QHD GAMING WARRIOR
The first generation Aftershock XG13 is something of a gaming gem, combining excellent performance, good features and an attractive price tag. It should come as no surprise then that it also won the Best Portable Gaming Notebook category in our last Tech Awards.
Following NVIDIA’s announcement of their new GeForce GTX 800M series of mobile GPUs, Aftershock has refreshed the XG13. Now called the XG13-V2, this 13.3-inch gaming notebook now features an upgraded GPU as well as many other new features including an integrated headphone amplifier, a new Full HD front-facing web camera as well as an optional ultrahigh resolution QHD display.
Let’s get down to the specifics. Under the hood, the most significant upgrade is the new GeForce GTX 860M mobile GPU, which is also presently the most powerful mobile GPU that is based on the new Maxwell architecture - the new GeForce GTX 870M and GTX 880M are both based on the older Kepler architecture. It might be worth noting that graphics is the only noncustomizable aspect of the notebook, almost everything else - processor, memory, storage - can be customized to your liking.
Our XG13-V2 review unit came with a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor, which is pretty much the default choice of gaming notebooks everywhere, and is complemented by 8GB of RAM. Users can opt for more powerful processors such as the range-topping 2.9GHz Core i7-4910MQ and up to a maximum of 16GB of RAM. As for storage, our review unit came with a 128GB Samsung SSD 840 EVO mSATA drive and a 1TB 7,200RPM HD - a good combination for both performance and capacity. And since the XG13-V2 has two mSATA bays, it is entirely possible to have mSATA in RAID 0 for even faster storage performance.
For network connectivity, users can either opt for a standard 802.11 b/g/n wireless adapter, Killer Wireless-N 1202 adapter, or Intel’s newest Wireless-AC 7260 adapter that supports the new Wireless-AC
CONCLUSION Aftershock continues its tradition of offering great performance at a compelling price with the updated XG13-V2.
As for design, although the XG13-V2 looks identical to its predecessor, there has been some change of materials to boost the notebook’s overall durability; there have also been numerous tweaks to its cooling and fan management system to improve its thermal characteristics. The speakers have also been upgraded for better audio performance. However, one of the key upgrades is arguably the inclusion of integrated headphone amplifiers. This allows high impedance headphones to be driven more adequately, and in our testing, we found that our headphones now play with more urgency and bass is more impactful and pronounced.
And while the stock design looks pretty plain, users can now opt from a myriad of different wrap and paint treatments. For example, one of the latest customization options is the “color shift” paint, which changes hue depending on the lighting and viewing angle. Users can even submit their own graphics to be airbrushed on.
When benchmarked, the new XG13-V2 does not disappoint. Gaming performance is much improved thanks to the more powerful GTX 860M. On Crysis 2, we saw improvements of over 25%, which is definitely impressive.
Now, the XG13-V2 can also be outfitted with an optional QHD display for an additional $195, which gives it a display resolution of a whopping 3,200 by 1,800 pixels. While this means sharper images and text, it does come at the cost of gaming performance. At such extreme resolutions, we could no longer manage playable frame rates for Crysis 2. On Tomb Raider, we could still get above the magical 30 fps mark, but only if we dialed the graphics down to “Normal”.
With that in mind, we do not recommend QHD displays as it brings little improvement to the table. Furthermore, Windows 8 on a whole has yet to be properly optimized for such extreme resolutions, as we noticed issues with certain applications, windows and pop-ups looking fuzzy and out of place.
As it stands, the Aftershock XG13-V2 is easily one of the best performing notebooks in its class. The stiffest competition should come in the form of Razer’s newly refreshed Blade, which has been upgraded with a QHD display as well and a GeForce GTX 870M. However, the Razer Blade with a comparable 128GB flash storage option will cost a staggering $3,199. The Aftershock XG13-V2 on the other hand, is much more affordable. Our review unit, with the QHD display no less, came in at $2,375 - over 25% less.
If we had the choice, we would rather have a DisplayPort instead of the VGA port.
The keyboard is excellent, but the trackpad is a little too small to be used comfortably.