PC Specialist Enigma VI review

Surely there's a catch with this sub-£500 notebook?

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

PC Specialist has outdone itself here – quite simply, get this model while you can as it's one of the best laptops on the market for under £500.

For

  • Great value-for-money
  • Smart looking
  • Impressive performance
  • Component quality

Against

  • Could be more compact
  • Disappointing battery life
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • Poor speakers

There was a time, not so long ago, when laptops were mostly bulky and rather unattractive and a thin laptop was either very expensive or full of compromises that made it a pain to use. Intel changed this by making thin and slim not only desirable but also more affordable by focusing on reducing power consumption while increasing performance.

This has spawned a number of fast and thin, but most importantly relatively affordable laptops over the past few years: Lenovo's Yoga range (Yoga 3 or Yoga 2), and the Asus Zenbook UX305 to name just a few.

Now, even smaller players like PC Specialist are entering this lucrative segment where looks are more important than pricing and margins are significantly bigger than at the very bottom end of the market.

And here we have a Core M laptop with a price tag of £479. All other Core M laptops in the UK cost at least 25% more. This is no small feat, in other words…

PC Specialist Enigma VI top

Design

The PC Specialist Enigma VI we're testing today is an absolute stunner of a laptop in terms of design with a classy brushed metal finish on top and at the bottom. It's a mere 15.8mm thick at its thickest, tapering to around 9mm at the front. At 230 x 340mm, it's much bigger than an A4 sheet – think of it as a flattened laptop. It is relatively heavy, however, for an ultraportable laptop, hitting 1.4kg on the scales.

PC Specialist Enigma VI close

Unlike the PC Specialist Lafite 2 that we tested very recently, this notebook bears a fair amount of stickers underneath but none should be too difficult to remove using the appropriate solvent. There are 12 screws holding the cover in place with four black rubber feet the size of pennies ensuring that there's a gap between the laptop's belly and any flat surface on which it's situated.

Note that there are no air vents needed since the processor this machine uses is remarkably power thrifty and therefore doesn't require any fans. Oh and note that one edge of the bottom cover is actually quite sharp and could easily leave a nasty cut if you're not careful.

PC Specialist Enigma VI ports

The left side of the laptop only houses the power connector while the right side plays host to three USB 3.0 ports, one mini-HDMI connector, a card reader and an audio connector. We'd prefer to see a DisplayPort connector or a USB 3.1 Type-C port but we guess that this might be coming in the next iteration.

PC Specialist Enigma VI side

Open the laptop and you'll find a 14-inch screen (rather than a 13.3-inch one) with a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. This IPS display exhibits all the features you'd expect to find on a mainstream model – it offers vibrant colours out of the box (although its brightness could be better) and decent viewing angles.

If you're looking for speaker grilles, there aren't any as the speakers are located underneath the keyboard. That's right – the (tiny and boxy) sound comes through your keys and if you are typing as you're listening to music, this will have a negative impact on your listening experience.

One thing's for sure, don't buy this machine if you're an audiophile.

PC Specialist Enigma VI keyboard

Speaking of the keyboard, I was disappointed by the shallow travel of the keys and the location of some of them – they lack the sharpness of more expensive models like the Dell XPS 13 or the Yoga 3 Pro, two equally thin laptops. The same could be said of the touchpad which lacks the oomph of more upmarket laptops; it is unresponsive at times and seemingly requires some effort to 'activate' it.

That said, consider us, reviewers, as being spoilt for choice. The truth is, we've seen much worse input devices and this flaw is more or less the biggest sore point of this review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré (Twitter, Google+) has been musing and writing about technology since 1997. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, developing an uncanny attraction for anything silicon, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro.

Tags