Laptop world has seen some interesting upgrades in recent years and the new 2021 version of Aftershocks Vapor Series laptop with 17-inch screen is certainly one of them. This bad boy packs a 1440p 165Hz display with the latest RTX 30 series graphics card and an 8 core Intel CPU. That is a lot of specs in actually a really small body. Let’s see if it's any good.
Let’s start from the outside and work inwards. Its top lid has a matte black magnesium alloy finish with a fairly discreet logo in the middle.
As I mentioned earlier - this is a 17 inch unit, and I immediately noticed that it is actually pretty compact considering the size. It is just over 39 cm wide and 27 cm deep, while staying pretty thin at 2 cm. Despite weighing only 2.3kg, it still has a proper graphics card and a chunky 91WH battery inside - more on that later on.
In terms of IO, on the right we have a micro SD slot, as well as two USB 3 type A ports, these are running at 5gigabit speed.
On the left side there is another USB 3 type A port but this one is 10 gigabit version. Just below there are 2 audio ports.
One thing that really caught me off guard was the lack of other ports. And then I had a look behind. Here we find one of those extending network points, power-in, as well as as GPU outputs which include HDMI and USB type C. It makes sense to place these at the back as it has a direct link to the built-in graphics card.
I really like the screen hinge as it can easily be opened with one hand and it actually feels pretty sturdy. I am not sure what Aftershock did here but the whole assembly is very rigid, there is limited amount of flex on the screen and the chassis. Even if you type pretty violently, the screen does not go into a crazy wobble.
Once you power up the device you are greeted with a very bright RGB keyboard which features 4 separate zones. There are plenty of customisation options within the control centre software that comes with the laptop. It also includes ability to control the lightbar below the trackpad, as well as more performance focused settings like battery modes, fan profiles, as well as adjustment to CPU and GPU power settings.
Since this is a larger sized laptop, I’m happy to see it features a full size keyboard with a numpad which I personally really like. Interesting to note is the typeface of the keys - it’s not your usual Helvetica or Arial, this seems more futuristic and certainly grabs your attention the first time you see it. They had to make some sacrifices though, mostly on the right side of the chassis where they crammed a lot of keys together so it might lead to some misclicks but overall I am pretty happy that they did not make the Enter key smaller or moved important keys around.
While we are on the subject of the keyboard - it feels and sounds pretty good, even though there is a bit of a wobble in the keys. It has not caused me any typing issues, but I feel it is important to note. One thing that stood out to me is the touchpad, it has a nice and large glass surface and it tracks well but our pre-production unit has a pretty significant click, this is anywhere below half way point which is where you would press most of the time, I raised this with Aftershock team and they reassured me that this is not present on the production units.
It has downward-firing speakers on each side and they are… well, they are speakers. Nothing here to blow you away, they will do as speakers on the go for a quick meeting and even when you need to watch a recipe video while you cook but to be honest you may be better off using headphones in all other situations.
One of the great quality improvements over the last gen Vapor 17 is the webcam placement. They have said goodbye to the nose-cam and in this generation it is positioned at the top just like it should be. It is not the best quality but will certainly do for on-the-go meetings. It is also paired with Windows Hello which makes unlocking the device as simple as just opening the lid. Nice!
The Vapor 17X features a large and sharp quad HD display. I am so happy that laptops finally have included an upgrade from 1080p without forcing us to have 4k. At this size 1440p is perfect! You get nice resolution without destroying your graphics card and battery to run it. Due to its matte finish, you will have good viewing angles, even with a light source shining right at it.
This leads us rather well to what is under the hood. Let's start with the CPU, this laptop comes with Intel i7 10870H which is an 8 core 16 thread mobile chip with max turbo frequency of 5GHz. Aftershock also has an AMD based unit, let us know if you would like a review of that too.
RAM-wise we have 16GB but it can go up to 32GB using two sticks. Similar story is for the storage, there are two M.2 slots, our particular unit is equipped with a single 1TB Samsung drive but you can choose your own configuration based on your requirements and budget.
