XMG P505 review – a premium 15-inch gaming laptop
The P505 is the latest high-end gaming notebook from XMG, designed to offer desktop-class performance in a relatively svelte 15.6-inch package. We’ll be looking at two variants of the P505, one with the GTX 970M and the other with the GTX 980M – the two fastest mobile graphics cards available. We’ll compare these two units, as well as other high-end laptops from Gigabyte and Aorus.
One thing that sets XMG apart is their presence in the European eSports scene, supporting LANs like Homestory Cup and Dreamhack, pro-gaming teams Alliance and Mousesports, and StarCraft II players ToD, Maddelisk and Socke. How will their laptop of choice measure up? Let’s find out.
Here are the specifications of our first review unit.
|15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS||240GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Mobile Intel HM87 Express||HD Audio, Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3|
|Intel Core i7-4870HQ 2.5GHz ~ 3.7GHz||Backlit full-format keyboard|
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M||Touchpad w/ multi-touch + 2 buttons|
|8GB 1600MHz DDR3||385 x 271 x 25mm, 2.5kg|
|Gigabit ethernet, WiFi ac||60 Whr Li-ion battery|
|Safety lock, TPM 2, fingerprint reader||Card reader, eSATA, LAN, 3x USB 3,|
2x mDP 1.2, HDMI, 3x stereo, S/PDIF
Our second review unit is identical, apart from a slower CPU (the Core i7-4710HQ) and a faster GPU (the GTX 980M with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory).
More expensive configurations are also available, including GeForce GTX 980M GPUs, 4K displays and varying amounts of RAM and storage. For full specifications and loadout options, visit the XMG P505 page on the UK shop.
The specifications here are, with a few exceptions, top-notch for a single-GPU gaming laptop. Our best single-GPU laptop we’ve tested so far has been the Aorus X3 Plus, which offers double the RAM (16GB vs 8GB) and RAID0 solid state drives but a worse 860M graphics card. It’ll be interesting to see how the two compare in our benchmarks and hands-on testing.
The only improvements that could be made to our review unit – resolution, RAM, storage, GPU – are offered in more expensive configurations. For now, let’s move onto the all-important design section.
Out of the box, the P505 had a more sedate look than I expected; perhaps a hint to its German origins. The XMG logo on the lid is a subtle black version rather than the flashy green.
One of the few tell-tale signs come on the keyboard, which includes four red arrows on the WASD keys. The keyboard is full-format, with a number pad on the right-hand side. All keys can be backlit with white LEDs at low or high intensity. There’s noticeably more key travel here than on other gaming laptops, which takes a bit of getting used to but is definitely appreciated for typing.
A pair of stereo speakers nestle below the 1080p display. On the right top side, we have the power button, which requires quite some force to actuate (which is both a good and bad thing).
The plastic touchpad is large, with two separated buttons separated by the fingerprint reader (on some models). To the left of the touchpad, you’ll find a trio of stickers announcing that the laptop includes Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics, a Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 sound card and HDMI.
The front lip of the laptop also includes some LED indicators for various system components and functions.
On the left side, we have a pair of mini displayPort 1.2 video outputs, USB 3.0 and HDMI. It’s quite rare to see miniDP even these days, so a pair of them is quite novel.
The right side includes three stereo jacks, a SIM card slot (no kidding), a card reader, two more USB 3.0 ports and the Ethernet jack.
Finally, on the back we have the power input and a USB 3.0 / eSATA combination port.
The bottom of the laptop is home to the usual grilles and regulatory information.
The laptop feels durable and well-constructed, although the screen seems a little wobbly at times. The P505 also seems to pick up fingerprints quickly. Thankfully, a cleaning cloth is provided with the laptop.
In order to best put the XMG P505 through its paces, I used it as my primary gaming and work PC for a good four weeks, including a particularly useful stint over the holidays. During that time, I used it for writing articles like this one, running Photoshop, watching a few movies and of course playing a lot of games.
