Advent – 6555 review

quad-core gaming laptop for under a grand
Photo of Advent – 6555
£999

Better known for its range of low-cost PCs, it’s fair to say that Advent isn’t the first brand name that springs to mind when you’re looking for a high-end computer. But with a quad-core CPU and sub-£1,000 price tag, the Advent 6555 gaming laptop certainly grabbed our attention.

Naturally, the Core 2 Quad Q9000 employed in the Advent 6555 isn’t the fastest Intel quad core CPU available. In fact with a clock speed of 2GHz it sits near the bottom of the quad core table (the fastest runs at 3GHz). However, as our benchmarks demonstrate, it’s by no means a slouch. Before we reveal its scores, though, we’ll take a closer look at the design.

Gaming laptops are often festooned with flashing LEDs and other eye-catching features, but the Advent 6555 is a relatively modest affair. Lifting the lid reveals a fairly plain-looking design. Advent has managed to squeeze in a numeric keypad, but the main QWERTY keyboard suffers as a result.

Although the majority are full-size, Advent has had to shrink some of the keys on the left to half-width, such as the ‘/’, ‘?’ and left shift keys. The arrow keys have also been squished, which is something of a surprise since this laptop is aimed at gamers. Having full-size keys throughout would be preferable, even it if meant a slightly bigger chassis.

We also noticed a fair amount of flex to the keyboard when typing, but otherwise the chassis felt robust and well-built.

A selection of touch-sensitive buttons is found just above the keyboard, allowing quick access to media playback as well as turning the 802.11n WiFi on and off. The stereo speakers on either side of these buttons kick out a fair bit of noise, but without a sub-woofer the audio has a tinny sound and you’ll want to hook up a decent external speaker set to accompany your gaming.

Despite the relatively low price tag, Advent has also found room in the budget for a Blu-ray reader: this sits on the left side of the chassis along with two USB ports, Gigabit LAN and a 56Kbps modem. A further two USB ports (one of which doubles up as an eSATA port) are joined by mini-FireWire, audio sockets and an SD card reader, with an ExpressCard slot on the right. VGA and HDMI outputs are at the rear, as is the power socket.

The 17-inch screen has a native resolution of 1440 x 900; a higher resolution would have been nice, but at this price you really can’t grumble too much. We did, however, find the horizontal and vertical viewing angles to be quite restrictive. It’s not a problem when it comes to gaming as you’ll probably be sitting directly in front of the screen, but you may run into problems when watching a Blu-ray movie with a group of people, for example.

Portability is never going to be a strong point with a laptop such as this, and weighing in at 3.5kg you won’t want to carry it around for too long. When running at full pelt, the 6555 lasted for one hour and 10 minutes on its battery, which is actually a bit longer than we expected. Go easy on it and you can expect around two hours’ use.

Inside, the Core 2 Quad Q9000 is joined by 4GB of DDR2 RAM, a 250GB hard drive and an ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card. There are faster mobile graphics cards available (some gaming laptops, such as the Rock Xtreme XSL8-9550, opt for a dual-card graphics setup), but the 4850 is a capable piece of kit.

In 3Dmark06, this machine notched up a mammoth score of 10,152 at a resolution of 1280 x 768; when we dropped down to 1024 x 768, this increased to 10,377. Meanwhile, in PCmark05 it managed an overall score of 7,744.

All very impressive, but since gaming is what this laptop is all about we also gave the notoriously demanding game Crysis a whirl. At the 6555′s native resolution of 1440 x 900 and with 4x anti-aliasing, we achieved an average of 25fps (frames per second); dropping the resolution to 1280 x 720 boosted the average frame rate to just over 30fps. Many desktop PCs struggle to cope with Crysis at all, so the fact the 6555 managed to deliver playable frame rates at such high resolutions is hugely impressive.

Company: Advent

Contact: 0844 561 0000


Verdict
Quite how Advent has managed to cram so much into a laptop for under £1,000 is a mystery to us. It's not without its fair share of issues and some may yearn for a higher native resolution, but in terms of performance the 6555 gives the majority of desktop PCs a run for their money. If you're looking for a gaming laptop but are on a tight budget, you'd do well to find better at this price.