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[HR] Doll House
There’s no telling if I can survive tonight. The only other way out is through the window. A set of sheets is still on the twin bed, but not enough for a makeshift rope down three storeys. It’s something I’d try as a kid, and learn from getting a broken ankle.
Even when the fall was just a single floor, it wasn’t one of my better ideas.
And what about Hazel? She isn’t here with me, but at this point? There’s nothing I can do. It’s not because I’m a coward. It’s because of our separation in the house.
Even though our family had a strong history of heart problems, nobody could’ve been prepared for our father’s cardiac arrest. Nobody was ready to lose him.
The small legion of suited businessmen attending his funeral kept themselves together, never splitting apart. Throughout the service and even at the dinner Hazel and I hosted, they shared the look of a little boy who lost his parents in a massive department store.
The group gave a minute-long speech at both. They reminisced about his entrepreneurship and how it was the foundation of their software careers.
As they spoke, we were all waiting for them to ask, “Without him, what do we do now?”
The question never came, but Hazel and I felt it from the looks on their faces just the same. I didn’t have the chance to work with him myself. Software development was never my passion. But the fact that he built a tank strong enough to compete with Adobe alone had my respect.
And if he didn’t? He wouldn’t have been less of a foundation to me. It was his guiding hand that taught me the value of hard work. His wisdom was what taught me to be a man, and even begin business ventures of my own. It was also the lifestyle he constructed for us that proved what enough passion and hard work could do.
That luxurious lifestyle showed me the strength a widower could have—and what my sister Sophie would see in a different light. If he could provide that for his family, why not me? Why couldn’t I do it too?
As a teenager, I’d have to hang my head in shame at not understanding code. On the other hand, I discovered my real talent was elsewhere. The minute I was flipping through technical manuals, that’s what put me at home.
It led to a short time in trade school before completing an apprenticeship, and the proud moment of going into business for myself. Customers were few at first and I couldn’t help thinking it was all for naught. After going out to dinner with one of them several times though, I first met Hazel.
She and I hit it off with a shared off-color sense of humor. But it was after sharing a few songs of drunk, off-key karaoke that I started to notice how enchanting her warm smile was. It was only a matter of time until we began dating, moved in together years down the road and married.
Profits hadn’t grown a whole lot since. We could just get by with only pennies to save at the end of every month. Once we announced the baby on the way, dad’s business even managed to take a dive. Despite the bit of grim news, we managed to keep our chins up. In a way, he could’ve been a foundation of my new family too.
By then, my older sister Sophie and I were both pushing thirty, and after dad’s wallet got thinner, she was harder to take care of. He didn’t tell us outright, but we could tell by the tone of his voice over the phone.
A new favorite saying of hers was: “What do you mean we don’t have that kind of money? We always had that kind of money before.”
Hazel thought Sophie grew so comfortable with that lifestyle, it was why she never bothered to pursue anything for a career—or even leave the house.
I thought it must’ve been tough doing nothing at all, except collecting those porcelain dolls of hers. Even as a young adult about to go to trade school, I’d see her carry one of them as if it were her child.
Whatever doll she paired herself with for the moment always suited her well. It could’ve been the pale skin, or the black smooth hair and short bangs that reflected the overhead light. It may have been the overall thin build—
No, it was their eyes.
Sophie’s eyes were always wide, with large dark irises that blended in with the pupils. We were all sure her natural eye color was a deep brown, but nobody could really say. It was rare that any of us even saw her blink. The only times I did were when one of her thick eyelashes loosened itself.
Her eyes always had a way of matching those of the doll she cradled in her arms. But out of the collection that spanned across every wall in her bedroom, there was one she favored the most. Hazel thought it was too late for her to find a man and have a child of her own.
I always smiled and agreed, but in the pit of my stomach, it wasn’t the case. Of all the porcelain dolls, she held one around the estate the most. It was one whose complexion, hair, and deep black eyes were identical to hers.
