XMG DJ 15, The Best Laptop For DJ’s?
Since the early days of DVS, a laptop has been a vital tool for DJs the world around. The vast majority of modern-day DJs use controllers or mixers linked to DJ software, meaning laptops are essential to flawless performance. With DJ routines continually pushing the boundaries and the hardware forever introducing new features, the laptop’s workload to deliver stable, immediate audio becomes an ever-increasing challenge.
Enter uber-geek and DJ, Arkaei. Working for German laptop manufacturer Schenker, Arkaei has tested various PC hardware combinations to create the ultimate DJ laptop. Released under Schenker’s gaming brand XMG, the DJ 15 is purpose-built for the maximum DJ performance. So has Arkaei been successful, and is this the best laptop for a DJ? Let’s find out.
- DISPLAY – 15.6″ Full HD IPS Non-Glare
- PROCESSORS – Intel Core i5-10210U (1.6 – 4.2 GHz) or Intel Core i7-10510U (1.8 – 4.9 GHz)
- GRAPHICS – Intel UHD Graphics 620
- MEMORY – DDR4-2666 Samsung (8GB, 16GB, 2x 8GB, 2x 16GB options available)
- STORAGE – Samsung 970 EVO Plus NVMe or Samsung 860 EVO SATA III (500GB, 1TB and 2TB options available)
- PORTS – USB-A 2.0 | 2x USB-A 3.0 | Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 3.1 Gen 2| HDMI |Mini DisplayPort 1.2 | Headphone-Out | Mic-In + S/PDIF optical | RJ45 Port (LAN) | 6-in-1card reader
- SECURITY – Fingerprint Reader
- BATTERY – Changeable 54.4 Wh Li-Ion-battery
- WEIGHT – 1.6 kg
- DIMENSIONS – 360.4 x 244,5 x 19.9 mm (W x D x H)
The XMG DJ 15 is available in either a Red or Silver chassis. Both feature aluminium construction on the lid and top case with a resin base and bezel. The chassis feels excellent to the touch. However, there is sight deck flex in areas such as beside the trackpad. Weighing in at just 1.6kg, the laptop feels surprisingly light even though it’s 15″ size. The hinge feels reassuringly tight. However, this does mean one-handed opening is virtually impossible.
Speaking of the display, the matte finish anti-glare panel is ideal for use in dark clubs, handling moving beams of light with no issues. The 1920x1080p panel isn’t the sharpest, nor the brightest. However, for this price point, we’re not complaining. The surrounding bezels are nice and thin except the bottom where the DJ 15 sadly develops a large chin. On the upside, this is a perfect place for placing stickers. The branding opportunities don’t stop there either, with XMG offering custom logo printing. Ideal for DJ’s wanting to maximise branding, this option isn’t available from the online configurator but by emailing XMG directly to ensure the best results.
The chiclet full-sized keyboard features a dedicated number pad. The keys feel solid, even at the edges with plenty of travel. Being laser etched, the characters allow the backlight to shine through. Ideal for DJ’ing in dark environments, the backlight can be changed between 27 colours. This will look great on the silver model no doubt, however, we only found white complimented our red model!
Finally, the large windows precision trackpad with gesture support feels fantastic. Responsive to the touch and intuitive to use, the Windows precision drivers feel very close to the industry leader Macbook’s. The dedicated left and right-click buttons have around 2mm of travel with a solid click at the bottom of their travel. The trackpads built-in fingerprint reader allows for quick login, allowing the machine to boot from cold to the desktop in just 20 seconds.
Possibly the XMG’s best asset, the ports featured on the DJ 15 will cater for almost any professional’s needs. Making Macbook users everywhere jealous, the XMG features two regular USB 3.0 A ports. On top of this, an older USB A 2.0 port caters for users with older audio hardware that’s particular with the port’s connections speed. It’s not all older connections though, the XMG features a single USB-C port with support for Thunderbolt 3, display port and charging should the user forget the included 65W barrel plug unit.
The dedicated headphone port is compatible with gaming/phone headsets. The microphone input doubles as a digital S/PDIF optical output, ideal for audiophiles using external DACS. Finally, a 6-in-1 card reader, ethernet port, full-size HDMI and display port 1.2 round off the DJ 15’s incredible connections.
The wide variety of ports on offer make dongles and adapters a thing of the past. Regardless if you DJ using Pro DJ Link, USB’s, SD cards, or a controller, there is a connection for absolutely everybody on this machine.
Custom BIOS and Windows 10
So far, in this review, we could have described any number of laptops on the market. Sure there’s a connection for every device, but that aside, there’s nothing built and engineered specifically for a DJ. This is where Ray (Arkaei) and the XMG team come in.