The XMG P505 is a beast of a gaming machine. Even with the leading mobile graphics card, the GTX 980, I wasn’t prepared for the level of performance I received. With a Core i7 CPU and a reasonable 1080p resolution, the P505 seemed to handle every game I could throw at it, from classic PC titles to the latest and greatest graphical mega-hits.
In StarCraft II and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, I was hitting 120+ FPS without breaking a sweat. I’ve tried to play competitive Counter-Strike from my hotel room on a lot of gaming laptops, but the XMG P505 is the first one where I felt like I was playing on my desktop at home.
More recent games required a few settings to be lowered, but even Dragon Age: Inquisition and Battlefield 4 ran at 60+ FPS comfortably – in some cases, I was looking at better performance than my 2011-era Crossfire gaming desktop. The GTX 980 variant pulled ahead in framerate counts as you’d expect, but both machines were very capable.*
* For a more specific comparison between the 980 and 970 versions of the P505, please see the benchmark section below!
Work & Multimedia
The same hardware that assures strong gaming performance also makes for an over-powerful work machine. Whether you’re juggling dozens of browser tabs, crushing some pictures through Photoshop or writing an article like this one, there’s more than enough power on tap.
A good selection of ports is another point in the P505’s favour, particularly the three video-out ports (two DP, one HDMI). These allow you to have up to 4 displays to work on, which should be more than enough for anyone. Four USB ports (including three USB 3 and one eSATA/USB 2) was more than enough to connect a few peripherals and charge some phones too. The USB port on the left hand side is a bit far forward (and would interrupt the mousing space of a left-hander) but that’s a minor quibble.
For me, working is writing, and that means a good keyboard is paramount. The XMG P505 is a blessedly easy machine to work on in that regard, with a full-size keyboard, solid scissor switches and that rare commodity: sufficient key travel distance. This makes a big difference in both speed and accuracy, and means I can write even long articles (like this 3000 word screed) without resorting to a USB keyboard or using my desktop PC. The only downside is that the sharp edge of the laptop does dig into your wrist, but this is tolerable enough.
One oddity I found concerns the touchpad. For single finger use, the touchpad seems quite good – accurate as I could ask, available with a cool fingerprint sensor, and of a reasonable size. The issue is multiple-finger (aka multi-touch) gestures. These seem to require notably separated fingers in order to work correctly, whereas better solutions on Gigabyte and Apple machines are able to interpret multitouch gestures with fingers kept in close proximity. If you’re used to that style, you’ll have to consciously alter your ‘finger stance’ and splay your fingers in order for them to be recognised. If you don’t check the Synaptics software, you might just assume that the touchpad doesn’t support two-finger scrolling and similar gestures – a mistake made by some friends to try the machine.
Another disappointment was the screen, which had worse viewing angles than I was expecting from an IPS display. That made working in cramped conditions difficult, as images I was editing looked quite different from my seat on the train than they did in the office the next day. It also made it harder to show nearby people funny Reddit pictures, which is an important part of my working life.* A 4K screen is available which might solve this issue (and include its own issues thanks to Windows’ scaling).
* The importance of sharing photos from Reddit may be slightly overstated
The final element is use on-the-go: battery life and portability. Here the P505 was about what I expected, offering about four to five hours of battery life between a charge. Weirdly, neither review unit reported its expected remaining battery life, showing only a percentage of charge remaining. It’s a weird omission I haven’t seen on any other laptop (even with suspect batteries), and makes planning your recharging sessions a bit more challenging than it should be.
Another challenge is the low-warning indicator, which is a loud and frantic beeping that begins when you hit around 10% battery remaining. This doesn’t have the good dignity to play through your speakers, and therefore can’t be muted without turning off the laptop (or plugging it in). When you’re trying to finish up an article on the train without disturbing people, having a shrieking banshee on your tray table does not ingratiate you well with your fellow travellers.
