It may not use the latest generation CPU and GPU but the Chillblast Phantom 16 still packs a punch
- Good value in the pre-built form
- Excellent keyboard
- Very bright screen
- No support for DLSS 3
- Battery life is mediocre
- No MUX switch
If you want a desktop or laptop wholly made in the UK, you are out of luck, but if you want to buy one from a company headquartered, part-assembled and with UK after-sales support, then Warrington-based Chillblast fits the bill.
Externally, the Chillblast Phantom laptop is identical to a TongFang/Uniwill white-label machine called the ID6H2. But it isn’t just a rebranding; Chillblast specifies the CPU, port functionality, screen, thermal solution and case and then assembles the rest of the laptop at its facility in Bradford.
There’s nothing at all wrong with the chassis. I’ve used a couple of TongFang / Uniwill machines with Medion branding and have been highly impressed with both the build quality and design. And no matter what brand you buy, the odds are your laptop started life around the South China Sea with the likes of TongFang/Unwill, Foxconn or Quanta anyway.
Chillblast Phantom 16 review: What you need to know
The Chillblast Phantom 16 is one of those laptops that’s pitched primarily at creatives but it would also suit gamers looking for a laptop with a more subtle look than the RGB adorned crowd.
To that end, you get a slick 165Hz display and a potent Nvidia RTX 3070Ti GPU wrapped up in a relatively thin and light chassis that’s styled in a manner that can best be described as unobtrusive.
The Phantom is built around last-generation CPU and GPUs, so you get a 12th Gen Alder Lake Intel processor rather than the latest 13th Gen Raptor Lake and an RTX 30- rather than RTX 40-series GPU.
The only real issue this could cause for some users is the lack of support for Nvidia’s latest DLSS 3 upscaling and Frame Generation technology but, as we will see, the Phantom is still an excellent gaming platform.
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Chillblast Phantom 16 review: Price and competition
Configuration tested: 16in 1920 x 1200 IPS non-touch display; Intel Core i7-12700H CPU; Nvidia RTX 3070Ti GPU; 16GB DDR5 RAM; 1TB SSD; 62Wh battery. Price: £1,699
If you configure a machine to match the review sample, it will set you back just over £1,800 but, at the time of writing, Chillblast is offering the top-of-the-line Phantom with the Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU, 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage for just £1,699, which makes it a serious bargain.
In this performance bracket, those seeking a powerful general-purpose laptop can’t do much better than one of the latest MacBook Pro machines. It’s a stunning laptop, but the price is always an issue: if you want a 16in model with a Phantom-matching 1TB SSD, be prepared to part with £3,500.
Another high-end competitor is the new Alienware M16 R1. With its AMD Dragon Range CPU and RTX 4070 GPU. It is a very serious performer and the 240Hz, 16in display is a cracker. It’s rather heavy, but being a Dell, you can adjust the specification to suit your needs exactly. The range starts at just £1,699.
The Dell Inspiron 16 Plus has just been updated with an RTX 4060 GPU and Core i7-13700H chip and has a 120Hz 2.5K display for just £1,029, which is excellent value. The Dell takes some beating as an all rounder but lacks the Phantom’s numeric keypad and the GPU has a TGP that is limited to 65W.
Chillblast Phantom 16 review: Design and build quality
Generic is the best word to describe the styling of the Chillblast Phantom 16. With its squared-off sides and chrome-edged lid, only the silver Chillbast logo and name on the lid provide aesthetic interest. It could hail from mass-market laptop makers like Acer, Dell or HP, but that’s not inherently bad.
The body and lid are made from aluminium, feels entirely solid and rigid and, just as importantly, the silver finish doesn’t show fingerprints. The lid, in particular, is impressively stiff for something that doesn’t have a laminated glass cover and the sturdy hinge lets the screen rotate back to 135 degrees.
The Phantom is surprisingly light at 1.86kg and fairly compact for a laptop with pretty serious gaming pretensions. At 356 x 245 x 22mm, it’s no MacBook Air, but it’s barely any larger than 15.6in general-purpose laptops such as the Asus Vivobook S15.
There’s an elegance and simplicity to the layout of the I/O ports that I really like, too. You get one USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 and one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port on each side. On the left, is an SD card reader and 3.3mm audio jack while, on the right, is an HDMI 2.0 video output and a DC-input. Both the USB-C ports provide DisplaPort video outputs, however you can’t charge through them. Luckily the 180W power brick is reasonably compact and light.
