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PowerSpec 1710 and PowerSpec 1510 review: Formidable gaming laptops at great prices

Savvy electronics shoppers know Micro Center as the go-to retailer for mouthwatering CPU deals if you’re lucky enough to live near one. The company’s first-ever homegrown gaming laptops continue that devotion to damned good prices. Despite packing a full-fat GeForce GTX 1070 and other high-end hardware, the aluminum-clad PowerSpec 1510 costs a mere $1,300, and the PowerSpec 1710 just $1,400. (With in-store pickup only, of course—this is Micro Center.) That’s surprisingly little cash for such potent portable PCs!

Nvidia’s gameplay-smoothing G-Sync technology is disabled by default though, making you jump through hidden and arcane hoops to get the best experience on the PowerSpec laptops—and one of these is definitely the better buy.

PowerSpec 1510 and PowerSpec 1710 specs, features, and price

The 15.6-inch PowerSpec 1510 and 17.3-inch PowerSpec sport identical core hardware. Externals are another story. The Micro Center laptops use two very different Clevo cases, and that leads to two wildly different user experiences.

  • CPU: Core i7-7700HQ
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4/2400
  • Storage: 1TB HGST 7200RPM hard drive, 250GB Samsung 960 EVO NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Wireless: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
  • Display (1710): 17.3-inch, 60Hz 1920×1080 IPS, or 75Hz with G-Sync active (disabled by default)
  • Display (1510): 15.6-inch, 60Hz 1920×1080 IPS, G-Sync (disabled by default)
  • Weight (1710): 6 lb. 14.6 oz., or 8 lb. 14.2 oz. with power brick
  • Weight (1510): 6 lb. 9.4 oz., or 8 lb. 14.4 oz. with power brick
  • Dimensions (1710): 16.5 x 11.5 x 1 inches
  • Dimensions (1510): 15.25 x 10.75 x 1.25 inches
  • Webcam: 1080p
  • Price: $1,300 for PowerSpec 1510, $1,400 for PowerSpec 1710

We’ll discuss the port selection as part of the overall design talk in a later section.

You won’t find any lightweight Nvidia Max-Q subtlety here. The GeForce GTX 1070 lurking inside is the full-fat version, and the PowerSpec laptops are old-school bruisers at an inch (or more!) thick and nearly 7 pounds. of heft before you add in the power brick. That raw bulk lets Micro Center cram top-of-the-line hardware into the PowerSpec 1510 and PowerSpec 1710. With a Core i7-7700HQ, 16GB of RAM, and a helpfully fast Samsung 960 EVO NVMe boot drive, these beasts were built to spit out blistering frame rates.

The curious case of (kinda) missing G-Sync

But bizarrely, G-Sync—the Nvidia technology that synchronizes the refresh rate of the GPU and display to eliminate tearing and stuttering—isn’t active by default. The Nvidia Control Panel won’t let you turn it on, either. What?

powerspec bios Brad Chacos/IDG

You need to dive into the PowerSpec laptop’s throwback BIOS to activate G-Sync.

As it turns out, the PowerSpec laptops ship with Microsoft Hybrid Graphics mode enabled by default. Hybrid mode switches off the discrete GPU and shifts the workload over to the Intel CPU’s integrated graphics when face-melting visual power isn’t required. It saves battery life, but G-Sync won’t—can’t—function using Hybrid mode. G-Sync demands secret sauce from Nvidia GPUs 100 percent of the time. To activate G-Sync, you need to boot into the system BIOS and head to the Advanced tab. There, select Advanced Chipset Control and change the “MSHybrid or DISCRETE Switch” option to Discrete. Reboot the PC, give the system a second to think, and you’ll receive a prompt to enable G-Sync in the Nvidia Control Panel.

Fortunately you’ll only need to this once—but it’s ludicrous that you need to do it at all. The PowerSpec laptops ship with a flagship feature disabled. Worse, the activation’s hidden behind an arcane process that’s never made obvious to end users. And get this: Switching to the discrete GPU bumps the PowerSpec 1710’s display refresh rate from the default 60Hz up to 75Hz. (No such luck on the PowerSpec 1510, alas.) I’ve never seen a laptop configured this way and honestly, the only reason I puzzled out the solution was because I saw an Intel graphics option while right-clicking the desktop and was savvy enough to recognize what that indicated. It’s not consumer-friendly whatsoever.

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