Metabox PA70HS-G Gaming Laptop Review

Metabox PA70HS-G Gaming Laptop Review. We’re going to check out the PA70HS-G laptop from Metabox’s Prime-S series and find what it’s got to offer as well as how it performs in a range of gaming benchmarks. Metabox are an Australian company who specialise in high end custom laptops, basically you pick the model you’re after and then you can customize it to get it how you want.

Inside the box we’ve got a slim power brick and cable, instruction manual, warranty information, driver CD, and of course the laptop itself. First we’ll cover the basic specs of the laptop, but keep in mind that you can customize these quite a bit when ordering online to meet your requirements, so you might end up with something a little different. In this configuration there’s an Intel 7700HQ CPU, which is a quad core Kabylake chip running at 2.8GHz that can turbo up to 3.8Ghz. There’s 16GB of DDR4 RAM running at 2,400MHz, and for storage there’s a 256GB SK Hynix SATA 3 M.2 SSD which is running Windows 10 Pro, and a 1TB 5,400RPM Seagate drive for additional storage.

Metabox PA70HS
Metabox PA70HS

For the graphics there’s an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, and we’ll see how that goes with the 17.3” IPS WVA 60Hz 1080p panel, more on that in the benchmarks. As for network connectivity there’s a built in gigabit ethernet port, and Intel 3168 AC dual band WiFi card which also supports Bluetooth 4.0. All of this hardware is sitting inside a Clevo body, which has the usual black metallic look to it.

The aluminium alloy body of the laptop both looks and feels great, the build of these laptops has definitely improved from the ones I started reviewing over 18 months ago. The physical dimensions of the laptop are 41.85cm in width, 28.7cm in depth, and just 2.49cm in height, so the laptop is fairly thin considering the 1070 graphics inside. The total weight of the base model with battery is advertised at 3KG, however this can vary based on your hardware selection.

My particular configuration with the additional hard drive weighs 3.05KG, and with the power brick and cable the total increases to just under 4KG, so it’s not too bad for a 17” laptop compared to others I’ve looked at. As I’ve come to expect from Metabox laptops, the screen looks quite nice, as mentioned it’s a 1080p 60Hz IPS panel. You can optionally upgrade to 1440p or 4K, but in my experience 4K doesn’t look so great in Windows due to scaling issues at 17 inches.

As we’ll see in the benchmarks at this resolution the 1070 rips through most games, so you could probably consider upgrading to the 120Hz 1440p panel which may be a better match for the 1070. Regardless of panel type you choose G-Sync should be available. I’ve performed my usual backlight bleed test on the display, which involves having the laptop show a completely black screen in a dark room to help emphasize any bleeding around the edges. I then take a long exposure photo with my camera to help display any bleed, so basically this is a worst case scenario test. There’s just a tiny bit of bleed, but it’s fairly minor and I couldn’t notice it while using the laptop normally, though your results may vary. The brightness of the screen can be adjusted quite a bit, and the viewing angles are pretty good, no matter what angle I view the screen from I can clearly see all details and colours without any issues thanks to the IPS panel.

The surface of the screen has a matte finish to it, which I personally prefer as you can more easily see what you’re doing despite your lighting situation, as reflections are harder to see. While moving the lid I only found a tiny bit of flex, it was quite sturdy. Above the display is an inbuilt 2MP camera which is capable of full HD 1080p video. As expected the quality isn’t anything special, but it’s not too bad with good lighting, I think the inbuilt microphone sounds pretty good, but you can judge for yourself.

The keyboard’s great, I like the smooth texture of the keys and overall enjoy typing on it. The keys don’t make too much noise and feel nice to press. It’s a full sized keyboard with numpad, and all of the keys are RGB backlit, allowing you to customize the overall look, although you can only customize groups of keys together, rather than the lighting of individual keys. I only found a small amount of keyboard flex when pushing down quite hard, it’s not a problem and fine under normal use. The touchpad was great to use too, it worked perfectly right to all edges. There’s two physical left and right buttons at the bottom which are clicky but not too loud, and the fingerprint scanner is found toward the top left corner of the touch pad. There’s a couple of built in front facing speakers just under the display, and two small subwoofers underneath the laptop.

