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PC Specialist Mirage II review

Richard Easton
28 Aug 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
281

A low-priced 11.6in laptop, but the PC Specialist Mirage II is a poor performer with little battery life

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Specifications

Processor: Dual-core 1.0GHz AMD E1-2100 APU, RAM: 4GB, Size: 297x190x30.5mm, Weight: 1.3kg, Screen size: 11.1in, Screen resolution: 1,366x768, Graphics adaptor: AMD Radeon HD 8210, Total storage: 500GB hard disk

The most immediately striking aspect of the PC Specialist Mirage II is the size of the keyboard. While the footprint of the 11.6in Mirage II is about the same as other similarly-sized rivals, the keyboard is far larger in both width and height. The keyboard extends almost to the sides of the MSI-made chassis.

However, the most surprising part of the keyboard is how cramped it feels to use in spite of its large size. Keys have been shoe-horned in strange places, such as the backslash that is now next to the spacebar, making it easy to hit by mistake. The Return key is also small in size and the Hash key has been moved above it.

It takes a lot of getting used to the key placements and we never really built up to a usual typing speed. The keys also have a lot of travel and are very spongy, further slowing you down. The build of the keys themselves are also a tad sharp for our tastes with less rounded corners than we’re used to on chiclet keyboards.

The height of the keyboard has almost meant there’s very little room for the touchpad. This has resulted in a touchpad with a tiny surface area for swiping and gestures. It’s almost half the size of other touchpads we have seen on 11.6in laptops and this makes it cramped and difficult to use. It’s a shame as the material used is smooth and satisfying to glide your finger across and the dedicated mouse buttons are comfortable and responsive.

The chassis is otherwise relatively good-looking, using black plastic with a brushed metal detailing. There isn’t much flex and everything feels solidly constructed. Again, due to the size of the keyboard, there isn’t much room left for the palm-rest area. We found after a while typing can become fatiguing as our hands rested awkwardly over the side of the laptop. The Mirage II is also quite thick at 30.5mm and slightly heavy for an 11.6in laptop at 1.3kg.

The Mirage II uses an AMD dual-core E1-2100 APU, which is based on AMD’s Jaguar architecture. It has a base clock of just 1.0GHz without any form of boost ability and provides very low performance. This is paired with one stick of 4GB of RAM. There is a second vacant module and the motherboard supports up to 16GB if you want to upgrade at a later date.

Overall, in our 2D application benchmarks it scored just 7. This is even behind tablets we have tested running Windows 8.1. You’ll struggle to use the Mirage II for anything beyond web browsing and work and even that felt sluggish at times. Navigating around Windows 8.1 also stuttered occasionally. You at least get a respectable amount of storage, with a 500GB 5,400RPM hard disk, so you’ll be able to store your applications and media.

As you might expect, gaming isn’t really an option. Dirt Showdown only produced 14fps in our tests at 1,280x720 resolution, 4x anti-aliasing and High graphics.

For a laptop of its size, we were pleased with the connectivity options available. There are two USB2 ports, one USB3, Gigabit Ethernet, and VGA and HDMI for connecting an external display. There’s also a multi-card reader for SD cards and Memory Sticks and separate jacks for headphones and a microphone.

One of the more surprising elements of the Mirage II was its screen. It uses a 1,366x768 panel that looks reasonably crisp due to its small 11.6in screen size. We tested it with our calibration tools and it confirmed our immediate first impressions.

The screen had an impressive contrast ratio of 818:1 and black levels of 0.25cd/m2 that far exceeded our expectations for the price. Colour accuracy was 60 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, which is only average for this price point, however. In line with our calibration test findings, the screen acquitted itself impressively in our subjective tests, too. Its high contrast ratio helped make images appear more vibrant with good saturation and sharpness.

There’s a pair of stereo speakers that produce middling sound that was quite harsh. Maximum volume was also not the loudest we’ve heard, so you’re better off plugging in a pair of headphones for better audio.

We managed 3h 35m in our light-use battery test, which was disappointing as we expected more considering the underpowered processor used.

While the Mirage II had a great looking screen, its performance was poor and made for a frustrating experience. If you are set on an 11.1in form factor, you’re better off looking at the Asus X200MA, which performed better and was both thinner and lighter while being cheaper to boot. Alternatively, look at the HP Chromebook 14 if you only have basic requirements.

Core specs
ProcessorDual-core 1.0GHz AMD E1-2100 APU
RAM4GB
Memory slots (free)2 (1)
Max memory16GB
Size297x190x30.5mm
Weight1.3kg
SoundIntel 2-Channel HD Audio (3.5mm microphone, headphone port)
Pointing deviceTouchpad
Display
Screen size11.1in
Screen resolution1,366x768
Touchscreen?No
Graphics adaptorAMD Radeon HD 8210
Graphics outputsVGA, HDMI
Graphics memoryIntegrated
Storage
Total storage500GB hard disk
Optical drive typeNone
Ports and expansion
USB ports2x USB2, 1x USB3
BluetoothYes
NetworkingGigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Memory card readerSDHC, SD, MS, MS Pro
Other portsNone
Miscellaneous
Operating systemWindows 8.1
Operating system restore optionWindows disc
Buying information
Parts and labour warrantyThree-year (one-month collect & return, one-year parts. three-year labour)
Price inc VAT£281
Detailswww.pcspecialist.co.uk
Supplierwww.pcspecialist.co.uk
Part numberMirage II

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