I even asked Dad if it was custom-made to look like her, as if it were a substitute for a flesh-and-blood playmate. He gave me a perplexed look, an amused but uneasy grin and shook his head.
“No,” he told me. “We found that one just as it is.”
Even now, I found that hard to believe. After sneaking into her room and taking closer looks at it, the story sounded like too much of a coincidence. Not only were the eyes, hair and complexion the same, but the doll also had the same pattern of greyish freckles on her cheeks.
Being stared at by the one doll alone was bad enough. Whenever Sophie carried it around, it had a habit of facing in my direction. Wherever I’d be in the house, no matter which angle it watched from, the eyes had a way of following me about.
Just before starting trade school, I asked Sophie, “Why do you always face that doll toward me?”
She turned and gave a blank stare before a little smile twisted on her face. “Don’t be silly,” she said and giggled. “I don’t make Sophie do that. She does as she pleases.”
As my sister spoke, the doll was facing away from me. It was a moment of peace before I strained my eyes shut and cleared my throat.
The second I opened them; Sophie wasn’t speaking. She was just standing there, watching, as if waiting for her cue to act. The doll she named after herself had already been slumped over her shoulder like an infant about to be burped.
But now—the little Sophie’s head was turned to face up at the ceiling, its frozen eyes glaring down at mine. I didn’t even know a porcelain doll’s head could pivot like that.
She stood there in place, both sets of eyes on me. A moment passed before she walked back to her bedroom. I could even hear her close the door and lock it from the inside.
After tiptoeing and pressing my ear against the door, I could hear a string of quiet whispers. Most of it was her. I could say that much. A little bit didn’t sound like it though. I’ve never heard her do voices before. She was never one to try to be funny, but it sounded like was a smaller voice speaking back to her.
The little Sophie alone was enough reason to avoid that bedroom, but there were occasions where it couldn’t be done. Stepping in there made me feel surrounded by a hundred pairs of dim, lifeless eyes.
I wasn’t sure if my sister arranged this on purpose, but *every—time—*they were always staring straight at me. The way each doll sat in place with its hands folded in its lap was like it’d been waiting for an intruder.
Their bodies hadn’t been facing me. They were all positioned against the walls and corners to create a perfect shoulder-to-shoulder arrangement. Yet their heads were turned enough for their motionless eyes to peer toward the bedroom door.
The doll in the far corner caught my attention more than the others at first. It had to have been the most unique of them all, since Sophie never cradled it in her arms. Despite having all the features and proportions of a small child, it was the size of a full-grown adult. It resembled a redheaded, freckled boy with a red and white striped shirt and denim shorts.
Sophie had addressed the rest of her collection by name as she carried them around the house. There was only one she mentioned in addition to whichever doll was in her care at that moment. She always referred to this other doll as their “brother”—this had to have been the one Sophie named “Big Boy.”
Big Boy’s face stood out from the others though. Its eyes were larger—they protruded more, casting blacker shadows on their undersides, as if there were deep bags hiding underneath. The lips were jutting outward and etched into a sharper, icy scowl.
At first, it looked as if its cheek was decorated with cobwebs. With a closer look though, I noticed it was a web of tiny cracks. I never found out what, but it looked like a failed blow to the head.
The expression on its face made me picture it standing upright and lumbering toward me. Once it stopped, the doll would’ve been just taller than me.
The last time I reluctantly went in there to clean Sophie’s laundry, the collection was arranged in the same way—with one exception. At the foot of the empty bed was her little doppelganger, wearing a dark blue dress with a black spiral pattern and matching ebony shoes that reflected the overhead lights.
As I was about to turn away, the lights dimmed, but glistened off the doppelganger’s eyes. There was a slight, burning glow radiating off its glassy corneas.
Carrying the load and turning away from the doll, my body stiffened. The failing lights made it tough to tell, but it looked like the other porcelain creatures turned toward me. Their heads were pivoted just enough for their dead eyes to keep staring.
