PC Spe­cial­ist Lafite III

£938 | $1,240 www.pc­spe­cial­ist.co.uk A lap­top with a com­pelling spec sheet, but some draw­backs

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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.

De­sign

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.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

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.

In use

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.

Per­for­mance

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.

Sum­mary

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.

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