Notebookcheck

Review Schenker XMG A503 (Clevo W355STQ) Notebook

Florian Glaser (translated by A Kammel), 10/15/2013

Modest, fast, well-made. The XMG A503 is the newest model in Schenker Technologies' mid-range gaming series. The Ivy Bridge CPU and the GeForce GT 650M have been replaced by a combination of a Haswell CPU and a GeForce GTX 765M. Is this enough to satisfy our expectations?

For the original German review, see here.

The shear amount of high-end laptops currently available makes it harder than ever to stay on top of things, even in the smaller gaming segment. Those for whom a freely configurable system is paramount might have an easier time in choosing the right device. The German laptop maker Schenker Technologies is one of the few - and one of the best - companies in this market segment. And, as with its siblings, the brand-new XMG A503 can be customized individually on Schenker's website.

The 15.6-inch Full HD display can be had in both a glossy and a matte variant (optionally with an especially broad color space). Both dual-core and quad-core Intel Haswell CPUs are available, ranging from an affordable Core i5-4200M (2.5 to 3.1 GHz) to a prestigious Core i7-4900MQ (2.8 to 3.8 GHz). According to our own expectations - including those from this review - one of the cheaper variants should suffice for most users (no more than the Core i7-4700MQ).

Depending on the CPU, the A503 ships with up to 16 or 24 GB of RAM (three DDR3 memory banks are available). At least 8 GB of RAM are recommended to have some reserves for the future. Even more customization is possible in terms of storage: Conventional HDDs with up to 1.5 TB, hybrid models (so-called SSHs) and several SSDs can be chosen. Great: Thanks to two 2.5-inch drive bays and an additional mSATA slot, up to three hard drives can be used simultaneously (three with an ODD-Caddy).

The base model also includes an integrated DVD burner, but a Blu-ray drive is optionally available as well. Even the wireless modules can be customized (several Wi-Fi modems made by Intel and Qualcomm are available), as is the case for the keyboard layout. The laptop ships without any OS in order to keep the price of the base model down. Windows 7 or 8 cost extra.

Since we have already performed a number of reviews of the GeForce GTX 765M in tandem with a quad-core CPU (Alienware 14Asus G750JWMSI GE70One K33-3E, among others), we have ordered a XMG A503 variant with a "mere" dual-core CPU. At the time of this writing, our test device (see specs on the right) could be had for roughly 1200 Euros (~$1642).

Case

How we test - Case

Pre-series model without branding
Pre-series model without branding

The XMG A503 does not sport the same chassis as its predecessor, but rather the W355ST barebones of the Taiwanese company Clevo which - apart from a few details such as the lack of a fingerprint sensor and a differently designed speaker bar - comes quite close to the W350ST barebones of the now-discontinued XMG A523.

Despite of the silverish-gray color of both the lid and the palm rest, the A503 sports an overall modest design with a conventional shape and boxy lines (which will not be to the liking of all gamers) leading to an unspectacular appearance. It also appears a bit chunky when compared to slimmer competitors such as the Razer Blade or the MSI GS70.

Still, this is no absurdly thick 15-inch brick. Its dimensions of 37.4 x 25.0 x 4.5 centimeters (~14.7 x 9.8 x 1.8 inches) are as average as its 2.7 kilograms (~6.0 pounds) of weight, keeping it rather mobile (the power adapter measures 147 x 75 x 27 millimeters/5.8 x 3.0 x 1.0 inches and weighs 466 grams/~1 pound).

In terms of build quality, the laptop comes out as a decent device, but not as a great one. Not only are all surfaces made from plastic, but also there are some minor issues such as a slightly protruding keyboard and some clearances or misalignments. This might or might not be a specific problem of our pre-series test device - after all, the laptop is not yet available commercially.

In terms of sturdiness (which should be final), we were quite satisfied with the base unit. The display, however, feels wobbly and comes with low torsion-resistance, as do many displays. The massive image errors that occur whenever pressure is applied to the panel are not as normal, though.

We cannot comprehend why Clevo decided in favor of a glossy display frame, attracting fingerprints, dust and scratches like crazy. After all, the A503's more expensive 15-inch siblings, the P150SM and the P157SM, sport a matte display frame.

Nonetheless, the chassis can be called a "solid" product. Most customers should be content with its build quality.

Connectivity

How we test - Connectivity

In contrast to the XMG A502, most of the ports of the XMG A503 are located on the right hand side (instead of the left hand side). Luckily, they are placed as close as possible to the rear end of the device so that fans of external mice should not experience too much hassle with the protruding cables, even when the Ethernet, eSATA and HDMI ports are all big used.

Four USB ports (three of which are USB 3.0) and three audio jacks (Line In, Line Out, S/PDIF) should be more than enough for most users. In addition, the XMG A503 ships with a card reader and a Kensington Lock as well as a VGA port which is useful to connect older external displays without digital signal input. Overall, the variety of connectivity options is one of the strong suits of Clevo's barebones.