It could’ve been a trick of the lights, but the look on Big Boy’s face was different than before. The grimace on its face had deepened, the eyes holding a black hatred behind the glass and paint.
I had to summon my courage just to hurry out and close the door behind me. Keeping my eye on it the whole way downstairs. On the way down, there was a gentle banging noise, as if the bedroom door was shuddering from the inside.
How Sophie managed to get her doppelganger’s outfits to match her own was always a mystery. Throughout the miserable time I lived with her, there was never a package in the mail with her name. Not to mention, she never left the estate to do her own clothes shopping.
I never considered myself a social butterfly, but it didn’t stop me from leaving the house. Even when it came to simple errands, getting Sophie to get out of that bedroom was worse than pulling teeth. The closer we came to getting her outside, the more we heard her warm remarks.
“And I think you’ll find it interesting that one of the narrower kitchen knives is missing,” she once said with a conniving smile.
The look on her face as she told me that made my heart stop. My skin grew cold and I could feel the tiny hairs on my arms stand up. I took a step back, keeping my eyes on her still figure at first—but turned and dashed to the kitchen. Along the way, traces of her shrill giggle echoed down the halls.
Digging through the kitchen cutlery, I peered over my shoulder. I never saw unexpected company, but even my own eyes couldn’t convince me. The meat cleaver, chef’s knife and bread knife were there. I started to think she was just bluffing to lock herself back in her room.
But I realized she wasn’t kidding. The long, narrow carver knife was missing. Dad and I had the strongest habit of putting any utensil in its rightful place, and it wasn’t misplaced anywhere in the kitchen.
A lump was caught in my throat when I tried to speak to her. “Sophie?”
My arms shivered as I started to walk toward the staircase again. “Sophie?”
A soft but high-pitched noise emanated from her bedroom. It was the sound of her taunting giggle.
I stopped at the foot of the stairs and called, “Sophie?”
“You’re never going to find it, silly brother—until I decide—until it’s too late.”
Taking slow steps back without making a sound, I kept watching the door. Her voice died down. I thought she had enough.
“That’s right,” she croaked at me. “Run with your tail between your legs, little brother. For now, it’s a warning.”
It wasn’t any better when one of us tried to get her take care of the house. The threats always rang from within her bedroom whenever I suggested she take a step toward independence. Until I left for school and then a business and home of my own, the only way for her weight to be pulled is if Dad or I did it. Whenever he wasn’t too busy for work and stayed home, it was tolerable. Short fantasies of my hands squeezing her throat tickled me, but I kept my mouth shut around her.
She must’ve noticed the anger in my face at some point—because when it was just me, Sophie brandished her own kind of Hell. She never asked me to help her with anything around the house. Sophie demanded it in shrieks loud enough to tear into my eardrums.
I don’t know why I gave in and complied. It had to have been a way to just make the noise stop. Of course, I could’ve said no. That option came to mind every single time Dad asked me for favors with cleaning the three-storey house.
But I couldn’t bring myself to refuse. Knowing how busy he was getting his business back off the ground again, Dad needed the help.
If there were painkillers in my pocket, it was doable enough. Still, I didn’t know how much longer I could take it. There were countless times where I showed her how to clean as a suggestion, but the response was either nothing or her brandishing matches and lighter fluid.
I couldn’t tell if she’d do it or not. She never struck a match, but her cold wide-eyed stare said how tantalizing the idea was.
The threats built up enough to send me into a white flash of panic in different parts of the house whenever I’d hear her shrieks. My heart would lock inside my throat. The sheer sound would coat my lungs in thick frost.
Throughout my entire life, I’ve never had trouble with anxiety. Even when it came to going through trade school and taking all the risks in starting a business, I was nervous at times, sure—but it was never anything close to this. Nothing compared to the idea that I’d find a knife sticking out the back of my neck or my clothes catching fire when I let my guard down.
