Note that the exact laptop as tested was made specially for PC Advisor, and interested buyers should refer to https://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/reviews to see this model priced at £879 inclusive of VAT and delivery.
The PC Specialist Optimus V is billed as a mainstream laptop, but its specifications are pretty impressive by any stretch. Sitting at its heart is the 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor, a choice from the new Haswell range. Intel's latest batch of chips may have left desktop users slightly underwhelmed, but laptops are more natural territory for them. See Laptop Advisor.
Nonetheless, it's worth remembering that this particular laptop is something of a beast. The PC Specialist Optimus V is not exactly sleek, and feels like a fair weight to support. We weren't very keen on the cooling system, and within an hour the machine was feeling pretty hot on our lap. All in all, this isn't a laptop you're going to be buying for its portability. See all mid-range laptop reviews.
Neither is the battery life revolutionary. We got three hours and 29 minutes from the 8-cell lithium-ion in MobileMark, which is a pnot unexpected runtime for a laptop with an i7 processor and a 17.3in screen – the not dissimilar (minus Haswell) PC Specialist Optimus IV scored only 2 hours and 55 minutes, by comparison. See also: Group test - what's the best sub-£1000 laptop?
All in all, the PC Specialist Optimus V isn't specified to get the most out of Haswell. Nonetheless, it's got some very good features. That Haswell chip is backed up by 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory, Kingston Hyper-X Genesis, in a setup that feels remarkably similar to that of the Schenker XMG A523.
Indeed, the machines offered very similar speed figures. The PC Specialist Optimus V scored a mighty 6099 points in PCMark 7. This is only 36 points slower than the Schenker, and in truth, these scores are so similar as to be virtually identical. It certainly suggests good underlying performance for this machine, as very few laptops have until recently been able to crack the 6000 mark.
This great showing is due, in no small part, to the provision of SSD technology, and the 120GB Kingston V300 drive gives the PC Specialist Optimus V an extra injection of acceleration at all the right times.
Plenty of mass storage is provided as well, though, with a Hitachi Travelstar drive offering 1TB, albeit showing its mainstreamness with its 5400rpm speed.
An optical drive is also built in, and the 4x Pioneer Blu-ray combo gives you the option of playing an HD film as well. The PC Specialist Optimus V's disc drive was occasionally noisy, though, and the tray didn't always slide in as easily as we might have liked.
Gaming is capably handled by the main nVidia GTX 765M controller. (A dedicated gaming version, with the real heavyweight 780M on board, is also available.) This 2GB card delivered playable rates on even fairly complex games, just as long as we kept down the resolution and/or details a little.
In Hard Reset, the PC Specialist Optimus V could muster a mere 32 frames per second at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with High settings and full 4x anti-aliasing. This is playable, but only barely. It would be much better to drop to Medium settings and a resolution of 1280 x 768, where we saw the framerate average 74fps. Faster yet, we abandoned anti-aliasing altogether for a maximum of 110.7fps.
Incidentally, AMD's MLAA form of anti-aliasing produced very playable rates of 93fps and 63fps in 1280 x 768 and 1920 x 1080 respectively.
There's a similar story elsewhere. In Stalker Call of Pripyat the PC Specialist Optimus V produced an average score of 142 at 1280 x 768 at Medium quality, moving down to 79fps at 1920 x 1080 and High. Aliens vs Predator saw 79fps at the lower resolution, falling to 20fps at 1920 x 1080. An older game, like FEAR., stretched to 179fps.
In most cases, the 765M should make a very good job of games, just as long as you're not looking to play at the highest resolution, or with all details pushed to max.
The PC Specialist Optimus V laptop also has an onboard Intel 4600 controller. There's no need to use this for games, but you can disable the GTX 765M and just use the 4600 at other time. We tested it with some games anyway and, for integrated graphics, the 4600 worked remarkably well.
The PC Specialist Optimus V could turn out a healthy 49fps in FEAR, and managed 52fps in Hard Reset at 1280 x 768, without anti-aliasing. 4x AA pushed this down to a less tolerable 20fps, while 1920 x 1080 cut it to a mere 10fps.
In Stalker, 39fps was achieved at 1280, dropping to a less bearable 18fps in 1920 and with all options at High. Chances are you'll still want to forget about integrated graphics for gaming, but there's more than enough there for general PC applications.
Once you get to the screen, the sheer size of the PC Specialist Optimus V becomes understandable. It’s a vast 17.3in screen with a 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution that certainly allows you to engross yourself in movies and games. You can do so even while sitting in bright sunlight, thanks to the screen being matt rather than gloss finish. This does mean you don't get the sparkling hues of glossier screens, although the balanced palette still delivers clear text and a light but visually pleasing colour scheme.
Viewing angles aren't great, so you may not want to have too many people crowding round the laptop at close quarters. The large screen undoubtedly makes a big impact though.
Four USB ports are sprinkled around the PC Specialist Optimus V laptop. Only the single port on the left side is a USB 2.0, with the right side showing two USB 3.0 ports, plus a hybrid USB 3.0/eSATA. HDMI and gigabit ethernet connectors are also located on this side, along with a 9-in-1 memory-card drive. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are also built-in.
A 2.0Mp webcam is located at the top of the screen. The much-touted sound is delivered through a pair of Onkyo speakers. You get plenty of volume from these, although bass reproduction is limited, and it starts sounding painfully noisy during louder passages.
The PC Specialist Optimus V's keyboard has pleasantly large keys, although the touch feels a little lightweight, and accuracy wasn't always at its best. The 45 x 90mm trackpad is adequate, if a bit sluggish in places. Overall, the input devices are quite usable, but not of the highest quality.
Noise levels were an issue with the PC Specialist Optimus V. It often added an extra 10dB to the room, and that’s pretty noticeable for a laptop. Frequently the sound levels were going up by a further 5-9dB, making this a pretty loud model.
The PC Specialist Optimus V is hungry on power consumption too, measuring around 33 watts when idling, moving up to close to 80 watts when being pushed to the max during gaming.