Tuesday, 19 April 2016

PC Specialist Defiance II

PC Specialist Defiance II

The Defiance II is the joint least expensive laptop on test, but in this case you get a GTX 970M, whereas the Cyberpower only has a GTX 960M. While the Cyberpower has a fast NVMe SSD, though, PC Specialist’s SSD only supports SATA 6Gbps. However, you get almost double the capacity (240GB vs 128GB), with both laptops also having a 1TB hard drive. At this price, PC Specialist’s approach makes more sense – it will be hard to tell the two machines’ speed apart in most 2D tasks, but the 128GB of storage in the Cyberpower will quickly limit you once a few games are installed.

The PC Specialist’s Clevo-made chassis is also lovely, with a solid metal exterior that’s smooth, comfortable and not too prone to accumulating fingerprints. Edges are rounded off, and while grip could be firmer, it won’t slide around your desk. It looks smart too, if a little plain, and it’s a bit heavier and thicker than the other two 14in laptops on test.

Meanwhile, the keys have a good action and offer a decent typing experience, along with a white backlight with five stages of brightness. Likewise, the touchpad buttons are pleasant to use, with a lightly cushioned action ensuring they don’t make a nasty clacking nose. They’re also separated from the touchpad’s touchsensitive area. There’s an impressive set of media connections too, including an S/PDIF output and a second mini-DisplayPort socket, but HDMI 2 and USB 3.1 would arguably be more useful. The ports are at least all bound to the sides of the chassis – only the power connection is on the back.

In terms of speed, the Defiance II sits in the middle of the pack in RealBench, showing that its slower SSD isn’t really a hindrance in real software. The gaming results are on par for a GTX 970M machine too, and the Defiance II also managed a great result in Total War: Attila, where others fell down, indicating effective cooling. In our stress tests, the CPU pulled back slightly from its peak turbo speeds as the temperature got quite high, but the GPU temperature was one of the coolest on test.

Like every other laptop on test, the fan noise is audible when the system is under load, but it isn’t too loud. Importantly, it very quickly becomes inaudible once load is removed, and it won’t bug you when you’re watching a movie or trying to work. All heat is shot out the back as well, and the area in front of the keyboard doesn’t get too hot either, indicating a decent thermal design.

The 45Wh battery is the lowest on test, so the good cooling system would appear to be installed at the expense of battery life. However, the results tell a different story, as the Defiance II’s battery still mostly keeps up with the competition. It’s near the bottom of the charts when gaming, admittedly, but there are many laptops scrunched together in this test with differences of just a few minutes, and the battery still lasted for over an hour. Meanwhile, the PCMark 8 test puts the battery life at over four hours, which again is far from the worst result on test.

Finally, the 1080p panel achieves a respectable set of results across the board, with the Defiance II’ also offering the closest to optimal colour temperature on test.

For under £1,000, the Defiance II is a brilliant laptop. You get a lot of bang for your buck and a sensibly selected storage system that balances cost, speed and capacity. The cooling system is also effective, and the battery and screen are decent too. It may not technically be the best 14in model on test, and it lacks a few features, but it strikes a great balance for the money.

A well-balanced system in a neatly presented chassis. It lacks a few features, but the performance is great for the money, making it our best buy for tight budgets.