Display and Sound
With a quad-core Intel Haswell processor and latest-generation Nvidia Kepler graphics, what the P303 Pro really needs is a display capable of harnessing all that pixel-pushing power. Fortunately, the 13.3in IPS panel does not disappoint.
Everything about the display manages to impress, so don't be surprised to find that this is the same CMN1343 panel that's used in Asus's premium 13.3in Zenbooks. Brightness and contrast is good, colour reproduction is excellent, viewing angles on both the horizontal and vertical planes are fantastic, and thanks to a matte finish, reflections aren't an issue.
The display is a joy to look at and the 1,920x1,080 resolution brings visible clarity to multimedia content. Though, if there's a catch, it's that the size of on-screen icons might be too small for some. To make Windows navigation feel less strenuous, we had to adjust desktop scaling to 125 per cent.
Such is the quality of the 13.3in display, it's a shame the accompanying speakers aren't anywhere near as good. Situated underneath the laptop on the left and right sides, the stereo speakers offer acceptable volume, but the sound is tinny and lacking in depth. Put the laptop on your lap, and the positioning of the speakers also leaves a good probability of muffled output. A quality gaming headset is practically a requirement.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Two items top of our list of priorities when searching for a perfect laptop; the display and the keyboard. XMG's P303 Pro has nailed the display side of things, but the keyboard isn't quite up to the same standard. The near-full-width panel looks inviting and comes equipped with a white-backlight that works well, yet it feels uninspired during use.
Keyboard comfort is subjective as the best of times, but we found the P303 Pro's keys too stiff for our liking. Mind you, we're coming from a Lenovo ThinkPad, so our expectations couldn't be higher. XMG does provide good elements - the general layout is agreeable and we like the fact that Ctrl is kept to the left of the Function key - however gamers will miss not having an option to disable the Windows key, and the underlying tray can become quite warm even when the system is idling. Not uncomfortably so, but warm enough for you to notice it.
The Synaptics trackpad, on the other hand, ticks most of the right boxes. The two separate left and right buttons offer a nice soft click when pressed, and the tracking surface itself is responsive and reacts well to two- and three-finger gestures. Once again, though, there is a caveat; the trackpad's limited size inevitably restricts comfort to some extent.
Software, Noise and Heat
In keeping with past experiences of XMG laptops, the P303 Pro arrives clean of bloatware, with the vendor adding only the applicable driver packages on top of a 64-bit install of Windows 8. Worth remembering, also, that those wishing to use their own copy of Windows (or indeed another operating system) can save a few bob by ordering the laptop with no software at all.
Over the years, we've found that fan noise can be an issue with Clevo designs, and unfortunately, the P303 Pro isn't much of an improvement. The laptop can be quiet at times, but the fan profiles are very aggressive and lack a gradual speed curve. All of a sudden, and even when the system is idling, the internal fan will bust into high speed and become frustratingly loud.
The fan noise is to be expected when gaming or applying demanding CPU load, but we're hoping there will be a BIOS update that softens the transition from quiet to loud. Though, there's unlikely to be a software fix for the amount of heat the laptop is having to contend with. We never found it uncomfortable during testing, but it does become quite warm under load and you'll need to keep the one-and-only exhaust vent free from obstruction; it constantly throws out hot air.