If you’ve ever tried to lug a laptop with a 15in screen, you’ll know they can be cumbersome beasts. Ultrabooks are popular for this very reason – they’re thinner, lighter and often just as powerful as full-sized laptops, but they come in smaller sizes too. We consider anything with a screen smaller than 12in to be a little cramped for gaming or typing, but 13.3in represents the first practical screen size above 12in. Scan’s 3XS Graphite LG135 comes in right on the money here and, despite packing some serious pixel-pushing grunt, it only weighs 2.1kg -much less than laptops with 15in screens.
It’s no Ultrabook, though, with a depth of over 30mm, but its length of 330mm and depth of 227mm mean it’s just as rucksack-friendly If you’re keen on having a high-resolution screen, you’ll also be pleased to know that the 3XS Graphite LG135 sports a 1,920 x 1,080 native resolution, and uses a variant of IPS panel technology called Azimuthal Anchoring Switching. Combined with ample brightness and contrast and high PPI thanks to cramming a full HD display into a 13.3in panel, the screen looks superb.
It’s based on a Clevo W230ST chassis, which feels very sturdy indeed. In fact, the screen casing is one of the best we’ve seen, with some serious force needed to flex it or create distortions in the panel when powered on. The left side is dominated by a huge exhaust vent, next to which sit a single USB 2 port and the audio mini-jacks. Meanwhile, the opposite side sports three USB 3 ports, plus VGA and HDMI ports, as well as an Ethernet port and the power connector.
The keyboard is also backlit with white LEDs; this feature didn’t prove to be of much use in medium to well-lit rooms, but it lights up your keys without any distracting glare in dim situations. The keyboard itself doesn’t offer a great deal of key travel, but this is fairly typical of laptops of this size. Even so, it was comfortable enough to use for long periods of time.
The specification is pretty eye-popping too, especially for the price, and it actually has a similar CPU and identical graphics card to the much more expensive MSI GS70 (see Issue 123, p34). A Haswell-based 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ sits at the heart of the system, offering four physical cores with Hyper-Threading. Turbo Boost is also on tap to boost the clock speed to 3.4GHz.
There’s 8GB of RAM too, and a dual storage setup consisting of a 256GB Plextor PX-256M5M mSATA SSD for the OS and a 1TB Hitachi 7K1000 hard disk. For graphics, the 3XS Graphite LG135 has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 765 2GB, and it can switch between this chip and the CPU’s Intel HD 4600 graphics, depending on load, thanks to Nvidia’s Optimus technology.
Popping off the rear cover reveals a huge dual heatpipe system and massive cooler, while the RAM and storage devices are all easily accessible too. Rounding off the specs is an embedded Creative Sound Blaster Cinema sound card and a pre-installed version of Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, which makes sense given the absence of a touch-screen. As with all Scan’s PCs and laptops, the 3XS Graphite LG135 is fully customisable via its website too.
We topped up the battery to 100 per cent and fired up Unigine Heaven, looping it at native resolution to give the 3XS Graphite LG135 a gaming workout. The battery lasted just over an hour at 61 minutes, which is better than half the laptops in our previous gaming laptop Labs test (see Issue 114, p50), and just enough for an average commute-based gaming session on the train.
Of course, less demanding tasks will see several hours of use at least. Noise wasn’t an issue while browsing the Web and watching videos, and the fan only really sped up while playing games. However, while certainly audible, it wasn’t as whiny as we’d expected, and just produced a consistent noise.
The really special results were produced in our benchmarks, though, with the LG135 bettering every laptop in our previous Labs test. Its image editing score of 1,681 was slightly behind the MSI GS70, though, as was the video editing score of 3,029. However, the 3XS Graphite LG135 posted a faster multi-tasking score of 1,370 compared to 1,202, which saw it beat the more expensive MSI laptop by over 20 points overall.
With a near-identical specification to the GS70, it wasn’t surprising to see similar results in our game tests, with the LG135 proving slightly slower in the Total War: Shogun 2 CPU test, and slightly faster in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The latter result showed that, in less demanding games, the 3XS Graphite LG135 is more than able to provide playable frame rates at its native resolution.
As an additional test, we also ran our standard Battlefield 3 benchmark with all the bells and whistles enabled. In this test, it managed a minimum frame rate of 23fps, just below our cut-off standard of 25fps -clearly, you’ll need to turn down the eye candy a little in more demanding games, as the 3XS Graphite LG135 is still a fair bit slower than your average modern gaming PC.
The Scan 3XS Graphite LG135 proved to be fast, well-made and exactly what you’d want from a laptop of this size. Its weight and size mean it’s a perfect for carrying around, yet it’s equally at home plugged into a monitor as a desktop replacement.
Gaming performance isn’t quite up to desktop PC levels, but considering it costs nearly £700 less than the MSI GS70 Stealth, yet sports similar specifications inside, the 3XS Graphite LG135 is also remarkably good value for money.
It might not have the MSI’s gorgeous and slim aluminium chassis, 17in screen or its solid SteelSeries keyboard, but it offers the same amount of processing grunt for considerably less money.