PC

Affordable, full-featured gaming notebook

Aftershock's Nova 15 has a bit more bulk in exchange for better performance.
Aftershock's Nova 15 has a bit more bulk in exchange for better performance.

Aftershock has been quick off the blocks this year.

The local PC builder was one of the first to debut a gaming laptop powered by Nvidia's latest GeForce RTX 20 Series graphics chip, with its Slate 15 model last month.

Similarly fresh from the oven is the Nova 15, which, with its thick plastic body, is targeted at those who do not mind a bit more bulk in their gaming laptop in exchange for better performance.

My review set comes with a GeForce RTX 2070 Max-P graphics chip. This variant - the "P" stands for Performance - has higher clock speeds than the Max-Q version used in many gaming laptops, including the Slate 15.

As expected, the Nova was faster than the Slate in a pure benchmarking scenario. In 3DMark's Time Spy gaming benchmark, it scored 7,250, compared with the Slate 15's 6,303.

But the Nova fell slightly short of the Asus ROG Zephyrus S (GX701), which has the flagship GeForce GTX 2080 Max-Q graphics chip and scored 7,837 in the same benchmark.

More importantly, the Nova's advantage did not translate to significant performance gains in games. In Doom (2016), it managed about 115 frames per second (fps), identical to the Slate 15. And while the Nova performed better than the Slate in Crysis 3, the increase - from 101fps to 109fps - was minor.

In other words, switching to the Max-P variant of Nvidia's GeForce RTX graphics chip will not dramatically improve gaming performance.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $2,845

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8750H (2.2GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 2070 8GB GDDR6 Max-P

    RAM: 16GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY:  2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet port, SD card reader, audio jacks

    BATTERY: 62 watt-hour

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4.5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 2/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Instead, the Nova's Nvidia G-Sync display is more likely to enhance the overall gaming experience because it can reduce stuttering and screen tearing. The display's variable refresh rate, capped at 144Hz, can synchronise with a game's frame rates to ensure smooth gameplay.

This 15.6-inch screen also supports 100 per cent of the sRGB colour space, which makes it suitable for those looking to use it for editing images and Web design.

Those with Thunderbolt 3 accessories, such as Samsung's portable X5 solid-state drive, will be pleased to know that the Nova, unlike the Slate, has a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port that supports fast transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps, compared with 10Gbps for USB 3.1 Gen 2.

Like most gaming laptops, the Nova has individual backlights for all the keys on the keyboard. Travel is good and there is space even for a numeric keypad. But the keyboard exhibits more flex, especially in the middle, compared with the Slate's.

For its latest models, Aftershock has added an optical fingerprint sensor to the notebook's touchpad. I am not a fan as I found this sensor to be slower at authenticating my identity than the usual physical fingerprint reader.

Improved are the speakers, which are much louder than previous generations of Aftershock laptops'.

The sound, especially the treble range, comes through impressively clear. However, there is still a distinct lack of bass.

A benefit of its thicker chassis and a fast-spinning but noisy cooling fan is that the Nova's keyboard did not feel warm while running the latest games. However, the laptop surface just above the keyboard remains too hot to touch for more than a few seconds.

With an uptime of 31/2 hours in our video-loop battery test, the Nova has decent battery stamina for a gaming laptop.

• Verdict: With prices starting at $2,500, the Nova 15 is among the most affordable gaming laptops with Nvidia's latest graphics chip.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline 'Affordable, full-featured gaming notebook'. Print Edition | Subscribe