I could only imagine how much worse it was for Dad. He wasn’t the one visiting. He kept on living with her until the eventual cardiac arrest. Whether or not she knew about being the heiress to the house, savings and the other assets was another question.
I couldn’t help my suspicions when the law firm informed all of us. She was never much of a sister—or a daughter for that matter. The only times Sophie bothered to interact with him was when she demanded for something. The thought that the eldest would inherit everything first wasn’t unusual, but she couldn’t have known that for sure.
Yet the grin that twisted across her face radiated the kind of confidence that said otherwise. That night, I asked myself a lot of questions. It was hard to believe why she’d act that way. From the way Dad bounced back in the end, there would’ve been enough money to stay comfortable for years to come without having to lift a finger.
I didn’t want to think such a thing of my own sister, but it began to add up. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how she saw our father.
No matter how hard someone tries, people can still turn out horrible anyway.
While he was the foundation of the person I became, Sophie only looked at him as a piggy bank. If it wasn’t for her, he would’ve still been around. It was Sophie’s fault.
Yet she got everything. House. Money. The share of the company.
And what did my wife and I get? The hollow feeling eating at my gut. Debt. A child on the way, with no way to afford another mouth to feed. Paying the bills every month alone was a blessing for us.
Throughout the night, I was tossing and turning. I couldn’t believe the idea I was considering. At first, it was just a fleeting thought. Then it sprouted and became a real possibility. The more I thought about the outcome, the more it became a real solution. It was all simple too. I’d drive to the estate under the guise of picking her up to get the money, and then—
I would kill Sophie.
It wouldn’t be too expensive. Everything I needed was somewhere on the online market. It was just a matter of looking in the right places.
There wasn’t a good reason not to go through with it. That woman—if I could even call her that—was just a burden of everyone around her. The real reason why Dad and I started cleaning up after her was how she scared off any help who came into the house. I wasn’t the only one being threatened.
She never bothered with any friends or a job either. Nobody would’ve noticed her being gone.
And it would’ve made taking care of my family a lot easier. The money was enough to make us comfortable, pay for our child’s tuition in full and then some. There would’ve even been enough to start a new business and fund it for years if our kid wanted to go down that path.
After the deed was done, I’d use a few of my connections to get a hold of a woodchipper. There was more than enough space in the basement to get that part of the job done without being seen.
The most important part of it would be done with a cement mixer. Once the evidence was coated in cement, it’d just need to be broken into little pieces. From there? It would be a matter of selling or getting rid of the gravel. If there wasn’t a buyer, I just needed to find a lake or a river—
And spend the evening skipping stones.
Once I did, the only thing left to do would be visiting the house time and again. It wouldn’t just serve to maintain the property. Visits also made a great cover. If any neighbors cared enough to butt in, they’d assume I was there to see Sophie.
So, I wasn’t nervous driving back up to the property this morning. On the way, my face felt a strange cold crawling down it like a patient spider, inspecting the fly caught in its web. It didn’t occur until arriving at the house that I was smiling.
As I pulled up into the driveway, one hand went into my pocket, fondling the small package secured in plastic wrap. It was the ticket to our better life, and one that should’ve gone undetected. Gripping the tiny package only reminded me of another advantage: how Sophie enjoyed dry wine.
I grabbed the new bottle waiting on the back seats and led Hazel to the front door. She had no idea what I was planning. I knew she would’ve stopped me. Her feelings on Sophie weren’t anything more than a simple disliking, but that’s because I didn’t tell her the whole story.
I never told my wife about just how my sister treated people, only that she didn’t bother to take care of herself. Hazel already had a look of pure worry anytime I came back from that house but assumed Sophie would still “grow out of it.” Hazel saw the undeniable panic etched into my own face. If she’d the entire picture, it wouldn’t have done her any good. She wasn’t the type to holster any true hatred or a grudge, and I didn’t want to make this her first.
