OnePlus 3T review

OnePlus is a company that doesn’t much like its reputation in the smartphone business as a plucky upstart. Yet that’s what it is, competing as it must with the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google for the crown of best smartphone in the world. The OnePlus 3, launched in June 2016, was a sublime blend of design and performance for just over £300 but nevertheless, here’s our OnePlus 3T review. See also: Best phones 2017.

So it’s odd that just five months later OnePlus has ended production of that handset, sticking to it’s motto of ‘never settle’ and released this upgraded version of the same phone, the OnePlus 3T. The company that prides itself on listening to its fans’ reaction to its products has boldly dared to update a handset that people have had for less than half a year. Will the move gain new fans while annoying existing ones, or both?

It’s hard not to compare this phone, when reviewing it, to the OnePlus 3. Since there’s only five months between iterative updates to a high-end phone, we have to compare the two to fully understand the reasons why.

OnePlus 3T: Midnight Black edition

Following the extremely limited Collette edition of the OnePlus 3T (just 250 units), the firm has announced the Midnight Black version of the phone. This is still a ‘limited release’ but doesn’t involve queuing up in Paris for.

The Midnight Edition is very similar but without the Collette branding and features “space-grade aluminum with three carefully applied dark coatings 14 microns thick and maintains the natural look and feel of metal.”

OnePlus said the 3T Midnight Edition is available from Hypebeast to start (the first 250 units) at 4pm on 24 March (UK time), then on the official store at a later date for those in North America and Europe. It comes in 128GB and 6GB of RAM only priced at $479, €479 and £439.

OnePlus 3T Midnight Black edition

OnePlus 3T Midnight Black edition

OnePlus 3T: Price and where to buy

The OnePlus 3T is on sale SIM-free and unlocked directly from OnePlus. Click here to view it – it’ll cost you £399 for the 64GB version and just £40 more for the £439 128GB version, which is now available to preorder. Both are currently available in the Gunmetal colour, which is slightly darker than the Graphite version of the OnePlus 3

The Soft Gold version is very good looking too, but is only available in 64GB

In the UK you can get the OnePlus 3T from O2 on a 24-month contract deal, for both the 64GB or 128GB models. Bear in mind that it’s only available on O2’s Refresh tariff that allows you to upgrade your handset more regularly.

OnePlus 3T: Design and build

Even the ‘s’ iterations of iPhones have an ‘s’ stamped on the back, but in this case there is absolutely no design change from the OnePlus 3 to the OnePlus 3T. The only change is in the darker colour option, the grey of which on the rear is a tad darker than the old model. The forthcoming Soft Gold option is exactly the same, and visually indistinguishable from its five month old brother.

This reinforces that OnePlus sees the 3T as a small tweak for the line, hoping as it does to not frustrate loyal fans that shelled out for a 3. The 3T happily retains an outstanding design, with build quality to rival any premium smartphone maker in the land. It does what Apple has still failed to do and made a 5.5in screen phone slim, svelte and usable with one hand (just).

Apparently carved out of one piece of space-grade aluminium alloy the OnePlus 3T measures 153 x 75 x 7.4mm and weighs 158g. The frame of the handset houses a power/lock button on the right edge, a USB-C port, speaker, mic and 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom and a volume rocker and OnePlus’ excellent Alert Slider on the left, leaving the top edge flat, curved and smooth. With a front facing fingerprint scanner that relies on haptic feedback as opposed to a physical button, this is a phone that screams ‘use me’ from the second you take it out the box.

In that box it also already comes with a screen protector pre-applied, handy if you want to use it with one. The only lines that break the dark gunmetal of our review unit are the aerial lines and the OnePlus logo that sits beneath a 16Mp camera that protrudes ever so slightly from the casing. The front facing camera sits next to the earpiece and is also an amazing 16Mp, something we’ll explore later.

At the launch event for the OnePlus 3T, co-founder Carl Pei explained that the company is always striving to do better; he used Apple’s design as a benchmark and the phone is one of the best looking handsets on the market, rivalling the matte black iPhone 7 Plus in the looks department, which is no mean feat. It does however remain slightly slippy, and is a phone that could be destroyed with one drop onto the pavement. We recommend one of OnePlus’ subtle but grippy cases that fit both this and the older OnePlus 3.

