Schenker XMG C504 full review
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The Schenker gaming laptops we've reviewed in the past have provided good performance and value for money, but they haven't been particularly elegant. But, like a number of other laptop manufacturers, Schenker is now taking advantage of the improved power-efficiency of nVidia's latest GeForce cards to produce slimmer, lighter gaming laptops. (See also: the best laptops of 2015 UK.)
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Opting for a 15.6-inch screen, rather than the larger 17-inch displays used by many gaming behemoths, has allowed Schenker to slim the C504 down to almost Ultrabook dimensions of 21 mm thick and a weight of 2.16 kg. That's below average weight for a 15.6-inch Windows laptop, so it's certainly one of the most portable gaming laptops we've seen recently.
The matt-black chassis – manufactured by Gigabyte – looks rather generic and nondescript, but it's sturdy enough to cope with the occasional trip outdoors in a backpack. The keyboard and trackpad are a bit of a mixed bag, though.
The keyboard is spacious and comfortable for typing, although the keyboard panel flexes a little more than we'd have liked. The trackpad, in contrast, seemed a little stiff and sometimes required a firm tap in order to prompt a response. However, many gamers will plug in a mouse when they're getting ready for action so that's not going to have so much effect when gaming. (See all laptops buying advice.)
Schenker XMG C504 review: display works well
And, thankfully, the screen works a treat. The 1920 x 1080 IPS panel produces a bright, sharp image with strong contrast and very good all-round viewing angles. There's also a welcome matt finish that helps to reduce glare and reflection for maximum visibility.
It's a shame, though, that the speakers are rather feeble, producing a thin sound with quite modest volume levels. A set of headphones or external speakers will be almost essential for gaming or listening to music.
Currently available for pre-order, the C504 starts at around £1000 for a model equipped with a quad-core Intel core i7 processor running at 2.5 GHz, 4GB of memory, 500 GB hard disk and 120 GB solid-state drive.
However, our review unit included a few optional extras and came in at £1246 with 8 GB memory and 1 TB hard drive for storing files, while Windows itself was installed on a pair of 120 GB solid-state drives that were formatted as a RAID 0 volume for maximum performance.
Our review unit was supplied with Windows 8.1, but you can opt for Windows 7 if you prefer, or save £70 by supplying your own copy of Windows.
The RAID configuration worked well, enabling the C504 to boot in 15 seconds when using the Windows fast-start option, and it was ready to start launching applications right away, rather than leaving you staring at a spinning cursor while it gathers its thoughts.
Running the PCMark 7 benchmark produced a score of 5635 points – which is not quite top-of-the-range, but in line with similarly specified laptops that we've seen recently, and certainly strong enough to cope with everything from web browsing to video-editing work.
The more specialized Home and Work suites in PCMark 8 produced equally strong scores, at 3180 and 3503 points respectively. (Also read: How to choose a laptop below £500.)
Schenker XMG C504 review: gaming performance
Gaming performance is also strong, even though the C504 is using a mid-range nVidia GTX 860M graphics processor. It managed a comfortable 105 fps when running our Stalker casual gaming test at 1920 x 1080 resolution; the next step was to fire up the more demanding Batman: Arkham City.
By default, Arkham City runs with its graphics settings on High, and at 1600 x 900 it averaged a framerate of 40 fps. And, as we've seen before, the GTX 860M was able to step up to 1920 x 1080 with only a slight dip to 38 fps.
However, ramping the anti-aliasing and other settings to their maximum did cause the game to slow down to 28 fps, which is still playable but not ideal for more serious gamers. Even so, that's still good performance for a laptop in this price range, and explains why the moderately priced GTX 860M is so widely used at the moment. You can also purchase a GTX 870M if you want a little extra performance.
The only real disappointment was battery life. Even when using the integrated HD Graphics 4600 graphics processor the XMG C504 could only manage 3 hours and 45 mins of streaming video. It's a shame that this relatively portable gaming laptop couldn't manage better battery life with its maing GPU switched off. (See also: best laptops for games.)
Schenker XMG C504: Specs
- 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080 pixel, 141 ppi) IPS display, non-glossy
- 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ (3.5 GHz Turbo)
- Intel HD Graphics 4600 + nVidia GeForce GTX 860M (4 GB memory)
- Windows 7 (64-bit)
- 8 GB DDR3 RAM
- 1 TB hard drive (7200 rpm), 2x 120 GB SSD
- gigabit ethernet
- Intel AC-7260 dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2x2 MIMO
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x VGA, 1x Mini DisplayPort
- 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
- SDXC card slot
- 720p webcam/microphone
- 1x headphone, 1x microphone socket
- 78 Wh lithium-ion battery
- 385 x 270 x 21 mm
- 2.16 kg
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