A couple weeks ago we looked at Intel's new Clarksfield mobile CPU. The short story is that it's the mobile equivalent of Lynnfield, except at lower clock speeds and higher prices. We provided a first look at Clevo's W870CU and compared it with a couple other high-end offerings: the AVADirect Clevo D900F and the Eurocom M980NU XCaliber. We didn't have time in our initial article to run all of our usual benchmarks, so today we want to look at the rest of the story and finish out our benchmark suite. We will also be providing detailed commentary on the design and features of the three notebooks -- something we omitted in the first article.

Taken as a whole, these three notebooks represent the high water mark for mobile performance for the next several months -- and perhaps longer. The AVADirect D900F is the pinnacle of "mobile" processor performance… not by using the fastest mobile processor, but by using the fastest currently available desktop processor. Clocked at 3.33 GHz, the Core i7-975 outperforms any Core i7 mobile CPU by a sizable margin. With one core active, Turbo Boost on the i7-920XM can reach 3.2 GHz, but that's as close as you can get (and the i7-975 can still Turbo up to 3.60GHz). Considering the two processors have the same price tag of $1000, the only reason to go with an i7-920XM is if you want lower power requirements.

On the other side of the table, the Eurocom M980NU represents the best of what we can achieve in mobile graphics performance. It pairs two of NVIDIA's GTX 280M GPUs in SLI. Needless to say, the two graphics chips can consume quite a bit of power, so the trade-off is that SLI is only practical right now when using mobile CPUs, and at present GTX 280M SLI is only available with Core 2 platforms. A similar notebook in terms of performance is Alienware's M17x, although the chassis and design is substantially different from the M980NU. Thus, you can choose between maximum processor performance (D900F) or maximum graphics performance (M980NU/M17x), but you can't get both.

The odd man out is the Clevo W870CU. In terms of graphics performance, it can match the D900F, but it's never actually faster. It can exceed the M980NU in CPU performance at times, but it can't keep up with the SLI gaming performance (unless the M980NU is CPU limited). What it does have is the ability to consume less power, sometimes quite a bit less. Unfortunately, this is counteracted by battery sizes. Where the D900F ships with a 12-cell battery, the W870CU only comes with a 4-cell battery. The model we received is rated at a paltry 42 Wh, although it appears that a high-capacity 65 Wh battery is an option at some vendors. Interestingly, the Eurocom M980NU also lists a 4-cell battery, so potentially we could see an 8-cell version offer nearly twice the battery life. Considering the size of the battery compartment, what we'd really like to see is something closer to the 95 Wh battery available in the D900F. The only reason to avoid such a large battery appears to be weight, and the W870CU is 3 pounds lighter than either of the other notebooks if that matters to you -- but it still weighs almost 9 pounds.

Besides performance, there are obviously differences in terms of chassis, features, and pricing. The W870CU is the cheapest of the three notebooks, starting at around $2150 and coming with moderately high-end options for around $2900. The D900F and M980NU both start at closer to $2500, with typical configurations ranging from $3000 up to $3500. If you want to start putting in multiple SSDs, you can of course get prices that scale into the $5000+ range.

As usual, if you're not in the market for a heavy, high-performance notebook it's unlikely you will be interested in any of these offerings. Battery life is horrible, typically lasting around one hour for moderate usage scenarios. As such, the mobility aspect should be viewed more as a UPS/battery backup instead of something that you will be able to use to go mobile. (Note that we'll look at the Alienware M17x separately in the near future, as it has slightly different mobility aspects.) These notebooks do have the ability to function as desktop replacements for many people, but again performance is going to be lower than what you can get in a similar cost desktop. The benefit is that you can easily pack up a notebook and carry it with you, and there are people that do exactly that, using these as mobile workstations. Now let's take a closer look at these three notebooks and see where they excel and where they may fall flat.

AVADirect Clevo D900F Specifications
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  • 7Enigma - Thursday, October 15, 2009 - link

    Jarred,

    Ignore these people. They exist in a bubble that revolves around only what they perceive as useful....to THEM. For the rest of us, even though many of us will never need/want a system like this, it is enjoyable to read about how far (and how far left) they have come.

    What's funny is some of these same people will ooh and ahh over the latest $600+ gpu or $1000+ cpu knowing they also will never buy one of these.

