Chillblast Photo OC Mobile photo-editing laptop review

Chillblast Photo OC

Chillblast is well-known for its high-end desktop gaming rigs, with a wide variety of customisation options on its web site that allow you to more or less design your own PC. However, the company does assemble laptops and desktop systems for more ‘serious' applications too, including its new Photo OC, which is very much focused on photo-editing work.

At first glance, the Chillblast Photo OC isn't much to look at. It's housed within an unassuming dark-grey chassis that boasts absolutely no outstanding features. The unit measures a full 31.4mm thick, and weighs 2.4kg, so it's certainly no ultraportable. However, that's about average for a 15-inch laptop with a built-in optical drive such as this, and the Photo OC is just about light enough to carry around in a backpack or briefcase when necessary.

Chillblast Photo OC: solid build

It's solidly built too, with a firm and comfortable keyboard that also includes a full-size numeric keypad and arrow keys – the latter being handy for navigation in design apps like Photoshop. The trackpad is a good size too, measuring 107 x 65 mm, and designers will appreciate the SmartPad utility that allows you to fine-tune settings such as the zoom speed or the direction of rotation when using multi-finger gestures on the trackpad.

And while the chassis may look rather generic, that's certainly not the case with the screen. With photo-editing in mind, Chillblast has opted for a 15.6-inch IPS display with 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution. The image quality provided by this display is excellent – bright, sharp and colourful, and with viewing angles that genuinely approach a full 180-degrees both horizontally and vertically. Designers will also appreciate the matt-finish that helps to reduce glare and reflection when they're hard at work.

Chillblast Photo OCThe screen isn't touch-sensitive – but we doubt that any designers will worry about that  – making the Photo OC is an excellent choice for photo-editing or video-editing work. It'll also work well for presentations, or simply watching some high-def video files or through the built-in Blu-ray drive. It's a shame, though, that the built-in speakers aren't of similar quality. (See also: Group test: what's the best high-end laptop?)

Chillblast Photo OC: feeble audio

Their feeble volume levels are barely adequate for listening to the news on the BBC iPlayer, so you'll need speakers or headphones if you want to give a presentation or just listen to some music while you work.

We reviewed the standard entry-level configuration for the Photo OC, which costs £1199 with a Haswell-generation Intel Core i7 processor running at 2.4 GHz (3.4 GHz Turbo), 16 GB of memory, and both a 1 TB Seagate hybrid SSD/hard drive and a separate 120 GB solid-state drive. Graphics work can be handled by either the Haswell's integrated HD 4600 or a discrete nVidia GeForce GT 750M with 2 GB of video memory.

And, of course, there are plenty of build-to-order options, with more powerful processors and additional SSD options that can take the total price to well over £2000.  However, the Photo OC did pretty well in bench tests even with this entry-level configuration. It achieved a score of 6075 points when running the general-purpose PCMark 7 benchmark, which puts it among the select group of laptops we've seen that can break past the 6000 mark. (See all high-end laptop reviews.)

Chillblast Photo OC: good memory

Chillblast Photo OCThe healthy 16 GB of memory will also help it to handle high-resolution photo and video files, so it's certainly well-equipped to play the role of graphics workstation. The nVidia GeForce graphics can handle CAD and 3D animation too, as well as some off-duty gaming action, allowing the Photo OC to hit 58 fps when running our Stalker: Call of Pripyat test even at native 1920 x 1080 resolution.  If we were going to nit-pick here then we might point out that Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina display outguns in serveral ways, starting with the Photo OC with an IPS display that boasts even higher 2880 x 1800 resolution.

However, the MacBook Pro is £500 more expensive, starting at £1699 with a more modest processor and less memory.  It does have another weakness, though. Chillblast quotes a maximum battery life of five hours, but we couldn't even get three hours (182 minutes) out of the Photo OC, even when using the more power-efficient HD 4600 graphics to stream video through the BBC iPlayer.

That's well below par with so many Haswell laptops now reaching eight hours or more. (Take a look at the Chillblast Messiah 17 GTX780M too.)

Chillblast Photo OC: Specs

  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ (3.4 GHz Turbo)
  • Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
  • 16GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • 1TB hybrid SSHD + 120GB SSD
  • 15.6-inch IPS display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • Intel HD 4600 + nVidia GeForce GT 750M (2GB)
  • Blu-ray RE drive
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x HDMI, 1x VGA
  • 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.0/eSATA, 1x USB 2.0
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC
  • 720p webcam with built-in mic
  • headphone socket, microphone socket
  • 62.16 Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 374 x 252 x 31.4 mm
  • 2.4 kg
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ (3.4 GHz Turbo)
  • Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
  • 16GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • 1TB hybrid SSHD + 120GB SSD
  • 15.6-inch IPS display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • Intel HD 4600 + nVidia GeForce GT 750M (2GB)
  • Blu-ray RE drive
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x HDMI, 1x VGA
  • 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.0/eSATA, 1x USB 2.0
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC
  • 720p webcam with built-in mic
  • headphone socket, microphone socket
  • 62.16 Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 374 x 252 x 31.4 mm
  • 2.4 kg

OUR VERDICT

The strong performance and excellent IPS display of the Photo OC ensure that it's well-equipped for its primary role as a photo-editing workstation. The battery life does leave room for improvement, so it won't be ideal for people who need to work outdoors or who are constantly on the move. However, the Photo OC will still be good value for people who simply need a semi-portable graphics workstation that they can carry from one indoor location to another.