The Mesh Ultima i5-B is a rebadged variant of MSI’s GX660R gaming laptop. First impressions of the machine are that it’s a bit chunky but quite aesthetically pleasing, finished in black with touches of silver trim (the touchpad buttons themselves are silver, and provide a robust clicking action). The whole build is sturdy, if a bit heavy, with the notebook weighing in at 2.7kg, making it not the most portable of portables. It’s far from immovable, though – and the chunkiness isn’t surprising, given what’s crammed inside.
Memory aplenty, and a fast HD
An Intel i5-460M processor running at 2.53GHz provides an engine with grunt, backed up by a generous 6GB of DDR3 1066MHz system memory and an AMD Mobility Radeon HD5870 that boasts 1GB of GDDR5 dedicated graphics memory. The spacious 1TB hard disk is noticeably nippy, loading up applications under Windows 7 Home Premium in one shake of a lamb’s tail. The screen is a 15.6in, 1920×1080 resolution LED backlit display.
Plenty of connections are provided: two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0, an e-SATA port, an audio line out, headphone socket, multi-format card reader and an HDMI output. There’s integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, plus a built-in HD webcam and a bog standard DVD writer. The keyboard is a chiclet-style affair with well spaced keys, providing a comfortable typing action.
Above the keyboard, the notebook sports a touch panel with an array of quick launch buttons. One dab of a finger can turn Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on and off, and the Eco button flicks between different display modes designed for gaming, movies and office work.
Another button turns on some fancy lights around the edge of the laptop’s case, although this (possibly thankfully) didn’t appear to function properly on our review machine. It didn’t seem to work under Windows, although we could use it to switch on the lights during boot-up. This was a bit weird, but not a big deal, as to be quite honest we didn’t want the lights on anyway.
Smooth Turbo gaming
The most interesting button – given that the Ultima is a gaming machine – is the one labelled ‘Turbo’. Its full title is the ‘Turbo Drive Engine’ or TDE, which is an MSI technology that steps up the already swift i5 processor. Putting the Ultima in Turbo mode showed clear benefits when we put the system through some gaming benchmarks.
Running Dragon Age II in full HD under DX11 with high details and 4x anti-aliasing, the laptop managed to average 21fps throughout a busy fight scene. With the turbo mode on, it ran the same scene at an average of 46fps, running very smoothly indeed.
Taking a spin in Dirt 2, again under full HD DX11 with high graphics details and 4x anti-aliasing, the Ultima maintained a steady 30fps, which was boosted to 43fps with turbo on. With the details upped to ultra, the machine still kept a playable average of 31fps using the TDE mode.
Bringing out the Stalker: Call of Pripyat benchmark, the machine recorded around 45fps in the main tests at full HD with DX11 ultra details. The very intensive final benchmark resulted in an average of 21fps – an excellent result for a laptop.
We were more than impressed with the Ultima’s turn of speed. The combination of the processor, graphics card and turbo feature, backed up by 6GB of system memory and the fast hard drive almost made us forget we were playing games on a laptop.
The 15.6 inch display also proved remarkably well suited for gaming, with no noticeable ghosting. The same was true of movies, which were brightly rendered and pretty crisp. Our only reservation is that the screen is a touch more reflective than we’d like under more brightly lit conditions, but that’s true of many laptops these days.
What’s also nice for gamers – there’s a definite theme building here – is that a pair of integrated circular stereo speakers and a mini-subwoofer kick out some decent volume. They’er is definitely far better than your average laptop speaker system, although don’t expect too much – a decent pair of headphones is still the way to go if you want some proper bass.
Battery life is decent considering how gutsy some of the components here are. Using a mid-level brightness setting and running a constant, intense gaming session, we got 1h 50mins out of the battery. Under normal Windows use, we found it lasted for three hours.
Not great figures by any means, but solid enough, as the Ultima’s horsepower was never going to be economical. As with many desktop replacement-style notebooks, you’ll likely have it plugged into the mains more often than not, anyway.
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- Games fly on it - so much so that we almost forgot it's a notebook.
- Battery life isn't the best.
A superbly capable gaming laptop that's difficult to fault. Given the components on offer, with a fast processor (plus Turbo mode), quality graphics, 6GB of memory and a swift 1TB hard disk, the Ultima i5-B represents excellent bang for your buck. It performed admirably across all gaming benchmarks and was predictably quick under Windows.
The laptop is heavy on the juice, but such is the nature of the beast. And the display is perhaps a smidge more reflective than we'd ideally like, but in the face of all the good stuff, that really is small potatoes. Nay, miniature potatoes. In fact, make that crisps.