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Monday, June 16, 2014

Chillblast Defiant 2 Mini review: compact gaming laptop offers great value for money

As the name implies, this is the second-generation of Chillblast's compact little Defiant laptop - find out about the first generation here: Chillblast Defiant Mini 13 review - and we were pleased to see that it offers a number of improvements without any increase to its already attractive £899 price tag.

Like its predecessor, the Defiant 2 puts strong gaming performance into a highly portable design. It's a little chunky, measuring about 32 mm thick, but a weight of 2.1 kg means that it's still light enough to carry around in a backpack.

This model improves battery life, as switching to integrated graphics gave us 5.5 hours of streaming video – compared to 4 hours for the original Defiant – so it's better suited to life on the move than many gaming laptops.

We were pleased to see another improvement, in the form of an IPS display with full-HD resolution. It provides a very bright image with almost luridly bold colours and excellent all-round viewing angles. It's a shame, though, that the speakers are as feeble as ever – barely audible even at maximum volume when listening to the news on the BBC iPlayer.

More important for gamers, though, should be the step up to a new nVidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics card, replacing a GTX 765M. There's a minor CPU speed bump for the 4th-generation Haswell Core i7 processor, stepping up gently from 2.4 to 2.5 GHz, while the 8 GB of memory and 1 TB hybrid hard drive remain unchanged from last year's model.

That hybrid drive can't match the performance of a solid-state drive, which means that the Defiant's score with the general-purpose PCMark 7 test is a mid-range 4456 points. For some reason it refused to run the Home and Work tests in PCMark 8 at all, so we weren't able to obtain scores for those.

However, its GTX 860M graphics card more than lived up to expectations for gaming performance. The 860M may not be top-of-the-range, but in many of our gaming tests it still managed to rival the 880M GPU found in some of its more expensive rivals.

In fact, with Batman: Arkham City and Tomb Raider on their default settings, the Defiant produced fraerates of 53 and 60 fps, that were almost identical to more expensive laptops equipped with the 880M.

The same was true when raising graphics settings on both games to High, and it was only when we took the final step to maximum settings with those games that the Defiant slowed down a little.

Tomb Raider dropped sharply to 30 fps on its Ultimate setting, which was a little surprising, while Batman held up well to provide an impressive 41 fps on Maximum settings. That Batman performance was up about 20% compared to the last-generation GTX 765M in the original Defiant.

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