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Best Hardware of 2015 – The KitGuru Editorial Awards

Laptops

Once the poor cousin of the regular PC, laptops have upped their game in recent years and you can now buy an impressive gaming rig that can hold its own against many desktops. Technologies like M.2 SSDs are perfectly suited to small environments, bringing with them the kind of blistering pace that old laptops, with 5400rpm mechanical drives, could only dream of.

Overall
One system to rule them all means cranking everything to the maximum and that’s something that MSI showed KitGuru in previews toward the end of 2014 – and the specification is still 100% relevant as we prepare to enter 2016.

In an area as competitive as the high end gaming laptop market, that means a top end Intel Core i7 processor with a pair of GTX980M GPUs in SLi with the whole thing booting off a RAID set-up and the inclusion of a mechanical SteelSeries keyboard.

The specification has altered slightly since we first saw this product, with the original 4980HQ processor being replaced by a Skylake 6820HK – and the £3,499 price tag has now dropped to £3,170. You now get Windows 10, which is a definite bonus over Windows 8. When we first saw the Titan in Taipei in November 2014, it made a huge impression. It still does.

KitGuru’s choice for Best Laptop Overall in 2015 goes to the MSI GT80 Titan.

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Mainstream
We’re still shocked at how many laptops are created and sold without an SSD. If there was one product that would benefit from an SSD upgrade above all others, it’s the laptop. But what else would you look for in a mainstream machine?

Core i7 processor would be nice and a GTX960 driving a full HD screen at 1920×1080 would definitely be attractive. If you could get it to boot off an SSD, but also include a 1TB data drive for your Steam collection etc, then that would just about do it.

When we took delivery of the PC Specialist Optimus Nebula in April, it offered exactly that. On confirming the specification before including it in our awards, we were told that it was now shipping with Windows 10 (naturally) and double the amount of SSD – with a 240GB HyperX Savage replacing the old 120GB HyperX 3K.

Finally, the 4720HQ CPU has been swapped for a Skylake 6700HQ. In a desktop, we would think twice before declaring this a clear upgrade, given that the top end speed technically drops by ~100MHz in Turbo Mode.

That said, the Skylake architecture is ‘clock for clock’ more powerful and it does a great job in terms of TDP – which can be configured to draw up to 12w less than the 4720HQ (35w vs 47w). We were impressed with the original specification, so the new OS, CPU and SSD reinforce our earlier conclusion – especially at a price point of only £849.

KitGuru’s choice for Best Mainstream Laptop of 2015 goes to the PC Specialist Optimus Nebula.

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Value
We use a 1920×1080 laptop for video editing on the fly. When we bought it, that kind of screen resolution was only available on the most expensive of laptops. KitGuru’s winner in the Value Laptop category has a full HD screen around £500. The definition of ‘Value’ has definitely changed in recent times.

There have been some upgrades to the specification since August and we’ll flag those for you in a second. First, let’s look at the original specification’s battery life. On a continuous use loop, we got just shy of 4.5 hours in PCMark 8’s Battery Benchmark, which is pretty impressive for such a low cost laptop. What helps is the removal of the old mechanical drive and the inclusion of a 240GB SSD. That one improvement over previous generations of hardware means you get a fast, responsive unit with long battery life at just 1.42Kg.

They even include a free month’s laptop insurance, in case you have an accident or leave it lying around while you’re still getting used to it. Overall, this laptop is ultra-thin, ultra-light and very affordable with a sharp 1080p display.

There have been a few changes since we reviewed it in August, namely the price is now £519 to cover an updated specification that includes a 6100U Skylake processor (200MHz faster and 2.5w less thirsty than the original 5010U), a backlit keyboard, improved touch pad and the old RJ45 connector has been replaced with a USB 3.1 (Type C) USB port.

KitGuru’s choice for Best Value Laptop of 2015 goes to the PC Specialist Lafite i3 II.

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