Hands-On And First Impressions
[Editor's Note: The following content is intended to be a first look, with some hands-on impressions and a few benchmarks. We will be conducting full reviews of gaming laptops soon enough, with a battery of exhaustive tests, including more thorough benchmarks (we're currently revamping our benchmark suite), and deeper analysis. But we wanted to get some of the newer models into the lab for some early testing.]
Texas-based DogHouse Systems sent us one of its Mobius ES gaming laptops, which sports an Intel Core i7-6700HQ host processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M graphics module. The company may not be as recognizable as some of the big-box brands we've worked with, but DogHouse Systems' mantra is to build with perfection in mind. Let's see if the Mobius ES lives up to those aspirations.
The Mobius ES starts at $1995, but the unit we received was configured with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ, 16GB of DDR4-2133, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M 3GB graphics module and a 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD. At $2545, that's a lot of money, particularly compared to notebooks with similar specifications. But we do like the IPS display, the dual-band 802.11ac wireless module (with Bluetooth) and that spacious 1TB SSD.
Between the 970M and 1080p panel, you should realize a pleasant gaming experience. But there's a GeForce GTX 980M and/or G-Sync-capable display available, too.
There are four USB 3.0 ports on the Mobius ES, and the one on the left is capable of charging your peripherals or mobile devices. Display outputs include HDMI 2.0 and two mini-DisplayPort connections. A 6-in-1 card reader provides more storage connectivity, and audio output is addressed through an S/PDIF output, a microphone input and a headphone output jack. There is even a SIM card slot that supports 3G and 4G carriers for on-the-go Internet access.
The Mobius ES is light for its size and purpose, weighing in at 5.5 lbs. The hinges are firm, but not stiff. Despite its modest weight and slim design, the Mobius ES does not feel cheap. The construction feels similar to other high-end gaming laptops.
There aren't any annoying software trial offers loaded on the Mobius ES. However, it does come with BioExcess (used to configure the fingerprint scanner) and Flexikey (keyboard macro and statistic gathering software). DogHouse Systems ships the latest drivers and updates, so I was able to turn the machine on and go without playing catch-up.
Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5 software powers a pair of two-watt Onkyo speakers and one subwoofer. I played some music to hear how the setup sounded, and was surprised that it provided exceptional tone and response. The low-end range isn't as broad as higher-end laptops we've tested, but it's effective enough in movies and games. This wasn't the most mind-blowing audio experience I've had with a laptop, but it definitely exceeds our usual expectations.
The Mobius ES features a 15.6-inch IPS panel with LED backlighting and a native 1920x1080 resolution. It is bright and responsive, and thanks to IPS technology, its viewing angles are nice and wide.
Although you get two mini-DisplayPort 1.2 interfaces and an HDMI 2.0 port (capable of 4K at 60Hz), don't expect to game at 3840x2160 on an external display. A 1280-core GPU and 3GB of GDDR5 simply won't achieve playable frame rates. However, that combination is perfect for smooth performance at 1080p. It might even be capable of 1440p, so long as you turn down your detail settings.
The Mobius ES features a white LED-backlit keyboard with scissor-switch keys. You can't change the lighting color, but you can adjust its brightness. The provided Flexikey programs macros and collects statistics, so the keyboard falls short of other, more customizable input devices. Fortunately, it's at least comfortable to type on.
This touchpad, like most others, quickly became the bane of my existence. The buttons are easy to click and the pad itself is responsive, but after a few minutes I had to switch back to a wired mouse. Similar to other laptops with a fingerprint scanner between the touchpad buttons, I found myself accidentally activating the BioExcess software by flicking the sensor. Again, this could be attributed to my large hands or a clear bias against touchpads, but a mouse is a must-own if you're gaming on a laptop.