Although they look a little small they actually sound pretty decent as far as laptop sound goes. Now let’s check out the available I/O. On the left there’s the DC power input, HDMI 2.0 port, 2 mini DisplayPort 1.3 outputs, USB 3.1 gen 2 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, and 2 USB 3.1 gen 1 Type-A ports. Over on the right there’s 3.5mm headphone, mic and SPDIF jacks, SD card reader, 2 more USB 3.1 gen 1 Type-A ports, one of which is powered, gigabit ethernet port and kensington lock. As the body of the laptop is fairly thin the ethernet port needs to be pulled down to access it.

The front only features some basic status LEDs, while the back has nothing except some air exhaust vents. The lid has some slight grooves as well as the Metabox branding, and can easily be opened with one finger. Underneath there’s some air intakes to keep everything cool, as well as some rubber feet which both stop the laptop from moving around on flat surfaces when in use, and also rise it up slightly to help let cool air in.

As mentioned before we’ve also got the two subwoofers. There’s a 4 cell 66Wh battery, and with a full charge and doing basic tasks such as browsing the Internet and watching YouTube with the screen on around half brightness, keyboard lighting off and background apps disabled, I was able to use it for 2 hours and 45 minutes. While playing the Witcher 3 with medium settings with Nvidia’s battery boost enabled the battery lasted 1 hour and 12 minutes, so it did pretty well, remember there’s going to be a tradeoff between battery size and laptop size, and although this laptop is on the thinner side the 17 inch form factor gives it more battery space over its 15 inch counterparts. I didn’t have any major issues with the temperatures, which I was a little concerned about considering the specs in such a thin laptop with limited cooling space.

During normal use with an ambient room temperature of 20 degrees celsius, the CPU idled at 42 degrees celsius, while the GPU idled at 38. During benchmarking with the same room temperature, the CPU reached a maximum of 88 degrees celsius, while the GPU peaked at 78, however it’s worth noting the max CPU temp dropped about 15c while the GPU was idle. I left the tests going for over an hour and the temps had stabilised by that time.

The laptop was quite warm to the touch up behind the keyboard, which should be fine as you don’t normally put your hands there anyway. It also got quite warm underneath towards the back. I also found the laptop to be fairly quiet at idle, but quite loud under full load, which is to be expected based on the high end specs inside such a thin form factor. At idle it sat around the 35.8 decibel mark and I could barely hear it. While running my benchmarks it went up to 52.9 decibels, and when I manually maxed out the fans it peaked at around 56 decibels. I’ll also note here that there was no noticeable coil whine.

Finally let’s take a look at some benchmarks, we’ll first cover some real world gaming benchmarks followed by tests with various benchmarking tools. All tests were run at 1080p resolution with all Windows and Nvidia updates to date installed. In PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds I got great performance even at ultra settings, which still managed to stay above 60 FPS, though of course the framerate can dip down quite a bit depending on what’s going on, the more people in the area fighting the lower it will go.

In battlefield 1 with Direct X 11 we’re again getting really good frame rates even at maximum settings, even the minimums are still quite high, the game was always nice and smooth and played great. In The Witcher 3 with VSync and Hairworks disabled we’re getting a great experience even at ultra settings, with average frame rates well above 60 FPS, even the minimum frame rates are in that area. Watchdogs 2 also did quite well, in general I’ve found this one to require decent resources to get a good experience, and even at ultra settings the game was very playable.

As usual Shadow of Mordor is easily able to get really high frame rates, even at ultra settings on average we’re pushing over 100 frames per second, with minimums still above 60 at the worst case. DOOM also did well here, even at maximum settings we averaged over 100 FPS and the minimums weren’t too far behind, it was a smooth experience all round. Ashes of the singularity is another one that seems to like CPU, in this case I’ve tested both directx 11 and 12, and we can see that we get pretty good frame rates with extreme settings and below, with directx 12 giving us a little boost over 11. Rise of the tomb raider managed to maintain high average frame rates, however I found some of the minimums to be quite low during the benchmarking process.