On the way up the front steps, I gripped her hand. We weren’t sure if the pregnancy threw off her walking that much, but I wasn’t about to take any risks with our child. I didn’t want her coming to the house at all, but Hazel insisted.
She gave her warm smile, assuring that a friend would cheer Sophie up and give her a step in the right direction. I couldn’t explain why it was a bad idea without revealing my sister’s colorful promises. I just figured if I could keep them apart long enough, it wouldn’t have been a problem.
After the meat of my plan was through, I’d tell Hazel that Sophie was too sick to come out. Then we’d drive and get the money on her behalf.
When we got inside, I told my wife to sit on one of the couches in the living room. It was better for her to relax in the living room, avoiding any possible strain. Moving upstairs, I could hear my gentle footsteps echo up the corridor.
Any other time, Sophie would’ve immediately known I was inside. But today, she didn’t say anything. I couldn’t tell if she was asleep, but part of me didn’t care to find out.
“Sophie?” I called in an optimistic voice. “Are you awake? It’ll be time to go soon.”
She hadn’t answered, but that didn’t matter. There was a still a job left to do in the kitchen.
I set the wine on the counter and took a corkscrew from one of the drawers beneath. There was a glorious pop of the cork, but no pouring of the glass yet. I dug a hand through my pocket with a cold grin, producing the plastic package.
Peeling it opened, I removed the little cyanide capsule. I couldn’t help examining the thing with a giddy curiosity. It was the first time I’ve ever seen one in person and thought how delicious that such a tiny thing could do something with such magnitude.
Going through the same drawer, I found the white marble mortar and pestle. It was a strange tool but proved useful in our cooking endeavors before. But it was even more useful with crushing the capsule into a powder finer than desert sand.
I had to be careful and quiet—any noise could’ve startled Sophie. Glancing toward the staircase turned my blood cold.
After taking one of the numerous wine glasses above the kitchen sink, I scraped the pill dust out of the mortar. Since wine has a certain amount of sediment in it anyway, the cyanide looked easy to hide.
Whatever didn’t already dissolve—Sophie would swirl around the glass and let fade into the rest of the liquid. Then drink it down like the needed dose of medicine it was.
I gazed at the staircase again with a tingling chill creeping along my bones. Grabbing the wine glass, I made my way to the third floor where both of our bedrooms were. The quivering squeak was even louder than on the other stairs.
“Sophie?” I called again. “I brought a bottle of your favorite. If you come out, I have a glass.”
At the top of the stairs, I had to restrain myself from laughing. I knocked on the door and saw the knob jiggle in place.
My voice was reduced to a mutter. “Sophie, are you awake?”
The second before I could knock on the door again, it swung open as if from a gust of wind. The door banged as it hit against the wall, and I stared into her big, frozen eyes. It’d be the last time I’d have to see that glassy, unblinking menace. Yet a massive wave of reluctance swept over me. There wasn’t remorse, but it still felt like a bad idea.
In the end, it was remembering the better life we would’ve had that set me back on course. She was the one looking up at me, but I still felt myself shrink in her presence.
I offered the glass, saying with a pleased tone, “How about we do our business when you finish your glass? We’ll be ready. No rush.”
The door wasn’t open wide enough to see much of her collection. My sister’s little doppelganger wasn’t in sight. She had to have been hiding somewhere in the dimmed overhead light, sitting on the foot of my sister’s bed like a ceramic gargoyle.
Straight ahead in the dead of gray-orange light were the heavy eyes of Big Boy. His vengeful face was semi-veiled in shadow, eyes reflecting the overhead like twilight in the night. Big Boy’s eyes were stuck on my own as if he saw what I had done.
Sophie looked at the glass, took a gentle smell without moving, fixed her eyes back on me, and took her drink. She touched it to her lips, stepped back and pushed the door closed in my face.