    This is a tech site. The purpose is to review and discuss new technology, regardless of what mainstream appeal it has. If that was the case you should only be reviewing sub-$300 cpu/gpu and sub $500 monitors as that is what the vast majority of us purchase. While your at it, forget about hydravision, large capacity SSD's, 3D LCD's/goggles, etc.

    Keep up the good work and try to ignore the trolls. That extra 10min you use to respond to a post like this could be better used GETTING SOME OC NUMBERS ON THE LATEST GPU! (hint...hint) :)
    Reply
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    I, for one, appreciate the review, even if the products are not relevant to me- I'm sure there are people out there that do want a high-end all-in-one/laptop. At any rate, I did want to chime in with a suggestion of what I'd like to see in upcoming mobile reviews: non-cookiecutter netbooks such as the ION-based ones (ex: HP Mini 311), or ones that stand out from the crowd by virtue of better screens (matte), battery life, passive/quiet cooling, etc. Basically, keep doing what you're already doing, as you've already had articles on the Asus 1005HA and CULV. Also, any word on the next-gen Atoms with the new chipset and IGP? Reply
  • mac2j - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    I understand the difficulty in getting samples of new high demand models.

    But if you want to know what a really useful comparison would be:

    High-end Core i7 laptops (Envy 15, XPS16, M15x, MSI etc):

    Aesthetics vs performance (business v multimedia v games) vs battery life vs extras vs cost

    I'd be willing to bet that would be extremely useful for a lot of people and widely cited across the net.

    Personally I ordered a Studio XPS 16 (820QM) almost a month ago and I'm still waiting for it so I'm sure it would take you a while to collect all the samples from the relevant companies... but it would be worth it IMO.
    Reply
  • 5150Joker - Saturday, November 07, 2009 - link

    All the laptops you listed are junk. None of them can hold a candle to the Clevo W860CU and they aren't anymore aesthetically pleasing.

    HP Envy: overheating mac rip off that doesnt have an optical drive.

    Dell SXPS 16: gets so hot you can cook on it while using it. Say goodbye to your sperm count.

    Alienware m15x: competitor to the clevo series and fails. Overpriced, underperforming and poor quality control.

    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Here's me posting my comment for the laptop makers to please offer better choices on LCDs. Its about time to replace my T43, am I really going to have to move from a matte IPS screen to something worse? Reply
  • mac2j - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Why compare a bunch of notebooks that no one buys? The total 2009 sales for every notebook in this article will be in the thousands.

    How about comparing high end notebooks people are actually (trying to) buy.

    HP Envy 15 vs Dell Studio XPS 16 vs Alienware M15x vs MSI Core i7s etc ....

    The choice of systems and the timing of this article makes it a useless waste of space.
    Reply
  • TheQuestian - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    Irony. Reply
  • 5150Joker - Saturday, November 07, 2009 - link

    Your post along with several others here is a waste of space. Reply
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Super-CPU? Check.
    Super-GPU? Check.
    Super-HDs? Check.
    Super-RAM? Check.
    Super-LCD? Wait, what?

    The LCD situation on these laptops is ridiculous. The most important component in any laptop is the LCD screen, and the second is the chassis and keyboard - component specs come in a distant third.

    As long as I have a choice I will never, ever own a laptop with a glossy screen and a native resolution less than 1920x1200 (for ~15" and up.) I don't care if a laptop has the fastest components ever, if you interact effectively with it you might as well be using a "regular" laptop. If you're using these for work, the few seconds you save using faster components to render and compile your projects will be lost many, many times over in human inefficiencies due to interface issues. If you're using them for gaming, you'll get awesome FPS and ability to use super high detail settings that'll be wasted on a dull, reflective screen.

    It's crap like this that makes people switch to MacBook Pros. The components are lousy, the prices are lousy, and the company's policies are lousy, but you get a laptop that's a pleasure to own and interact with. Regardless of your feelings towards Apple, you have to admit they know how to build a laptop - as a complete piece of hardware the MBP is matched by only a handful of PC laptops (mostly "business class" models that the average consumer doesn't even know about), and surpassed by none.
    Reply
  • warezme - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Uh, hello??

    Macbook Pro's have glass glossy screens. You just contradicted your own statement. And for convenience and ease of use, Apple needs to master how its touchpad works and right clicking because it just doesn't work. But if you are going to give points to your system on aesthetics alone I suppose you will learn to live with it dude.



    Reply

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