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When I first saw the Thunderobot 911 SE at its launch event, I was both impressed and worried. Impressed that for a sub RM5,000 gaming laptop, it is offering the right specs. Worried, because that price seemed to good to be true. There must be some corners being cut. There must be a compromise. At this price point, there has to be.
And indeed there are. But thankfully, it cuts the right corners and gets away with it for the most part. This one is a sleeper.
When I received the review unit, I immediately saw where the price cutting goes. The box is rather small, fitting the 15.6″ laptop snugly inside.
The laptop itself looks sleek at first with a nice space grey colour scheme. But when splashed with the two lines of turquoise accents, and the Thunderobot logo, looks awfully cheap and gaudy. However, it looks much better when the laptop is powered on when that area lights up with a subtle glow.
Outside of that, the 911 SE looks more like a subtle business laptop, built with cheap plastics. The keyboard has a tight traditional layout, yes the ones seen like the laptops of the 00’s and early 10’s, with a white underglow. It’s odd to see today but typing on it thankfully feels good.
The touchpad is decent to use, offering what you would expect. Ports are all on the sides but shifted closer to the front.You have all the usual ports, three USB ports, an HDMI out, and even a LAN port.
There’s an exhaust pipe at the back but curiously, rather than have all the hot air flow out from there, only a partial part of it is exposed, the rest of the back has this shape that would have indicated that a full exhaust pipe should be there. Instead, most of the air will flow to a grill located to right of the laptop, the reason why all the ports are shifted closer to the front.
Even more interesting that it has removable batteries. Yes, like an old laptop from the early 00’s. Weird, huh?
The display is nothing to be excited enough, a bright enough 1920×1080 IPS panel that should serve well for normal productivity and gaming uses.
On the software side, the Thunderobot 911 SE is severely lacking. There are a few extra apps installed but they all looked like a remnant from years past. The UI is unituive, the functions are not clear and some are practically useless.
Some of the icons in the control centre app is just a shortcut to a control panel item, but they get more prominent screen real estate than more important functions, which is feels like a bad design choice.
The one interesting addition is the sound software. The dts Surround Sound is an interesting choice, as it makes the speakers sound much livelier but I prefer something more punchy with heavier bass. Most of the my usage saw me disabling it, but it’s so far the least offensive of the two apps.
No extra bloatware to report too, so at least it has that going for it.
Gaming And Benchmark
Fortunately, all the woes end here. The 911 SE had cut a lot of corners, but when it comes to gaming performance, it made no compromise.
Here’s the specs sheet:
- CPU: Intel i5-7300HQ
- GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050Ti 4GB
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Storage: 1TB, M.2 128GB
The i5-7300HQ and Nvidia GTX 1050Ti may not be the most powerful of CPU+GPU combos, but the 911 SE allows you to push the two components at its limit without any other bottleneck.
You see, there are many gaming laptops that made compromises to storage- some offering slower HDD (the 5400rpm ones are in particular terrible at running Windows 10) or not offering an SSD, or not even offering 8GB RAM at the minimum. New games right now needs at least 8GB to run, yet there are still laptops that offers strong graphic cards but only a meagre 4GB.
Thunderobot did not cut any corners here- the 911SE has a 128GB M.2 SSD alongside to compensate its slow 5400rpm 1TB HDD. And there’s 8GB of RAM.
The games I’ve tested do see some slow performance, and that’s because I’ve pushed the CPU and GPU at the most. As always, the 1050Ti is the best card right now for decent AAA gaming, allowing you to run the latest games at 60FPS with medium settings, and can easily run games from 2013 and below at high settings. Esports games such as Overwatch are not a problem for the 911 SE
Just Cause 3, the heaviest game I’ve test performance-wise, ran decently on medium settings, though I advise lowering the resolutions to avoid potential stuttering when the game gets too explosive-heavy. I experienced no stuttering during regular gameplay, though this is due to me installing the game on the SSD. Hitman 2016, another game that frequently uses the storage, had some minor stutters as it was installed on the hard disk, but on medium settings the game is playable, hitting the 60fps mark consistently.
I even tested out the Final Fantasy XV benchmark. The 911 SE can run it at high standings though the framerate was fluctuating a lot around the 30fps mark.
The choice of a Core i5 does see some lower performance on CPU-heavy games such as strategy game Civlization VI. Turns took a bit longer to process compared to laptops running an i7, but outside of that, the drop in performance compared to an i7+ 1050Ti combo seen in, say, the Lenovo Legion Y520, is not that much.
The 911 SE has an odd quirk that it’s hottest vent is not the one coming from the back- that port is only partially opened as mentioned before. It’s on the right side. It’s odd as that means right-handed gamers will constantly feel warm air breezing out from there, but thankfully temperatures are nothing too extreme, it hovers around the 50-60 degrees and accidentally touching the vents won’t scald you.
Now, the price. This is also a big win. The Thunderobot 911 SE starts at RM4,499. The Core i5 is one of the reasons why it can be priced below the RM5000 budget line of entry-level/affordable gaming laptops. And you don’t need to consider further upgrades or improvements to unleash it’s full potential. So that’s a flat RM4,499.
It is tremendously cheap. When it comes to bang-for-buck, the 911 SE is a steal. Now that Thunderobot is bringing in newer models with a refresh spec, it’s more likely that see the 911 SE will be getting more cheaper, but also a bit harder to find.
If you somehow impulse bought the Thunderobot 911 SE, you may be dissapointed. For a gaming laptop in 2018, it doesn’t feel like it has the package quality as other established brands in the market do. The look of it is a mixed bag, the software suite is more cumbersome than useful, and you have a badge on it that is still unproven in Malaysia.
However, this is totally a sleeper. If you have been getting bad experiences with gaming laptops that costs way too much but still offering critical components to gaming such as fast storage and at least 8GB of RAM as an additional cost, you won’t regret getting the 911 SE instead. Sure, you need to deal with a lot of its shortcomings, but if you’re willing to accept all of those to save a couple of thousand ringgit, you will get your money’s worth.
The Thunderobot 911 SE proves that you can make an entry level gaming laptop, with a lot of corners cut, but still deliver in what matters most: gaming performance.