Wireless Communication

Those who want to save a little bit of money might be content with sticking to the base version, the often-used Centrino Wireless-N 2230, which sports support for Bluetooth 4.0, "Smart Connect" and "Wireless Display" while lacking in terms of dual-band functionality (it only comes with support for the 2.4 GHz band). The maximum data transfer rate is 300 Mbit/s, according to Intel.

In terms of effective range, the Centrino Wireless-N 2230 was neither the best nor the worst modem. 1-3 bars of Wi-Fi signal strength 15 meters (~49 feet) away from the router (with several walls in between) are decent, but the optionally available competitors offer more.

left: Kensington Lock, USB 2.0, S/PDIF, Line In, Line Out, optical drive
left: Kensington Lock, USB 2.0, S/PDIF, Line In, Line Out, optical drive
rear: VGA, power connector, fan vents
rear: VGA, power connector, fan vents
right: 9-in-1 card reader, 2x USB 3.0, eSATA / USB 2.0, HDMI, RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet
right: 9-in-1 card reader, 2x USB 3.0, eSATA / USB 2.0, HDMI, RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet

Maintenance

Maintenance is another strong suit of the XMG A503. While the smaller maintenance hatch beneath the device hides the primary 2.5-inch drive bay, the larger one hides the fan system, the CPU, the GPU, two memory banks and another 2.5-inch drive bay. The cooling system is completely accessible and can even be removed, if need be.

In order to access the third RAM slot and the mSATA slot, the keyboard has to be removed (see photos). The GPU cannot be swapped as the GeForce GTX 765M is fixed to the mainboard.

Step I: Lever the soundbar out of its anchoring (from the right to the left)
Step II: Unscrew the screws.
Step III: Pull up the keyboard.
Picture guide (keyboard removal)
preinstalled software
preinstalled software

Software

In contrast to a number of competitors, Schenker refrains from installing unnecessary tools and bloatware, removing the need to uninstall a lot of applications.

Accessories

There is not a lot to write home about in this section. Apart from a driver DVD, a short user guide and a little bit of hard drive tools (like screws), there is only a Nero 12 Essentials DVD in the box. Otherwise, the laptop just ships with its power adapter (120 Watts) and its 8-cell battery (weighing 426 grams/~0.9 pounds).

Warranty

All customers who live in Germany get two years of pickup & return service (including six months of instant repair service), while only bring-in service is included abroad. For 100 or 200 Euros (~$137 or $274), respectively, a warranty extension to 36 or 48 months can be purchased.

Input Devices

How we test - Input Devices

Keyboard

white backlighting
white backlighting

Fortunately, the chiclet-style keyboard takes up almost all of the available width of the device, allowing for large keys (~15 x 15 millimeters) as well as a full-fledged numpad with four columns. The layout feels very reasonable, even sparing us from a "castrated" return button as it is found in the case of the XMG P703, the P723 and the W503.

Typing feels rather nice, both the pressure point and the keystrokes are well defined. The crisp typing experience is boosted by the large (approx. 3 millimeters) clearances between the keys - leading to fewer typos - as well as quieter typing. We would not have complained about rounded off corners, though.

The F keys allow (via key combinations) for a number of special controls, like increasing or decreasing the brightness and the volume as well as activating or deactivating the touchpad, the display, the webcam, the wireless modem and the two-step backlighting system. The latter is the main improvement in comparison to the W350ST-Barebones. However, those who are keen on another color rather than white (or several, differently colored zones) will have to look at other devices.

Touchpad

Qualitatively, the touchpad is not quite on par with the keyboard. On our test device, Schenker omitted the installation of the correct drivers so that no multi-touch support was included (more about the gestures can be found in our review of the XMG A523).

Apart from this, the touchpad works decently, although it could be better in terms of both precision and gliding properties. It is also rather average in size (93 x 50 millimeters/~3.7 x 2.0 inches, more or less the typical value for a 15-inch device). The dedicated mouse buttons are a bit on the ramshackle side, but again, this is rather common for most laptops. Since the touchpad has been lowered into the chassis, it can rather easily be found even in darkness.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

How we test - Display

High-end laptops that lack a Full HD display are getting harder and harder to sell, especially for gamers. The XMG A503 stays true to this trend, offering a native resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. Our test device comes with the matte standard variant that is - quite in contrast to the more expensive Gamut version - incapable of yielding decent color space rendition levels. Close to 50% of the AdobeRGB color space and 75% of the sRGB color space should be sufficient for most casual gamers, but still these are not great specs.

379
cd/m²
360
cd/m²
371
cd/m²
343
cd/m²
367
cd/m²
357
cd/m²
361
cd/m²
386
cd/m²
357
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 386 cd/m²
Average: 364.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 89 %
Center on Battery: 367 cd/m²
Black: 0.46 cd/m²
Contrast: 798:1

The greatest strength of the CMN N156HG panel (the XMG A523 shipped with a dimmer LG Philips LP156WF1-TLF3 panel with quite a bad contrast ratio) is its superb maximum brightness: 365 cd/m² on average is much more than what most competitors offer.

