After a while, here’s the Ultimate Guide and Review to Flight sim on a laptop! It’s the top of the Line Chillblast Fulcrum 17″ Flight Simulation Laptop!
What do you run your flight simulation on? The chances are it’s a Desktop. Infact out of the 61 people I asked 81% of them said that they ran their sim on a desktop, only 19% ran there sim on a laptop. The normal connotations attached to running a flight simulation on a laptop is that you will never get equal performance to a Desktop. WRONG! Chillblast has a range of Laptops specifically designed for Flight Simulation,they are built from the ground up to play flight sim. Earlier this year they were kind enough to send over a review sample of their Top of the Line flight simulation laptop the “Fulcrum” This £1700 laptop is the Ultimate platform to run your simulator on the go. With a thickness of only 21.8mm when closed this 17inch gaming laptop is definitely a powerhouse machine that could show a lot of desktops how it’s done! Over the 8 weeks that I had it, I tested it in every way that I possibly could. Running every possible add-on that I could find and then maxing it out with Benchmarks!
The all-important specs, The Fulcrum manages to fit this into a package that only weighs 2.66KG!
Core Logic: Mobile Intel® 8 Series Express Chipset
Display: 17.3” FHD (1920×1080) 16:9 panel
Memory: 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 Memory
NVIDIA® Optimus Technology: GPU switchable between iGPU and dGPU
NVIDIA® Geforce GTX 970M – 3GB GDDR5 Video RAM
Storage 1: 500GB Samsung 840 EVO mSATA SSD
Storage 2: 1000GB Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid SSD/HDD
UK layout backlit Keyboard
Built in touch pad with multi-gesture and scrolling function
Intel High Definition Audio
4 x USB 3.0 ports
1 x HDMI output port (with HDCP)
1 x Headphone jack
1 x Microphone jack
1 x RJ-45 LAN port
1 x DC-in jack
1 x SD Card Slot
Built in 10/100/1000Mb Base-TX Ethernet LAN
FHD video camera
Full Range AC adapter, 150W
Removable 6 cells Smart Lithium-Ion battery pack, 60WH
418.5(W) x 287(D) x 21.8(H) mm
2.66kg, including battery
The lid of the laptop has a clean and simple design with the logo of chillblast placed in the top right when it’s opened. The actual material for the construction of the case is anodised aluminium. The simple design of the laptop originally wasn’t very appealing to me but over the weeks it has grown on me.
Turning the laptop over reveals the bottom which again has a simple design and on the left hand side a port for the bottom sub-woofer, vent holes for the dual side exhausting fans. And this rather strange feeling fabric velvety stuff. At first this perplexed me but then after using it I realised that it was so it didn’t slide of your lap when you’re using it.
Taking a look at the sides of the machine it certainly doesn’t have a lack of useful ports. On the left side it has a RJ-45 LAN port that can be used when you’re not on the go, a full size HDMI port, 2 display ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports and a headphone and microphone port.
Spinning the Laptop round and looking at the right I/O there’s a Kensington lock a somewhat awkwardly placed Power cable which was placed in-between a SD card slot which I did actually use. And another set of 2 USB 3.0 slots which will be very useful to anyone with lots of peripherals like yokes and joysticks.
Included in the box there is a 150W power brick which other than the rather awkward placement of the jack the actual brick is not that large and is relative to the thickness of the laptop it’s charging.
Opening It Up
Even opening this laptop up shouts quality, you don’t even have to hold the base of the laptop down to open it (Just like a MacBook). The hinge of the device has a tension just weak enough to enable you to open it with one hand.
Around the 17 inch display is more of that simple design with only a 1080p webcam placed above the screen. Unfortunately this is a TN panel so you won’t be getting the amazing viewing angles of a IPS display. But don’t hold this against it because while the vertical viewing angles are to be expected the horizontal viewing angles are surprisingly good.
The power button for the device is clearly placed in the centre of the laptop and the keyboard was a bit of a shock when I first saw it. The thing that I saw first was that the windows button was not in the normal place.
It was over on the right hand side near the arrow keys and was replaced by a function key? The general feel of the keyboard is great it has a nice tactile feel to it and relatively good key travel. I was pleased with the colour of the back lighting which is blue in colour and has the functionality of being able to change the brightness.
Don’t worry it does have a track pad and although I didn’t use it very much it was smooth and I didn’t really have any problems with getting my fingers stuck. I did find that they multi touch gestures like two fingered scrolling didn’t really work very well and sometimes I couldn’t get it to work at all.
