Singaporean laptop and PC maker Aftershock has been gaining recognition locally for its attractively priced custom-fitted hardware. Impressively, the company has piqued the interest of Intel, with the chipmaker partnering up with Aftershock to be one of the first few manufacturers to sell laptops equipped with its latest sixth-generation processor, Skylake.
The result? An eminently portable 15-inch 2.5kg gaming notebook that packs plenty of features such as an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M priced at just S$1,721 -- this converts to around $1,220, £790 and AU$1,700 respectively. The laptop also boasts Onkyo speakers, Creative's SoundBlaster audio technology and a full-HD display.
Although Aftershock uses generic notebook shells from Taiwanese manufacturer Clevo, it does have the ability to add custom finishes, such as metallic paint or artwork, at its factory in Singapore.
The one thing I noticed during my brief time with the notebook, though, is that the soft-touch black surface can be quite the fingerprint magnet -- fingerprint residue turns the surface shiny and can be quite an eyesore. This effect is especially bad on the touchpad (which I reckon is where your finger comes in contact the most if you're not using a mouse).
The Aftershock SM-15 doesn't want for ports: it comes with four USB 3.0, an HDMI and a DisplayPort as well as an old-school VGA. The keyboard is backlit, and can be customized to sport different colors (or just lights on the WASD keys). The key travel is decent, and the bounce of the keys feels responsive. I'm more used to smaller keyboards without a NumPad on notebooks, so it did take some time getting used to typing toward the left side instead of the center.
The SM-15 laptop is one of the first few laptops in the world to sport Intel's Skylake processor, the Core i5 6300HQ, which is a sixth-generation processor from the chipmaker. Intel's latest hardware promises lower power consumption while still improving on both GPU and CPU performance -- it tested well in our previous benchmarks -- and Aftershock claims temperatures are much cooler compared with similar Haswell-equipped models. The GPU in this laptop is the very mainstream Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M.
As my unit is an engineering sample, hardware isn't optimised, so don't assume the benchmark scores are final. I put it up against a recent Asus ZenBook UX501J, which sports a high-powered Intel i7-4720HQ and the same Nvidia 960M, so also bear in mind that they're not identical.
In our multimedia multitasking test, which encodes a video while playing back separate HD and 4K files in the background, the SM-15 scored 421 to the UX501's 259, which is quite a difference, but that's comparing a Core i5 to a Core i7. It also seemed to have trouble with 4K video playback, which I'm guessing is due to drivers not properly tweaked for the laptop.
For the Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test, which takes multiple high-resolution raw images and tests them with resizes, filters, the SM-15 scored 281 to the UX501's 178. Again, we're looking at a Core i5 mainstream gaming laptop versus a Core i5 mainstream gaming laptop.
For gaming, the 960M seems capable of outputting a respectable 45.6 frames per second in the BioShock: Infinite benchmark test at ultrahigh settings. The Asus UX501 with the same GPU ran at 53.8fps in the same test.
Bugs and engineering hardware aside, the Aftershock SM-15 seems like a decent laptop if you want to game on the go, or don't want a full desktop solution. It's sturdy, has enough ports for all your gaming peripherals and the hardware (when optimized) is powerful enough for most games.
The Aftershock SM-15 will be available in Singapore from September 5 onwards, and while the company primarily serves the local market, those overseas who are keen can also buy one through the company's website.