This is the world's most powerful and customizable 11.6 inch notebook, period. And oh, its pretty affordable so you don't have to take a mortgage on your house too.
It is not far fetched to say that most people are appreciative of sub 13-inch screen designs, as they are small enough to fit in most carrier bags without weighing like a ton of bricks, and can open up fully in tight, enclosed spaces like on the trays of (proletariat class) plane seats and flimsy lecture hall desks (and you can still put a nice Starbucks cuppa next to it).
Intel's fabled Ultrabooks like my lovely Asus Zenbook UX31 fits the bill but it means sacrificing a lot of CPU and Graphics power in exchange for a sexy but pointless razor-thin chassis. This means I can't calculate, while travelling, the 14th Mersenne prime number or play Battlefield 3 without getting handicapped by lack of FPS. Traditional gaming and fruity laptops do have the horsepower for these tasks but they have the weight of a moon and/or require an elite millionaire class seat to open its body fully. Another ardent concern is the power envelope of the internal componentry, which directly correlates to heat output and battery life. At the very least we expect 4-6 hours of Facebook or 1.5-2 hours of gaming, all that without causing deafness or setting fire to the surroundings.
The Aftershock X11 that we are reviewing here today is actually based on the Clevo 110ER barebone (Ivy Bridge HM76 chipset), which has recently become a cult hit among fans of boutique system builders like Origin PC (US) and Sager (EU). Budding Singaporean startup Aftershock PC is attempting to replicate that niche business model and sell a host of highly customizable laptops ranging from 11-inch ultraportables to 17-inch behemoths targeted at gamers, students and IT professionals.
Beginning with left side of the X11, we find a Gigabit LAN port (still highly relevant today for jitter-free gameplay and file sharing), analog VGA and HDMI for external monitor hook-up, audio jacks for headphone and microphone and a pair of USB 3.0 for those high speed devices. The solo exhaust vent of the notebook is also found on this side, which we will go into more detail later.
Over at the other end, we get another USB port and the DC power input. The hole in the middle enables a security lock to be used for tethering the laptop to the table to prevent your friend with kelptomaniac tendencies from taking your preciousss away.
Over at the front, there is a built-in 3-in-1 card reader for additional storage expansion needs.
This is how the Aftershock X11 (middle) compares, thickness wise, to an Ultrabook and a regular Dell Vostro. Our middle-class hero weighs an acceptable 1.72kg and has quoted dimensions of 11.5 x 8.3 x 1.5 inches.
The 1366×768 LED Backlit display won't win any awards for colour accuracy or contrast ratios, but Aftershock does provide a $105 upgrade option to a matt display (as opposed to the glossy nonsense that the whole industry is plagued with). With the advent of higher PPI panels with better colour fidelity popping up everywhere, you can expect better panel choices to come your way in the near future.
Keyboard typeface and key travel is reminiscent of ASUS's quality mobile offerings and the Synaptics touchpad (PS/2) worked reasonably well with the usual multi-touch gestures. It would be nice if the right-shift key was full sized and maybe include some backlighting, but these are just minor shortcomings.