Chillblast Apollo 15.6 full review
Chillblast lets you customise its gaming laptops more than just about any of the big names. So you can get the specifications you want and will sometimes pay less, too.
What you don’t get is the very recognisable style of some big-brand models and, on occasion, worse build quality. There’s no huge build sacrifice here, though, and the Chillblast Apollo has a much better screen than the alternatives we’ve looked at recently from Acer and Dell.
And from where we’re sitting, that’s more important that a little bit more design personality.
Chillblast Apollo 15.6: Price
We were sent the standard edition of the Apollo. It costs £1199 direct from Chillblast and has an Intel Core i7 CPU, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti GPU, 8GB RAM and a 1TB SSHD.
Unlike other manufacturers, rather than offering other specs you can customise what you get online. The CPU and GPU are fixed this time, but you can change the storage, RAM and even the thermal paste used between the cooler system and CPU. These are relatively keenly-priced.
An unusually good warranty is included as standard. You get five years’ coverage, and Chillblast will sort out collection and return in the first two years.
The screen and battery are covered for only a year and six months respectively, though, so you can’t just return the laptop when the battery starts playing up two years in.
Chillblast Apollo 15.6: Design
The Apollo is a relatively sober-looking gaming laptop that doesn’t have the bulk of some alternatives. Don’t think of it in the context of an ultrabook, but that it is far easier to manage than one of the great big Asus RoG or Acer Predator laptops. It’s 2.4kg and 27mm thick.
It mixes elements of classic gamer laptop style with something more executive, a bit like the latest Alienware models. In gamers’ corner there’s a non-standard font on the keyboard, the kind you might see in a TV series about hackers. There’s also LED-lit colour accents on the bottom bit of the front and rear of the casing.
Fellow gamers will also recognise the chunky Chillblast logo sticker on the lid. It’s easily the tackiest part of the laptop, but can be removed if you're so inclined.
Other than these parts, the Chillblast looks smart and restrained. The lid is dark brushed aluminium — most gaming laptops have plastic lids — and the keyboard surround is aluminium too.
There’s much more metal here than in the Dell Inspiron 7000 Gaming or Acer Aspire VX 15. While build quality isn’t exactly better than those models, and is worse in a couple of respects, the cool feel of metal may appeal.
Chillblast Apollo 15.6: Connections
Chillblast does its best to pack-in every connection a gamer might need. There’s old and new, and when in doubt Chillblast includes the full-size variant of a connector rather than a new and trendy mini alternative that’d most likely mandate using an adapter.
For example, there are full-size SD card, HDMI and RJ45 connectors, which simply aren’t found on most laptops. Even some gaming laptops.
The Chillblast Apollo even has a DVD writer optical drive, which is rapidly going the way of the floppy disk drive. It’s not much use if you’re a 100 percent Steam gamer, but who doesn’t have a few old optical media games worth revisiting every few years for a bit of nostalgia?
More conventional connections on the sides include three USBs, a USB-C and a mini DisplayPort.
Chillblast Apollo 15.6: Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard is one of the few parts that instantly marks the Chillblast Apollo as a gamer’s laptop. As mentioned earlier, the key font is a little funky, and there’s a rainbow backlight.
Fresh out of the box, a rainbow gradient works its way across the keyboard, but an app called KLM lets you choose the exact colours you want. The backlight is split into three zones, letting you design your own gradients or just pick a block colour. It struggles with plain white, peppered with bits of green and blue towards the bottom, but the other shades look spot on.
There are three intensity levels for the backlight. It took us a while to find the keyboard shortcuts for these as they’re placed, unusually, to the far right of the keyboard. But they are there.
Backlight aside, Chillblast Apollo has a fairly good keyboard. There’s a nice soft click on the depress, and the rigid surround makes sure the feel isn’t mushy. Keyboards on ‘smaller brand’ gaming laptops like this are often a weak point, so that this one doesn’t let the machine down is reassuring.
There are also a couple of interesting buttons to note. Above the keyboard are a customisable ‘P1’ macro button and a fan button. This quickly maxes-out the fans, which you might want to use if keeping the Apollo cool is much more important than minimising noise. You might be playing with a headset, for example.
The Chillblast Apollo’s trackpad is a real cheese sandwich of laptop pads. It’s not fancy, and seems a budget piece of hardware, but it does the job.
Its buttons aren’t built into the pad but sit below, which works fairly well for a gaming laptop. The button action is a little cheap-feeling, though, as is the surface of the pad.
Plenty of gaming laptops around £1000 use plastic-topped pads like this (as opposed to textured glass), but the surface here definitely feels like plastic. The best plastic pads feel very similar to the glass you get in, for example, a MacBook.
We get the impression the idea is you’ll use a mouse anyway, although as many people will use a laptop like this as their main computer, a higher-quality trackpad would have been worthwhile.
