The Aftershock SM-15 is a mid- range gaming laptop for those with a modest budget. The recommended configuration reviewed here is listed at $1,848 on the Aftershock website.
While it will not break any speed records, this 15-inch laptop will run the latest games at its native 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. You probably have to adjust some of the graphical effects to a lower setting, but the alternative would be to fork out at least $400 for a graphics chip upgrade.
It has a better processor and graphics chip than last year's model. But it is the switch from an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics chip to the GeForce GTX 965M chip that has the greatest impact on performance.
For instance, last year's model could run Crysis 3 smoothly (around 57 frames per second) at Medium setting. The new version produces similar frame rates, but at High setting. In other words, you enjoy more graphical effects on the new SM-15 without losing out on performance.
The 3DMark benchmark score for the new model was also 40 per cent higher than its predecessor.
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz)
GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5
RAM: 8GB DDR4
SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches,1,920 x 1,080 pixels
CONNECTIVITY: 4 x USB 3.0, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet port, SD card slot, audio jacks
BATTERY: 62 watt-hour
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
BATTERY LIFE: 2/5
A new feature is a battery charging utility in the system BIOS that lets users determine the specific battery level to start and to stop charging when plugged in. For instance, setting the battery to stop charging once it reaches a certain level, such as 80 per cent, helps to extend the life of the battery compared to charging it fully. Simply hit the F2 button during boot-up to access the BIOS and this utility.
Aftershock gets its laptop chassis from Taiwanese manufacturer Clevo, so the standard SM-15 looks fairly generic. But you can pay Aftershock to customise the laptop chassis to your liking. Besides choosing your preferred colour, you can provide Aftershock with an image or logo and the company can paint it on the laptop lid.
There is room for an optical drive, which should tell you that the SM-15 is far from sleek. How- ever, at around 2.5kg, it is portable enough to be considered a proper laptop, unlike the 17-inch gaming models that are basically pseudo-desktop PCs.
With its matte in-plane switching screen, the SM-15 has good viewing angles, even from the sides.
If you can afford to spend a bit more, I would recommend increasing the capacity of the 120GB solid state drive (SSD). While the laptop has a secondary hard drive, it is always better to install apps on the faster SSD.
The SM-15 is quiet when doing simple tasks such as browsing the Internet, though the internal fans make themselves known when a game is running. However, the noise level is acceptable, compared with other gaming laptops.
- The latest SM-15 costs around the same as last year's model but performs better.