Aftershock Halo - More Than An Ultrabook

1/16/2014 9:33:53 AM

Right now, Ultrabooks are the notebooks that consumers are lusting after, and with good reason. These thin, light, and sexy notebooks are powerful enough to handle all the basic desktop applications, and more, without issues. You can even get in a spot of gaming, of course, if you're willing to drop the visual quality settings down a few notches.

However, according to Aftershock - a Singapore-based boutique laptop builder - there is a new breed of user to consider. Customer feedback show that this small pocket of users require (or rather, demand) the portability of an Ultrabook, but with more power than a typical Ultrabook can provide.

This led Aftershock to develop the Halo, a notebook with Ultrabook-esque dimensions, but with some significant differences. Instead of the usual dual-core, 15W, Ultrabook CULV processor, the Halo packs a 45W, full-voltage, quad-core mobile processor in the form of the Intel Core i7-4750HQ, which runs at 2GHz. This powerful chip allows users to work much faster on CPU-intensive tasks like graphics rendering, something which an Ultrabook can do, but at a much slower pace.

Aftershock Halo

Aftershock Halo

In our benchmarks, the Aftershock Halo managed to do well against other Ultrabooks. With PC Mark 8 - a synthetic benchmark that tests the machine's performance on all fronts - the Halo's score of 3,783 PC Marks was about 30% better than Ultrabooks running Intel's fourth generation Core U-series (U for Ultrabook) CULV processors.

However, that's not all that a full-voltage processor brings to the table. The Core i7 processor on the Halo also comes with top-tier Intel Iris Pro 5200 onboard graphics. In the 3D Mark 2013 synthetic gaming benchmark, the Halo achieved scores double that of some Ultrabooks we've tested, which rely on Intel HD 4400 onboard graphics.

To be fair to the Ultrabooks tested, this level of performance from the Halo won't be apparent when you're browsing the web or typing out an assignment. Its effects will only be seen if you're editing any type of media (images, videos, etc.), as tasks will be finished faster. The Halo also allows for gaming, but at modest settings (let's face it, integrated graphics still don't hold a candle to discrete solutions), so don't expect fancy textures or high resolutions if you decide to run some games with the Halo.

In our benchmarks, the Aftershock Halo managed to do well against other Ultrabooks

In our benchmarks, the Aftershock Halo managed to do well against other Ultrabooks

Also take note that the Halo's high performance also comes at a cost. The machine might come with a large 53.28WH (multimedia notebooks have a similar size battery) battery, but the processor and onboard GPU on the Halo consume much more power than a regular Ultrabook. In the PC Mark 8 battery life benchmark - which simulates intensive use - the Halo lasted for three hours 28 minutes. Of course, with more conservative use and judicious power management, you should easily be able to extend this a few hours more.

As you can probably tell by now, the Halo's appeal is in its thin form factor and better- than-your-usual-Ultrabook performance. Design-wise, Aftershock actually went with a ready-made shell from their OEM suppliers, with little to no input on the actual design of the chassis.

That turned out to be a good thing, as the Aftershock folks mentioned that the decision kept overall costs down, letting them focus on procuring better components for what really mattered: the guts of the Halo.

Thankfully, the Halo isn't ugly, and actually looks quite presentable with its gun-metal grey exterior. And if you're not a fan of that color, Aftershock offers the option of coating the Halo with any color car paint you choose, and for free too.

The hinge is rigid, but it's designed to be lifted with only one hand

The hinge is rigid, but it's designed to be lifted with only one hand

If you want something fancier, you can also choose to cover your machine in vinyl wrap (typically used for cars), which comes in much more designs. However, this will cost you $55 for the machine's lid, and $150 for the whole machine.

But of course, being able to cover the Halo with the color of your choice isn't going to help anything if it's fragile. Again, Aftershock's suppliers delivered; the machine's build quality was good, thanks to the thick polycarbonate (a.k.a plastic) material used. The Halo also has a magnesium alloy lid, which admittedly isn't as rigid as aluminum, but still manages to lend the Halo extra rigidity that makes the entire machine feel robust, and ready to take on the abuse you dish out.

Unfortunately, despite good overall build quality, the Halo's keyboard leaves us underwhelmed, as it flexes quite obviously. You can't really feel it if you're a soft and gentle typist, but the more enthusiastic keyboard warriors used to the robustness of mechanical keyboards will find this flex annoying.

There are plenty of USB ports and display options for the Halo

There are plenty of USB ports and display options for the Halo

We like that there's no similar problem with the Halo's large clickable trackpad. Clicks were registered with minimal force, which made the clickpad comfortable to use. It was also responsive, while its matte surface lets your finger to glide across, making navigating the Windows 8 interface a breeze.

While the general sentiments regarding the Halo are highly positive, users who are looking for a portable notebook should also ask themselves if they need the extra power that the Halo provides.

For the $2,111 that Aftershock is asking for the Halo, you'll no doubt find an Ultrabook that's not only thinner and lighter with better battery life, but cheaper and with a touchscreen as well. That said, the Aftershock is excellent value for money. At that price, you'll get 8GB of RAM, a full HD display (that is bright and with excellent viewing angles), a powerful CPU (and onboard GPU), and even a free coat of automotive-grade paint in the color of your choice.

The Aftershock is excellent value for money

The Aftershock is excellent value for money

Specs and price

·         Price: $2,111

·         Processor: Intel Core i7 4750MQ

·         Graphics: Intel Iris Pro graphics 5200

·         Connectivity: Bluetooth, WLAN (802.11 b/g/n)

·         Ports: 3x USB 3.0, 1x mini-Display, ix HDMI out, 1x headphone jack, 1x microphone jack, 1x RJ45, 1x card reader

·         Operating System: Windows 8 64-bit

·         Battery: 53.28 WH

·         Dimensions: 340 x 253 x 20.9 mm

·         Weight: 1.8 kg


·         Physique: 8.5

·         User-friendliness: 9.0

·         Performance: 9.5

·         Value: 9.0

·         Overall: 9.0


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