OnePlus 3T: Specs, hardware and performance

Much of the 3T’s spec sheet remains the same as its predecessor but there are also some important upgrades. Let’s take a look.

OnePlus 3T screen

Despite initial rumours, the OnePlus 3T has exactly the same display as the OnePlus 3. It’s a 5.5in Optic AMOLED with Full HD (1920×1080) resolution and 401ppi. By its own admission, OnePlus continues to ship a screen that recreates colours more vibrantly than most, but with the Oxygen OS skin of Android that it runs this feels right; the handset and feel of the software that the screen runs is right at home with the popping colours and bright whites.

There’s the option to calibrate the colours to your tastes though, and this is one example of the granularity of Android helping the OnePlus 3T more than most become a truly personal device.

OnePlus 3T processor, memory and storage

The OnePlus 3T’s upgrades are mostly all internal, and while they’re all welcome, it took a fair few days of use to see why it’s come to be. We’ve used the OnePlus 3 for a few months, so can draw decent comparisons – straight off, you need not upgrade for fear of missing out on processor power, speed or battery life if you own the older model.

Having said that the 3T is faster, yet only noticeably so if you are really hammering it at full pelt. It joins the Google Pixel and Pixel XL in having Qualcomm’s top of the line Snapdragon 821 processor, the current pinnacle of smartphone chips. While only the most graphically intensive games and busiest of multitasking days will make the 820 sweat, the 821 is faster on the OnePlus 3T. Going from the 3 to the 3T, the difference is noticeable if incredibly subtle.

In a full week of use we experienced absolutely no lag, slow app changes or overheating. It is truly like using a desktop at some times, and even has more RAM than some of those computers with 6GB on board. Pair that with Adreno 530 graphics and you have an obscenely powerful smartphone in your pocket – alongside your fat wallet full of the money you’ve saved by choosing it.

Our benchmarks show the OnePlus 3T runs equal with the best smartphones out there, though remember these benchmarks don’t represent real world use. The phones in this graph are the absolute best you can get right now, and broadly all perform to the same unbeatable standards.

Note: OnePlus has been caught cheating popular benchmarks such as Geekbench and GFXBench with its OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T. XDA-Developers accuses OnePlus of having configured the processor to automatically switch into overdrive mode when a popular benchmark is detected (you can read the full story here).

OnePlus has confirmed the practice and apologised, stating that In order to give users a better user experience in resource intensive apps and games, especially graphically intensive ones, we implemented certain mechanisms in the community and Nougat builds to trigger the processor to run more aggressively. The trigger process for benchmarking apps will not be present in upcoming OxygenOS builds on the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T.”

For now you can see our benchmark results below as accurate as they were run on OxygenOS before the changes were implemented. Also note that with the flagship-level hardware onboard both phones should be decent performers, and behaved as such during real-world testing.

The OnePlus 3T is available with 64GB of internal storage, but bear in mind there’s no SD card slot. The fact you only need to spend £30 more to get an impressive 128GB shows you that Apple charging £100 more for that jump in storage for the iPhone 7 is unnecessarily high. For most, spending that extra money will be well worth it.

OnePlus 3T fingerprint scanner and other specs

The fingerprint scanner is on the front bottom face of the device, which is still where these sensors work best, despite Sony trying the side and Huawei and others the back. The button is non-moving and gives the perfect level of feedback when unlocking the device or using a compatible app like Android Pay to verify your identity. Unlike the iPhone 7, it doesn’t feel like the whole phone is clicking down – it’s way better here.

Tapping the same sensor acts as a home button, and is so good that when we try phones with physical buttons it feels wrong. The best devices change our habits for the good, and the OnePlus 3T has the best fingerprint sensor/home button combo of any current smartphone on the market.

OnePlus 3T battery life

The non-removable battery clocks in at 3,400mAh, a step up from the 3,000 of the OnePlus 3. The internals are exactly the same dimensions but the battery is denser, hence the increase. In general use the phone will last a full working day which is about average. We left the house most days at 8am with 100%, and by the time we rolled in from work at about 6.30pm the OnePlus 3T had about 30% left in the tank.

This was when using the device as our primary email sender and using apps like Slack, Spotify, Pocket, WhatsApp, train timetable apps, GPS battery-drainers like Google Maps and several others throughout the day. The battery percentage chugs down at the expected rate, and we didn’t experience any dramatic unexpected fall-off.

