If you don't mind going for an unbranded laptop, then the PC Specialist Lafite 2 should be very near the top of your notebook shopping list.
Can configure without an OS
Good looking machine
Finish isn't perfect
Battery life is disappointing
Lacks a DisplayPort
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In the world of laptops, there's a myriad of smaller vendors which exist alongside the main players, many of them sharing the same basic chassis designs, which explains why they are called original design manufacturers. Going down that route helps keep costs (otherwise known as the bill of materials) low – it also means that a lot of laptops amongst smaller vendors will look remarkably similar.
However, from afar you'd mistake the Lafite II from PC Specialist for another laptop entirely – the Apple MacBook Air. They both share the same distinctive aluminium material, rather thick bezels, a large touchpad and a large central hinge.
It does look suitably posh although closer inspection shows a few asymmetrical bulges (check out the accompanying pictures) on the lower side as well as edges – and the display panel – that do not perfectly align. None of this is a deal-breaker but you just need to remember that this is not the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air.
Compared to the latter, the Lafite II is a tad heavier (at 1.4Kg), slightly thicker (at 18mm) and covers a smaller surface area (it's the same width at 325mm but less deep at 219mm). PC Specialist's model however wins the price competition hands down though – you can buy two for the price of a MacBook Air, both sporting similar configurations.
There's absolutely no logo or branding of PC Specialist anywhere except for a lonely, easily removable, sticker at the back, again due to the need to keep costs down but we reckon it might have been a good PR exercise to strategically place the nice PCS logo.
Using metal, even if it is aluminium, means that the laptop feels (and actually is) pretty solid. There's little flex on the display panel or on the keyboard (unless you're a fan of the old hammer-the-keyboard game). Speaking of the keyboard, there are a few intriguing decisions taken by the design team that might not go down well with end users.
The up and down arrow keys are half the size of the left and right ones. Also, there are two function keys for some odd reason, and the power button is located on the keyboard itself (just above the backspace key), which could be a bit of an issue if you accidentally hit it while touch typing.
Typing on this keyboard felt suitably comfortable, with the right amount of spring, and the key travel isn't too shallow. As usual, your mileage may vary. Note that the keyboard is backlit (there are tiny indicator lights on top of it as well), and the keys in general are not as crammed-in as on some laptop keyboards.
The trackpad, the Elan Smart-pad, is centrally located on the palm rest and is probably the weakest feature of the laptop. We found it unresponsive at times, both with deep and shallow double-clicking actions. There was a noticeable lag when moving the mouse cursor around the screen and although this can be compensated for by tweaking the appropriate settings, you shouldn't have to do this.
The rest of the laptop, though, makes up for any niggles. The 13.3-inch display, a non-touch IPS panel, is absolutely gorgeous with no noticeable bleed and excellent viewing angles at native resolution (which is full HD, 1920 x 1080 pixels).
Underneath the laptop there are air vents to help cool down the CPU and you get one USB 3.0 port, one USB Type-C (that's the upgraded USB 3.1 Gen 2), one HDMI and one SD card slot on the right side of the device with a reset button, the power connector, a second USB 3.0 port and the audio socket on the left side. There's no DisplayPort connector, something we'd like to see more on laptops if 4K monitors are to become more popular.
There are two tiny speakers on the sides but don't expect much from them. They lack depth and there's a heavy dose of distortion once you pump up the volume.
12 screws secure this monster's underbelly which means that opening it up is actually surprisingly easy to do, unlike most other Ultrabook laptops with which it competes.
- Also check out our PC Specialist Enigma VI review
Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.