Unfortunately, its black levels are not quite as good: 0.46 cd/m² lead to a slightly grayish appearance of black backgrounds. Deep blacks require 0.2-0.3 cd/m² or better. Still, despite this slight weakness, the overall contrast ratio comes close to 800:1 - a respectable result.

The display is not very well suited for professional graphic designers and similar people. Even though the CMN N156HG may be better than most of the competition (CalMAN grayscale, gamma and color accuracy values), it is still not good enough for any purpose which requires great color space rendition.

Schenker XMG A503 vs. sRGB (grid)
Schenker XMG A503 vs. sRGB (grid)
Schenker XMG A503 vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
Schenker XMG A503 vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
Schenker XMG A503 vs. XMG A523 (grid)
Schenker XMG A503 vs. XMG A523 (grid)
CalMan: Grayscale
CalMan: Grayscale
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN: ColorChecker
CalMAN: ColorChecker

Some light bleeding occurred at the left and right hand sides of the display (these might not be a problem for all users). In addition, the pixel grid (fine lines) can actually be noticed easily even from further away.

Outdoor usage, on the other hand, is an area where the XMG A503 shines - literally. Its combination of a very high peak brightness and a matte finish lead to an almost perfect usability score, with almost no annoying reflections (especially indoors).

Outdoor usage: Schenker XMG A503
Outdoor usage: Schenker XMG A503
Outdoor usage: Schenker XMG A503

One of the disadvantages of the cheap TN technology is its mediocre viewing angle stability. While this is not a huge problem when talking about horizontal deviations, vertical viewing angle stability fares much worse. All things considered, the image quality feels about right given the price of this device, but a high-end display this is not.

Viewing angles: Schenker XMG A503
Viewing angles: Schenker XMG A503

Performance

How we test - Performance

Processor

Haswell
Haswell

Intel had already released its Haswell-based quad-core CPUs a few months back. Now it is time for a number of dual-core processors one of which is used in our test device: The Core i5-4300M is an attractive mid-range variant which might very well be the ideal companion to the GeForce GTX 765M.

The clock speed of 2.6-3.3 GHz of the 22nm-CPU allows it to remain approximately on par with the Core i7-4700MQ (2.4-3.4 GHz) when it comes to single- or dual-threading operations, even though the latter sports four cores and a lot more L3 cache (6 MB instead of 3 MB). The TDP - crucial for cooling purposes and the battery life of the device - has been reduced as well, from 47 Watts for the quad-core CPU to just 37 Watts. In terms of features, the smaller sibling does not have to hide: Both Turbo Boost (for automatic overclocking) and Hyperthreading (virtual doubling of the number of available cores) are on board here, too.

Since the laptop does support Nvidia's graphics switch protocol Optimus, only the integrated GPU is put to use while the A503 is idle or while simple tasks (MS Office, web, video etc.) are to be performed. The HD Graphics 4600 would actually even suffice for some less demanding games. When more raw performance is required, the GTX 765M gets activated - of course increasing power consumption and decreasing battery life in the process.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ Memory
System info CPUZ SPD
System info GPUZ (HD 4600)
System info GPUZ (GTX 765M)
System info HWiNFO
System info CrystalDiskMark
System info DPC Latenzen
System information Schenker XMG A503

Turbo Boost

While the XMG A502 was not capable of making full use of its CPU Turbo Boost (it was deactivated under certain debatable conditions), the same does not hold true for the XMG A503. No matter whether we are talking about single-core or multi-core stress tests, we were always able to reach the maximum possible Turbo Boost clock speeds. As our screenshots show, the Core i5-4300M reached a plateau at 3.2-3.3 GHz (depending on the application): So, no more "Turbo holes" for Schenker.

Single Core Rendering
Single Core Rendering
Multi Core Rendering
Multi Core Rendering
CPU & GPU stress levels
CPU & GPU stress levels

CPU Performance

The exact performance levels of the Core i3-4300M depend primarily on the average utilization of its two cores - which depends strongly on the application in mind. During single-core tasks, it did not fall behind at all when compared to its quad-core brethren.

1.44 points during the single-threading test of Cinebench R11.5 is very close to the result of the Core i7-4702MQ (2.2-3.2 GHz, 1.44 points), used in the Acer Aspire V3-772G. The much more expensive Core i7-4700MQ and Core i7-4700HQ are barely faster (1.5 points and 1.52 points, tested with the Schenker XMG A523 and the Asus G750JW, respectively). Unsurprisingly, things look different when talking about the multithreading test: Even the Core i7-4702MQ beats the 3.47 points of the Core i5-4300M by more than 80%.

During real-life usage patterns in Windows, no significant differences can be noted. Standard tasks are no problem for the Core i5-4300M and even in more demanding applications, performance is almost never an issue so that price-sensitive gamers might want to opt for this CPU instead of a quad-core processor.