On one particularly busy Google Maps day out in Barcelona even after 12 hours on the go the battery was sitting at 15%, and that was with the phone used to navigate, take photos and video and more besides. Obviously it depends what you’re doing on the device, but for all but the most intensive users, the OnePlus 3T will last the whole day no questions asked and lighter users should be able to get a decent chunk into a second day with the 3T.

Included in the box is OnePlus’ Dash Charger. The brick and cable, only when used together (important to note this point) charge the phone to 60 percent in 30 minutes. This is OnePlus’ claim, and it rings true – Dash Charge is excellent. It means you need not charge your 3T overnight, instead giving it a quick boost when you get up in the morning. There’s also a Dash Charger for your car in the shop.

Not only does this encourage a better way to charge your phone (sometimes lithium-ion batteries degrade with overnight overcharging) while allowing you to top up very quickly, but also more importantly means you won’t panic about running out of juice for all but the most phone-focussed of days – and that is something that every smartphone user wants, bar none.

The slight downside is that this fast charging only works with the included combo of plug and cable. Any other USB-C cable will charge it, but at a slower rate. OnePlus sells the Dash Power Bundle for £27.53.

OnePlus 3T cameras

The slim casing of the 3T means the camera protrudes slightly. This is an acceptable pay-off for what is an excellent sensor: a 16Mp lens with f/2.0 aperture and an LED flash. It’s also capable of shooting video at 4K resolution or 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second. We used the camera extensively in Barcelona, and the results were very impressive.

The panorama mode stitched together a mountain view exceptionally well, giving full detail to the scene. A football match in cloudy weather was reproduced well with no blur and in a low-lit church the camera reproduced colour and shadow to a high quality level.

The front-facing 16Mp camera is an upgrade on the 8Mp of the OnePlus 3, and is one of the highest resolution selfie cameras on the market, matching as it does the megapixel count of the rear one. It’s an impressive upgrade, but one that only the most ardent of selfie fans will notice. However, it did improve the quality of video calling considerably, and will benefit those into Snapchat stories and similar services.

OnePlus 3T: Software

Refreshingly the software update that the OnePlus 3T ships with changes the user experience in all the right ways to represent a clean, intuitive and pleasant to use Android version that is every bit as good as Google’s own version. By basing its Android skin Oxygen OS closely to stock Android Marshmallow 6.0, OnePlus has been able to make small tweaks that don’t completely change the way we used the phone, but enough to notice positive improvements day to day.

An update to Android 7.0 Nougat began rolling out for the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T at the end of December, ahead of many of its rivals. Note that we have reviewed this phone running Marshmallow, not Nougat.

Oxygen OS 3.5.1 is the new version, compared to the 3.2.7 we had installed on the older OnePlus 3 at the time of writing. Nevermind the decimals, here are the differences. Menus, in settings for example, look cleaner with no lines between options, a neater top bar and a bluer default font from the green of the 3. To be honest, they are minor changes, like the layout of the notification bar that you pull down from the top of the screen. In the comparison pictures below you can see the changes (OnePlus 3 on the left, OnePlus 3T on the right).

The OnePlus 3T cleverly combines a physical slider with profile changes to quickly switch between modes. Here, the three-position switch goes between Silent, Do Not Disturb and Ring. These are customisable and are useful for putting your phone into a quieter mode for meetings or when you go to bed for example. This is different to how the slider worked on the OnePlus 3, where it went between Silent, Priority Notifications and All Notifications. The functions are basically the same, but again have some software tweaks within the settings menu.

All in all, the alert slider is a great idea, improving on Apple iPhone silencer switch, and is a button you’ll miss if you use other phones afterwards.

The best thing about these tweaks is the way they simply blend into the OS and are intuitive, thoughtful upgrades. OnePlus confirmed that the 3 and the 3T will both receive updates to Android Nougat 7.0 in December 2016. We hope there is more of the same incremental updates rather than a full overhaul, because Oxygen OS 3.5.1 is very good indeed. Nor would it make sense for OnePlus to work so hard on an upgrade that most users would only see for one month.

OnePlus 3T: Should I upgrade from the OnePlus 3 to the OnePlus 3T?

