PC Specialist Fusion II Review

TLR

Overall a fantastic laptop for this price point. It functions well as both a workstation and provides a great gaming experience. Those expecting the high end performance of a gaming desktop will be disappointed, and those wanting the pure portability and battery life of a thinner laptop might also find Fusion II to be lacking. For those of us in the middle the Fusion II is a great option.

Specs of reviewed laptop:

Chassis & Display
Fusion Series: 15.6" Matte Full HD 72% NTSC LED Widescreen (1920x1080)
Processor (CPU)
Intel® Core™ i7 Six Core Processor 8750H (2.2GHz, 4.1GHz Turbo)
Memory (RAM)
16GB Corsair 2400MHz SODIMM DDR4 (1 x 16GB)
Graphics Card
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 Max-Q - 6.0GB GDDR5 Video RAM - DirectX® 12.1
1st M.2 SSD Drive
512GB INTEL® 660p M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD (upto 1500 MB/sR | 1000 MB/sW)
Memory Card Reader
Integrated 2 in 1 Memory Card Reader (SD, MMC)
AC Adaptor
1 x 150W AC Adaptor
Battery
Fusion Series 62WH Lithium Ion Battery
Power Cable
1 x 1 Metre Cloverleaf UK Power Cable
Thermal Paste
STANDARD THERMAL PASTE FOR SUFFICIENT COOLING
Sound Card
2 Channel High Definition Audio + MIC/Headphone Jack
Bluetooth & Wireless
GIGABIT LAN & WIRELESS INTEL® AC-9560 M.2 (1.73Gbps, 802.11AC) +BT 5.0
USB/Thunderbolt Options
1 x USB 3.1 PORT (Type C) + 2 x USB 3.1 PORTS + 1 x USB 2.0 PORT
Keyboard Language
FUSION SERIES RGB BACKLIT UK KEYBOARD
Notebook Mouse
INTEGRATED 2 BUTTON TOUCHPAD MOUSE
Webcam
INTEGRATED 1MP HD WEBCAM


Packaging and unboxing

From the ordering of the Fusion II to delivery took less than a week. Though I originally had ordered a different chassis which ended up being so delayed that I changed my order. The laptop that did arrive came inside of two large boxes with lots of protection. Inside was a charger, guidebook and the laptop itself. The guidebook recommends charging overnight before first use.


Build quality

This is the main sacrifice when you order a laptop that is a few hundred pounds cheaper than its similarly specced competitors. The chassis is actually a Tongfang chassis, a company I had never heard of before. The bezel on the left hand side of my screen is a fraction of a millimetre out of place, a small thing but still noticeable. The hinge is sturdy and firm enough so that it doesn’t move when typing, but an Asus laptop at less than half the price (with much lower specs) would have a better engineered hinge.

Only the laptop lid is aluminium and the rest of the case is plastic, the combination of two materials definitely cheapens the feel. The plastic on the inside leaf of the laptop is silver to look like aluminium, but is in fact plastic with a not very nice finish. I prefer the feel of a high quality plastic to aluminium, and I also think it is a better wearing material for a laptop, being much more forgiving if it is dropped of scratched.

For some reason you have to press the power button for slightly longer than is normal in order to turn the laptop on, a slightly annoying quirk. The webcam is very low quality, partnered with the unflattering angle means you aren't going to be looking your best on conference calls.


Keyboard

When I first started using the laptop I found that it would repeat key presses every now and then. Changing the setting to increase repeat delay (search ‘keyboard’ in the start menu for Windows 10) and this issue has gone. The keys have a decent amount of travel and I quite like the feedback. The RGB lighting seems fine, though I haven’t bothered to download the software to try to personalise it, and the function button to adjust the brightness doesn’t work out of the box.

For work

This thing is fast! The 6 cores of the i7 8750H processor is going to handle pretty much anything you throw at it while using it as a workstation. Compiling large and complex programs is going to happen much quicker than a lower powered laptop. The screen is good enough that my eyes don’t feel stressed even after a long day of work. Colour is reproduced well and 1080p on a 15.6 inch screen is enough for me. It boots in around 10 secs with my NVME hard drive, and I really love sitting down to work on this thing.