The performance of this laptop is something to behold. The fact that they have managed to fit an Intel Core I7 4720HQ running at up to 3.6GHZ in a laptop. Let’s not forget the component in the laptop that sets it apart from the competition. The NVIDIA GTX 970M 3GB video card, this combined with the CPU makes for a very strong system overall.
Having a 500GB SSD makes booting anything you have on it a breeze. I timed it and it took less than 10 seconds to boot windows and you could then launch applications immediately after that and not have to wait a thousand years.
Adding in the extra 1TB of Mechanical storage means that you can put that Global Photographic scenery on that instead of the SSD. The one thing that really showed how good this system was compared to the rest were the bench marks.
For these tests I simply made sure nothing else was running on the PC and then ran the test. As you can see it performed extremely well.
The first test I did was using 3DMark. This test is here to see how well the laptop could perform displaying graphic intensive objects. There was a multitude of different tests each testing how well it handles things like intensive physics simulation and graphics.
As you can see the score of 6537 is fantastic and the most important thing in the picture is the graph at the bottom because it says that the Chillblast Fulcrum is 69% better than all other computers. It also showed that it was twice and powerful as the average gaming laptop and not too far away from a high end gaming PC!
The next test on the list was using a piece of software from Maxon called Cinebench. This software test the capabilities again of showing graphically intensive objects but also tests the speed of processing and rendering a image. As you can see a very impressive score of 100.78fps and 635cp
The final test conducted was using GeekBench 3. This software is perfect for testing out the performance of that Intel Core I7 CPU inside. As you can see it did rather well with a single core score of 3522 and a multi-core score of 13,158! Very impressive considering quite a few desktops couldn’t get that!
How does it run…?
On to the important bit, the part of the review that will set it apart from just any Laptop review. This is the part where we dive deep into the heart of simulation and I tell you what it’s really like to run a flight simulator on.
Over the 8 weeks that I had to Laptop, I ran every simulator and game that you could possibly run on it. The most important ones being FSX and P3D.
In the year of 2006 Microsoft created a successor to FS9. It was FSX. Ever since then it has become the simulator of choice for millions across the globe. Billions of addons have been created for it and over the 8 weeks I found all the product trials and demos I could.
I maxed out the system with over 20 different addons from companies such as: Aerosoft, PMDG, HIFI Simulations, UK2000, FlyTampa and many more! The one thing I did notice was that I was able to run most of the sliders all the way maxed out, Running the PMDG 777 sat at the gate at EGLL with UK2000 and FTX Global it could easily be getting 35FPS!
Below is a screenshot of the scenery sliders in the settings for FSX. As you can see the sliders are almost all the way across on the important ones such as the autogen.
Lockheed Martins Prepar3D may not be as old as FSX but in my experience it runs slightly better than FSX mainly due to the fact that it has been optimised for modern hardware unlike FSX.
As you can see the sliders on P3D pulled right over and this could just be me but with the P3D settings, not much happens when you change them and it doesn’t really do very much to the frame rates which were happily able to stay in the 30FPS range with the same addons as FSX.
Overall I think that P3D is the sim of the future because there should be a 64bit version coming out in the future and I think it’s about time that we got a 64bit sim other than Xplane! The graphics card would have been a little more useful in P3D because of the increased resolution of the textures and the shadows effect.
The screenshot above was taken is FSX and as you can see the texture resolution is turned up quite high. I think the only thing that I found that actually killed the frame rates was if you set the draw distance to 250nm in Active Sky.
But let’s be honest that would kill any system! My review of the Carenado S550 Citation II was done inside of P3D and it does look rather good with the shadows.
Although you would buy this laptop to play flight simulator it doesn’t mean that you can’t play any other games on it. I played some Saint’s Row Third and Arma III. In saints row Third it was displaying 60FPS and didn’t really drop below that.
The infamously hard game to run game, Arma III ran exactly how you would want it to on a desktop. Like many desktops it had issues when going through towns but other than that it ran like a breeze on most games.
I think that Chillblast have achieved something that before could only be achieved in a 5inch thick Alienware Laptop that you could barely lift. That is to create a computer that has equal performance to a desktop that you can actually lift.
Looking at the bench marks and the tests inside of Flight Simulators I can see that this laptop that is only 2.66kg in weight and 20mm thin actually can hold up a fight with a Desktop!
You may have a mini heart attack when you hear that the price is £1700. But stop and think, this is a laptop that is practically as powerful as a desktop that you are getting in a 2.6kg package that you can actually move.
Overall a stunning machine that doesn’t seem to have any blatantly obvious problems and just performs extremely well and is definitely something to admire as a technological marvel!
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