One step back and it was time to play the waiting game. I titled my head down and stared at the door with a patient, ambitious grin. Whenever the cyanide kicked in, it brought on the very ailment that took our father. The moment confirming it all was when a dull thud hit the floor in her room. From there, a chilling silence seeped out into the corridor.
I turned away with a deep satisfaction. This was the moment the rest of our lives should’ve started. As I walked, the sound of my footsteps was louder than ever before.
Approaching the staircase though, I heard the doorknob click. Then a small, gentle creak. I turned, seeing Sophie’s bedroom door ajar.
Straining my eyes, a small window to her limp body lying on the bedroom floor was clear enough. The temptation occurred but calling out to her wasn’t necessary.
Parts of the house were old and needed to be replaced. Sophie having been the so-called “caretaker” wasn’t a help at all. A doorknob or a lock was bound to fail with enough use.
Going down the stairs to the second floor, an explosion of winter cold exploded through the house like a homemade bomb. I wrapped my arms around each other for a grasp at warmth, stopping in my tracks. Seeing my breath right in front of me, I shut my eyes tight.
The heating had its shifts in temperature at times, but only by a few degrees. It was never anything like this.
A wind of gentle unintelligible whispers circled around me. The sound was that of a cabal of small murmuring children. It just lasted for a second or two, and a long pause followed. I opened my eyes and looked around for the source but didn’t see anything.
A shrill, ear-cutting scream shook throughout the entire house.
As I bolted down to the second floor, my path led me into the kitchen by design. On the counters were a dozen of the dolls. Their heads were facing me with a collective grimace. The lips were crackled from within.
Their glass eyes were sunken in, the porcelain around them morphed into deep, hollow sockets. The pupils were dilated, consuming nearly the entire irises.
Their complexions were pure bone. Little bits of their paint were chipped away, leaving parts of their faces bare. The cheeks were hollow as the eyes, cheekbones protruding enough to look like they’d crack through the exteriors.
But in each of their laps, one of the kitchen knives was snug and secure beneath their still hands.
How could they have left Sophie’s room!? It made no sense! I just saw them sitting in her bedroom— Unless, the minute I looked away— No, that wasn’t possible. It wasn’t physically possible!
I ran faster through the kitchen and down the stairs to the first floor. That sound—it was Hazel! There wasn’t a single doubt in my mind.
The instant I stopped at the foot of the stairway, my body froze. My heart was spasming as it rose up into my throat.
My wife lay on her stomach, motionless. The handle of the carver knife stuck out of her back. The blade was completely submerged. Fresh blood still seeped through her dress, making its way to the floor. The natural color was still in Hazel’s skin, as if she’d stand upright again. Her hair was like someone grabbed her by the back of the scalp and bashed her face straight against the wooden floor.
Sitting on top of her back was Sophie’s little doppelganger. She didn’t have any of the features of the dolls from the kitchen. This gargoyle just had one I hardly ever saw on my own sister. Her porcelain look-alike had a closed, wide smile etched and curled across her face.
Like a fool, I rushed to the door. No matter how hard I tried, there was no moving any of the locks. It was as if they were fused in place. All the while, I kept my eyes on that dark-haired thing.
Moving to the windows, I tried pushing them open, but the locks on those were just as impossible. Picking up an old wooden chair next to it, I bashed it against the window itself. I didn’t want to crawl through broken glass, but there wasn’t another way out down there.
Yet despite using all my strength, the glass didn’t have a scratch. It didn’t stop me at first. I gave the window a few more swings and noticed the chair coming apart. The thing already falling to pieces, I dropped them and saw the glass was left the same.
Moving to the steps, I kept my eyes on it until having to go up. Going through the second floor again, the legion of ceramic guardians sitting on the counters were gone. Their knives had disappeared with them.
There were no windows or emergency exits on the second floor. It was an idea I brought up to Dad before, but he refused every time. He insisted it was just unnecessary.
