First reviewed June 2014
Gaming laptops are usually hulking machines with 17-inch screens and enough weight to give the healthiest gamers a hernia, but Schenker’s XMG P304 is different: it has a 13.3-inch screen and, at 2kg, it’s half the weight of some of its competitors.
The P304 is part of a new breed of smaller gaming systems. The XMG is joined in this growing part of the market by the Alienware 14, and these systems challenge the norm – represented recently by the mighty Asus G750JX and the colourful MSI GT70.
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The P304 weighs 2kg and is 32mm from top to bottom at its thickest point. That might sound chunky alongside ultraportables, but it’s svelte when stacked up against rivals: the Alienware weighs 2.7kg and is 40mm thick. The MSI GT70 is 3.9kg and 55mm thick, and the Asus G750JX breaks the scales at a monster 4.8kg.
These dimensions make the P304 a potential winner for gaming at LAN parties or on the train. The base is sturdy, with little movement on the top side and similar strength underneath. The rear of the screen is spongier, but there was no sign of desktop disturbance when we pressed the panel. We’d have no qualms about slipping the Schenker into a backpack.
The small frame still contains impressive versatility. Remove the base panel and most of the P304’s interior is laid bare, with one memory socket and two mSATA connectors free. The hard disk and CMOS battery can both be easily accessed, and the large heatsink and fan can be popped out for simple cleaning. The battery is removable, too.
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The right-hand edge has three USB 3 ports, HDMI 1.4a and D-SUB connectors and a Gigabit Ethernet socket, the opposite side houses a USB 2 connector and two audio jacks, and there’s an SDXC card reader. It’s a decent selection, but there’s no mini-DisplayPort or optical drive.
On the inside there’s Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. That’s good but, again, rivals are better – the MSI GT70 includes Killer Networking.
The P304 is small and light, but it pays for that with its bland looks. The lid is coated with matte black plastic and a discreet XMG logo, and the interior is plain gunmetal grey, with a green XMG logo and a cluster of ugly stickers in one corner. The edges have the occasional angled flourish, but this system is no match for the dramatic, illuminated Alienware or the chunky angles and lights of the MSI and Asus systems.
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Schenker has been sensible with the P304’s screen. The 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and 13.3-inch panel mean impressive pixel density without the scaling issues of higher resolutions, and the non-touch panel has a matte finish, so there’s no chance of distracting reflections.
The measured brightness level of 360 nits is much better than the 343 and 276 nit results from the MSI and Alienware systems, and the 0.36 nit black level is good, too – although both rivals have slightly deeper black levels. The XMG’s 1,000:1 contrast ratio is good, again, although the competition is a little better.
Colour accuracy was good. The Delta E of 2.76 is much better than the mediocre 4.66 of the Alienware and the MSI’s dreadful 7.2 score, and the XMG’s panel covered 85.6% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is a little better than the MSI. The colour temperature of 6,209K is on the warm side of the 6,500K ideal, but it’s no further away from that figure than its competitors.
The black level and contrast are this screen’s weaknesses but, even then, both figures are still excellent. They’re backed up with good colour accuracy and coverage, and brightness that outstrips rivals. This is good news for games and for general entertainment as 1080p videos look great on this sharp screen.
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The XMG boasts of Onkyo audio kit, but quality is poor. Bass drums are present, but bass notes are non-existent, and the mid-range sounds weak. The top-end is tinny, and volume is only middling – at 100% the speakers inside this machine barely drowned out the loud internal fans. Games sound insipid using this audio kit, and we’d recommend a beefy set of headphones.
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