As far as connectivity goes, there is the aforementioned network port which runs at 2.5 Gigabit speed and we have WiFi-6 so you are certainly up to date here.
And last but not least is the graphics card. You have a choice between two latest mobile NVIDIA RTX cards - 3060 and 3070.
This particular unit is using RTX 3070 and between 1440p display and high refresh rate, I would really recommend upgrading as you will need that power, let me show you why as we jump into benchmarks.
We are starting with a nice and easy game - CS:GO. Most mid range PCs can now run this game at around 200 FPS at 1080p and this laptop can do the same. In fact it is even keeping up in 1440p with 187 average FPS and keeping pretty reasonable 1 percentile performance, placing this particular laptop squarely in the league of “good enough for high refresh rate e-sports gaming”.
The story starts to change when we look at more graphic intensive games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Horizon Zero Dawn and Total War Three Kingdoms. Here we can see that performance drops considerably but is still playable at 1080p on all of the games including Quake 2 with RTX enabled. When we bump up resolution to 1440p this poor laptop gets crushed in Total War Three Kingdoms and Quake 2 RTX.
For productivity benchmarks we first have Cinebench R20 and here Vapor 17X was able to get 484 points in a single core and 3297 in multi core score. While it is 20 to 30% slower than latest gen desktop CPUs, it is only a third of the TDP. If we compare it to Gigabyte AORUS 15G laptop which is using a similar chip then we immediately see that there is plenty of horsepower under the hood.
Next we ran PC Mark benchmark which covers a whole range of workloads, we then compared it to the desktop build we did last year (Ryzen 7 3800XT, NVIDIA RTX 2060) as well as Aorus 15G (Core i7-10875H 8-core, NVIDIA RTX2060 Mobile) and results are rather interesting. While reviewing Aorus laptop we determined that it was good as a laptop but still lacking in graphical performance. The Vapor 17X on the other hand comes with the latest NVIDIA RTX 3070 mobile chip and certainly closes the gap. I would even go as far as to say it could replace desktop PCs for many casual gamers with the ability to take it on the go and do work no matter where they are.
This brings us well to the battery life. It is a 17 inch 1440p laptop after all. For this test we set the power plan to balanced, turned off keyboard backlight and also set monitor brightness to 50% with WiFi on. Benchmark was done using PC Mark Modern Office test and it lasted 6 hours and 47 minutes. It is not quite a full day battery life but is pretty close, kudos for that.
And finally, one more test that is relevant to the overall performance is thermals and acoustics. For this test we ran Heaven Benchmark at 1440p to push it as hard as possible and found a somewhat expected result. During this test, we got about 143 average FPS and 77FPS on 1 percentiles. With this in mind GPU is hovering around 80 degrees and CPU is bouncing between 80 and 90.
The funny thing here is that the CPU is not really doing much as we are very much GPU bottlenecked. You can see it clearly on the frequencies, here the CPU is only at about 10% of its maximum speed. Same is visible on this power consumption graph. Ultimately in gaming you need a fast GPU, especially when you bump up the resolution.
Since max temperature is high you would expect it to be pretty quiet, but you are in for a surprise unless you had a laptop for gaming before. This thing needs to cool pretty hefty hardware while remaining small, so of course there are sacrifices. While running Heaven Benchmark at about 30cm away it measured at 52.5 dBa. It is not deafening but you will likely want to put some headphones on or turn up in-game sound.
With all of this said, there are a few things Aftershock could improve on in the future, first would be inclusion of a touch screen. While it is something that is normally underutilised, I do miss it. The second thing would be a better speaker set-up. As it stands right now, the speakers are a bit of an afterthought. With these improvements I believe it would certainly be a good full desktop replacement for a professional or a student with a larger budget.
To close this off - I feel this is a pretty good performance machine with some rough edges. To the right person this is going to be a perfect purchase which should last for quite a while. With its slim design, good balance between thermals and performance, this laptop is certainly worth the attention.