Chillblast Apollo 15.6: Screen
The Chillblast Apollo wins back major points with its display. It has a 1080p IPS LCD that is far better than the TN LCD screens used by rivals the Dell Inspiron 7000 Gaming and Acer Aspire VX 15. It’s in a different league: those rivals have cheap-looking screens where this is closer to the quality of a sub-£1000 ultrabook.
Before you get too excited: its performance is good rather than great, but we think most buyers will be very happy with the Chillblast Apollo’s screen. It covers a solid 83 percent of the sRGB colour standard, and 61/69 percent of the deeper Adobe RGB and DCI P3 ranges respectively.
This sort of performance isn’t good enough for design and photography pros, but in person it looks well-saturated and punchy. Similarly, contrast of 677:1 isn’t amazing but is miles better than the 250:1 of the Acer Aspire VX 15.
In a lit room the Chillblast Apollo looks fairly rich and bold. As it uses an IPS LCD panel, viewing angles are good too.
Max brightness of 325cd/m2 is fairly high, enough to let you use the laptop outside for, say, writing docs. The display also has a matt anti-glare surface, which minimises reflections.
The display is one of the best reasons to buy the Chillblast Apollo over the Acer and Dell alternatives, which actually land at a similar price when specced to a comparable standard.
Chillblast Apollo 15.6: Performance
Our version of the Apollo has a high-end CPU, the 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ. This is a quad-core CPU with hyper threading, and is one of the most powerful mainstream laptop processors around.
There’s 8GB of 2133MHz DDR4 RAM and a 1TB SSHD hard drive. Here’s where the Chillblast Apollo trips up a bit.
Most £1000-plus gaming laptops now have pure SSD storage as well as a hard drive. This drive is a standard hard drive with a chunk of solid state memory attached to make the operating system run at a somewhat SSD-like pace. An SSHD is not a match for a proper SSD, though. There are occasional little laggy moments when you first boot up Windows.
You don’t get the load speed benefit of having games installed onto quick SSD storage either, which is a shame. However, thanks to Chillblast’s super-customisable specs, you can switch to a 256GB Samsung EVO drive for just £22.21. You can even boost up to a 2TB SSD, but that’ll cost you a whopping £616. There are other options in-between, of course.
RAM can be upgraded too, with a 16GB boost costing £69.99. While this isn’t an essential upgrade, the Dell Inspiron 7000 Gaming at £1099 does have 16GB RAM.
Productivity benchmark performance is, as you’d hope, good. The Chillblast Apollo scores 3186 points in the PC Mark 8 Home test, and 12839 in Geekbench 4. These results are very similar to those of the Dell Inspiron 7000 Gaming, reviewed recently, which has the same core specs.
Gaming performance is neck-and-neck too, because like the Dell this laptop has an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti. This is a turbo-charged version of the entry-level GTX 1050, and provides excellent 1080p performance compared to Nvidia’s last generation of lower-end cards.
At 1080p with all the visuals switched on, Thief runs at an average 50.3fps, which heads up to 69.5fps when the resolution is reduced to 720p and the graphics to ‘very low’. The less processor intensive Alien: Isolation shows the kind of great frame rates you can get from a less demanding AAA game. It runs at an average 97fps at 1080p, and 184fps at 720p: perfect.
For context, Acer Aspire VX 15, which has a ‘normal’ GTX 1050 rather than the Ti, runs Alien at 76/162fps in those same tests. At 1080p that’s roughly a 25% boost from the Ti card. Not bad.
Under pressure the Chillblast Apollo’s fans are noticeable, and a little higher-pitch than a larger gaming PC thanks to their mid-size diameter. But it’s nothing too distracting. Our unit does make some light HDD blip sounds in general use, though, which is another reason to upgrade to SSD storage, particularly if you’ll use the laptop in a quiet room.
Chillblast Apollo 15.6: Battery life
There’s a lot to like about the Chillblast Apollo, but its battery life is poor. Unlike the Dell Inspiron 7000 Gaming, it doesn’t make a good general use laptop away from the charger.
Playing a 720p video on loop it lasts just three hours 15 minutes. The Dell lasts just under nine hours under the same conditions, a huge difference.
Our assumption is Chillblast just hasn’t focused on battery life much, and the use of an optical drive, taking up a lot of space, probably doesn’t help. In a similar vein, the Apollo’s speaker are terrible. They’re not loud, and sound crude and small. The message is clear: plug in some speakers or headphones.
Chillblast Apollo 15.6: Specs
- 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) Full HD 141ppi IPS LCD anti-glare
- 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ (3.8GHz boost) 4 cores, 8 threads
- Windows 10 Home 64-bit
- Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 2GB RAM
- 8GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM
- Up to 1TB SSD
- 802.11b/g/n/ac single-band 2x2 MIMO
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 1x USB-C 3.1
- 2x USB 3.0
- Kensington Security Slot
- SDXC card slot
- stereo speakers
- HD webcam
- single mic
- 3.5mm headset jack
- UK tiled keyboard with numberpad
- two-button trackpad
- 57Wh lithium-ion battery, removable
- 383 x 260 x 27mm
- 5-year warranty (2-year collect & return)