Cinebench R10
Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit (sort by value)
Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
13662 Points ∼38%
Core i7-4558U
Asus Zenbook UX301
13800 Points ∼39% +1%
Core i7-4702MQ
Acer Aspire V3-772G
22359 Points ∼63% +64%
Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
24313 Points ∼68% +78%
Core i7-4700HQ
Asus G750JW
24544 Points ∼69% +80%
Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit (sort by value)
Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
6402 Points ∼75%
Core i7-4558U
Asus Zenbook UX301
6339 Points ∼74% -1%
Core i7-4702MQ
Acer Aspire V3-772G
6131 Points ∼72% -4%
Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
6565 Points ∼77% +3%
Core i7-4700HQ
Asus G750JW
6612 Points ∼78% +3%
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
6402 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
13662 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
6808 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.44 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
3.47 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
54.08 fps
Help

Graphics Card

Information about the graphics card
Information about the graphics card
GPU Boost
GPU Boost

Looking at the laptop market today, it seems that the GeForce GTX 765M must be one of the most successful high-end GPUs out there. Despite its more-than-decent performance levels, this is mostly due to its good value-for-money ratio.

Although both the GTX 770M and the GTX 780M are more potent GPUs, most manufacturers decide in favor of not only a cheaper, but also a less power-hungry graphics card which is thus also easier to cool. The GTX 765M's core and memory clock speed of 850 and 2000 MHz are on par with the values of its more expensive siblings, but the number of shader units has been reduced to 768 (960 in case of the GTX 770M, 1536 for the GTX 780M).

In addition, the memory interface has been cut back to 128-bit, despite its 2048 MB of GDDR5-VRAM. Still, the GTX 765M remains much faster than its mid-range siblings (the GT 750M, the GT 740M and the GT 730M) as well as the older GTX 660M (which sports a mere 384 CUDA cores). As with all Kepler generation GPUs, the GeForce GTX 765M has been manufactured using a 28-nm process.

In order to achieve the maximum possible performance levels, we have replaced the preinstalled (and outdated) GPU driver version 311.27 with the most recent ForceWare version 327.23. The standard driver would actually decrease a number of benchmark results (e.g. in GRID 2Far Cry 3 and Hitman: Absolution).

5.9
Windows 8 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
7.2
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
7.7
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
5.9
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.9
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
8.2

GPU Performance

The most important question during our graphics and gaming tests has been whether there is a significant real-world difference between a dual-core and a quad-core system. To make it short: In most cases, there is barely any difference in terms of performance.

3DMark 2013 might be the best example for this: Using the brand-new WHQL driver, the XMG A503 can actually take the crown from other GTX 765M-based devices with a superior CPU, with 2518 points vs. 2385 points (One K33-3E, ForceWare 311.54) and 2366 points (MSI GE70, ForceWare 311.48).

The graphics-intensive Ungine Heaven 3.0 benchmark leads to a similar picture. With its native resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and tessellation set to "normal", the 15-inch laptop managed to yield 36.2 fps on average - a more-than-decent result, which would not have been better for a quad-core based laptop with the same GTX 765M (36.0 fps, Schenker W503).

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
4105 Points ∼18%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.54) / Core i7-4702MQ
One K33-3E
4136 Points ∼18% +1%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
4109 Points ∼18% 0%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
4103 Points ∼18% 0%
3DMark Vantage - 1280x1024 P GPU no PhysX (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
13584 Points ∼26%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.54) / Core i7-4702MQ
One K33-3E
13785 Points ∼27% +1%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
13397 Points ∼26% -1%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
13699 Points ∼27% +1%
Unigine Heaven 2.1 - 1280x1024 high, Tesselation (normal), DirectX11 AA:off AF:1x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
50.7 fps ∼27%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.54) / Core i7-4702MQ
One K33-3E
50.6 fps ∼27% 0%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
49.5 fps ∼27% -2%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
49.7 fps ∼27% -2%
3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
17589 points
3DMark Vantage12922 points
3DMark 114038 points
3DMark Ice Storm74904 points
3DMark Cloud Gate9207 points
3DMark Fire Strike2518 points
Help

Storage Devices

AS SSD Benchmark
AS SSD Benchmark

Those who never grow tired of reducing boot and loading times close to non-existence should definitely purchase the SSD-variant of the XMG A503. Our test device shipped with a 250 GB Samsung SSD 840 EVO MZ-7TE250 (see pictures in the right hand column) which offers a lot of performance at a moderate price point.

Indeed, the SATA III model reaches superb transfer speeds during the AS SSD benchmark, with sequential read and write speeds of 510 MB/s and 462 MB/s, respectively. This is better than the 500 GB Crucial M500 (480 MB/s and 413 MB/s, Schenker XMG A523).

Including 4K speed results (for a large amount of small files), both SSDs come out approximately on par (overall score of ~1000 points). The same holds true for the access times of 0.03-0.06 ms in case of the 840 EVO and 0.05-0.07 ms for the Crucial M500.

The enormous speed of the SSD might also be due to the Turbo Boost mode that is capable of increasing SSD performance levels by up to 10% - as a second, slightly slower benchmark result directly after the first one showed.

