• Price: €1288
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XMG DJ 15 Laptop Review

Phil Morse
Last updated 9 June, 2021

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The Lowdown

The Windows XMG DJ 15 laptop is optimised for DJs, has loads of ports, is upgradable, and is good value for money. It has been designed by someone who understands exactly what DJs need, and you get great after-sales support. With an average screen resolution, so-so build quality, and poor built-in speakers, it’s not the best choice for an all-round laptop, but as a dedicated laptop to use as a tool to run your DJ software and potentially your production software too, the Windows XMG DJ 15 will out-perform pretty much anything.

Video Review

First Impressions / Setting up

The laptop’s concept

If you want to DJ with Serato, Rekordbox, Traktor, Virtual DJ and so on, one thing you’ll need is a laptop. So what do you go for? More than half of our students use a Mac – they probably already own one, and simply use it for DJing too. But that leaves another nearly half of DJs who are Windows users. And while Macs tend to cope just fine with DJing, many Windows computers aren’t the best fit for this purpose.

Enter the XMG DJ 15. It is a Windows laptop that is designed from the ground up for audio purposes, primarily DJing. From its components to the operating system tweaks the company has made, everything is designed to make laptop DJ software run quickly and smoothly. In this review, we find out what it’s all about.

The XMG difference

XMG is known for high performance gaming laptops, and likewise this is a high performance audio laptop, designed to be used only for DJing, not everyday use – it is a tool for use with DJ software.

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The Bios and hardware components have been tweaked/chosen to work best when used with DJ applications, and the version of Windows supplied has been set up to be as stripped back and minimal as possible, and optimised for DJing.

The laptop is the brainchild of one man, Ray Arkaei, who’s a respected DJ in his own right. He also heads the support team at XMG, meaning you get personalised support when you buy this device, as well as a 24-month back-to-base guarantee.

First impressions

First impressions are of a pretty run-of-the-mill laptop. Plastic case, ordinary looking. It comes in red or silver, and the model we reviewed is the silver one. Beneath the plastic it has an aluminium chassis, which makes it lightweight.

DJs can choose between two colour options for their laptop: silver or red.

There are lots of inputs and outputs, including an SSD card slot, a USB-C port that can also be used for charging, three USB-A ports (two 3.0 and one 2.0), two audio sockets (headphones/mic and mic/optical), Ethernet, and both an HDMI and a Thunderbolt port. No dongles required – great.

Open the lid and you notice it has a good trackpad with two buttons and a fingerprint sensor, and a backlit keyboard with a number pad. The 15” matt screen goes almost to the edges of the lid, and is bright and easy to see, but has mediocre resolution (no “Retina”-type quality here, just full HD).

The basic power spec is good: Windows 10 Pro, Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, 1TB PCI-Express SSD Samsung hard drive, 16GB of memory – all is modular too, so you can upgrade components, unlike a Mac. There’s a Kensington lock, and a basic webcam too, plus (frankly, terrible) built-in stereo speakers.

Setting up

The laptop comes with a pretty compact power supply, but if you have a USB-C 60W power supply, you can use that too. (That means it would play nicely with the Reloop Stand Hub – although the USB-C port is in a strange position.)

On first turning on, you’re presented with the usual Windows 10 set-up walkthrough (the laptop comes with Windows 10 Pro) – XMG recommends saying “no” to everything when setting up, so no to Cortana, no to Microsoft 365, and so on. Basically, get to the Windows 10 desktop as fast as you can.

When you do finally get to the desktop, you see the XMG wallpaper – this is your assurance that your laptop has been tweaked back at base for DJing use. One little thing we noticed immediately, and loved: All system sounds turned off by default. (I once played the Windows “closing down” tune accidentally through a club PA at 4am – not cool.)

The XMG desktop wallpaper: the goal is to keep things simple and arrive here quickly, without adding any unnecessary “bloat” to your laptop.

You’re going to need a browser to download your DJ software: you can use Microsoft Edge, but you can also use the pre-installed Edge to simply download Chrome, if that’s what you’re used to, and if you want to avoid all the Microsoft advertising and so on baked into the default Edge experience.

You’re going to want to discover the laptop’s power options, of which there are two of interest:

  • “Balanced” is for day-to-day use (set preparation etc), and also for when you’re on battery
  • “XMG High Performance” is for actual DJ performances – you’re getting full power all the time, and the laptop won’t shut down if you close the lid

There’s a control centre, where you can change the keyboard background colour, turn off the keyboard sleep timer (recommended), and adjust the backlight brightness.

This being Windows, you’ll need to get the audio drivers for your hardware. While some people may see the need to install separate audio drivers as a pain, it does have one advantage, in that updating the OS won’t break your audio in the way that it often does when Mac users update (hence DJ companies shouting “don’t upgrade yet!” to Mac users, regularly).

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XMG recommends changing the “active hours’ for Windows updates to avoid Windows updates randomly happening just before a gig, for instance, which seems like good practice.

