Attractively small chassis houses mid-range gaming power at a reasonable price.
GAMING LAPTOPS DON’T have to come in huge 17.6in chassis. Chillblast proved that last year with its Defiant Mini, which provided superb gaming performance in a 13in case and easily won a Best Buy award. The Defiant 2 Mini takes this already impressive laptop and raises its performance even higher.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the chassis, and we’re pleased about that. Some Clevo chassis can look square and boring, but this one has an angular two-tone design that looks even better closed than open. The lid’s matt-black soft-touch coating looks great, although it attracts fingerprints.
At over 3cm, the Defiant 2 Mini is thick for a 13in laptop. The responsive keyboard is comfortable to type on, although the keys don’t have a lot of travel. One thing that has improved, however, is the touchpad. We struggled to use even simple gestures such as two-finger scrolling on the last model, but although two-finger scrolling is now possible on the Defiant 2 Mini, we had to apply greater pressure than we’d like for it to respond.
You’ll find three high-speed USB3 ports on the right-hand side of the Defiant 2 Mini, and a USB connector on the left next to a large heat vent and two 3.5mm jacks for audio input and output. The laptop has HDMI and VGA outputs, so you should be able to hook up an external monitor. There’s also a Gigabit Ethernet port, an SD card reader and an Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 chip for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This conforms to the 802.11n standard rather than the newer, faster 802.11ac, although you can specify an 802.11ac adaptor.
The Defiant 2 Mini contains a good set of components, including 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Only one RAM slot is occupied, so you can add more memory later or when you order. As for storage, the Defiant 2 Mini’s 1TB hard disk has an 8GB SSD cache, so it’s faster than a traditional mechanical hard drive.
The Defiant 2 Mini’s quad-core Intel Core ¡7-471OMQ processor is a slight upgrade over last year’s Defiant Mini, as it runs at a base clock speed of 2.5GHz rather than 24GHz and can Turbo Boost to 3.5GHz. The Defiant 2 Mini scored a superb 94 overall in our PC benchmarks. That’s just six points less than our reference desktop processor, so you’ll have no trouble running your programs.
Like many gaming laptops in this price range, the Defiant 2 Mini includes an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M mobile GPU. The GTX 860M has 2GB of GDDR5 memory and a clock speed of 979MHz. It may not be the fastest GPU in Nvidia’s 800 series but it can run the latest games at Medium or High quality settings. In Dirt Showdown at a resolution of 1,280×720 and High quality, the Defiant 2 Mini produced an average frame rate of 75fps, falling to 53fps when we raised the resolution to 1,920×1,080, which is commendable for such a small machine. When playing the gorgeous Crysis 3 at High quality, however, it could only muster an average frame rate of 27fps, which is juddery at best, with lots of stuttering when there’s lots of action.
In comparison, the larger but identically priced Scan 3XS Graphite LG156 (see Reviews, Shopper 319) managed an impressive 40fps in Crysis 3 using the same 860M chip. The Graphite LG156 is larger, though, and the extra ventilation it provides has a positive effect on performance. Nevertheless, the Defiant 2 Mini should be able to play the latest games at decent quality settings for a while yet.
Despite being compact, the Defiant 2 Mini isn’t intended for use while travelling. Its battery lasted just three hours and eight minutes in our test, which won’t get you far.
Happily, the 13in Full HD screen is excellent, covering 84.9 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. Its contrast levels are similarly impressive at just over 1,000:1, so you should be able to see details in murkier gaming scenes without having to tweak the settings.
The Chillblast Defiant 2 Mini is a great choice for gamers who want compact gaming performance. Its screen is excellent, and its performance has improved over last year’s model, as has battery life. It wins a Recommended award. If you want more power for a similar price, though, you should consider Scan’s 3XS Graphite LG156.