As with ashes of the singularity I also found that Directx 12 gave a nice little performance boost when compared with Directx 11. Ghost Recon is another one of those games that seems to need a lot of CPU power, even with the 7700HQ I found it playable at very high or lower, ultra was alright but starting to get a little too slow for my liking here.

Now onto the benchmarking tools, while a useful indicator note that these results are less practical compared to the real world gaming results previously shown. Here are the results from Heaven benchmark with the tessellation set to extreme and anti-aliasing set to 8, and here are the results from Valley benchmark with the anti-aliasing set to 8, and both did fairly well.

I ran both the Fire Strike and Time Spy benchmarks from 3DMark and got scores of 13,146 and 5,131 respectively, pretty nice for a laptop. So we’ve seen that the laptop is capable of running many games at maximum settings above 60 FPS which is great, however it’s worth considering that we’ve got a 60Hz panel here, so in most cases even at maximum settings we’re producing frames that will never be displayed. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve found Nvidia’s 1060 to be a nice sweet spot for 1080p gaming, and personally I find the 1070 a little overkill for 1080p.

Sure you can run most games at max settings and maintain above 60 FPS, but I think getting a panel with a faster refresh rate could be worthwhile to take advantage of those extra frames. As mentioned earlier, you can upgrade the display to a 120Hz 1440p panel, however the increased resolution will in turn lower the frame rate, and as I don’t have that panel here to test I can’t say if the frame rate will still be high enough to make use of the 120Hz panel.

Otherwise I could see the laptop being paired with an external display with higher refresh rate as a possible option too which could help better utilize that 1070. In Crystal Disk Mark the SSD performed around 554 MB/s in sequential reads and 268 MB/s in sequential writes. This is to be expected from a modern SATA 3 based SSD, although the writes are a little lower with this specific Hynix model. You can optionally upgrade to a faster PCIe based SSD which will further improve speeds significantly, or add a second M.2 drive. There’s also a 2.5” drive bay which as mentioned contains a 1TB hard drive. It only gets around 127 MB/s in sequential reads and 120 MB/s in sequential writes which is about all you’re going to get from a 5,400RPM drive.

The laptop comes with a 2 year warranty with the option of extending to 3 years, and in the past I’ve found dealing with Metabox support to be a great experience overall. They’re based in Perth Australia and they’ve been helpful over the phone when troubleshooting a problem. Overall I’m pretty impressed with this laptop, and while I’m generally not a fan of 17” laptops due to the larger size and weight, this one wasn’t a problem owing to the fairly thin form factor and I wouldn’t mind taking it with me while travelling if I really wanted to do some gaming, it’s certainly got the horsepower and pretty good battery life considering the specs.
Personally I find it hard to justify the 1070 with a 1080p 60Hz panel, but if you’re going to use it with an external monitor with higher refresh rate you should be set, otherwise you could save some money and look at the model below it, the PA70HP-G, which is essentially the same but with a 1060 instead, though of course the 1070 could be more future proof as games over the coming years need more graphics power to run, so it’s your call.

The PA70HS-G laptop with base configuration starts at $2,389 AUD with 8GB of RAM, the 1TB disk removed and no operating system at the time of recording, so about $1,870 USD for my international viewers, and then take off 10% of that for GST. Many of the components can be further upgraded to suit your needs, so the final price will depend on your custom selection. You can check out their website at metabox.com.au and customize your own laptop based on what you’re after, and I’ve left a link in the post description for this specific model.

So what did you guys think of the PA70HS-G laptop from Metabox? I’ve found myself reconsidering the 17 inch form factor when it’s this thin and powerful, but I want to hear what you guys think down in the comments, leave a share on the post to let me know what you thought.

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