Try this: Open a new window on your Windows desktop, then quickly drag it around the screen. You may notice the window flickering. This is known as screen tearing, and it happens when the current image or video is out of sync with the monitor's refresh rate, which is typically 60Hz.
Applications, especially games, have variable frame rates. These two are often not in sync.
A solution called vertical sync caps frame rates at 60 frames per second (fps). This helps prevent screen tearing but causes stuttering when frame rates dip below 60, which could happen during a graphically-intensive sequence in a game. To solve this, Nvidia introduced a technology called G-Sync in 2013. The graphics chipmaker added a proprietary chip in the monitor that communicates with the graphics card (Nvidia-only) so that images are shown the moment the monitor is ready to display it. The result: a smoother gaming experience.
This technology has since made its way into high-end gaming monitors and is finally available on laptops. Aftershock's W-17 gaming laptop is one of the first models here to support this feature.
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-4790K (4GHz)
GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M 6GB GDDR5
SCREEN SIZE: 17 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
CONNECTIVITY: 4 x USB 3.0, e-SATA/USB, HDMI, 2 x DisplayPort, Ethernet port, SD card slot, audio jacks
BATTERY: 82 watt-hour
FEATURES 1 2 3 4 5
DESIGN 1 2 3 4 5
PERFORMANCE 1 2 3 4 5
VALUE FOR MONEY 1 2 3 4 5
BATTERY LIFE 1 2 3 4 5
OVERALL 1 2 3 4 5
The laptop was launched late last year, but you can now customise it with a G-Sync display. It is more expensive ($210) than the normal version, but it could be worth the premium to some.
It took me a while to notice the screen tearing in games. It is most obvious when panning the camera in a game. The tearing disappeared when G-Sync was enabled.
In Bioshock Infinite, the average fps went from 116 to 74 after enabling this feature. It sounds significant but, in practice, you probably cannot tell between the two.
However, G-Sync had no impact on frame rates in either Crysis 3 or The Witcher 3. Frame rates hovered around 52 fps in Crysis 3 at Very High setting, and 44 fps in The Witcher 3 at High.
It helps that the W-17 is a very high-end gaming machine. It uses a desktop-class Intel processor and Nvidia's top GeForce GTX 980M graphics chip. Aftershock offers a workstation-class graphics chip for those who intend to do 3D animation or video editing.
As in many gaming laptops, the keyboard backlight can be configured with your choice of colours.
Given its bulk - the W-17 weighs almost 4kg - this laptop has plenty of ports for USB and display outputs. Its large chassis is ample enough to hold multiple storage drives. The review set pairs a 120GB solid-state drive with a 1TB hard drive.
I was impressed with the W-17's loud and powerful speakers.
• Aftershock's high-end gaming laptop gets even more premium with G-Sync support.