In terms of portability, the P505 was okay for a 15-inch laptop. It felt both thicker and lighter than I expected, with a durable chassis that seemed well armoured against potential damage. The only weak point was the screen, which seemed a bit wobbly at times.
Overall though, the P505 seems well-suited to work as well as play. A good keyboard, a decent screen, plenty of ports and a surplus of performance go a long way.
In each test, we’ll indicate the two review units as P505 (970) and P505 (980) to denote the two different variants. For a full list of specifications, please see the beginning of this article.
3DMark is a popular cross-platform test of graphics and physics, in a manner that approximates a typical game at four different challenge levels. Ice Storm is designed for mobiles, Cloud Gate is for decent notebooks, Sky Diver is for gaming laptops and Fire Strike is for gaming desktops. These benchmarks are joined by three new measures, Ice Storm Extreme, for mainstream mobiles, Fire Strike Extreme, for multi-GPU systems, and Fire Strike Ultra, which looks at 4K gaming performance. We’ll move to a subset of these soon, but for now we’ll stick with our main four.
|3DMark||Ice Storm||Cloud Gate||Sky Diver||Fire Strike|
|X7 v2 (SLI)||126314||17026||16348||4783|
The XMG P505 blows the doors off this test, with radically higher results in the demanding Fire Strike benchmark than any of its predecessors. The 970 variant receives a more modest score, more in line with gaming laptops released one year ago.
Cinebench is a nice cross-platform benchmark that stresses the CPU and GPU. All results are shown using the discrete graphics processor, if available.
|Cinebench R15||OpenGL (fps)||CPU (cb)|
|X7 v2 (SLI)||123.18||609|
The P505 has varying results in the Cinebench test, with the more powerful processor of the 970 review unit proving decisive. This unit tops the table, while the 980 (with the worse stock CPU) gets a mid-table finish.
GeekBench is another cross-platform benchmark that examines memory and processor performance. As usual, I’m using version 3 of the benchmark.
The P505 again slips in a benchmark, a result of its slower processor than most of the recent competitors from Gigabyte and Aorus. This intimates we can expect worse performance than these laptops in CPU-bound games like Battlefield 4. The 970 version with the stronger processor is more competitive, barely missing out on the top score.
CrystalDiskMark is a benchmark that examines disk read and write performance of the solid state drive. The XMG P505 is the first laptop I’ve tested to include an SSD connected via PCI-express, rather than a SATA variant.
|CDM3 Read||Seq||512K||4K||4K QD32|
|X7 v2||SSD x3||1331||917.7||32.21||434.5|
|P35W v2||SSD x2||988.8||674.9||29.26||502.5|
|Aspire S7||SSD x2||793.1||333||22.3||193.3|
|CDM3 Write||Seq||512K||4K||4K QD32|
|X7 v2||SSD x3||941.7||847.2||81.21||398.7|
|P35W v2||SSD x2||627.8||630.1||64.07||481.9|
|Aspire S7||SSD x2||509.8||229.2||70.39||61.71|
The PCI-e Samsung solid state drives prove their worth here, granting the P505 a respectable score in a range of read/write scenarios that are competitive with RAID0 twin-SSD solutions. These scores mean rapidly loading game levels and great day-to-day operation as well. The addition of a 1TB mechanical hard drive in my review unit also allows for media storage, which is nice to have.
Bioshock Infinite is a relatively new addition to our range of benchmarks. I’m running it on the ‘high’ preset at 1080p resolution; the benchmark itself is run from the ‘binaries’ folder of the game’s files if you’d like to compare your current setup.
|Bioshock Infinite||Average fps||GPU||CPU|
|XMG P505 (970)||114 fps||GTX 970||i7-4870|
|XMG P505 (980)||83 fps||GTX 980||i7-4710|
|Aorus X3 Plus||85 fps||GTX 860||i7-4860|
The P505 with 980 received an average score of 83 fps, while the 970-equipped P505 contributed 114 fps. This apparent discrepancy is explained by the better Core i7 processor in the 970 review unit we received. Ideally both machines would have had the same CPU to make the GPU comparison more meaningful, but instead we can see the importance of having a CPU upgrade compared to a GPU upgrade – still useful. The CPU upgrade seems to have a bigger impact than the GPU upgrade here – a trend that will be repeated.