The only spot was back on the third floor, to block myself off from the rest of the house. After locking my bedroom door on my way in, I performed a search throughout the room. Somehow, I didn’t have any company.
For safe measure, I dragged both my childhood twin bed and dresser drawers to block off the way in—
And just sat here since, desperate to keep warm.
There was no way the authorities would’ve believed my story. If I reported a thing to them, they would’ve seen the knife in Hazel’s back and made me the prime suspect. I’d have been found guilty and sentenced to the chair.
It was a matter of waiting before I heard a sizeable container spilling over in Sophie’s room. I couldn’t say what it was or where it trailed off to. The smell of thick smoke and burning wood and linen began to seep into my room.
The doorknob burned my hand at the touch, and the smell was far stronger at the door. Seeing the black cloud creep inside, I turned to the window. It was already unlocked and slid open with an unusual ease.
The door slowly forced its way open, pushing the furniture out of the way. I saw the legion of short-statured shadows out the door. Several of them were holding up the shapes of sharpened blades, the giant among them standing in front, blocking the hall.
God forbid I break my neck from trying the window. Not knowing if I can make it, my one way out of here—is to jump!
Aero 17: Thoughts after 3 months
I bought an Aero 17 HDR SA back in late October and I have a few comments I wanted to share. I actually plan on making a review video eventually, but for anyone who's searching for info about the laptop before buying (like I was), I wanted to share a few thoughts. Most review videos I've seen show a dude reviewing it after only a week, which isn't a lot of time to get a feel for it. I use mine literally daily for work (graphics, programming), gaming, and on travel so at this point I'm very familiar with it.
- Very good build quality. Great feeling metal finish all around. Very polished and professional look. Doesn't look out of place in an office. The lid had a subdued matte + brushed finish which looks excellent.
- Surprisingly compact. I had an MSI gaming laptop before this one and I was shocked at the size difference between them. This thing is really compact for a 17" device.
- The screen is gorgeous. It's really the star of the show here. 4K + HDR. And yes, you can tell the difference between a 1080p screen, even on a laptop. Outstanding color vibrancy + accuracy. I do graphics design regularly for work and it's been a dream to work on. And it gets brighter than I reasonably need it to get. Small bezels are nice too. The hinge is very well built and smooth. The screen can't open up all the way flat, so be aware that it's limited in motion (but hasn't been a bother for me).
- The internal "Intel UHD Graphics 630" internal GPU has a hard time pumping pixels out to the 4K screen sometimes. Games running on the dedicated GPU (GTX 1660ti in my case) perform surprisingly well, but sometimes just moving stuff around in Windows on the integrated GPU feels sluggish, or sometimes 4K videos will stutter. In general it's fine, but little hiccups do happen. 4K gaming is doable at less-than-ultra specs. Gears 5 and Forza Horizon 4, for example, are very playable at 4K and look awesome.
- The gigabyte control center software is absolute garbage. Out of the $2k I paid for this thing, I'd guess that $20 went to an intern at Gigabyte and they had him rush it in at the very end of production. I can't believe how bad it is for how premium of a computer this otherwise is.
- The app doesn't open sometimes. Especially on battery.
- It's very "gamery", which is weird because the laptop doesn't have that same design aesthetic.
- It's slow to use (i.e. buttons don't respond quickly when clicked), even though it's whole job is just setting fan curves, keyboard colors, and some power profiles. It's sluggish and doesn't even do that much.
- There's shortcuts for Calculator and other built-in Windows apps... who asked for that??? It's just fluff. Get rid of it.
- It takes up too much system resources for what it does. CPU usage and memory go up too much when in foreground.
- The custom fan curve config tool is unusable (oh lord how I tried though). You can't just type in "40%" at "40 degrees" or whatever. You click and drag 14 dots around (no more, no less) on a chart and just kind of eyeball the temp and percent along the chart lines. Also, it doesn't let you set 0% fan speed I think (which "quiet mode" uses). It also doesn't like certain values for some reason and doesn't tell you why it won't accept them.