Removing the base from the Phantom 16 is simple and doesn’t require any prying tools or special screwdrivers. Once inside, you can easily access the two SODIMM RAM mounts and both 2280 PCIe 4 SSD bays, the Intel AX201 wireless card (so no 6GHz Wi-Fi), and the 62Wh battery.
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Chillblast Phantom 16 review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam
There’s nothing to dislike about the Scrabble-style keyboard. It’s rock solid, has a full-sized numeric keypad, full-sized arrow keys and a handy shortcut on the F5 key to switch into gaming/high-performance mode. The keys themselves have 1.7mm of travel and a positive end-stop, and the whole deck benefits from a white two-level backlight.
At 85 x 135mm, the touchpad is a sizeable affair with a perfectly calibrated and weighted click-action. The pad itself feels like it has a glass cover and is entirely smooth to the touch. In each of the top corners are two small white LEDs: double-tap the left one and the touchpad is disabled; double-tap the right and just the right side of the touchpad is disabled – a neat feature designed to limit mispresses while typing.
Above the screen sits a basic 720p webcam that does OK in well-lit environments but less so when the light fails. There’s no support for Windows Hello IT facial recognition, nor is there a fingerprint reader.
Chillblast Phantom 16 review: Display and audio
The 16in Full HD panel uses IPS technology, has a refresh rate of 165Hz and an impressive maximum brightness of 530cd/m2. Its colour reproduction, however, is mediocre, with just 98.6% sRGB available (equal to 68% of Adobe RGB and 69.9% of DCI-P3), which is not great for a machine pitched at creatives as much as gamers.
Measured against the sRGB profile, the Delta E variance came out at 2.2 versus sRGB, which is fine, although far from outstanding. Thanks to a minimum luminance level of 0.47cd/m2, the contrast ratio came out at a pretty ordinary 1,132:1, despite the high maximum brightness level.
In the system control panel, there is a feature called “Color enhancement”, which lets you choose from a list of bespoke colour profiles – Vibrant, Cinema, Photo, Low Blue and Internet – and select from options to adjust the brightness, colour temperature, contrast, gamma and RGB.
There’s no MUX switch and no support for either Nvidia G-Sync or AMD FreeSync adaptive sync technology but basic motion handling is not bad at all, with very little ghosting or smearing to be seen in the Blur Busters UFO test.
The stereo speakers aren’t the loudest I’ve encountered in a laptop, with a maximum volume output of 73.8dB(A) recorded from a pink noise source at a 1m distance. The sound they produce, however, is nicely balanced with plenty of detail and openness with a satisfying amount of bass.
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Chillblast Phantom 16 review: Performance and battery life
The Chillblast Phatom 16 returned a score of 379 in our in-house 4K multimedia benchmark, which is perfectly respectable for a machine built around a 14-core Alder Lake Core i7-12700H CPU. The Cinebench R23 multi-core score of 14,417 was again bang on the money.
Those numbers can’t match the latest high-end Raptor Lake Core i9 and AMD Dragon Range processors but they are not far adrift.
Gaming performance was also more than decent, with Returnal running at 56fps, set on the highest Ray Tracing settings but without DLSS upscaling. Cyberpunk 2077 and Metro Exodus averaged 51fps in the same circumstances. A less demanding title such as Wolfenstein: Youngblood ran at 118fps. With DLSS set to Balanced, Wolfenstein jumped to 156fps, Returnal to 87fps.
The SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D modelling test, meanwhile, returned an average frame rate of 96.1fps, showing that the 8GB vRAM Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU has more than enough grunt to handle even the most demanding graphics jobs.
Battery life was no worse than I expected, given the 62Wh battery capacity; the lights went out before the four-hour mark in our video rundown test. A small battery is a price you pay for a lightweight laptop, though, and given the 110W GPU and H-series CPU, this level of performance is hardly surprising.
Chillblast Phantom 16 review: Verdict
To be honest, the specification and price of the review sample I was sent didn’t set my pulse racing. But the key with this machine is to buy the configuration that makes the most sense from a value perspective.
The £1,699 RTX 3080 model with 32GB of RAM and 2TB SSD, on the other hand, is the one you should choose.
That outlay gets you a smart, well-made laptop with a good keyboard, decent display, plenty of RAM and storage and enough power to handle the most demanding games or graphics jobs easily. It’s the perfect laptop for anyone who wants a general-purpose workhorse for work and play but hides its gaming prowess under a bushel.