Samsung SSD 840 EVO 250GB
Sequential Read: 526.7 MB/s
Sequential Write: 478.6 MB/s
512K Read: 452.6 MB/s
512K Write: 285 MB/s
4K Read: 38.32 MB/s
4K Write: 116.2 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 391.6 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 273.3 MB/s

System Performance

Despite its "mere" dual-core CPU, the XMG A503 manages to yield impressively high results during the system benchmarks. A PCMark Vantage score of 18,628 points comes to lie barely behind that of the quad-core-equipped Schenker XMG A523. Things look even better for the A503 when employing PCMark 7 (5720 points instead of 5944 points). Let us now have a look at the fps measurements during actual games.

PC Mark
PCMark Vantage18628 points
PCMark 75720 points
Help

Gaming Performance

many games remain playable even with all details set to "high"
many games remain playable even with all details set to "high"

We are trying to look explicitly at titles which have been shown to be very CPU-sensitive during our review of the MSI GX70 (A10-5750M and Radeon HD 8970M). As expected, the GPU is usually the limiting factor in maximum settings. Thus, our demanding ultra setting was almost always handled every bit as well on the dual-core system as on a quad-core system (have a look at the table below the verdict).

Only after we reduced both the resolution (to 1366x768 pixels) and the quality settings (to "high"), did some games run 10 or even 20% slower on the dual-core machine (e.g. F1 2013Total War: Rome IIDota 2GRID 2Assassin's Creed III and Need for Speed: Most Wanted). With the notable exception of Guild Wars 2 (which loses 30%), no major disadvantages could be felt.

Still, the loss in terms of performance was far more pronounced for the MSI GX70 (mostly due to the worse efficiency of AMD's current mobile CPUs). Intel's processors rarely exhibit performance issues, even with full Turbo Boost. On average, according to our measurements, a dual-core processor should be slower by approximately 5% when compared to GTX-765M-based laptops with a quad-core CPU.

The upcoming generation of games will most likely be more demanding in terms of processing power due to the imminent launch of the Next-Gen consoles. Those who want to future-proof their system as much as possible might want to decide in favor of a quad-core CPU (or a laptop with an even faster GPU). Price-conscious gamers, however, will likely stick to the dual-core option.

low med.high ultra
Battlefield 3 (2011) 59.723.3fps
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) 63.334.9fps
Max Payne 3 (2012) 38.929.4fps
Guild Wars 2 (2012) 43.223.4fps
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012) 52.336.6fps
Hitman: Absolution (2012) 34.615fps
Assassin´s Creed III (2012) 59.222.8fps
Far Cry 3 (2012) 47.116fps
GRID 2 (2013) 84.235.4fps
Company of Heroes 2 (2013) 33.324.411.4fps
Dota 2 (2013) 79.445.4fps
Total War: Rome II (2013) 86.215.9fps
F1 2013 (2013) 9467fps

Emissions

How we test - Emissions

System Noise

Chassis fan
Chassis fan

Noise emissions: This is the area where the XMG A503 fares worst in terms of our ratings system. As is the case with other Clevo barebones, the fans get a lot louder during 3D applications than necessary.

During the 3DMark 06 benchmark, we measured 45 dB(A) during the first scene (from a distance of 15 centimeters/5.9 inches). Without a high-volume speaker system or headphones, this might very well be enough to drown music and sound effects alike. 49 dB(A) under full load? That is every bit as noisy as the XMG A523 was - apparently the lower power consumption levels of the dual-core CPU do not seem to factor into this equation.

While the device is idle, it remains perfectly silent at times, only to jump to 36-44 dB(A) without any apparent cause (allegedly, Schenker is already working on an update). In addition, the fans of our test device rattled a bit.

Bad luck or just a pre-sample? The first user reports will show. Anyway, we do hope that Clevo will put some more work into the fan control system - right now, it is far from perfect.

Noise Level

Idle 29.3 / 30.2 / 36.3 dB(A)
DVD 34.2 / dB(A)
Load 45.0 / 48.6 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test (FurMark & Prime95)
Stress test (FurMark & Prime95)

Most of the chassis only gets moderately warm. After two hours of being idle (maximum energy-saving profile), the outer temperature did not exceed approximately 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit).

Even under full load, the XMG A504 did not reach uncomfortable levels. Around 34 degrees (93.2 Fahrenheit) on the top and 32 degrees (89.6 Fahrenheit) on the bottom of the device should not be an issue for anyone. Only the rear part of the device exceeded 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) during our stress test. We have to applaud the engineers when talking about the palm rest: It always remained at a very comfortable level of 24 to 25 degrees (75.2 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit).

While the XMG A503 does get a bit hotter than the XMG A523 (especially when talking about the A503's core temperature), this can be explained by the absence of throttling issues, with the A503 sticking true to its base clock speed instead of underclocking to 800 MHz.

According to the CPU-Z and Core Temp tools, the i5-4300M almost exceeded 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit). The GeForce GTX 765M, on the other hand, stayed comparatively cool at around 76 degrees (168.8 Fahrenheit) thanks to its great design. Both the CPU and GPU tend to remain cooler during actual games compared to these stress test results.

