For a taste of the future of Windows gaming, look to the Mesh Edge DX laptop, one of the first portables to take on DirectX 11 games, and backed up with a new Intel Core i7 quad-core processor

Mesh Computers is a London-based PC systems builder whose desktop gaming PCs are regular challengers in our Top 5 PC charts. But unusually for a British company, Mesh also has a line of its own laptops, including games-slanted machines for the Windows games enthusiast.

We took a close look at the Edge DX, one of the first laptops that can take on new games exploiting Microsoft's updated DirectX 11 graphics.

The key specs of the 15.6in-screen Mesh Edge DX - and the fittings that lift it out from the crowd - are its brand-new ATI graphics card and an Intel quad-core processor.

The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650, equipped with 1GB of dedicated DDR3 RAM, is the first DirectX 11 graphics card that can fit in a laptop. We've noted before while reviewing similar ATI cards for desktop PCs that the range of DX11 games is rather limited right now; but based on the image quality we've seen in the few games that have been released, there's an impressive increase in on-screen realism to be found.

Essentially, the games experience gets that much closer to watching real recorded video.

To help render all this complex detail, a quick multi-cored processor is also needed to keep the action fluid. Here in the Mesh Edge DX we find a 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM, the same processor that drives the HP Envy 15 we reviewed recently. That headline 1.6GHz clock speed may not impress, but it's quite capable of auto-overclocking on demand, up to 2.8GHz. Once again, this is backed up here with 4GB of fast DDR3 1333MHz RAM.

Other features include four USB ports (one of which is a hybrid eSATA type), HDMI video output, fingerprint reader and dual-layer DVD±RW drive.

We found the Mesh Edge DX's trackpad rather poor, a greasy feeling lacquer covering a Synaptics TouchPad, and the click buttons proved just too stiff for comfortable use. And while this may be a matter of individual taste, we also thought the keyboard a little crude, although some will appreciate the flat-top keys with sandpapery texture.

The screen is a full-HD high-resolution 15.6in panel, grimly glossy but crisp and well lit. Thankfully Windows 7 includes an option to increase the size of screen fonts and interface elements. The Mesh Edge DX was supplied to us set at 125% - a good balance for legible icons and text.

Following the current fashion, the Mesh Edge DX is a symphony in high-gloss plastics and paints, featuring swirly silver pinstripe detailing around the top deck and palm rest area, while speakers and buttons take chrome-effect plastic trim.

The same laptop also with a new 5650 card is already sold in Germany by DevilTech for around the same price, and known as the Fire DTX. Like the DevilTech, the Mesh Edge DX chassis seems to be a generic far Eastern part, and even includes an essentially useless V.92 dial-up analogue modem. It certainly contrasts with the up-to-date gigabit ethernet and 802.11n connectivity also packed inside.

With all that firepower under the bonnet, the Mesh Edge DX raised internal temperatures sufficiently that a fan would frequently propel heated air from the left-side vents, whenever the laptop was under load. Its plastic bottom didn't get at all warm to the touch though, and the fan never reached obscene noise levels.

If you're looking for sleek and up-to-date bodywork, you'll need to look elsewhere. The Mesh Edge DX is chunky with big rounded corners and while it's sturdy feeling and solid enough at 2.7kg, it doesn't have the design aesthetic, nor Apple-esque build and lighter weight of the HP Envy, with which it shares some features.

But compared to most gaming laptops we see, it's almost modest in its presentation, while its sub-3kg weight is actually light for a hot-blooded gaming portable.

At £899, it's also £300 cheaper than the HP Envy 15 - and don't forget that high-end ATI HD 5650 graphics card waiting inside.

NEXT PAGE: Performance tested and analysed >>

Before throwing the Mesh Edge DX into lab benchmark gameplay, we ran it through our standard WorldBench 6 real-world speed test. It was rated with 86 points, a respectable enough score but some way down from the HP Envy 15's 95 points.

