XMG U506 review: an absurdly powerful gaming laptop

u506

XMG offer three tiers of gaming laptops — Pro, Advanced and Ultimate. Today, we’re looking at the highest tier, the XMG U506. This is the company’s  most powerful 15-inch gaming laptop, and unsurprisingly it’s an absolute beast. It’s powered by a sixth-generation desktop Core i7 CPU and the best mobile GPU ever made, and includes rare features like G-Sync and an RGB-backlit keyboard. Let’s put it to the test!

 

Features

  • Desktop processor — latest Core i5 and core i7 desktop processors, backed with DDR4 memory and USB 3.1.
  • Maxwell GeForce — new NVIDIA graphics cards based on Maxwell technology, with 8GB memory.
  • Nvidia G-Sync — innovative display tech that sychronises GPU output with screen display rate, for smooth gameplay.
  • Accelerated storage — SSDs connected directly to the processor, for faster access times and transfer rates beyond 2GB a second!
  • Innovative cooling — Specially adapted cooling systems, allowing the hardware to work at maximum load for long periods. Multi-level adjustable fan.
  • Mind blowing sound — Onkyo speakers and the Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5 Suite give you clear, brilliant sound.
  • Sleek design — Robust housing and a quality finish, with an optional colour backlit gaming keyboard and precise touchpad.
  • Easy access — Large access compartments allow for easy installation of additional components or cleaning the cooling system.
  • Easy upgrades — Thanks to the desktop LGA 1151, the processor can be upgraded; all MXM graphics cards can too.
 

Specifications

  • 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080p IPS display with G-Sync
  • Intel Z170 Express chipset
  • Intel Core i7 6700K (4.00 ~ 4.2GHz, 8MB cache)
  • Nvidia GeForce 980M w/ 8GB GDDR5
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM (64GB max)
  • 2x 2.5-inch SSD/HDD, 2x M.2 2280 slot SSD
  • HD Audio, Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5, Onkyo 2.0 speakers
  • Fully illuminated keyboard with numpad, NKRO, multi-colour backlight with three configurable zones
  • Touchpad with multi-gesture functions and two soft keys
  • Card reader, eSATA / USB 3.0, ethernet, 3x USB 3.0, 2x DP 1.2, HDMI 2.0, 3x 3.5mm, optical audio
  • Gigabit ethernet, WiFi ac, BT 4.0, 2MP webcam, mic
  • Port for safety lock, TPM 2.0, fingerprint reader
  • 4 cell 82Wh battery, 3.6m power cable
  • 386 x 262 x 35.7mm, 3.4kg
 

Design

The XMG U506 is an impressive beast right out of the box. It’s noticeably thicker and heavier than the average Ultrabook, unlike Gigabyte and Aorus’ rather slimline creations. That means more room for components and cooling, and should have a good effect on top-end performance.

The 15.6-inch display is flanked by a webcam above and the XMG logo below, and set on top of the main chassis with two strong-looking hinges.

2The keyboard is quite beautiful when backlit, with a choice of many different styles from solid colours, pulses, waves and more. These can be applied to each of the three zones separately, or to the entire board. There’s also an LED embedded below the trackpad, which provides a bit of underglow lighting and can also be set to the colour of your choice.

Many gaming laptops have shoddy keyboards that almost demand a USB keyboard be used, but that’s not the case here. The key travel here is respectable, making good use of the space available. Combined with the backlighting and the easy-to-read modern font, it’s quite possible to pick out keys quickly and accurately on this keyboard, whether you’re writing or gaming. The layout is sensible, and the keyboard doesn’t feel cramped despite including a number pad.

3Above the keyboard we have the power button and a few indicators, and below we of course have the trackpad. The trackpad feels quite expansive, although its plastic construction doesn’t match the glass of a MacBook or Aorus machine. The trackpad has two soft buttons, with a fingerprint reader between them.

1Looking now at the right side of the PC, we can see one USB 3.0 port, and four (count ’em!) 3.5mm jacks. These are to connect a surround sound headset or speaker system, and are a nice inclusion.

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The left side of the laptop includes a gigabit ethernet port, two more USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt port, an SD card reader and a combo eSATA / USB port.

The back of the laptop contains the U506’s power and video hookups. These include two full-size DisplayPorts and one HDMI port, allowing you to connect up to three displays. Awesome!

The XMG U506 isn’t the most svelte and stylish laptop, but it provides all the ports and features you’d want on a top-end gaming machine.

Now, let’s see how it runs. We’ll give the laptop our usual battery of benchmarks, followed by first-hand use for gaming, writing and surfing the web. Let’s get started!

 

Benchmarks

We’ll use the normal suite of benchmarks here, encapsulating in-game benchmarks as well as more general purpose tests.

n.b. scores given are with G-sync disabled; enabling G-sync tends to reduce fps considerably.

3DMark

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The U506 records our highest-ever scores in 3DMark. It turns out that having the best CPU and equal-best GPU we’ve ever tested makes for an unsurprisingly dominant performance. 3DMark is a good indicator of in-game performance, so we should expect this trend to continue.

Cinebench

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Cinebench scores are also convincingly higher than other laptops we’ve tested; even the OpenGL scores are higher than the dual-GPU Aorus X7 v2. The CPU scores are obviously off the charts, a trend that will continue due to that top-of-the-line desktop CPU.