Max. Load
 43.5 °C44.3 °C35.9 °C 
 37.0 °C39.5 °C34.7 °C 
 24.3 °C25.2 °C24.0 °C 
Maximum: 44.3 °C
Average: 34.3 °C
33.7 °C40.6 °C40.6 °C
29.7 °C34.0 °C33.2 °C
24.4 °C25.3 °C24.8 °C
Maximum: 40.6 °C
Average: 31.8 °C
Power Supply (max.)  48.6 °C | Room Temperature 22 °C | Voltcraft IR-550

Speakers

Sound Blaster Cinema
Sound Blaster Cinema

The speakers are another of the main weaknesses of the XMG A503. Despite the involvement of the audio experts from Onkyo, the sound quality of the 2.0 system is mediocre at best.

Almost all reference music, videos and games sound tinny and fuzzy. Bass is lacking, too, as are decent maximum volume levels. The audio quality gets even a bit worse once we deactivate the Sound Blaster Cinema technology.

Other competitors such as the Asus N550/N750, the Alienware 17 or the MSI GT70 sound better by a long shot. We highly recommend using a headset or external loudspeakers when listening to media for a long stretch of time.

Energy Management

How we test - Battery Life

Power Consumption

Since the GeForce GTX 765M only activates itself when it is truly needed, the laptop requires considerably less power than some of its competitors while idle: 15-25 Watts (which is close to the 15-26 Watts of our configuration of the XMG A523). Under load, as measured during 3DMark 06, this value increases to just 88 Watts (instead of 95 Watts for the XMG A523) thanks to the dual-core CPU. The difference grows to 25 Watts during the actual stress tests.

Overall, power consumption levels could be called average, somewhere between those of a potent multimedia device and an expensive luxury laptop.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.1 / 0.3 Watt
Idle 14.6 / 19.9 / 24.5 Watt
Load 87.6 / 123.7 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

Reader's Test
maximum battery life (Reader's Test)
Classic Test
minimum battery life (Classic Test)

The A503's stamina is actually more than just decent considering this is a gaming laptop. Typical everyday activities such as DVD playback or browsing over Wi-Fi leads to a battery runtime of approximately 3-4 hours. The 77 Wh battery is strong enough to allow for five hours of idle time (minimum brightness) or a very respectable two hours of hardcore gaming (maximum brightness).

As we have tested during 3DMark 13, running on battery effectively halves the CPU performance levels. The GPU stays as strong as ever (overall score: 2325 points instead of 2518 points).

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
5h 00min
WiFi Surfing
3h 56min
DVD
2h 58min
Load (maximum brightness)
2h 08min

Verdict

Schenker XMG A503
Schenker XMG A503 (photo by Schenker)

While the XMG A502 was more an all-rounder with strong gaming capabilities, the XMG A503 is definitely a true desktop replacement system, with a much more powerful GeForce GTX 765M GPU.

Its performance is not the only outstanding feature of the XMG A503. Despite its mediocre viewing angles and color space rendition qualities, the subjective image quality of the display is great.

We were especially fond of the excessive amount of maintenance options. Few laptops out there can be cleaned and upgraded quite as easily. Add to this the variety of ports, the well-designed input devices (including a backlit keyboard), the decent mobility and an exemplarily bloatware-free Windows install and you end up with an almost well-rounded device.

Almost, because the laptop does get quite noisy. We were also not impressed by the tinny speakers and the sub-par build quality of our device (which might be due to its pre-sample state, though). In addition, the display frame seems to be quite susceptible to both fingerprints and scratches.

Those who can live with the A503's weaknesses will find it to be a powerful and versatile gaming device - that can be customized excessively thanks to Schenker's configurator.

