Slim, Light, And Fast
HWM Singapore|September 2018

Want to use your gaming laptop for work and play? With slim bezels, compact chassis, and speedy graphics, gaming laptops have never looked more attractive.

Koh Wanzi

Aftershock’s APEX-15 was designed to compete directly with the latest crop of thin-bezel gaming notebooks. That’s no easy task, and the field is stacked with competitors like the Gigabyte Aero 15X, MSI GS65 Stealth Thin, and Razer Blade.

However, for its price, the APEX-15 brings quite a lot to the table without sacrificing too much. Like the rest of the competition, one of the most attractive things about the APEX-15 is how compact it is for a 15.6-inch laptop. The slim bezels mean it’s closer in size to a 14-inch laptop, so you benefit from the greater screen real estate without having to put up with much more bulk. The aluminum alloy chassis is also lightweight and solid, so this is quite a well-built laptop overall.

That said, one thing stands out, and the APEX-15 is not a Max-Q laptop as you’d expect. This means that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB in it, is running at full speed. The price you pay for this is subpar battery life. The lack of deliberate optimizations for efficiency and the small 46.74Wh battery mean that it won’t last for long away from a power outlet.

The APEX-15 also features a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel AHVA 144Hz display. This is an IPS-type panel manufactured by AUO, and has similar performance characteristics as IPS displays. Colors appeared reasonably vibrant, and I wasn’t bothered by any bias toward the colder or warmer end of the color spectrum. Viewing angles were good as well, although I’d have liked the display to be a little brighter.

There’s also room in the top bezel for the webcam, which I consider to be a good thing.

One distinctive feature is the optical switch mechanical keyboard. The low-profile switches are of the tactile and clicky variety (60g actuation force, 2.0mm travel distance), and they produce a very distinct click sound when pressed. This means that this probably isn’t a laptop you want to take to the lecture hall or meetings as it can get pretty noisy.

In addition, you get N-key rollover and per-key RGB lighting customizations. A separate LED bar runs along the front of the laptop, and you can tweak the effects on that as well.

The track pad isn’t a Windows Precision Touch pad, but it still feels accurate and precise enough. And unlike the Gigabyte Aero 15X, it does support certain three- and four fingered shortcuts for navigating the desktop.

If there’s one area that could sorely use some improvement, it’s the speakers. The bottom-firing units are lacking in volume, and when you finally manage to get them loud enough, there’s noticeable distortion and your tunes end up sounding quite muddy.

The ASUS ROG Strix Scar II GL504GS is a laptop with an unabashed gaming-focused aesthetic. Small design decisions also point toward a laptop designed for FPS gamers, but I’m not really a fan of the extensive camouflage patterns in use.

The good news is that build quality feels super solid, despite the mostly plastic build. The laptop is built like a tank, and there’s no flex to the lid or keyboard.

You’ll find brushed metal on the lid and bottom bezel of the laptop, which as it turns out, is super thick. The slim bezels on the other sides of the screen help create a more immersive feel, but it seems like ASUS simply took whatever bezel it shaved off and put it at the bottom.

Having said that, the screen on the Scar II is excellent. It boasts 100 per cent coverage of the sRGB color space, and ASUS claims it’s also the first to have a 144Hz IPS-type panel with a 3ms response time. The screen has a peak brightness of 300 nits, and I’d say it is noticeably brighter than the screens on the Razer Blade and Gigabyte Aero 15X.

Colors also appeared accurate and vivid, and I have no complaints about this particular screen. It’s not even a problem that there’s no support for G-Sync, because the 144Hz refresh rate ensures that all the on-screen action is super smooth anyway.

The track pad is a Windows Precision Touch pad, and it feels precise and accurate and supports all of Windows 10’s gestures. The difference between a precision touch pad and one that uses third party drivers is pretty huge, and I’m always happy to see the former in use.

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