So it’s crunch time; you bought a OnePlus 3 in June and five months later, do you upgrade? Well, no, you shouldn’t in our opinion. The OnePlus 3T may have, on paper, a better processor, bigger battery and better selfie camera but if you own the 3, it isn’t worth spending another £400 for those features. If you can sell on your old device for a good price then perhaps you’d be tempted, but if the company has done the 3T this fast, it surely can’t be that much longer until we see a OnePlus 4.

The OnePlus 3 has, like the newer 3T, 6GB RAM and come December will also run Android Nougat. Sure, we love the changes to the 3T and the Gunmetal colour is awesome, but you can’t even see it with a case on and in everyday use, you can barely notice the difference in speed. You can just about tell the battery life is better though, but it was already excellent on the OnePlus 3. Don’t panic – you don’t need to upgrade unless you want a OnePlus phone with 128GB of storage.

OnePlus 3T: Should I get the OnePlus 3 or the OnePlus 3T?

This is a trickier question, and one that ran with a time limit – OnePlus has ceased production, so once they’re gone, they’re gone and the 3T will be the only phone the company still sells. On the day the 3T sent on sale in Europe, the OnePlus 3 was completely sold out on the company’s website

At the time of writing however the OnePlus 3 was still available on contract from O2. We’d wager this is the last way in the UK to get the old model brand new – otherwise, look to eBay.

At the RRP, if you only need 64GB and want to save £70, the OnePlus 3 remains an outstanding piece of hardware that will be more than adequate at the high end of the market for at least another year and a half. That £70 could buy you OnePlus’ new Bullets earphones, an official case and a spare Dash Charge Bundle with change to spare. 

However, if you want 128GB on board storage, you’ll have to go for the OnePlus 3T, setting you back £439. It’s also the best way to get hold of the Soft Gold colour if you prefer – the OnePlus 3 has sold out of this colour, while the 3T will soon be stocked in it. So you’ll have to wait if you prefer Gold to Gunmetal, but the 3T is the way to go.

Yet for all the similarities, we’re still inclined to recommend the OnePlus 3T. It has a bigger battery, lightning fast speeds and a selfie camera that means video calls are actually worthwhile experiences. While nitpicking indeed, the software updates are also commendable, and the overall experience is (just) better than the five month old, soon-to-be-gone OnePlus 3. It’s an odd dilemma to have from a company that had until now made your buying choice very simple.

In a few weeks you’ll only be able to get a OnePlus 3T, but for now, there’s a decision to be made for prospective buyers.

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Tom's Hardware Steam Giveaway: 'Ghost Recon Wildlands'

There are just two days left to enter our latest Steam Giveaway! Up for grabs are three copies of Ghost Recon Wildlands. It’s been a while since the last Ghost Recon game–nearly five years, to be exact. We played the game in January and were impressed by what is said to be Ubisoft’s largest open-world game.

To enter, head to the forums and answer the discussion prompt. You can also win by entering the raffle hosted in the giveaway thread.

The Steam Giveaway will run until 12pm EDT on Friday, March 24. The game will be awarded to the winners as a Steam gift. A Steam account is required to receive the prize and play the game.

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GOG Galaxy Update 1.2 Brings Cloud Saves, FPS Counter, And More

GOG brought its Galaxy client out of beta with a 1.2 update featuring cloud saves, a frames per second counter, and many other new and improved features. These additions should make GOG’s marketplace for DRM-free games even more attractive to anyone willing to try something besides Steam.

Many of Galaxy’s new features are common to other clients. There are desktop notifications for game invites, friend requests, and messages; support for screenshots captured by pressing F12 in supporting games; indicators that show if an achievement is common or rare among GOG users; and more. You can enjoy many of these same features on Steam, or if you’re a console gamer, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and their respective online services.

Not that GOG needed to reinvent the wheel, of course, and the company smartly incorporated all these whirligigs and doodads into the Galaxy 1.2 update. Many features (desktop notifications, achievements, and more) can be disabled. You can also limit Galaxy’s bandwidth usage at certain times; decide on a per-game basis if you want to enable automatic updates; and view notifications, the FPS counter, and online chat via an in-game overlay.

