XMG Apex 15 review: Ryzen 9 3950X in a laptop – and we're not kidding

The AMD Ryzen 3950X processor has 16 cores and 32 threads, clocking up to a maximum of 4.7GHz. It’s the flagship of AMD’s super-successful Ryzen 3000 series and a CPU that demolished Intel’s high-end desktop processor line-up. And now, as insane and impossible as it might sound, you can run it in a laptop – a 15-inch laptop, no less. So, let’s have a moment of hushed awe for the XMG Apex 15, which must surely be the most powerful notebook available right now on the market – certainly in CPU terms. Going into this one, I had a range of questions. How can this possibly work? Why doesn’t it just immediately overheat and shutdown?

Answers start to become clear when we consider the nature of the XMG Apex 15 beyond the CPU. Built by a firm that specialises in configurable notebooks, XMG – in common with other PC ’boutique’ sellers – uses barebone designs from an ODM (original design manufacturer) which are then customised. This particular chassis is remarkable in that its mainboard is based on AMD’s B450 chipset and retains the original AM4 socket, meaning that XMG can insert any desktop CPU in there you want when you order, and later on down the line, you can upgrade it yourself.

The firm was generous enough to supply a new Apex 15 for review kitted out with the Ryzen 9 3950X, 16GB of 3200MHz DDR4 and a Samsung 970 Evo Plus NVMe SSD. Beyond that, it’s simplicity itself to remove the lower cover where you have nigh-on instant access to the innards – and there we see just how upgradable this machine is. The memory isn’t soldered to the motherboard, you can swap in your own SODIMMs. Next to the NVMe drive is an empty slot for a second SSD, and there’s even space for another SATA drive.

What you can’t fail to notice is a ginormous copper cooling assembly, under which you’ll find CPU and GPU. It looks daunting, but simply removing a power cable for one of the integrated fans, removing its accompanying screws and then loosening the numbered screws in the centre sees this ginormous cooling assembly lift out easily enough. Under that (and a well-judged layer of Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut thermal grease) you’ll find pretty much the only non-upgradable component – the refreshed mobile version of the RTX 2070. Next to it resides the star of the show, the Ryzen 9 3950X, and it is indeed sitting in a normal AM4 socket. XMG also supplied us an OEM Ryzen 9 3900 for testing purposes. Put simply, accessing and upgrading this machine is a doddle – even swapping CPUs is easier than a desktop unit.