Close examination of the individual results revealed that the Mesh Edge DX inexplicable failed to run the Roxio VideoWave component of the ten-app benchmark, lowering its overall tally.

Assuming it had passed this test with the same sub-score result as the HP, it would have scored a total of 97 points.

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Like the HP Envy 15 running the same Intel Core i7 720QM chip, battery life was disappointing. We measured a short 2hrs 19mins lifespan in MobileMark 2007 Productivity, demonstrating that this is more a mains-tethered desktop replacement than a laptop for road use. With a TDP of 45W, the Intel Core i7 CPU series, even the slowest version used here, is simply not travel friendly.

So what of its gaming skillz? Our basic FEAR game test proved a cinch for the Mesh Edge DX, showing a reasonably clean pair of heels with a framerate average of 47fps at Maximum quality settings.

Crysis stretched the Mesh Edge DX a little more, where we saw 33fps in our standard ‘Low' test (1024x768, DX9, High rendering). By the time we'd upped resolution to 1400x960 though, using DirectX 10 and High quality rendering, the Mesh was wheezing somewhat at 20fps.

DirectX 11 workout

Which leaves DirectX 11 games. Our first test was with the Unigine Heaven Demo benchmark test, where a virtual camera swoops over fantasy Roger Dean-style islands floating in air, then moves in and around highly detailed village scenery.

At its default settings - using DirectX 11 graphics, shaders set to High, tessellation enabled, anisotropy at 4, anti-aliasing off, and a screen resolution of 1024x768 pixels - the Mesh Edge DX rendered the gorgeous scenery at a mildly jittery framerate of 15.9fps. We dropped shaders to Medium, and saw 16.6fps. You'd need to lower your settings somewhat here to meet a smoother 25-plus frames per second.

Call of Pripyat is the third installment of the STALKER game, a first-person shooter set after a second nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, from Ukrainian developer GSC Game World. The game's benchmark takes you around the ruins of the former Soviet terrain - only this time in richer DirectX 11 detail.

Using the benchmark's default settings - DirectX 11, Medium quality rendering, enhanced full dynamic detail, and using the Mesh laptop's full 1920x1080 resolution, the Mesh Edge DX averaged a just-tolerable 23.6fps framerate.

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

Mesh Edge DX: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM
  • 6MB L2 cache
  • 15.6in (1920 x 1080) LED-backlit glossy LCD display
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 320GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1333 RAM
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 with 1GB DDR3 RAM
  • HDMI, VGA
  • 3 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA/USB combo
  • gigabit ethernet
  • tray-load DVD±RW dual-layer drive
  • 2Mp webcam
  • stereo speakers
  • fingerprint scanner
  • multi-card reader
  • V92 dial-up modem
  • 54Wh Li-ion battery
  • 374 x 245 x 37mm
  • 2723g
  • 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM
  • 6MB L2 cache
  • 15.6in (1920 x 1080) LED-backlit glossy LCD display
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 320GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1333 RAM
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 with 1GB DDR3 RAM
  • HDMI, VGA
  • 3 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA/USB combo
  • gigabit ethernet
  • tray-load DVD±RW dual-layer drive
  • 2Mp webcam
  • stereo speakers
  • fingerprint scanner
  • multi-card reader
  • V92 dial-up modem
  • 54Wh Li-ion battery
  • 374 x 245 x 37mm
  • 2723g

OUR VERDICT

The Mesh Edge DX is a very quick laptop with plenty of performance on tap, enabling it to get its teeth into the most challenging of modern 3D games. It’s not quite the leader in gaming laptops, but neither is its price in the same league as the real heavy hitters either. It usefully adds DirectX 11 capability, which may prove of even greater worth over the coming year as more titles take advantage of these new graphics that really enhance realism. As an affordable gaming laptop or all-round family PC for the home, the Mesh Edge DX deserves recommendation.

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