All those options should make it easy for you to configure Galaxy to your liking, or you can just play games purchased from GOG without ever installing Galaxy on your system–the company said that “GOG Galaxy will never be mandatory.” Use it, don’t use it, GOG titles don’t care either way. That, and the fact that DRM-free purchases mean you don’t need an internet connection to play a game, makes GOG more flexible than some other sellers.

Still, it’s clear that GOG would like you to at least experiment with Galaxy. The client offers crossplay support that lets you join your friends in multiplayer games even if they use Steam instead of Galaxy, and it offers access to the same games as the GOG website, including those from the Steam Early Access-inspired “Games in Development.” (GOG Connect, which lets you import Steam games to your GOG library, is site-only, however.)

You can download Galaxy 1.2 via GOG’s website. The client is available for Windows 7 and later as well as macOS 10.8 and newer. GOG said a “Linux version of our client is planned eventually” but that it doesn’t “have an expected release date right now.” You can also learn more about GOG’s vision for Galaxy in the video below.

GOG.com Galaxy: Introducing a DRM-Free Online Gaming Platform!

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Two major US technology firms 'tricked out of $100m'

A Lithuanian man has been charged with tricking two US technology firms into wiring him $100m (£80.3m) through an email phishing scam.

Posing as an Asian-based manufacturer, Evaldas Rimasauskas tricked staff into transferring money into bank accounts under his control, US officials said.

The companies were not named but were described as US-based multinationals, with one operating in social media.

Officials called it a wake-up call for even “the most sophisticated” firms.

According to the US Department of Justice, Mr Rimasauskas, 48 – who was arrested in Lithuania last week – deceived the firms from at least 2013 up until 2015.

He allegedly registered a company in Latvia which bore the same name as an Asian-based computer hardware manufacturer and opened various accounts in its name at several banks.

‘Fake email accounts’

The DoJ said: “Thereafter, fraudulent phishing emails were sent to employees and agents of the victim companies, which regularly conducted multimillion-dollar transactions with [the Asian] company.”

The emails, which “purported” to be from employees and agents of the Asian firm, and were sent from fake email accounts, directed money for legitimate goods and services into Mr Rimasauskas’s accounts, the DoJ said.

The cash was then “wired into different bank accounts” in locations around the world – including Latvia, Cyprus, Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary and Hong Kong.

He also “forged invoices, contracts and letters” to hide his fraud from the banks he used.

Officials said Mr Rimasauskas siphoned off more than $100m in total, although much of the stolen money has been recovered.

Acting US Attorney Joon H Kim said: “This case should serve as a wake-up call to all companies… that they too can be victims of phishing attacks by cybercriminals.

“And this arrest should serve as a warning to all cybercriminals that we will work to track them down, wherever they are, to hold them accountable.”

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I Got Lost For Hours In 'Darknet' For PSVR: Hands On

Darknet is not the type of VR game I would expect to hold my attention. When I imagine a great VR game, I usually envision a first-person game that makes me feel like I’m somewhere other than my living room. To me, virtual reality is about transporting me to a new place. I want to walk on the surface of Mars, and pilot a space ship, and shoot zombies in the face, and throw slushies at my customers. Darknet is none of those things, and yet I find myself drawn to its simple but challenging gameplay.

Hack The Mainframe

In Darknet, you become an elite hacker-for-hire with the tools needed to steal data from “the world’s most secure networks.” Your goody bag includes viruses, hydras, exploits, and worms, which help you get past the strongest security systems around. You must poke and prod at the target network to find vulnerabilities and take down the security measures one by one so that you can retrieve sensitive data and collect a bounty.

Of course, hacking in Darknet doesn’t resemble the real thing in any way, but don’t let the video game hacking trope scare you off; Darknet is a surprisingly fun puzzle game.

Darknet starts off with an easy to understand tutorial puzzle to get you familiarized with the controls and the game mechanics. The first tool you learn to use is the basic virus, which lets you take control of vulnerable nodes (represented as spheres on the map). When you deploy a virus to your target, the view zooms in to show a puzzle that you must solve so that you get control of the node’s core.

Each puzzle features a variety of blue hexagons that represent antivirus software, which is there to stop you from reaching the yellow core and taking control of the node. Antivirus software stops your viruses, but your viruses also knock out the antivirus programs. With enough viruses and a strategic delivery plan, you can reach the core of any node.