- The keyboard RGB config tool is laughably bad. You click a key and then set its color. For. Each. Key. No bulk-select options for per-key RGB (which was a selling point for this laptop, mind you). I could go on.
- They need to just make the API layer (or whatever) open-source and let people make their own tools that work and are lightweight. I actually don't care for any of the software they pre-load. The Azure AI thing seems real gimmicky. I reinstalled windows recently and haven't bothered with control center or the Azure software and honestly I've been less frustrated overall since then. I used to have this problem where it would take a full minute to wake up from sleep mode. Like I got to the windows login screen and could click my name, but couldn't scan my fingerprint or type my PIN for a solid minute until something finished loading in the background and let me continue. This stopped once I reinstalled Windows.
- The keyboard is solid. It's clicky and the per-key RGB aspect is really nice. Keys are spaced a little far apart, but that's fine.
- It would be cool if caps lock/num lock lit up a different color when they're on, because there's no indication.
- Speakers are decent. It gets as loud as I reasonably need it to get and they sound very clear overall. Stereo effect is noticeable and nice.
- Fans do a decent job at cooling, but it still gets hot. Like too hot to hold form the bottom while gaming, but gaming on a desk is fine. The fans are comically loud when at full speed (which only happens when you force it to full speed mode). But they push a ton of air out the back + sides. The top grille actually intakes cold air from the keyboard deck, which surprised me. The grille isn't just for looks.
- Coil whine is obnoxious. It's very noticeable in a silent room and can be very annoying at times. If any ambient sound is going on around you (even the fans), then it's fine, but in a quiet room it's very apparent and can be distracting. Unplugging from the AC adapter makes the problem basically go away entirely though.
- Be prepared for the fans to be on pretty much all the time. Both fans are tied together. So, even if the dedicated GPU isn't in use, the fan on the GPU side will spin up when the CPU side does... which is weird (my last laptop didn't do that). It has a "quiet" fan curve mode that makes the laptop dead silent... for a few seconds until the fans spin up a little, then go off, then repeat. It's periodically silent. I don't mind the fans too much, but it's something to be aware of.
- Trackpad is decent. Smooth. Good feeling overall. The fingerprint sensor is in the top left and blocks out that area of the trackpad, which isn't ideal. I wish they put it somewhere else.
- The fingerprint sensor is hard to find without looking. There's barely any edge around it and it blends in with the trackpad. Finding it in the dark is not intuitive. It works though.
- The marketing touts "All Intel" as a selling point, which I don't get. That basically means it has an intel CPU and SSD. Intel makes Wifi+bluetooth cards but they went with Killer, which I'd say is worse. I've had bluetooth go completely missing from device manager about 3 times now, which didn't happen with my last laptop that had an Intel wifi chip.
- Specs were on the lower side for the price. Mine came with 8GB ram and 256GB SSD, which are embarrassingly low specs for a $2k computer, especially in 2019. The value wasn't great in that regard. I bought the "cheaper" model and put in a $200 2TB Intel 660p SSD, then later also replaced the Intel 760p SSD with a faster Samsung EVO 960. I also swapped in a (free) 16GB ram stick in place of the 8GB Samsung one.
- Battery is excellent. Probably not as good as other laptops out there, but it can go 5 hours easy. I travel often and have taken it on 3 hour flights, then kept using it afterwards with no problem. I haven't seen a low battery warning since I bought it now that I think about it.
- The power brick it big, bulky, heavy, and takes a lot of juice. This comes with the territory of having a powerful laptop, so you shouldn't be surprised. Mine is rated at 230 watts. My gf's car's built-in power inverter can't run it while gaming on car trips. I've plugged into an airplane seat's AC outlet and it couldn't power it (even while not gaming). Most planes are fine though. Just be forewarned. It's hungry. Be ready to feed it.