Hands-On, Laptop

Level51 Vapor 15 Pro Hands-On: A Compact, Lightweight, Powerful Gaming Laptop

Update 13 January 2020: Our full review of the Level51 Vapor 15 Pro is up! Click here to learn more.

As gaming laptops get thinner and lighter, you’d think they’d be more portable too, but that simply isn’t the case. In terms of dimension, gaming laptops are still quite sizeable. It doesn’t help either that even the smallest gaming notebooks come with 15.6-inch displays.

Well, that’s where Level51’s Vapor 15 Pro particularly excel in. Not only is it a lightweight machine – it tips the scales at only 1.87kg – it’s also noticeably more compact than your average gaming laptop. On top of that, it has capable hardware under the hood too. If you want a portable gaming laptop, the Vapor 15 Pro is one to look out for.

Before we get to the laptop itself, some background: the Level51 Vapor 15 Pro – also marketed under Aftershock (Level51’s parent company) with the same name in certain markets – shares the same chassis as the Eluktronics Mag-15 for the US market. Why is this important? Well, that’s because this chassis is also developed by Intel itself.

In fact, it can be said that the Vapor 15 Pro is the result of Intel’s collaboration with Level51, and the result is fantastic. The whole laptop has solid build quality thanks to the use of magnesium alloy, the lid can be lifted with only one finger, and the palm rest area is nice and cool to the touch. Basically, it’s a refined, well-designed chassis.

Another strong point with the Vapor 15 Pro’s design is the small bezel surrounding the display, especially the bottom part. This is the very reason why the Vapor 15 is a lot more portable than other gaming laptops with a similar display size. I’ve compared it to my own 14-inch Lenovo ThinkPad T480s, and the gaming laptop is only marginally wider – that’s how compact it is.

Besides that, the Vapor 15 Pro is also a lightweight and slim gaming laptop. As mentioned, it weighs only 1.87kg, and it has a 20.5mm chassis. Sure, that doesn’t make it the slimmest machine around – the Acer Predator Triton 500, for example, is only 17.9mm thin – but it’s certainly thinner than the majority of other gaming laptops.

There’s one more thing I’d like to bring your attention to: the clean, blank lid of the Vapor 15 Pro. Surprisingly enough, there is virtually no branding at all on this gaming laptop, which I personally love. It’s really quite an understated, minimalist laptop that wouldn’t look out of place even in a professional setting.

Port selection of the Vapor 15 Pro is great too. On the back, it has an HDMI output, a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, as well as an ethernet jack. Either sides of the laptop, on the other hand, house three USB-A ports, a microphone jack, a headphone jack, and get this: an SD card slot.

Beyond design, the Vapor 15 Pro is a capable gaming laptop. The display, for one, is a fast 144Hz 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display. The high refresh rate allows the screen to show more frames per second, so everything looks extra smooth on this laptop. The 144Hz display is a very important feature for a high-end gaming laptop like the Vapor 15 Pro.

Of course, a high refresh rate wouldn’t matter if the GPU isn’t powerful enough to take advantage of it. In this regard, the Vapor 15 Pro can be configured with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q or a GTX 1660 Ti GPU paired with an Intel Core i7-9750H processor. Both options are equally viable, but if you want the best performance, the RTX 2070 Max-Q is definitely the better one.

That doesn’t mean the GTX 1660 Ti is a “bad” choice by any means; the review unit I got is actually packing this GPU. I’ll put the GTX 1660 Ti through its paces in a full review of the Vapor 15 Pro, but if you’re curious, you can check out my previous laptop reviews with this GPU.

As for the display quality itself, it’s quite good. The Vapor 15 Pro’s 1080p IPS display can get reasonably bright, viewing angles are great, and colours are vibrant too. It’s also worth noting that Level51 offers a 30-day zero dead pixel policy with this laptop. If you’re particular about getting a unit with dead pixels – I certainly am – you won’t have to worry.

Rounding out the specifications of the Vapor 15 Pro include 16GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD, and a generous 94WHr battery. This being a Level51 gaming laptop, you can also customise its hardware on the company’s website.

And then we have the input devices of the Vapor 15 Pro, which is quite interesting. See, this laptop has a “silent” mechanical keyboard of sorts with 2mm of key travel. For the most part, it can provide a pleasant typing experience. The keys definitely have a good amount of travel, and it’s not overly loud either.

However, some may not be a fan of this mechanical keyboard. Unlike normal laptop keyboards, the tactile feedback isn’t quite as pronounced. After all, it doesn’t have any rubber dome; the keys don’t “bounce” back up the same way conventional laptop keyboards do. The actuation force is quite low as well, so the keys feel lighter than usual.

Anyway, the trackpad of the Vapor 15 Pro is reasonably good. It has a nice, smooth surface, and it’s a largely accurate trackpad. However, I don’t quite like how “loose” it feels. It feels wobbly when I tap lightly on the trackpad.

The Level51 Vapor 15 Pro is easily one of the most interesting gaming laptops I’ve come across, thanks to its lightweight, compact chassis, and minimalist design. Performance wise, I’m sure this laptop won’t disappoint either with its GTX 1660 Ti GPU and Core i7-9750H processor.

But what about pricing? Well, the Vapor 15 Pro retails at RM5,999 and RM7,499 for the GTX 1660 Ti and RTX 2070 models respectively; only the GPU differentiates the two variants. Yes, this is quite a costly machine, but it is a premium, compact gaming laptop with a lightweight chassis.

I will be using the Vapor 15 Pro as my daily driver in the next couple of weeks, and I’m pretty excited to see if it can even serve as a decent productivity laptop, given its large battery capacity and compact form factor. Of course, I’ll be doing a lot of gaming on the Vapor 15 Pro too – stay tuned for the full review.

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