1 Year Review
I've been using the mag 15 as my only machine for well over a year now (got it April 2020). While the hardware is no longer current gen, this laptop seems to be discounted pretty frequently, so it could still make sense as a purchase (getting a used one in good condition could also make sense). Performance For my use case, this laptop has been fantastic. I was coming from a traditional big bulky powerful gaming laptop, and I wanted something closer to the thin & light side of the spectrum, without completely giving up GPU grunt. In terms of performance, the 1660Ti was excellent value, and this laptop can easily run esports titles at a consistent 200-300fps, well over the 144fps needed to keep up with the fast refresh rate display. I personally don't play new triple A games, but this laptop can power through slightly older titles like MGSV. CAD, 1080p video editing, training small neural networks, and general programming were all handled well. Now, be warned that the GPU is limited to 75C instead of 87C like most chassis are. So despite the beefy 115W that the chassis gives to the GPU, it might not always be able to sustain a 1800MHz boost in demanding triple A titles, and can drop to the bottom end of the 1660Ti spec (like most other laptops). However, I don't play those games, so the lower temp limit never bothered me too much, and I think it might actually give a bit more thermal headroom for the CPU, which is useful in more CPU dependent games like most esports titles. Also note that this laptop uses nvidia optimus to switch between integrated and dedicated graphics instead of a MUX switch or advanced optimus. So GPU performance can actually be slightly improved if you use an external monitor. Essentially optimus passes video stuff from the dGPU through the iGPU, and the iGPU ends up bottlenecking it at high framerates. The fans do get loud under load, but that's just what happens when powerful components are put in a thin and light chassis. Under normal use they're fine. Not dead silent but not obnoxious either. I've never been made fun of for having a jet engine and that's good enough for me. Battery Life The giant battery in this lends itself to great battery life, especially in contrast to my old gaming laptop. I can squeeze a good 8-10 hours unplugged out of this machine while doing light programming and web browsing. So if I'm going to school or work, I don't need the charger at all. Note that gaming on battery is only going to give you 2-3 hours unplugged. It's not a fault of the laptop. Using the GPU and CPU heavily is just inherently going to draw a lot of power. However, this is one area where user error can screw things up immensely. If any programs (check your system tray) are using the dGPU in the background, your battery life is going to be closer to 2-3 hours even if you're only doing web browsing. Additionally, keeping on the RBG is going to nuke your battery life, as will connecting a bunch of RBG peripherals. Audio is also going to drain battery, so if you're listening to music the entire time, expect a slight decrease in battery life. My one complaint here is the fact that the thunderbolt port doesn't support USB C charging, which would let me carry a much smaller charger than the stock one (a massive 230W brick). Design and Form Factor This is a good looking laptop. The top bezel is around 8mm wide, the side bezels are 5mm wide, and the bottom bezel is 20mm wide. Not quite an edgeless display, but it still looks nice and modern next to the XPS and Macbooks of the world. I like the look of the logo on the back lid, but the ELUKTRONICS text above the keyboard deck is pretty ugly in my opinion. While it's not as thin as proper thin and lights (~4mm thicker than a Macbook Pro, and ~3mm thicker than an XPS 15), it is pretty thin for a gaming laptop. On the plus side, the magnesium body is not just a marketing gimmick. This thing is remarkably light, lighter than both of those previous 2 laptops if you don't count the chargers. The port selection is good, and I've never run out of ports or needed an adapter. Although I have heard of some compatibility issues with thunderbolt docks, so do some more research on that if that's part of your use case. The chassis doesn't feel as solidly built as the previous 2 comparison laptops. Those feel like solid bricks of aluminum, while the mag 15 has some perceivable flex in the back panel and lid. Additionally, the unique "mechanical" keyboard design makes it sound like there's some sand trapped in your laptop if you tilt it side to side. I think the switches or some other mechanism actually shift around and create that sound. Input Devices The keyboard is "mechanical" but it doesn't feel like any mech keyboard I've ever used. It has a nice travel and tactility, but I am a little more error prone on it than on other keyboards. The keycaps aren't separated by bezels like in most keyboards, and they're a bit wobbly, so I'm less confident in my typing. That being said, the above issue only really happens when I'm trying to test my typing speed, and it's a usable keyboard under normal use. The big glass trackpad is another thing that feels like it belongs more in an ultrabook than a gaming laptop. It has a convenient light in the top left you can double tap to enable or disable the trackpad. The webcam works for zoom meetings but the quality is exactly what you can expect from a laptop webcam. I'm still not sure why companies don't just throw a phone camera and ditch the garbage webcams. The integrated mic is also pretty bad, but usable in a pinch. You'd probably want some earbuds with an inline mic or a desktop mic for important meetings. Output Devices The speakers are pretty average for a laptop I think, although to be honest I hardly ever listen to them, since I'm usually using IEMs or headphones. The display has good colors and a high refresh rate. I didn't have any issues with backlight bleed or response times. I wish it got a little brighter, as it looks washed out in direct sunlight, but the brightness is plenty high for indoor use. Software The newest BIOS version has several useful features like undervolting (no more throttlestop or XTU needed), an option to lower the minimum fan speed, and a battery charge limiter (if you're using it plugged in for a long time, capping the battery at 80% can help extend its lifespan). The eluktronics control center offers nice controls for different power profiles, RBG stuff, temperature monitoring, max fans mode, etc. However, there is no custom power limit tweaking or fan curves. Customer Service While I was installing the aforementioned BIOS update, I managed to brick my laptop. For what it's worth, I scoured the forums and I seemed to be the only one who didn't have a routine installation. In any case, the guys at eluktronics were pretty helpful. Emails usually took a full day to get a response, but calling them got instant responses. Some arguing and nudging was necessary, but I got my replacement laptop a week later. They let me keep my old SSD, and sent me a replacement without storage, so I just put my old SSD in the new machine and had everything up and running exactly where I left off. Conclusion In many aspects, the mag 15 seems more like a slightly cheaper XPS 15 with a beefier GPU and slightly worse build quality (I've never used a razer blade so I don't really want to make this comparison, but I think it could be a good blade killer). It's hard to compare it to other gaming laptops, because a lot of what makes it special isn't really in the hardware specs. You can get a 1660Ti laptop a lot cheaper than this, but you certainly won't get the form factor, portability, battery life, etc. So the value of this machine depends on whether those things are important to you or not. If you care about those and you already have storage and memory, the $1000 barebones kit of this is definitely worth it. However, if you need big GPU grunt, or you want the best bang for your buck in terms of specs, this laptop isn't it.