The photos on Chillblast’s web site make it clear that this compact 13-inch gaming laptop is named after the USS Defiant – the nippy little battleship from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It lives up to its name too, providing the sort of speed and gaming power that you’d normally expect from larger, more expensive gaming rigs. See all laptop reviews.
There are a variety of build-to-order options available on Chillblast’s web site, but we reviewed the base version of the Defiant Mini 13, which costs a very reasonable £899.00 with a Haswell i7-4700MQ running at 2.4GHz (3.4GHz with Turboboost), 8GB of memory, 1TB Seagate Momentus hybrid HD/SSD, and nVidia GeForce GTX 765M in addition to Intel’s integrated HD 4600 graphics. Our review machine was supplied with Windows 8, but you can opt for Windows 7 for the same price if you prefer. See also The 8 best laptops: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2013?
The Defiant may not have its namesake’s heavy-duty battle armour, but it’s sturdily built, measuring 35mm thick and weighing in at 2.1Kg. That’s relatively heavy for a 13-inch laptop that doesn’t include an optical drive, but you should still be able to carry it around in a backpack without slipping a disc.
It gets off to a good start with a bright, colourful 13.3-inch display that provides full 1920x1080 resolution and wide viewing angles both horizontally and vertically. The screen isn’t touch-sensitive, but we doubt that many gamers will worry about that. More useful for gaming is the matte finish that helps to reduce glare and reflection when you’re lining up for a sniper shot.
The speakers are rather disappointing, though. They’re reasonably loud, but they produce an anaemic, tinny sound that is barely adequate for listening to dialogue on TV, let alone music or an explosive gaming soundtrack. You’ll almost certainly want to plug in some speakers or headphones when you settle down for a long gaming session.
The keyboard’s a bit cramped, too. It’s a standard QWERTY keyboard, but there’s an extra row of function keys running down the right-hand side of the keyboard. That reduces the space available for all the other keys, leaving a key pitch of just 16mm, which some people may find rather fiddly.
Those are our only real complaints, though, and the Defiant certainly provides good performance for a laptop that costs less than £1000.00. It produces a score of 4720 when running the general purpose PCMark 7 benchmark, which is solid and respectable rather than spectacular. However, that score reflects the use of a hybrid hard drive rather than a dedicated solid-state drive, and the Defiant can certainly handle heavy-duty desktop applications such as video-editing or audio-recording.
And the Defiant doesn’t disappoint when it comes to pure gaming performance. It managed 90fps without any trouble when running Stalker: Call Of Pripyat at 1920x1080 resolution with medium graphics settings, and sped right up to 150fps when we turned the resolution down to 1280x720. To take things a bit further we fired up Batman: Arkham City – and even at 1920x1080 with all the DX11 trimmings, high graphics and anti-aliasing, the Defiant still managed a perfectly playable 41fps. Dropping down to 1280x720 and medium settings allowed it to hit 52fps, so the Defiant really does provide good gaming performance for a laptop in this price range.
Battery life isn’t bad, either. Switching to the integrated HD 4600 graphics allowed the Defiant to hit four hours (240mins) when streaming video from the BBC iPlayer. That’s not exactly Ultrabook battery life, but it’s not at all bad for a gaming laptop, and should allow you to get some work done when you’re away from home.
There’s a large cooling vent on the left-hand side of the laptop, but the Defiant ran cool and quiet during our games tests. It was only sustained disk use – such as the lengthy installation process for the Batman game – that caused the cooling vents to occasionally kick up a bit of a racket.