Aftershock XG13-V2 - A Champion Gets Refreshed


Introduction

Going Beyond 1080p

The original Aftershock XG13 is something of a gaming gem. It combines excellent performance, good features and a very attractive price - three things that a gamer would find very hard to say no to. As a result, is it any surprise that it was the winner of the Best Portable Gaming Notebook category is in our last Tech Awards? We think not.

Not one to rest on their laurels, Aftershock has dutifully refreshed the XG13 (now called XG13-V2) following NVIDIA’s announcement of their new GeForce GTX 800M series of mobile GPUs. However, the GPU was not the only component that got upgraded. After listening to feedback from its users, Aftershock has also improved the XG13’s audio features by integrating a headphone amplifier, and also updated its front-facing webcam to a Full-HD one.

But perhaps most importantly, the new XG13-V2 can now also be outfitted with an optional QHD (3200 x 1800) resolution display. We all know higher resolution displays generally look sharper, but how beneficial is it really? And can one really play games at such extreme resolutions? Let’s find out.

 

The Hardware

Inside the Aftershock XG13-V2, one will find a quad-core Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor (2.4GHz, 6MB L3 cache), which is pretty much the default choice of processor for most gaming notebooks these days. It's a beefy and powerful processor and we have no doubts that it will be up to the job.

On the graphics side, the XG13-V2 is powered by the latest NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M mobile GPU. If you have been following our news, you would know that the GeForce GTX 860M is presently the most powerful mobile GPU that is based on the new Maxwell architecture. Hence, it will be interesting to see the performance boost that this new mobile GPU brings. In fact, considering our unit comes with the optional QHD display (3200 x 1800 pixels), the GeForce GTX 860M will need to be at its very best as we seek to find out if it is possible for a mainstream mobile GPU to sufficiently power a notebook to play games at this ultra-high resolution.

Elsewhere, the XG13-V2 is complemented by 8GB of RAM and storage capacity is provided for in the form of a 120GB Samsung SSD 840 EVO mSATA drive and a 1TB 7200rpm hard disk drive. This combination gives users the best of both worlds - performance and capacity- and we have reviewed the SSD 840 EVO earlier this year which was found it to be an excellent mainstream SSD. And since the XG13-V2 has two mSATA bays, it is entirely possible to have mSATA in RAID 0 for even faster storage performance.

 

Design & Features

The chassis of the new XG13-V2 is highly similar to its predecessor, and as such it comes in at around 32mm thick and weighs about the same too at around 2kg. However, there has been numerous tweaks to its cooling and fan management as well as the materials to improve durability. The speakers have also been improved for better audio performance.

It terms of design, the chassis looks rather generic and uninteresting. Fortunately, Aftershock is able to customize the notebook with a variety of paints and automotive wraps to give it a more interesting look. Want an all-white notebook with yellow stars or an all-black Batman themed notebook? Just let the people at Aftershock know what you want and they will work something out for you, but at an extra cost, of course.

As for our review unit, it has been given a special "color shift" paint - a coat of paint that changes color depending on the lightning and angle that it is viewed - and as such it takes on a different hue every time we look at it. It is certainly an interesting look and adds much needed pizzazz to an otherwise plain chassis. On top of that, the display's bezel a well as the panels around the keyboard and trackpad have been painted in dark blood red.

Since the chassis is similar to the first generation XG13, the selection of I/O ports is identical to the older model, with the only exception being that there is now an integrated headphone amplifier so that high impedance headphones can be driven more adequately. Without the first generation XG13 to test side by side, it is difficult to say with certainty if the integrated headphone amplifier is truly effective but our cans do seem to play with more urgency and bass is more impactful.

Elsewhere the XG13-V2 comes with four USB ports (one USB 2.0, three USB 3.0), SD memory card reader, an Ethernet jack, a HDMI and a VGA port. Like we mentioned previously, we would have preferred that the VGA port be swapped for a DisplayPort (mini or regular) so that high resolution displays above Full-HD resolution can be driven easily.

Network connectivity is customizable and our unit was outfitted with the Intel's new Wireless-AC 7260 adapter that supports the latest Wireless-AC standard for faster wireless performance. Users can also opt for regular 802.11 b/g/n wireless adapter or the Killer Wireless-N 1202 adapter.

The chiclet keyboard remains well-sized and has a nice, snappy and tactile feel to it. However, a little more travel in the keys would be appreciated. The backlights are white by default, but can be customized like ours, which is red with purple WASD keys. The trackpad is not clickable, but has two separate button for the left and right click functions. The buttons are nicely sized, but at the expense of the trackpad, which is a little too small to be used comfortably. On the flip side, the trackpad is responsive and accurate to use.

8.5
Design
7.5
Features
9
Performance
8.5
Value
9
Mobility
8
The Good
Customizable design and specifications
Good all-round performance
Sharp, bright QHD display
Good keyboard
Integrated headphone amplifier
Much improved battery life
The Bad
Below average build quality
No DisplayPort or Mini-DisplayPort
Small trackpad