taiwanese company, Clevo, as an Original Design Manufacturer (ODM). So much so that PC Specialist doesn’t even hide this fact; the Lafite III is also known as the Style Note N131BU.
PC Specialist took a winning combination and tweaked it with an enclosure, which the company says is stronger and a fraction thinner than the one used by the Lafite II. We couldn’t substantiate the former claim, though. The Lafite III uses aluminium, but instead of embracing the unibody design of, say, the Chuwi LapBook 12.3, PC Specialist opted for one that isn’t as elegant, especially when it comes to the finish, which is simply not clean enough. The matte grey colour scheme also makes this notebook look rather cheap compared to a traditional brushed aluminium finish. You won’t find any logo on the Lafite III, which saves you money and keeps the design as minimalist as possible.
With a footprint slightly larger than an A4 sheet (330x225x17.8mm) and a weight of 1.3kg, the Lafite III is bigger and heavier than what you’d expect from a 13.3-inch laptop, such as the Dell XPS 13 or the HP Spectre.
One design aspect that left us baffled was the size of the bezels, hitting a jaw-dropping 35mm at their thickest. This would have made sense if the Lafite III sported a touchscreen display – but it doesn’t. Indeed, we suspect that the large bezels are just an artefact, a remnant of a decision where flexibility and upgradability forced designers to come up with a larger case rather than a tightly integrated one that cannot be upgraded. Note that there are also four status lights on the front edge of the laptop.
The Lafite III comes in three flavours: Master, Elite and Pro. The model sent to us for review was the top-of-the-range notebook which carries a price tag of £938 ($1,240) including delivery.
A fully jacked-up model can take a Core i7-7500U CPU, a whopping 32GB RAM (ours came with one single 16GB memory module), two hard drives (2.5-inch and/or an M.2 SSD, both of which are optional), 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
One aspect where the Lafite III outflanks the competition is when it comes to IO ports. Other than the power port, there’s a USB Type-C, a pair of full size USB 3.0 ports, a pair of audio inputs, a mini-DisplayPort, an HDMI port, an SD card reader
and a Gigabit Ethernet port. This means that in theory – because Intel HD Graphics 620 can power up to three monitors – you should be able to run at least two 4K Ultra HD monitors (one at 60Hz, the other at 30Hz).
Uniquely among the laptops that we’ve reviewed, this one also comes with a SIM slot. However, this isn’t mentioned in the spec sheet, mainly because it is in fact a dummy slot rather than a fully functional one with a 3G/4G modem attached to it.
The notebook runs Windows 10 Home (optional) and is powered by a 36Whr battery, which is charged by a small 40W brick charger. Also worth noting is the presence of a TPM 2.0 module and a 90-day trial for BullGuard Internet Security.
The first thing you notice when powering up the PC Specialist Lafite III is just how noisy it can be even at rest. Switching the machine on, the CPU spiked to 3.5GHz momentarily before slowing down to a more moderate 800MHz.
Once you get used to this occasional white noise, using the Lafite III is a pleasurable experience – the 13.3-inch matte screen is an IPS model, meaning great viewing angles, along with vibrant and accurate colours.
The keyboard is a backlit affair with keys delivering good feedback – albeit on the softer end of the spectrum – and excellent travel. This is (subjectively) great for anyone looking for a good touch-typing laptop. True, there is some flex in the keyboard but not enough to have a negative impact on the typing experience.
The Lafite III’s touchpad is excellent, however, and highly responsive, as well as being nicely
“One aspect where the Lafite III outflanks the competition is when it comes to IO ports”
integrated with the palm rest, and benefiting from a thin silver border that delineates the area.
The two integrated speakers deliver an average audio experience which was, again, to be expected. As for the laptop’s battery life, it reached three hours 50 minutes on our count-up timer test, which was a disappointment but understandable given the components used – remember that this review model also includes an additional hard disk drive.
The Lafite III performed admirably throughout all our benchmarks as one would expect, scoring 2,112 and 4,075 in our single-core and dual-core GeekBench tests respectively. A generous amount of system memory (although not in dual-channel mode) and a fast SSD means that there’s no real bottleneck for mainstream use cases. It can also carry out more specialist scenarios like RAW image editing or financial analysis, but be aware of its limitations.
If you want an Ultrabook that can support up to 32GB of RAM, multiple storage drives, multiple displays and offers tons of connectivity options, then the Lafite III is the ideal candidate – especially if you don’t want to spend a huge amount of money.
The laptop is not without its flaws, however. The warranty should be better, as the baseline coverage is a pitiful one month only. However, note that upgrading to a 12-month collect-and-return service only costs £5 – it’s hard to see why PC Specialist simply doesn’t absorb this minimal cost and make that the default warranty. At any rate, if you do buy this notebook, make sure you select the warranty upgrade, since it would be foolish not to do so for the sake of saving a fiver.
Another downside is the finish of the Lafite III, which should have been better considering the cost of this notebook. If far lesser known companies like Chuwi or Jumper can do it, then PC Specialist (and indeed its ODM, Clevo) simply has no excuse. That and the warranty are the only real flaws in an otherwise good product.
The Lafite III is a stonker of a laptop, with lots of connectivity options for not much money.