In the pursuit for ultimate audio performance, Arkaei and the team at XMG meticulously built and tested various hardware combinations, seeking the best DPC performance from the extensive catalogue of Schenker’s suppliers. Once the best hardware combination had been found, the next task was to build a version of Windows that prioritised audio performance above everything else.
XMG includes Windows 10 Pro on the DJ 15 model, and we’re thankful to say this is completely bloat-free. No unwanted Candy Crush Saga to uninstall, no seven days free trial to an anti-virus system you’ve never heard of. The changes aren’t just skin deep either. The whole operating system is tuned for the hardware it’s installed on. Combined with a custom BIOS, this ensures ultra-low, stable DPC latency out of the box, even running off the battery with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth activated.
What is DPC Latency, and why does it matter to DJ’s?
When an operating system needs information from a component (Wi-Fi adapter, graphics card, touchpad etc.) – it issues a so-called Interrupt Service Request or ISR for short. This happens many times per second, and most components only take a couple of microseconds to respond. When they don’t, the system moves on to something called Deferred Procedure Call – or DPC.
In simple terms, a DPC is your computer interrupting components to process essential tasks – and the time it takes for that problematic component to respond is what you call “DPC latency”. On a well-optimised system, with the right combination of components that all work well with each other and run the best drivers available, DPC latency is insignificant.
Most manufacturers don’t care about DPC and therefore don’t optimise machines for it. This is because the average user won’t notice the impact. In most cases, a DPC latency spike will be somewhere around 6-8ms, which is no big deal when you’re watching YouTube, responding to emails, or even playing games.
However, when you’re working with DJ software or a DAW, things are different. DJ’s want to run mixers, controllers and audio interfaces at the lowest possible buffer size to have quick response times, especially when scratching. So when the system issues a DPC and a component takes too long to answer, the result is audio dropouts and audible glitches. Affecting the DJ’s performance and sounding terrible.
It’s essential to understand that DPC latency is not related to how fast your laptop is. Even the most expensive laptop can have worse DPC spikes than on a cheaper laptop. DPC optimisation is all about the interplay of the BIOS, components and drivers rather the biggest and best parts. Something thankfully, the DJ 15 has completely been designed around.
Over the last few months, we’ve been testing the XMG DJ 15 in various scenarios. Overall we have been very impressed with the laptop and the performance it offers. Powered by tenth generation Intel processors and running high-quality Samsung memory and storage, this machine was never going to be slow. Still, the immediacy of which tasks are completed is noticeable.
Stripped back, bloat-free Windows is also very refreshing to see on a brand new machine. Something Mac users have enjoyed for years. The large cooling vents on the laptop’s base keep the machine running cool with no thermal throttling throughout our testing. The fans never seem to spin up for long as a result. Although that said, they aren’t exactly the quietest when active.
The under the hood changes are hard to see in day to day DJ’ing, unless you know how to push the system. Even when you push the buffer limits to their smallest, you still won’t hear a difference. Everything works, flawlessly. That’s how good this laptop’s audio performance is. Regardless if it’s pushing the boundaries using numerous software and hardware at once, or setting your scratch mixer to the fastest response time, the DJ 15 doesn’t break a sweat. Zero dropouts, no glitches and flawless audio throughout. Impressive stuff indeed for those who require nothing but the best response times.
However, nothing is perfect, and the XMG DJ 15 is no exception with some areas we’d like to see improved upon. The integrated stereo speakers found in either corner of the base are woeful, a real weak link for a laptop built around audio. The 1080p display, although superb at handling nightclubs lights, is a tad dim when working in daylight. The low resolution also leaves the display lacking sharpness, especially on DJ applications that use small fonts. Driving that display is sadly, integrated graphics. With no dedicated GPU installed on the DJ 15. In day to day use, this causes no real issues. However, it does mean streaming a set or advanced video DJ’ing, isn’t possible on this machine.
Overall, we are very impressed with the XMG DJ 15. This is a laptop for DJ’s by DJ’s, and it’s important to remember that when trying to compare the machine to others on the market. Costing €1116 with a one terabyte SSD and 16GB of RAM, the DJ 15 is very competitively specced when compared to other laptops at this price range. Sure, the build quality isn’t on par with a Dell XPS or a Macbook. But this machine is designed around DJ’ing, not selecting emojis from a touch screen. The screen and speakers certainly don’t lend the machine to more day-to-day tasks such as browsing the internet and watching movies.
If you’re after a day to day laptop with some light DJ’ing here and there, this probably isn’t the machine for you. But if you’re a professional DJ who requires nothing but the best audio performance, the DJ 15 is a fantastic choice at a great price. We are yet to see another laptop come even slightly close to the audio performance on offer by XMG here!
Now please, XMG can we get a 13″ model?