CrystalDiskMark

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A laptop that has a crazy-fast graphics card and a blazing CPU doesn’t necessarily mean that you can expect incredibly fast storage speeds as well… but of course, if you’re spending this much on a laptop, then why not? Our review unit comes with a 480GB Samsung solid state drive, attached via PCI-e. That results in insanely fast read and write performance, much faster than we’ve ever recorded here at XSReviews. There are other configuration options available, but PCI-e storage seems well worth the upgrade.

GeekBench

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The U506’s desktop-class CPU is, funnily enough, in a class of its own. The U506 obliterates its rivals in the single-core and multi-core results, showing what you can accomplish when heat and power isn’t so much of a concern.

Bioshock Infinite

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Settings: High 1080p

Our first title is not so demanding: BioShock Infinite. Like other Unreal Engine games, it relies more on the GPU side of the equation. That lets it take a sizeable lead over its competitors, scoring over 150 frames per second. For similarly intense games, expect to be playing on the highest possible settings at 1080p — or at higher resolutions via an attached monitor.

Company of Heroes 2

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Settings: Medium 1080p, no unit occlusion, v-sync or anti-aliasing

The U506 delivers the best ever performance in Company of Heroes 2, hitting an average of 78 fps during the frantic battle scene portrayed in the benchmark. Given the tough nature of the benchmark compared to the actual game, this is a great result.

Metro: Last Light

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Settings: High 1080p, AF 4x, normal motion blur, no SSAA, DirectX 11 tessellation or advanced PhysX

Metro: Last Light includes an excellent benchmark tool, which shows strong performance for the U506. It’s the top result here, with a glittering 104 fps performance — and with G-sync enabled, it still hits a solid 71 fps. This shows the crazy horsepower on tap with the U506.

Rome: Total War II

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Settings: Ultra 1080p

Our final test is Total War: Rome 2 at demanding Ultra settings. The U506 records the highest laptop score ever once again, and comes damn close to our desktop gaming rig with a stronger desktop GTX 980.

 

Impressions

Now, let’s get into our first-hand impressions.

 

Gaming

As you can tell from the benchmarks above, the XMG U506 absolutely slays any game you can throw at it. With a modest 1080p screen resolution to target, you can enjoy full detail settings in even the latest games, while still getting a competitive frame rate.

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You can also connect a monitor with a high refresh rate (144 Hz) and/or high resolution (1440p / 2160p), although you might have to dip the detail settings a bit for recent titles. The inclusion of G-Sync allows you to enjoy smooth gameplay for more demanding titles, although frame rates will drop substantially while it’s enabled.

Even at full load, the XMG U506 is surprisingly quiet and relatively cool, audible but not annoying enough as to demand headphones. At idle, it’s almost silent; not what I expected from a laptop toting a desktop CPU. While CPU temperatures are a little high, GPU temperatures are quite good under load, and the laptop didn’t feel noticeably warmer during gameplay.

Of course, a great gaming laptop doesn’t just have good performance characteristics — how does the U506 fare?

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In general: well. The screen is lacking a little contrast, but its IPS technology ensures relatively accurate colours and good viewing angles for any backseat gamers. The keyboard is wide and comfortable to use, with good key travel and cool backlighting. The trackpad won’t see much serious gaming use, but can certainly handle more casual titles.

The sound system on board is pretty good for a laptop, and the speakers remain distortion free as loud as I’d like to have them. Network performance is good, whether wired or wireless, and of course the storage is blazingly fast, so games load quickly. Finally, there are a nice range of ports available, so you can connect up whatever gaming peripherals you need.

 

Media

When it comes to non-gaming usage, the U506 is a mixed bag. On the one hand, its enormously powerful internals make it a perfect choice for rendering videos or performing other computationally difficult tasks. It’s also good as a workstation, with enough video and USB ports to connect all of your peripherals, and the built-in keyboard and trackpad are good enough that augmenting them isn’t essential.

Where the U506 falls down is in portability. A 3.4 kilogram laptop is about as heavy as I’d want to carry on my back, and you definitely don’t want to be walking or cycling for too long while so encumbered.

Pictured: 3.4kg
Pictured: 3.4kg

Battery life is also a challenge — I only got about three hours out of the laptop before I had to recharge it. That’s nowhere near the whole-day performance of many (cheaper) Ultrabooks, and it means you’ll have to take the (bulky and heavy) charger with you each day.

Ultimately though, that’s OK. This laptop is designed to be a powerhouse first, and only small enough to technically fit in a bag without much regard for weight.

 

Conclusion

This XMG laptop boasts the best performance of any laptop we’ve ever tested, with a desktop-class processor, top-end mobile graphics card and extremely fast storage. It’s fully featured too, with a good amount of ports, nice on-board sound and a great keyboard. All in all, the U506 is a tremendous machine — incredibly powerful, unapologetically heavy, and suitably expensive when fully kitted out. If you’re looking for an allegedly portable, supremely power gaming laptop and money’s no object, then the XMG U506 is the one you should get.

 

Pros

  • An insanely powerful laptop, no doubt
  • Screen, keyboard and trackpad all solid
 

Cons

  • Definitely not portable
  • Battery life is as low as you’d suspect
  • €2700 (as spec’d) is a huge pile of money
 

Score

score9

 

Links

About William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @Expert_Will or on G+.

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