Water-cooled gaming laptops are rare but they are not exactly new. What makes the Aftershock Apex 15X EVO different from previous water-cooled notebooks is that the water cooling is handled by a separate, optional module. Simply connect this water cooling unit to the Aftershock if you want the extra cooling and higher performance. The laptop also isn't much heavier or larger than a typical Aftershock 15-inch notebook, like the Apex 15S. So if you're just bringing the EVO to a cafe to chill and people-watch, just leave the water cooler at home.
- 15.6-inch QHD display (2,560 x 1,440 pixels), 240Hz
- 12th-gen Intel Core i7-12900H chip with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti graphics
- 3x USB Type-A, Thunderbolt 4, HDMI 2.1, SD card reader, 2.5G Ethernet port, Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 chipset
Dubbed the Glacier Core (S$195), the water-cooling module for the Aftershock is compact, and much smaller than an external graphics dock, for example. It has a power pass-through, so you connect your electrical outlet to the module and then from the module to the notebook. The coolant — distilled water is recommended — goes into the module through an opening at the top. You can adjust the water cooler settings — connected via Bluetooth — using the laptop's preloaded Control Center app. This app includes a helpful guide and FAQs. However, I had trouble making out the existing coolant level in the module through its narrow see-through window. There's no internal light to illuminate the coolant level, but Aftershock says 400ml should be sufficient. Note that the water cooler is not entirely silent, but it's definitely much quieter than the laptop's own cooling fans when running games.
The Glacier Core helps my review unit, which comes with a 12th-gen Core i7-12900H chip and a GeForce RTX 3070 Ti graphics, eke out an extra 4 to 5fps in our gaming benchmarks. Watch Dogs: Legions, for example, went from an average of 76fps at Ultra setting to 80fps. Similarly, Metro Exodus (ray tracing enabled with the RTX profile) increased from 66fps to 71fps at 1080p resolution. But the real game-changer are the thermals and noise level. The temps went down significantly with the water cooler. They dipped from a peak of 89 degrees Celsius (CPU) and 86 degrees (GPU) to 65 degrees and 63 degrees respectively. That's an improvement of over 20 degrees Celsius. More importantly, the water cooler's fan is much quieter than the laptop fans. The latter are often mistaken for the sound of rain by my family members.
Of course, the water cooler will require some upkeep, like topping up the coolant now and then. While it doesn't leak during operation, there is some leakage when you unplug the water tubes to move the laptop. This unplug-and-drain process probably takes a few minutes so you can't exactly grab the laptop and go. In short, it's not entirely hassle-free, but I think it's worth the extra cooling and lower noise. The rest of the laptop is pretty good, too. You'll get a 240Hz matte display with a sharp 1,440p resolution. Ports are plentiful, including Thunderbolt 4 and a 2.5G Ethernet port. Its mechanical keyboard feels tactile and has great key travel. Facial recognition is available via the webcam, a feature that is not often found in gaming notebooks.
My Aftershock Apex 15X EVO review set, including the Glacier Core, costs S$3,224, which is reasonable for its specs. Upgrading it to its highest-end GeForce RTX 3080 Ti option will add a whopping $1,100 to the price. Personally, I think the base specs are good enough. I would also highly recommend the water cooling module for the extra cooling and quieter operation rather than the slight performance boost. It's easy to set up, with the added flexibility of being able to switch between air and water cooling. There's a bit of maintenance involved, but I can live with that. Get it now from Aftershock PC.
Note: Review unit provided by Aftershock PC.
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