The XMG P504 laptop isn't going to win any awards for elegant design. But it provides strong gaming performance at a competitive price. (See also: the 15 best laptops: the best laptops you can buy in 2014.)
The rather generic black-plastic casing used to house the P504 is sturdy enough, but it's chunky and heavy, measuring a full 45 mm thick. We also weighed it at 3.5 kg, rather than the 3.3 kg quoted on Schenker's website. That's big and heavy, even for a 15-inch laptop with a built-in DVD drive.
The keyboard feels firm and comfortable, but its slightly cramped layout includes a half-height US-style Enter key and puts the Fn key over on the right of the space-bar – both of which took some getting used to.
Still, the size of the unit does at least allow it to cover plenty of connectivity options. Along with HDMI, the P504 includes two DisplayPort interfaces, and S/PDIF digital audio output along with its standard headphone socket. There's even a Firewire port too, although that's of less use outside recording studios these days. (See all laptops buying advice.)
But if good looks aren't a strong point then the P504 does come up trumps on performance. Prices start at around £1100 with a Core i5 processor, but we reviewed a top-of-the-range model that costs £1544 with a Core i7 running at 2.4 GHz, 8 GB memory and nVidia GeForce GTX 880M with 8 GB of video memory.
Windows boots from a 240 GB solid-state drive, and a secondary 750 GB hard disk is available for more data.
That set-up worked well, allowing the P504 to just edge pass the 6000-point mark when running the general-purpose PCMark 7 tests, and we saw similarly strong scores in PCMark 8.
The GTX 880M proved remarkably consistent in our gaming tests, and the P504 produced scores virtually identical to other laptops using the 880M in conjunction with the Intel Core i7 processor.
It breezed through Stalker: Call Of Pripyat for casual gaming, and hit a smooth 60 fps on Tomb Raider's default settings at 1920 x 1080 resolution.
There was a drop to 46.6 fps when Tomb Raider is set to Ultimate graphics, but that's the case with all the 880M-based gaming laptops we've seen so far.
The picture was similar when playing Batman: Arkham City, managing a comfortable 46 fps even on that game's Maximum setting at 1920 x 1080. (See also: best laptops for games.)
The P504 has other flaws, though. Battery life is poor even by the standards of gaming laptops, giving us just 3 hours of streaming video when using integrated graphics. That was a weakness in last year's P503 model as well, so battery life is something that Schenker could clearly address.
The P504 also seems to use the same screen as its predecessor. Its matt finish and 1920 x 1080 resolution provided good image quality, with wide horizontal viewing angles so that we could sway in the heat of battle during gaming sessions.
But, as with the P503, the vertical viewing window is quite limited and the image darkens quickly when you tip the screen back. That can be annoying when you just want to lean back and watch the new True Blood DVD.
The 2.1 speaker system also sounds tinny, although it did provide a fair amount of volume so that we could play games or music without needing to plug in external speakers. (See also: the 15 best laptops: the best laptops you can buy in 2014.)