Appendix

F1 2013
1366x768 High Preset AA:2x MS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
94 fps ∼72%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker W503
123 fps ∼95% +31%
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
67 fps ∼59%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker W503
67 fps ∼59% 0%
Total War: Rome II
1366x768 High Preset (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
86.2 fps ∼57%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker W503
97.5 fps ∼64% +13%
1920x1080 Extreme Preset (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
15.9 fps ∼28%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker W503
17 fps ∼30% +7%
Dota 2
1366x768 Medium / On, Render Quality: 70 % (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
79.4 fps ∼66%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker W503
93.8 fps ∼78% +18%
1920x1080 High / On, Render Quality: 100 % (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
45.4 fps ∼38%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker W503
47.2 fps ∼40% +4%
Company of Heroes 2
1366x768 High AA:Medium (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
24.4 fps ∼39%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker W503
26.6 fps ∼42% +9%
1920x1080 Maximum / Higher / High AA:High (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
11.4 fps ∼22%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker W503
12.1 fps ∼23% +6%
GRID 2
1366x768 High Preset AA:2xMS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
84.2 fps ∼45%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
101.8 fps ∼54% +21%
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4xMS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
35.4 fps ∼27%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
23.9 fps ∼18% -32%
Far Cry 3
1366x768 DX11 High Preset (SSAO, Standard Alpha To Coverage) AA:2x MS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
47.1 fps ∼40%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
44.4 fps ∼38% -6%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
45.4 fps ∼39% -4%
1920x1080 DX11 Ultra Preset (HDAO, Enhanced Alpha To Coverage) AA:4x MS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
16 fps ∼21%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
13.8 fps ∼19% -14%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
14.4 fps ∼19% -10%
Assassin´s Creed III
1366x768 High (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
59.2 fps ∼72%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
69.2 fps ∼85% +17%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
66.9 fps ∼82% +13%
1920x1080 Very High (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
22.8 fps ∼42%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
22.4 fps ∼42% -2%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
22.8 fps ∼42% 0%
Hitman: Absolution
1366x768 High Preset AA:2xMS AF:8x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
34.6 fps ∼35%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
34.2 fps ∼34% -1%
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4xMS AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
15 fps ∼20%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
13.4 fps ∼18% -11%
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
1366x768 High / On (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
52.3 fps ∼87%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
58.1 fps ∼97% +11%
1920x1080 High / On (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
36.6 fps ∼61%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
35.5 fps ∼59% -3%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
38.3 fps ∼64% +5%
Guild Wars 2
1366x768 Best Appearance Preset AA:FX (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
43.2 fps ∼47%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
60.7 fps ∼66% +41%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
59 fps ∼64% +37%
1920x1080 All Maximum / On AA:FX (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
23.4 fps ∼30%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
22.4 fps ∼29% -4%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
21.8 fps ∼28% -7%
Max Payne 3
1366x768 High, DX11 AA:High FX AF:4x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
38.9 fps ∼45%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
38.6 fps ∼45% -1%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
39.1 fps ∼45% +1%
1920x1080 Very High, DX11 AA:Very High FX AF:8x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
29.4 fps ∼35%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
29.4 fps ∼35% 0%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
29.6 fps ∼35% +1%
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
1366x768 High Preset AA:8x AF:8x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
63.3 fps ∼50%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
63.2 fps ∼49% 0%
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:8x AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
34.9 fps ∼40%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
35.4 fps ∼41% +1%
Battlefield 3
1366x768 high AA:- AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
59.7 fps ∼42%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
60.3 fps ∼42% +1%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
61 fps ∼43% +2%
1920x1080 ultra AA:4x MS AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23) / Core i5-4300M
Schenker XMG A503
23.3 fps ∼23%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4700MQ
Schenker XMG A523
21.7 fps ∼21% -7%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27) / Core i7-4800MQ
Schenker W503
22.1 fps ∼22% -5%
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In Review: Schenker XMG A503. Test device provided by Schenker Technologies.
In Review: Schenker XMG A503. Test device provided by Schenker Technologies (photo by Schenker).

