The Aftershock Apex 15S is probably the bread-and-butter model in the brand's gaming notebook range. It comes with mainstream gaming features that's good enough for most users. It's not the lightest laptop, but also not that chunky. More importantly, it starts from just under S$2,000, which is a reasonable cut-off point for those shopping for an affordable gaming notebook.
- 15.6-inch Full-HD display (144Hz)
- 12th-gen Intel Core i7-12700H chip with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics
- 3x USB Type-A, USB Type-C, HDMI 2.1, SD card reader, 2.5G Ethernet port, Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 chipset
Apex calls the Apex 15S the successor to last year's value-centric Aftershock Forge 15X. This is true, pricing-wise. But the design of the Apex couldn't be more different. It lacks any gaming styling, for example, there are no LEDs besides the keyboard backlight. I prefer this minimalist look as I can bring the Apex to work meetings without attracting any attention. It is reasonably portable at around 2kg, though it's obviously not as thin or as light as ultrabooks. The Apex also comes with a good number of ports, including HDMI 2.1, a 2.5G Ethernet port as well as USB-A and USB-C ports. But you cannot charge the laptop via its USB-C port.
The 15.6-inch Full-HD display on my base review set is typical for its price range. It comes with a 144Hz refresh rate that's handy for gaming, but it lacks Nvidia G-Sync support. This matte IPS screen is decently bright and has good viewing angles. While its 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution is ideal for games, especially for a budget gaming model, it's only adequate for normal office work. The keyboard has good travel with a bouncy feel. It doesn't have per-key or zonal RGB backlight, though you can have it cycle through six preset colours. I like the Performance Mode shortcut key (next to the power button) that cycles through Office, Game and Turbo Modes. Pick the latter for the best performance, but the cooling fans will become very loud. They sound like rain, though, so it's easy enough to ignore.
You can further tweak the laptop settings using Aftershock's Control Center app, which looks more sophisticated and has more settings than the previous version I tried. You can even adjust the fan speed for the CPU or graphics based on their temperatures. The laptop becomes very warm in games, but that's par for the course. More importantly, the Apex's RTX 3050 Ti graphics chip will run most games at a decent clip at close to the maximum graphics settings at 1080p. For example, Watch Dogs: Legions ran at an average of 55fps at Very High setting. Turning on ray tracing, though, will cause frame rates to dip. The Apex managed around 40fps in Metro Exodus at Ultra quality with ray tracing compared to 52fps with the RTX 3060-powered Forge 15X.
My Aftershock Apex 15S review set costs S$1,905, but if you can, I would recommend paying S$304 more for the RTX 3060 version, which comes with a QHD screen. Not only do you get a faster graphics chip, the higher resolution would be evident for tasks like web browsing and document editing. As it is, the Apex is an upgrade in the CPU department with its 12th-gen Intel chip, but the graphics and display are similar to older Aftershock notebooks. However, I do prefer the Apex's minimalist design and newer I/O ports. Overall, it's a good gaming notebook with a competitive price tag. Add in the ease of customisation on Aftershock's website, and it's a no-brainer to recommend it over its rivals. Get it from Aftershock here.
Note: Review unit provided by Aftershock PC.
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