My shiny new Vortex III arrived on Monday morning, and I have been unbearably smug ever since (or so I'm told ). I was hoping to do an unboxing vid, but unfortunately my old lappy died before the new one arrived, taking with it the webcam I would have used to shoot the video. Having seen Craigsup's great review, I figured it was high time I at least posted one of my own, albeit pictureless until I get back home to my proper camera.
As a games developer who travels a lot, I was after both high performance and reliability in a neat future-proof package. After much hunting online and comparing prices, PC Specialist was the only way to go. The spec that I eventually settled on was as follows:
Chassis & Display: Vortex Series:17.3" Matte Full HD LED Widescreen (1920x1080) (£79)
Processor (CPU): Intel® Core™i7 Quad Core Mobile Processor i7-3610QM (2.30GHz) 6MB
Memory (RAM): 32GB SAMSUNG 1600MHz SODIMM DDR3 MEMORY (4 x 8GB)
Graphics Card: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 675M - 2.0GB DDR5 Video RAM - DirectX® 11
1st Hard Disk: 480GB INTEL® 520 SERIES SSD, SATA 6 Gb/s (upto 550MB/sR | 520MB/sW)
2nd Hard Disk: 750GB WD SCORPIO BLACK WD7500BPKT, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB CACHE (7200 rpm)
DVD/BLU-RAY Drive: SONY BD-5750H 6x BLURAY WRITER & CYBERLINK SOFTWARE (£79)
Memory Card Reader: Internal 9 in 1 Card Reader (MMC/RSMMC/SD: Mini, XC & HC/MS: Pro & Duo)
Thermal Paste: ARCTIC MX-4 EXTREME THERMAL CONDUCTIVITY COMPOUND (£9)
Sound Card: Intel 5.1 Channel High Definition Audio + SPDIF/MIC/Headphone Jack
Network Facilities: GIGABIT LAN & WIRELESS INTEL® ULTIMATE-N 6300 (450Mbps)
USB Options: 4 PORT USB 2.0 EXTERNAL HUB + STANDARD USB PORTS
Firewire: 1 X 1394a FIREWIRE PORT
Battery: Vortex Series 8 Cell Lithium Ion Battery (5,200 mAh/76.96WH)
Power Lead & Adaptor: 1 x UK Power Lead & 220W AC Adaptor
Operating System: Genuine Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit w/SP1 - inc DVD & Licence
Keyboard & Mouse: INTEGRATED BACKLIT UK KEYBOARD WITH NUMBER PAD
Mouse: INTEGRATED 2 BUTTON TOUCHPAD MOUSE
Webcam: INTEGRATED 2.0 MEGAPIXEL WEBCAM
Headsets (VOIP): CREATIVE® HS-800 FATAL1TY GAMING HEADSET (£29)
Warranty: 3 Year Silver Warranty (1 Year Collect & Return, 1 Year Parts, 3 Year Labour) (£5)
Dead Pixel Guarantee: 1 Year Dead Pixel Guarantee Inc. Labour & Carriage Costs (£19)
Delivery: STANDARD INSURED DELIVERY TO UK MAINLAND (MON-FRI)
Build Time: Standard Build - Approximately 6 to 8 working days
Having read through the forums before placing my order, I was already aware that the 3610QM processor was out of stock, so I was prepared for a long wait. Little did I realise that my old laptop was a lot closer to dying than I'd previously thought - only days after placing my order, it refused to boot up and I was well and truly up the creek... on site with my right arm (as it were) not functioning. I emailed PCS to ask for an updated ETA on the build once the CPU shipment arrived. They assured me that I would most likely get my new laptop by the end of the following week. All credit to PCS for doing their best to speed things up for me. You saved my arse, lol.
On to the laptop...
The first thing I noticed was the weight of the beast. My friend who I am staying with atm laughed when he saw the size of the box and said "They do know it's a laptop you wanted, right?"
It is not a lightweight laptop by any stretch of the imagination, so if you are looking for ultra-portable, the Vortex III won't be for you. However, if it is performance you are after, then the Vortex III will be just the thing.
The matte screen is a thing of beauty and I am glad I paid the extra for it instead of a glossy screen. It is crisp, sharp and vibrant. Certainly the best laptop screen I've worked with to date. I cannot abide the overly glossy Alienware setup, where the glare usually ends up setting off a migraine or six when I'm working in bright light. My new Vortex III, however, performed admirably outdoors when I was taking advantage of the sunshine earlier in the week.
That brings me on to the Ultimate-N 6300 wireless adaptor. I deliberately moved as far away from the router as possible, until I ran out of garden. Although it lost a few 'bars' of signal strength, the connection remained as reliable as ever, and I was able to download large updates without any problems. Battery life was not too bad - I got around 2 and 3 quarter hours out of it before it reached 10% and gave me the low battery warning. I have not yet tested the battery life under heavier load, but I will update you once I have.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the multitouch mousepad. Whilst there are some features that I love, half of the time it misinterprets normal cursor movements as gestures, which can be a bit of a pain in the arse. You can disable certain gestures and customise them to a certain degree, so I will no doubt be playing with those settings over the weekend. The keyboard layout takes some getting used to, since some keys are not where I would expect them to be. After 5 days of using this keyboard, I am quickly getting used to the slightly different layout. The keys are well-spaced and responsive. The backlighting makes for some nice eye candy, as well as being useful in low light. I doubt very much that I would use any of the flashing options as they are a bit too distracting.
Blu ray playback is fantastic. The drive does get a bit noisy when you first put a disk in, but after that, it operates quietly and you can enjoy watching movies without any odd noises ruining your cinematic experience. The full HD screen really comes into its own here as well.
The Intel SSD drive is probably the best investment I made on this spec. Boot time is around 15s, including all the various resource-hogging services that I have running in the background. Combined with the maxed out 32Gb memory, it is pretty Adobe/Autodesk proof at the moment, and I have happily been coding in one window, with a 3D render busy working away in another. Multitasking is a synch, which is just as well, considering all the catching up on work I've had to do this week.
For all of this beefy performance, the Vortex III is surprisingly cool running - I have actually been able to use it on my lap whilst putting it through its paces. I have a cooler, but I have yet to use it on this machine.
All in all, I love this laptop a little bit more every day. It does everything I ask of it and more. I also have nothing but praise for PCS whose customer service was exemplary, especially when they had so many people waiting on new stock to arrive.