Metro: Last Light
Metro is a challenging game, for you and your PC. Its benchmark tool is quite formidable, so let’s take a look at how the X3 Plus performs in an actual game. The settings are Direct X 11 renderer, 1920x1080p, High quality, AF 4X filtering, normal motion blur, no SSAA, DirectX 11 tessellation or PhysX.
|Metro: Last Light||Average fps||GPU||CPU|
|XMG P505 (970)||80||GTX 970||i7-4870|
|XMG P505 (980)||54||GTX 980||i7-4710|
|Aorus X7 v2||49||GTX 860 SLI||i7-4860|
|Aorus X7||45||GTX 765 SLI||i7-4700|
|Gigabyte P25W||35||GTX 770||i7-4700|
|Gigabyte P35W v2||34||GTX 870||i7-4710|
|Aorus X3 Plus||31||GTX 860||i7-4860|
|Gigabyte P35K||31||GTX 765||i7-4700|
|Gigabyte P34G v2||30||GTX 860||i7-4700|
|Gigabyte P27K||28||GTX 765||i7-4700|
In the GPU-intense Metro Last Light benchmark, the P505 with 980 turns in an excellent score: 54 fps on average, with maximums of 111 fps and minimums of 11 fps. The 970 version has an even better score, somehow.
Company of Heroes 2
Our final benchmark is Company of Heroes 2, an excellent strategy game centred around the Eastern Front of WW2. The game includes a robust worst-case benchmark, so if the game is playable here then you’d expect much better results in actual singleplayer or multiplayer. A large update was recently released, but tests on my main gaming PC don’t seem to indicate any changes in benchmark performance. The test settings are 1080p resolution with no unit occlusion, v-sync or anti-aliasing, then medium for the other options.
|CoH 2||Average fps||GPU||CPU|
|XMG P505 (970)||68||GTX 970||i7-4870|
|XMG P505 (980)||62||GTX 980||i7-4710|
|Aorus X3 Plus||47||GTX 860||i7-4860|
|Gigabyte P34G v2||42||GTX 860||i7-4700|
|Gigabyte P35W v2||40||GTX 870||i7-4710|
|Aorus X7 v2||37||GTX 860 SLI||i7-4860|
|Gigabyte P25W||27||GTX 770||i7-4700|
|Gigabyte P35K||24||GTX 765||i7-4700|
|Gigabyte P27K||23||GTX 765||i7-4700|
|Aorus X7||20||GTX 765 SLI||i7-4700|
The CoH2 benchmark is another good result for the P505, with the 980 version getting a whopping 62 fps – the very first time I’ve recorded a result over 60 fps on laptop or desktop. Clearly the GTX 980 is working wonders here. The 970 version records a similar score of 68.
The XMG P505 is a pretty powerful gaming laptop, suitable for use at the highest levels of professional or casual play. It’s also a strong multimedia machine, thanks to a nice outlay of ports, decent speakers and a great keyboard. A few bugs and poor multi-touch let down the side, but it’s not enough to seriously detract from this solid machine.
If you have the option, upgrade the processor rather than the GPU, as you’ll receive a bigger boost in performance.
- Powerful, configurable internals provide top-notch gaming performance
- Excellent keyboard for gaming and writing
- Professional, no-frills look
- Provides plenty of A/V ports, notably three video out and three 3.5mm audio jacks
- Poor multi-touch support for a high-end laptop
- A few weird bugs betray a lack of polish