Node puzzles vary in difficulty. Some nodes are unprotected and can be cracked with a single virus; others are protected by shields and firewalls, which increase the difficulty and lower your chances of success. The difficulty of the puzzles increases in relation to the size of the node, too. Larger nodes have more complex puzzle structures with more antivirus applications than smaller nodes.

Uncontrolled nodes are usually orange, but you’ll notice that some of the larger nodes are blue instead. The large blue nodes are called Sentinels, and they provide additional protection for adjacent nodes. Sentinels power the shield and firewall layers on neighboring nodes. If you take control of a Sentinel, you also deplete the protections it provides to other nodes.

Spread The Infection

Once you have control of a node, you can use it as a jumping off point to launch the other attacks on the network. Hydras are the second class of cyber-weapon that you get access to. When you deploy a hydra into the network, it seeks and infects any adjacent unprotected node and continues to spread until a node with a shield stops it in its tracks. The third class of attack is called an exploit, and those are used to weaken the firewall protection of the network. You can use exploits to launch a directed attack towards a Sentinel node to remove one of its firewall layers. Sentinels sometimes have a layer of ice on them, too, which must be removed before you can take control. The exploit attacks can remove the ice for you.

The fourth and final class of cyber-weapon at your disposal is the worm, which you can deploy from a node you control. The worm infects a nearby node and nullifies the target’s shield protection. A worm won’t necessarily infect an adjacent node, though; it could skip the adjacent node and move to the next one.

The worm attack isn’t available to you at the start of the game. You must unlock the worm after collecting a few bounties. Remember, you’re a hacker-for-hire looking for a pay day. The missions you accept come with a bounty to collect once you’ve retrieved the desired data. Bounty missions pay you in BTC, which you can use to purchase upgrades. The worm upgrade will cost you 10 BTC, but it’s well worth the investment. Other upgrades include faster viruses, starting funds, and access to deeper levels of the web. 

BTC isn’t the only currency in the game. While you’re hacking, you’ll collect money from the nodes you control. That money doesn’t do you any good after a bounty mission is complete, but during the mission, you can use the money to purchase hacking applications. Each time you purchase a virus, hydra, exploit, or worm, the price of the next one will go up. You must continue to take control of additional nodes to help pay for more hacks so that you can gain access to more fortified targets. Fortunately, when you purchase a virus, it’s yours to keep for the duration of the bounty mission. You can deploy all your viruses every time you hack a node.

The ultimate goal of any bounty mission is to reach the central root node. The root node contains the data that you’re being paid to access, and it’s heavily fortified. Expect to find several firewalls and a shield protecting the root, and an array of sentinel nodes that you must get through before you can take control of the root node.

Once you finish a bounty mission and collect your reward, there are many more missions to chose from. Some bounty offers are more lucrative than others, but the more it pays, the tougher the challenge. And some of the bounties have time limit stipulations, which adds a psychological factor to throw you off your game and make you choke.

And therein lies the beauty of Darknet. The game is simple on its surface, yet it’s filled with challenges that keep you pressing on to beat the next one. I thought I was going to play Darknet for 20 minutes or so to get a feel for the game. Little did I know, three hours would pass before I gazed upon (actual) reality again.

Darknet is available on PlayStation VR for $14.99. You can also get the game on Oculus Rift and Gear VR.

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Sager NP8156 Gaming Laptop Review


The gaming laptops we’ve tested have all been from the usual suspects: Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, Acer, and even Razer and Dell; all with design teams to customize and style systems with purpose. But some boutique systems shops source plain, barebones laptop shells or chassis from the likes of Clevo. Exhibit A: Sager. We’re testing the company’s NP8165, which comes equipped with an Intel Kaby Lake Core-i7 processor and Nvidia’s GTX 1060, and is based on the Clevo P650HP6-G.

Specifications

Packaging

Because the Sager NP8156 is based on a Clevo design, the packaging is really just a generic box. The laptop is secured with three pads of Styrofoam. You’ll find a disc with drivers and manuals, screws for your additional SSDs and HDDs, a (rather large) user’s guide, a warranty policy, and two extra thermal pads for the GPU’s VRAM. The 200W AC adapter is stored in a separate compartment inside the box.

