Manufacturer: PC Specialist
UK price (as reviewed): £1,280.00 (inc. VAT)
US price (as reviewed): N/A
While the desktop Intel 8th Gen Core chips launched last year in the form of Coffee Lake parts like the Core i7-8700K, it’s only recently that mainstream and enthusiast laptop parts have started to appear. While there is a newly added Core i9 part now, that’ll be reserved for monstrous high-end offerings; the Core i7-8750H, though, will become popular quickly since it still offers six cores and 12 threads but at a lower price than the Core i9 flagship. One manufacturer that hasn’t wasted time implementing it is custom laptop maker PC Specialist, which has sampled us with its new Recoil II 15.6” gaming notebook.
As with any PC Specialist review unit, the configuration you see reviewed here is a unique one designed to offer maximum value. The company does offer a custom configurator, but pricing when going the custom route is less aggressive.
The Recoil II is presented in a fairly sleek chassis with black brushed aluminium used on the lid and the typing area. It comes in at about 20mm thick and 2.12kg, making it pretty portable – not Ultrabook portable, of course, but certainly backpack-friendly.
As mentioned, the Core i7-8750H is the heart of this unit. Its six cores can process 12 threads at once thanks to HyperThreading, and the peak boost frequency of this 45W part is 4.1GHz. That isn’t an all-core boost, though, but rather the highest speed you’ll see from any single core in lighter workloads. We observed boosting to 2.8GHz or 2.9GHz under a full and sustained all-core load.
Feeding the cores is a 16GB dual channel DDR4 kit clocked to 2,400MHz. The custom configuration route permits 32GB kits, but 16GB is a sensible sweet spot choice.
The GPU on our review unit is the GTX 1060 6GB, which is a potent weapon when it comes to 1080p gameplay. Naturally, it also includes all of Nvidia’s battery saving technologies such as BatteryBoost, which can cap performance down to 30fps in order to save power. This laptop can also be configured so that the lower power GTX 1050 Ti 4GB is installed instead.
For storage, you get a potent combination of a 500GB Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD for the boot drive and a 2.5” 1TB HDD for bulk storage. Other laptops with similar specs, especially more premium ones that focus heavily on cutting dimensions and weight, are flash-based only, so the Recoil II has the option of considerable storage expansion. In fact, there is a second unused M.2 slot (PCIe only), so the potential upgrade options are pretty extensive.
The battery capacity of 46Whr is on the low side; the smaller and lighter (and much more expensive) Razer Blade manages an 80Whr battery. For the Recoil II, it is likely a result of the choice to include a 2.5” drive mount, as this occupies a relatively large volume.
1080p is a suitable resolution for the screen size and for the graphics card used. While there is a growing trend of high-resolution panels in the realm of 3,000 pixels across, it’s hard to take full advantage of such detail in so small a screen. The refresh rate here is a standard 60Hz, but a 144Hz one is configurable, albeit on pre-order only. The bezel on the screen is pleasingly very thin, but there’s still room enough to squeeze a webcam in along the top edge.
The integrated speakers' quality is distinctly average for laptops i.e. you won’t want to use them for anything beyond basic system sounds.
Interestingly, PC Specialist is using a mechanical keyboard for the Recoil II, although we haven’t been able to clarify details beyond the fact that they are made by the same OEM as the chassis. Durability is said to be at least 20 million keystrokes. The keys are indeed very light and crisp; in fact they almost felt too light to begin with, and despite stretching from end to end (thus allowing a full numpad to be included), the keys feel cramped initially. Still, it didn’t take us long to adapt, and overall we like the keyboard. As another bonus, it also includes per-key RGB lighting. The configuration software for this, however, leaves a lot to be desired and is a long, long way from something like Razer’s Chroma. It repeatedly bugged out on us, and the effects you can program are comparatively limited. Still, for adding a simple bit of personality, it’ll do, and you can easily dim it or turn it off completely if you find it too garish.
Along the left of the chassis, there’s an Ethernet port, a USB 2.0 connector, and dual 3.5mm audio jacks. On the right, meanwhile, you get two USB 3.0 (AKA USB 3.1 Gen1) ports and an SD reader. Sadly, this means that quite a lot is relegated to the less accessible back section, where you’ll find a HDMI output, two mini-DisplayPort 1.3 connectors, and a USB 3.0 Type-C port - a shame there's no true USB 3.1 (i.e. Gen2). We’d much prefer everything to be down the sides, but at least the selection overall is good. For wireless networking capabilities, the Recoil II houses Intel’s Wireless AC-9560 module, which includes 802.11ac up to 1.73Gbps and Bluetooth 5.0.
The underside is very much focussed on ventilation, as the vents here are massive and very porous, which should serve the dual-fan cooling system nicely. Air is exhausted both out the back and to the sides, so we’re hoping for low temperatures under load.
Windows 10 is of course the OS of choice, although it was a tad annoying that the latest 1803 build wasn’t installed by default, as it meant we immediately had to install a large Windows update. The only excess software on our machine is the Gaming Centre suite that is responsible for controlling the RGB lighting and a few other bits. As we said, it could use a bit of work on stability, and a UI overhaul wouldn’t go amiss either, as it feels dated.
PC Specialist’s standard warranty terms cover three years of labour costs, but only one year for parts and, unfortunately, just one month for carriage. Thankfully, the Silver warranty with carriage covered for one year is available for just £5 extra.
October 14 2021 | 15:04