With a laptop costing over £1,500 you have every right to expect a good, high-resolution screen, and with the Vector Elite, Wired2Fire delivers. The 17.3in panel’s 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD) resolution matches most high-end monitors or TVs, and while it’s not a high-quality IPS display, it performs admirably for a TN.
Viewing angles are good, at least horizontally - although vertically there’s the usual issue of contrast shift. This means that as long as you position the screen at the right angle, you can easily watch a movie with a few friends, and even if you sit to the side it won’t degrade your viewing experience.
Contrast is also impressive. Blacks are deep, whites pure, and although there’s little differentiation at the paler end of the greyscale, dark detailing is flawless. In other words, you’ll see most everything you’re meant to in games, photos and movies. The screen’s glossy finish further aids perceived contrast, though it also causes annoying reflections and we generally prefer matt.
Colours, meanwhile, are punchy without being oversaturated - except for yellow, but this can be corrected through software. Naturally, packing such a high resolution into a relatively small screen ensures everything is razor sharp and gives you plenty of desktop real estate. While it’s pretty much a given that a laptop display won’t match a gaming monitor like the BenQ XL2410T for response, there was also little sign of ghosting.
Reflections aside, our only complaints are minor clouding due to uneven backlighting, and backlight bleed from the bottom and left sides. Though you shouldn’t notice it in daylight, many gamers don’t see much of that, and it can be a little distracting when, for example, watching a movie with black bars.
Unfortunately, audio is very disappointing considering the laptop’s size and built-in subwoofer. Maximum volume is low and still distorts, detail is lacking in the trebles and bass is only notable by its absence. We’ve actually heard netbooks with more oomph and clarity - we’re looking at you, Toshiba NB550D - which is frankly a bit embarrassing. At least gamers tend to be partial to headsets anyway, which is a bonus as they’re essential with the Vector Elite.
Before we get to gaming performance specifically, let’s take a look at how this laptop holds up generally. Wired2Fire offer a huge amount of flexibility, and you can go either far cheaper or much more expensive than the configuration we’re reviewing. However, the specs of our sample make for a great balance and a relatively future-proof system.
The CPU of choice is Intel’s Core i7-2670QM. This quad-core processor supports up to eight virtual cores, and runs at 2.2GHz by default but can Turbo clock up to 3.1GHz. It’s a very rare game indeed that will be CPU limited with this much power, and even intensive productivity won’t pose a challenge. For most there is no reason to spend more on a beefier model, though it is worth considering the 2.4/3.5GHz i7-2760QM, as Wired2Fire only charges £13 for that upgrade.
Likewise, 8GB of RAM should be more than enough for even the most demanding gamer. Only if you do particularly intensive work like HD video encoding or 3D rendering – or if you like having twenty different programs running simultaneously – should you consider the £218 Wired2Fire demands for giving you 16GB.
The 160GB SSD is Intel’s 320 Series, which isn’t the fastest though it’s great for reliability. Here it might be worth tinkering with the options, as you can save £45 by going for a 120GB Corsair Force Series 3, which should still be plenty of capacity for a boot drive and will be speedier to boot (see what we did there?).
If on the other hand money is no object and you want your games to run off the SSD, it’s well worth considering the 240GB OCZ Vertex 3, which will set you back a reasonable £155 extra. Also keep in mind that a chassis like the Clevo P170HM makes it fairly easy to upgrade its storage yourself at a later date.
The secondary hard drive is a 500GB model on our test machine, but as Wired2Fire offers an upgrade to a 640GB version in the same series for a mere £3, you would have to be mad not to. All the HDDs on offer run at a slow 5,200rpm but this will keep noise and temperatures down, and the negatives will be minimized by having an SSD as main storage. If you wish to install your own drive or store your game installs on an external disk, you can leave the mechanical drive off altogether saving you £49.