Specifications

Schenker XMG A503

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM87 (Lynx Point)
:: Memory
8192 MB, 2x 4096 MB SO-DIMM DDR3-RAM PC3-12800 (1600 MHz), 3 slots, max. 24 GB
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M - 2048 MB, Core: 850 MHz, Memory: 2000 MHz, GDDR5, ForceWare 327.23, Optimus
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, CMN N156HG, TN LED, Full HD, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
Samsung SSD 840 EVO 250GB, 250 GB SATA-III, drive bays: 1x mSATA & 2x 2,5-Zoll
:: Soundcard
VIA VT1802P @ Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
1 USB 2.0, 3 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, Audio Connections: Line In, Line Out, S/PDIF, Card Reader: MMC,RSMMC,MS,MS Pro,MS Duo,SD,Mini SD,SDHC,SDXC,
:: Networking
Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 (b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
TSSTcorp CDDVDW SN-208DB
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 45 x 374 x 250
:: Weight
2.67 kg Power Supply: 0.466 kg
:: Battery
76.96 Wh Lithium-Ion, 5200 mAh, 14.8V, 8 cells, W370BAT-8, 426 grams
:: Price
1225 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 2.0 Megapixel, Speakers: 2.0 (Onkyo, Sound Blaster Cinema), Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, Power adapter: 120 watts, quick start guide, driver & tools DVD, Nero 12 Essentials Trial, 24-48 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
The XMG A503 looks quite a lot like the XMG A523.
The XMG A503 looks quite a lot like the XMG A523.
Unsurprisingly, both devices use the same chassis.
Unsurprisingly, both devices use the same chassis.
One of the best things about this choice: Great accessibility for maintenance purposes.
One of the best things about this choice: Great accessibility for maintenance purposes.
The lid has a brushed aluminium to it.
The lid has a brushed aluminium to it.
The maximum opening angle of ~135 degrees is nothing to write home about.
The maximum opening angle of ~135 degrees is nothing to write home about.
The final customer version will ship with a XMG logo on top.
The final customer version will ship with a XMG logo on top.
Rarely do gaming laptops look so modest.
Rarely do gaming laptops look so modest.
Below the maintenance hatch is where the goodies lie.
Below the maintenance hatch is where the goodies lie.
Build quality is more or less decent.
Build quality is more or less decent.
The ports are well-placed.
The ports are well-placed.
Although a lot of them are located at the right hand side, they don't interfere with an external mouse.
Although a lot of them are located at the right hand side, they don't interfere with an external mouse.
The laptop is mostly made from matte plastic.
The laptop is mostly made from matte plastic.
Most components are easily reached.
Most components are easily reached.
77 Wh is neither much nor little.
77 Wh is neither much nor little.
Speed, speed, speed: The Samsung SSD 840 EVO.
Speed, speed, speed: The Samsung SSD 840 EVO.
And again, the fan control is one of the weaknesses.
And again, the fan control is one of the weaknesses.
A second (or third!) mass storage drive is easily added.
A second (or third!) mass storage drive is easily added.
A solid state drive is recommended for the system partition.
A solid state drive is recommended for the system partition.
The Clevo barebones W355STQ is used.
The Clevo barebones W355STQ is used.
Even the keyboard can be removed.
Even the keyboard can be removed.
All three memory banks can only be used if a quad-core configuration is chosen.
All three memory banks can only be used if a quad-core configuration is chosen.
For dual-core CPUs, up to 16 GB of RAM are possible.
For dual-core CPUs, up to 16 GB of RAM are possible.
The CPU (on the right) can be swapped. This is not possible for the GPU (on the left).
The CPU (on the right) can be swapped. This is not possible for the GPU (on the left).
According to Schenker Technologies, the A503 ships with a webcam with 2 megapixels.
According to Schenker Technologies, the A503 ships with a webcam with 2 megapixels.
Why have they decided in favor of such a sensitive frame?
Why have they decided in favor of such a sensitive frame?
The two symbols on the right hand side visualize GPU activity.
The two symbols on the right hand side visualize GPU activity.
The Wi-Fi adapter comes with its own button.
The Wi-Fi adapter comes with its own button.
The speakers are mediocre, despite their Onkyo branding.
The speakers are mediocre, despite their Onkyo branding.
Lots of stickers on the palm rest.
Lots of stickers on the palm rest.
The keyboard layout is fine.
The keyboard layout is fine.
We were also happy about seeing a four-column numpad on the device.
We were also happy about seeing a four-column numpad on the device.
Overall, the keyboard felt well-designed.
Overall, the keyboard felt well-designed.
The touchpad, however, could be better.
The touchpad, however, could be better.
Several status LEDs can be found on the front.
Several status LEDs can be found on the front.
Older external displays can be connected via VGA.
Older external displays can be connected via VGA.
The fan is located at the rear.
The fan is located at the rear.
Three audio jacks don't go without saying.
Three audio jacks don't go without saying.
The same holds true for the three USB 3.0 ports.
The same holds true for the three USB 3.0 ports.
The power adapter provides up to 120 Watts.
The power adapter provides up to 120 Watts.
No detailed user manual is included.
No detailed user manual is included.

Similar Laptops

Devices from a different Manufacturer and/or with a different CPU

Devices with the same GPU and/or Screen Size

Devices with the same GPU

» Review Schenker XMG C703 (MSI MS-1771) Notebook
Core i7 4700HQ, 17.3", 2.628 kg
» Review MSI GS70-65M21621 Notebook
Core i7 4700HQ, 17.3", 2.72 kg
» Review MSI GE70-i765M287 Notebook
Core i7 4700MQ, 17.3", 3.05 kg

Links

Price Check

Pro

+Bright, high-contrast non-glare panel
+Superb accessibility for maintenance purposes
+Great variety of ports
+Lots of drive bays
+Individual configuration options
+Cool palm rest
+Decent battery life
+Backlit keyboard
+Nvidia Optimus GPU switching
+No bloatware
+Slim power adapter
+Powerful performance
 

Cons

-Some build quality issues (pre-sample)
-High noise emissions during 3D usage
-Sensitive display frame
-Sub-par fan control system
-CPU can get very hot
-Weak speakers
-Mediocre viewing angles

Shortcut

What we like

Finally an affordable gaming laptop with a backlit keyboard!

What we'd like to see

A decent fan control system and better speakers.

What surprises us

Clevo still uses a glossy display frame.

The competition

High-end laptops with a GeForce GTX 765M such as the 13-inch One K33-3E, the 14-inch Alienware 14 and several 17-inch devices like the Asus G750JW, the Bullman C-class 5 or the MSI GE70/GS70.

Ratings

Schenker XMG A503
03/19/2014 v4
Florian Glaser

Chassis
71 / 98 → 72%
Keyboard
77%
Pointing Device
72%
Connectivity
71 / 91 → 78%
Weight
59 / 66 → 88%
Battery
82%
Display
84%
Games Performance
90%
Application Performance
91%
Temperature
84 / 95 → 88%
Noise
70 / 90 → 78%
Audio
50%
Average
75%
81%
Gaming *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Review Schenker XMG A503 (Clevo W355STQ) Notebook
Author: Florian Glaser, 2013-10-15 (Update: 2013-10-21)