Mobile gaming is a serious business, and one which commands some serious hardware, and you're spoiled for choice if you want an angular, brutish gaming laptop, with the likes of the Alienware 15 and the HP Omen X serving the mass market well with their pointy edges.
Meanwhile, niche manufacturers like MSI or Asus are free to go mad with super-powered (and super-priced) high-end portable PCs. The absurdly powerful (and expensive) Acer Predator 21 X, which we covered recently, is a prime example of the ludicrous fringes of laptop design.
But splurging on those mega-machines isn't something everyone can afford to do, particularly as a heftily-specced desktop PC can usually be had for far less cash. There's a portability premium to be paid for powerful laptops, both in terms of their overall cost and in terms of their pixel-pushing power.
It's tempting, then, to look towards the lower end of the market, nudging the needle of compromise more towards power than price. While we're looking at the higher-tier Medion Erazer laptop here – weighing in at £1,059 (about $1358/AU$1715) as opposed to £949, but sporting a 256GB SSD and upping the processor from Core i5-7300HQ to Core i7-7700HQ – it skims in way below many laptop price points. But at what real cost?
Price and availability
German manufacturer Medion – which is majority owned by Lenovo – has a reputation for producing cut-priced, cut-corners machines. It's a legacy we presume it's looking to sidestep with this unit and the rest of its gaming range, as there's not a hint of Medion branding on the case.
Although we're sure that certain sacrifices have been made in order to make this machine as affordable as possible, it's by no means a budget build, and Medion has this time spread its distribution network far wider, at least in the UK, than its usual discount supermarket locales.
You can pick this build of the Erazer X6603 up for around £1,060 in the UK on Amazon, through Argos and PC World, and via catalogue retailers like Littlewoods and Very, among others.
If you're in the US and Australia you may have some luck getting hold of this machine, but don't hold your breath; Medion generally only sells through Aldi stores outside of Europe, and the Erazer X6603 is slightly more expensive than the machines you'd usually see sold through the German chain.
The Erazer X6603 looks every bit the gaming laptop. It has the angles: harsh slopes lower the base level slightly so the full keyboard has room to rise, the trackpad is all triangles and rhombuses with its own slight downward angle, there's a pair of Klingon ridges on the lid, and a strange triangular hump mirrored on the front of the base and the top of the hinge.
The matt-black finish is, as these things go, fairly standard, and it's peppered with blue faux-LED highlights for a concession to gaming aesthetics that doesn't add to the price.
The keyboard, cramming a number pad into a 15-inch chassis, is a little squashed at its edges as you might expect – not ideal for gaming, as the close position of the left Shift key cramps the hand somewhat when fingering the standard WASD combination, but just about acceptable.
There's nothing hugely lacking here; the Erazer is generous with its ports, gets great sound out of its Dolby Audio-infused hinge-mounted speakers, and its matt screen is visible from a good range of angles in a good range of conditions. It's not a stellar panel by any means, but it does the job.
Don't even think about using it on your lap, though: the bottom ventilation port is enormous, and the internals need every atom of the air it sucks in.
Given that we're testing the higher-tier Erazer X6603 here – SSD, Core i7 and all – general desktop performance is expectedly slick. That said, even at this level, it's not rocking the absolute top-tier of components: the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti card on the pixel-pushing end contributes hugely to the reduced price of this machine, and means you're not going to be hitting maximum settings in many modern games.
As expected, the Erazer X6603 pushes through the majority of our benchmarks with ease, stumbling only when attempting ultra settings – and even with the dials turned to full, it does an acceptable job on Total War Warhammer's notoriously brutal benchmark, averaging 42.5fps. That may not be enough for the most hardcore gamer, and it doesn't augur well for the next generation of games, but it's pretty damn good at the price.
Battery life and fan noise
Our PCMark battery test highlights the Medion Erazer X6603's key weakness, and it's one that we expected coming into this review, and one that's by no means unusual for gaming laptops. Its battery life is absolutely pathetic, with those high-end components generally exhausting it after less than two hours, and running games only accelerates the process.
It's a good job the speakers are so solid, too, as the cooling solution on offer makes quite the racket. It's highly effective – the X6603 doesn't get nearly as hot as some of its rivals – but hard to ignore.
It's hard to argue with the Medion Erazer X6603's price point. It settles nicely into the mid-tier gaming bracket, and it's powerful enough to satisfy anyone who's willing to make a couple of in-game quality sacrifices.
Making those sacrifices, even on games a year old, is all but mandatory, and this is a loud, heavy, large machine that you're not going to want to drag around often.
The Core i7 iteration of Medion's Erazer X6603 is an impressive achievement. It's a cheap(ish) laptop that doesn't seem cheap, with a muscular makeup that can handle gaming well. It wouldn't be our first choice for a day-to-day machine, particularly given its minimal battery life, but as a gaming standby for those click-happy road trips it's a solid companion.