We liked the fact that Windows, like Mac, now also has a dark mode – this is pretty new, and is much more comfortable for using the laptop in most DJ situations.

We tested the laptop with Serato DJ Pro and Rekordbox. With Serato, we needed to install Quicktime, an Apple audio app – XMG recommends just installing “Quicktime Essentials”. Once that was done, and we had the drivers installed for the hardware we were using, we were ready to play…

In Use

I mean, a computer is a computer, right? We weren’t really sure what we were looking for here to form an opinion about the XMG DJ 15 – but then we came up with a devilish test idea: Latency. In other words, let’s figure out the time it takes for what you’re doing on your DJ gear to come out of the speakers.

Latency

As this is sold as a computer that deliberately compromises on all the non-important stuff (quality of casing, screen resolution, graphics card – as in, it doesn’t have one…), all in the name of giving you an audio-optimised DJing machine that can supposedly out-grunt practically anything else on the market, we had to test that.

XMG DJ 15 spec
Full specifications on the XMG DJ 15 laptop. The company deliberately compromises on the “non-essential” components to give owners an audio-optimised DJing machine.

XMG states that all components have been chosen to reduce something called DPC (“deferred procedure call”) latency – basically how long it takes the keyboard, hard drive, audio hardware and so on inside the computer to communicate with each other. This in turn reduces the latency on your DJ software, so the theory goes. So let’s find out…

We set it up with controllers on both Serato and Rekordbox. By heading into the software’s buffer size settings, we found we could easily DJ at 128 samples/2.9ms latency. This is astonishingly fast, and effectively instantaneous, as no human can detect latency that short. XMG tells us that with DVS/Phase (ie when using with turntables) results are about double that, but it’s still hugely impressive and still below what any human could notice.

Reliability and overheating

So here’s another thing: This laptop does not get excessively hot. Maybe it’s the large vents on the underside, or that it just doesn’t get pushed hard enough to get very warm, but it’s a vital piece of the performance puzzle, because when computers get hot, they self-throttle so they don’t overheat. Result? They slow down. No such issue here.

Another thing to look for when DJing with laptops is, of course, reliability. Now I’ll put my cards on the table and say that we only tested this for a few hours, and so I have no idea about how stable it is – but our friend Mojaxx over at DJcity TV used a similar laptop for over a year, from the same company, and said he didn’t experience a single glitch or crash.

You’d expect that, and I have no reason to doubt it here.

Ports and battery life

One other thing I have to mention is that it was so nice to have enough ports. What the hell Apple was thinking removing all those useful ports from its laptops a few years back I’ll never know, but being able to plug in all types of leads without worrying about dongles or adaptors is just plain sensible.

Finally, we found the battery life to be about six hours in balanced mode, half that in XMG High Performance mode, which is pretty good – although you’d usually of course be DJing with this plugged in, so there’s not really an issue here anyway.

What we didn’t like

It is undeniably a cheap build. The designer, Ray Arkaei, says he’s tested it in heat, sandy/dusty environments, and so on, and it does fine – but to us, durability is important for a DJ laptop, and this doesn’t have Mac build quality, not by a long shot. We’d like to see a more pro casing option.

Because it is designed for DJ performances, as we’ve discussed, there are compromises. The HD screen is fine by us, but nonetheless the built-in speakers sound terrible, and there’s no graphics card – many DJs are livestreaming from the same laptop they’re DJing from nowadays, and if you throw too much video at this, it’ll struggle. Again, a model that could handle this would be good in the future.

And finally, it’s only really available in the EU – you can now buy it worldwide if you’re a business customer, but you won’t get the back-to-base guarantee (you will get the customer service, though). I understand that for a small company it is hard to set up effective worldwide distribution and after-sales support, but it’ll still be disappointing for our many non-European subscribers and students who’ll have to jump through a few more hoops to get one – although it is still possible.

Conclusion

The XMG DJ 15 is blisteringly fast, doesn’t get hot, is easy to connect everything up to – basically, for an audio laptop, it rocks.

This is not meant to be an all-round laptop for day-to-day use – it’s a tool for DJing with. The money has been spent making it the best tool for that, and not anywhere else. This is how it should be viewed.

XMG says “By DJs, for DJs”, and they mean it. We recommend using this as a tool for your DJing and/or music production exclusively.

There is no other Windows PC company with a dedicated DJ laptop in its range like this, optimised for DJing, and importantly, with customer support staffed by DJs. That does make the XMG DJ 15 unique.

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For a similar spec on a Mac, you’d pay over half as much again – and even then the XMG will probably perform better. But you’d get better build quality, which we think is important for DJs, and a better all-round machine (excepting the lack of ports).

If you’re a Windows user who wants a laptop to primarily use for DJing, this is really a no-brainer. But also, if you’re a Mac user who wants to buy a second laptop to dedicate to DJing, you should seriously consider this one. Because as a tool for running DJ software, it is great value, and performance-wise, hard to beat.

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