The low key look of the laptop also means that I am very happy to take it with me into a meeting.

There is more of a fan noise than a laptop with a Y or U series Intel processor, but as someone who is sensitive to noise it doesn’t get in my way at all. I would also happily take this into a library. The fan noise on the Fusion II will only affect those of us who have to work in complete silence.

Windows 10 makes it very easy to limit CPU usage to make the laptop completely silent through the advanced power settings management, a really useful setting for when you aren’t doing anything taxing and would just like silence.

Battery life is roughly 4 hours using the laptop for browsing, light programming and word processing. Pretty abysmal but to be expected with a processor this powerful.

For gaming

I am impressed that a laptop this portable can handle the games it does. In the past the idea of a laptop you can lug around and game on easily has been a bit of a joke, in 2018 this is no longer true. Anyone who is used to a 144hz screen will notice the lack of it here, but I think games still look stunning.

The processor came with a free copy of Black Ops 6, this is a demanding title and the Fusion II handles it with no problem on near maxed out settings. Something must be going wrong with the COD servers as I was unable to join a game to take a screenshot for this review. I also had no problems palying The Witcher III, War Thunder and Yakuuza 0 all on maxed out settings.

While gaming fan noise is pretty loud, something you have to put up with in a gaming laptop this thin as it is impossible to keep it cool enough otherwise. Pressing the fan-gaming-mode-button (all fans go to 100%) and you might expect the laptop to take off at any moment, so for long gaming sessions you will want closed back headphones.

Heat

While being used as a work machine on a wooden desk there is no noticeable heat coming through the keyboard. While gaming I have the laptop on a stand and it still gets pretty hot. I recommend a stand and separate keyboard to anyone getting a gaming laptop.

Speakers

I like high quality audio, and so speakers are one of the least important components of a laptop (I think they will always sound terrible). These speakers don’t sound as terrible as the speakers in a £300 laptop, and they do their job - I can watch a news clip or listen to a quick youtube tutorial without getting annoyed. I wouldn’t use them to game, listen to music, or watch a film unless I had no other choice.

Connectivity

Pretty much everything you could ask for and a bit more. Apart from those connections in the photograph above there is a power socket, USB-C, HDMI and 2 display ports on the rear.


For the Linux minority

I have set up my laptop to dual boot with Kubuntu 18.04 LTS and Windows 10. I have never had such a difficult Linux install on a laptop, and I am not sure whether this is because of KDE (my first time) or because I am using a laptop brand with a much smaller number of users, but it is definitely something to do with the friction between Nvidia and Linux. Out of the box the plasma desktop wouldn’t load, so I had to disable GPU rendering with a command at boot, update the Nvidia drivers and then reboot having removed the boot command. After all this I still had an issue with screen tearing on the laptop, which was fixed by altering two different config files.

The track-pad does not work full stop with Kubuntu LTS, there is a relatively easy way to fix this, but as it involves patching the kernel to 4.19 I have not done it for security reasons. I use a mouse pretty much all the time anyway.

The GRUB menu kept on showing up at every boot, which I could fix after trying a few different suggestions, a minor problem but still frustrating. Currently my WiFi takes about 40 secs to connect after every boot, which I haven’t got around to fixing. I’m also suspicious that the WiFi on Kubuntu is slower than on Windows 10 but haven’t got round to testing that out yet.

So definitely not the easiest machine to put Linux onto. Even with all of these issues, it is (of course) 100 times better to use than Windows 10. In the sake of fairness I have also had to spend some time tweaking Windows to work properly, including having to tell it to use GPU rendering on Yakuza 0 because it wasn’t doing so automatically.

Customer Support

PC Specialist deserve their reputation for great customer support. Everyone I have spoken to has been knowledgeable and eager to help. You can also tell that these are people who like computers, which is helpful if you are trying to troubleshoot an issue.

Conclusion

A few minor snags hold the Fusion II back from being the slick and portable gaming/workstation laptop it is designed to be. Coming in at around £1,200 this doesn’t have the feel of a premium laptop - something that most will be put off by. For anyone looking to spend as little as possible on a high performance, highly portable laptop with decent gaming capabilities, the compromise in build quality is well worth it.