Hands on: XMG U727 review

A beastly dual-GPU laptop has arrived

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

XMG’s newest SLI gaming laptop has retro good-looks and top of the line GTX 1080 SLI hardware under the hood.

For

  • Twin 8GB NVidia GTX 1080 GPUs in SLI
  • Fully customisable multi-coloured keyboard
  • Retro 90s good looks
  • Powerful and bassy speakers

Against

  • Big and heavy with two power supplies
  • Is air cooling enough for two GPUs?
  • Should you wait for Kaby Lake?

XMG’s upcoming U727 is one of several SLI gaming laptops on the horizon, but how will it measure up to the competition? Acer’s ridiculous Predator 21 X will feature the new Kaby Lake CPU, but that’s not due out until 2017. So if you’re looking for a laptop that flaunts multiple GPUs, and doesn't come with the added bulk that water-cooling brings, then you might be hard pressed to beat this one.

Inside our test machine sits a sixth-generation Intel Core i7-6700K Skylake chip, which is ripe for overclocking. XMG’s machine, which is out imminently, is considerably lighter than the Predator at around 5.5 kilos (12 pounds).

That may sound a lot, but it's 2.5 kilos (5.5 pounds) less – quite a difference when you're lugging it around. While still the weight of a small child, it certainly feels and looks more like a conventional laptop than a wild concept machine.

Visually it’s in line with XMG’s retro 90s style. It’s industrial, black and therefore unashamedly trying to appeal to hardcore gamers. Encased in a smudge-resistant matt black aluminium, the lid’s design emits shards of light that look like glowing cracks in the earth’s crust.

These and the keyboard backlights are colour customisable using the inbuilt GameFeet program (we’re not sure what the name refers to exactly). For instance, when set to dance mode, colors flit across the QWERTY keys in quick succession. Coupled with the incredibly bassy and powerful speakers that sit below the screen, the U727's speakers aren't only fit for playing gamnes, they make the unit into a mobile disco of sorts.

The keyboard itself is responsive, and while the keys aren’t as deep as the Cherry MX setup as seen in an MSI GT80 Titan, they’re snappy and satisfying to use. The touchpad is a decent size with a small fingerprint scanner in the top left corner. There’s also a full numpad for all your shortcut and spreadsheet needs.

Two GPUs require two large power supplies, and the ones supplied are pretty standard for SLI laptops. Obviously they add to the bulk when in transportation, and from what we could tell, you’ll need both to charge it.

Connecting them up is easy as the two matching round connectors fit into a much smaller block that then plugs into the back of the laptop. It feels pretty sturdy, if a little clunky. But with that much power going through, something well-made and safe is appreciated.

One of the best features is the glorious 3,840 x 2,160 pixel-resolution Ultra HD (or 4K) display. Its anti-glare coating works a treat and the colours are deep and consistent throughout.

Along the sides are stacks of connectors, including two ethernet ports and a handful of USB ports, including a couple of Type-Cs, two mini DisplayPorts plus the standard headphone, microphone and an added bonus of both a line in and an out. 

In everyday use it seemed quick to wake up, but with that much power you’d expect it to. The machine we had was an early test machine with a few niggles to the fan profiles that will be ironed out before release, hence the lack of benchmarks in this article.

Early verdict

While water cooling is expensive and bulky, perhaps it’s the only way to get near desktop performance out of a laptop. So we’re looking forward to comparing the review machine’s benchmarks with a watercooled SLI such as Asus ROG GX800. Another interesting comparison would be to see what the benchmarks are like compared to an equivalent desktop. This setup apparently will retail at £4,415 (around $5,520 or AUS$7,400), which is by no means cheap but we have very high hopes for the U727. That's mainly because it could prove to be the right balance between power and portability in a GTX 1080 SLI setup.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.

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