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PC Specialist UltraNote X15 review

Kat Orphanides
26 Oct 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
499
inc VAT

With a powerful processor and a Full HD screen for under £500, this laptop means business

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PC Specialist is best known as a maker of desktop PCs, but has recently branched out into producing laptops. Although the UltraNote X15 is based on an off-the-peg chassis from barebones laptop maker Clevo, it's a surprisingly sturdy and attractive general-purpose laptop. We were particularly impressed by the 15.6in screen, which has a Full HD resolution of 1,920x1,080. It's a matt rather than glossy display, so will suffer less from distracting reflections than a screen with a glossy finish.

PC Specialist UltraNote X15

The display is also of a better quality than most laptop screens. Our calibration device showed it to have a contrast ratio of 907:1, and able to display 68.1% of the sRGB colour gamut. There was plenty of detail in our low-contrast test images and, although the colour gamut coverage is poor by the standards of current desktop monitors, it's good for a laptop and colours looked accurate to our eyes. We did notice a slightly warm yellow tint on some images, but it wasn’t so marked as to noticeably affect our plain white test image.

If you want to connect the screen to an external display, there are both VGA and HDMI outputs available. The chassis also has four USB ports, two of which are USB3, 3.5mm mic and headphone ports, a memory card slot and a DVD-RW drive. There's also a Gigabit Ethernet port, something that laptops of this price often lack, as well as standard-issue 802.11n Wi-Fi.

The laptop is equipped with a 500GB hard disk, which gives you a decent amount of storage for software and data. The built-in speakers are positioned on the underside of the laptop. They put out a reasonable amount of volume without distorting, but there's no bass to speak of and the mid-range is a bit fuzzy. You'll want to connect external speakers for music, as these speakers are only really up to playing system sounds and the odd YouTube video.

PC Specialist UltraNote X15

The keyboard is acceptable but is a long way from being the best we’ve encountered on a laptop. It's laid out comfortably and has a full numeric keypad, but the square, flat keys don't have much travel, which can make them uncomfortable to use, particularly if you tend to hit the keys hard when typing. The entire chassis also makes a dull clunking sound if you make hard keystrokes. To its credit, though, we were able to accurately touch-type on the keyboard within minutes of beginning to use it.

PC Specialist UltraNote X15

The laptop has a small touchpad, which we nevertheless found accurate and comfortable to use, even though the wrist rest on either side becomes surprisingly warm after the laptop has been in use for an hour or so. It's also positioned rather too far to the left of the laptop for our tastes.

This version of the UltraNote X15 is equipped with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i3-3210 processor, making it one of the more powerful sub-£500 laptops we've seen lately. It did well in our benchmark tests, producing an overall score of 44; that's enough to run any standard desktop application and keep multiple programs and tabs open without any perceptible slow-down or loss of performance. Even though it only has two cores, the chip even did well in our multitasking test, with a strong score of 41. The laptop has 4GB of RAM, which can be upgraded to a maximum of 16GB.

The X15 isn't built for gaming, though, with only an Intel HD Graphics 2500 on-chip GPU. While our standard laptop game test, Dirt Showdown at a resolution of 1,280x720, 4x AA and High quality, only ran at 15.3fps, dropping the quality to Ultra Low brought that up to 39.6fps. The game isn’t as pretty at detail settings this low, but it shows you'll be able to run older titles.

PC Specialist UltraNote X15

While most laptops come with one-year return to base (RTB) warranty, the X15 has PC Specialist's standard Silver warranty, which gives you one year's collect-and-return warranty inclusive of both parts and labour, plus an extra two years' labour-only RTB coverage. It's an impressive warranty.

Apart from the slightly unresponsive keyboard, our only real complaint about the X15 is that it has somewhat poor battery life. It only lasted for four hours and 24 minutes in our light use test. This, along with its relatively large size, makes it better suited to being used around the home rather than for computing on the move. If you want something that gives you more working time away from mains power, the Best Buy winning Toshiba Satellite C50-A-156 is similarly powerful, significantly cheaper and has a longer battery life, although it can't match the UltraNote X15's Full HD display.

Basic Specifications

Rating****
ProcessorIntel Core i3-3210
Processor clock speed2.5GHz
Memory4.00GB
Memory slots2
Memory slots free1
Maximum memory16GB
Size30x375x525mm
Weight2.2kg
SoundVIA HD Audio
Pointing devicetouchpad

Display

Viewable size15.6 in
Native resolution1,920x1,080
Graphics ProcessorIntel HD Graphics 2500
Graphics/video portsVGA, HDMI
Graphics Memory256MB

Storage

Total storage capacity500GB
Optical drive typeDVD+/-RW +/-DL

Ports and Expansion

USB ports4
Bluetoothyes
Wired network ports1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking support802.11n
PC Card slotsnone
Supported memory cardsSDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo, MMC
Other ports2x USB3, headphone, microphone

Miscellaneous

Carrying caseNo
Operating systemWindows 8
Operating system restore optionrestore partition
Software includednone
Optional extrasnone

Buying Information

Warrantythree years RTB (one year collect and return, one year parts, three years labour)
Price£499
Detailswww.pcspecialist.co.uk
Supplierhttp://www.pcspecialist.co.uk

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