Exterior

The crisp, minimalist lid design includes strategically beveled edges, giving the Sager NP8165 a clean, yet unmistakably gamer aesthetic. The exterior features a black, brushed metal finish. MSI’s laptops use brushed metal as well, but those models are a bit glossier, whereas the NP8165’s finish is much more muted, so fingerprints and smudges won’t be the issue they are on MSI’s laptops; but keeping the surface clean still isn’t easy. Finally, Sager stamps its company logo front and center on the Clevo-based chassis.

Inside, on the bottom half where the trackpad is located, we see the same brushed metal texture, but the area surrounding the keyboard and upward uses a matte black plastic construction. This could be the result of some cost-cutting, but the plastic construction doesn’t feel cheap. If anything, you won’t have to clean the plastic bits as much as the brushed metal surfaces.

The front, back, and side edges all use the same plastic construction. There are two exhaust vents: one on the back edge and one on the left edge. The back edge features an ornate, chrome border surrounding the rear exhaust and I/O ports. The exhaust vents aren’t the flamboyant designs we’ve found on many laptops.

The Sager NP8165’s bottom panel is constructed out of plastic as well. There are abundant air intake cutouts on each side of the bottom panel, but this doesn’t compromise the panel’s rigidity. In fact, the panel is quite sturdy. There’s an additional exhaust vent on the left side of the chassis. There are four rubber feet at each corner and two plastic feet at the top and bottom edges of the panel to elevate the NP8165 slightly. Overall, the chassis construction is robust; there are no flex points, and even the areas constructed out of plastic don’t feel flimsy.

The Sager NP8165 (or rather Clevo’s design team) receives top marks for excellent speaker placement. Too many laptop manufacturers place speakers on the front lip of the system. Normal usage, such as typing and using the trackpad, will naturally block the speakers and inhibit the audio experience. The NP8165’s speakers are placed right next to the hinge, making it pretty difficult to block the sound.

There isn’t much to say about the NP8165’s hinge. It’s a bit stiff, and it swings back by about 135°.

The NP8165’s right I/O consists of a Kensington lock, an RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet port, USB 3.0 port, two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, two card readers for MMC/RSMMC/SD/Mini-SD/SDHC/SDXC cards, a headphone jack, an SPDIF jack, and a microphone jack. The left side includes an HDMI 2.0 port, another USB 3.0 port, and two Mini Displayports. Finally, the backside has a final USB 3.0 port and the DC power input.


Display

The Sager NP8165 features a Full HD (1920×1080) matte IPS display with excellent viewing angles. The display also features G-Sync. The NP8165 can support three additional displays with its HDMI port and two Mini DisplayPorts.

Input Devices

The NP8165 features a scissor switches, a number pad, and customizable RGB lighting. The keys are well spaced and have a nice springy feedback. The RGB lighting features four levels of brightness, and the lighting areas are divided into the left and right hand sides and the number pad.

The trackpad is composed of several inputs. First is the trackpad, which is non-clickable. Tracking is decent, but the trackpad’s surface has a small bit of drag, and that introduces jerkiness when trying to make small, fine movements. Two separate buttons sit below the trackpad for left and right clicks. Separating the buttons from the trackpad eliminates issues like non-uniform clicking and dust traveling under the trackpad. Between the left and right click buttons is a fingerprint sensor for added security. The sensor is easy to setup, and logging in with it takes less than a second.

Interior

The bottom panel is secured to the chassis via 15 screws. Under the panel you get a clear view of the NP8165’s guts. Every laptop we’ve reviewed uses a unified cooling solution with heat pipes connected to both the GPU and CPU heat sinks. The NP8165’s cooling solution is split in two, with the CPU using one fan on the bottom left corner and the GPU using two fans on the bottom right. We’ll see if that makes a difference.

There are two memory slots in the middle, two 2.5″ SATA slots and one M.2 slot for storage on the top right, an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 above the GPU’s exhaust fans, and a 60WH battery on the top. There are a few thermal pads attached to the bottom cover that are intended for the GPU’s MOSFETs and inductors.

Software

Pressing Fn + / on the number pad opens the Control Center software, where you can adjust keyboard backlighting, create macro profiles, and track key usage statistics. Lighting effects include spectrum cycling, breathing, flashing, wave effects, and more.

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