Introducing the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17

The overarching recommendations we've had for big gaming notebooks these days have been pretty simple: ASUS G7x series if you're on a budget, Alienware M17x if you're not. Clevo and MSI are alternatives, but really gamers have been best served by one of these two lines, and it's been that way for some time now. I originally brought in iBuyPower's Valkyrie CZ-17 because it's an ODM notebook that's been rebranded by a boutique that's gradually growing almost too big to be considered a boutique anymore, and worth at least a little attention.

As it turns out, the CZ-17 is worth more than a little attention. Sourcing a notebook from MSI instead of Clevo is actually a good start to differentiating your brand from other boutiques, but the real surprise is just how strong of a competitor this gaming notebook is. For the first time in some time, the old Alienware design is starting to really lose its lustre.

While it's not much to look at, the CZ-17 has a little more verve and style than Clevo's notebooks. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M feels warmed over (it's just a rebranded GTX 580M) but still a powerful GPU, while even an entry level Ivy Bridge quad core is going to feel plenty fast. Yet the underlying hardware isn't the whole story with notebooks, and the CZ-17 has to be tested to truly be appreciated. There are some surprises here.

iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3610QM
(4x2.3GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.3GHz, 22nm, 6MB L3, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 2x4GB G.Skill DDR3-1333 (Maximum 32GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M 4GB GDDR5
(384 CUDA cores, 632MHz/1265MHz/3GHz core/shaders/memory clocks, 256-bit memory bus)

Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1.1GHz)
Display 17.3" LED Matte 16:9 1080p
Chi Mei N173HGE-L11
Hard Drive(s) Seagate Momentus 7200.5 750GB 7200-RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
(one open 2.5" bay)
Optical Drive BD-ROM/DVD+-RW Combo Drive
Networking Killer Networks e2200 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino 2230 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD audio
Four speakers
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Battery 9-cell, 87Wh
Front Side Speaker grills
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Left Side Vent
3x USB 3.0
SD card reader
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Back Side Kensington lock
AC adapter
Ethernet
D-SUB
eSATA
HDMI
Vent
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 16.9" x 11.3" x 2.2"
429.3mm x 287mm x 55.9mm
Weight 6.9 lbs
3.1kg
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
THX TruStudio PRO audio
Backlit keyboard
Warranty 1-year limited and lifetime phone support
Pricing $1,459

Just about everything but the GPU is fairly entry level for a gaming notebook, but that's not necessarily a bad thing since this is about the lowest price I've ever seen a GTX 580M/675M at. The Intel Core i7-3610QM is Intel's bottom rung quad core processor, but still able to turbo up to an impressive 3.1GHz on all four cores, 3.2GHz on two cores, and 3.3GHz on a single core. This is more than enough processing power for most tasks.

Even if the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M existed essentially as a stopgap for NVIDIA to release the GTX 680M (review impending), it's still a very formidable GPU. The 675M is a rebranded GTX 580M, but ours is running at very slightly higher clocks than spec; 632MHz instead of 620MHz on the core clock, resulting in a corresponding 1265MHz on the CUDA cores instead of 1240MHz. It's not really a noticeable difference, but remember the 580M was basically last generation's top of the line mobile GPU and it still has a lot of fight left in it.

As I mentioned, though, the rest of the system is less exciting. The lack of any SSD is going to cripple the base CZ-17 in our PCMark tests and certainly doesn't help it feel more responsive, while the 8GB of DDR3-1333 is standard if unexceptional. Users looking to upgrade RAM will have to remove the keyboard to do so or replace the existing DIMMs with 8GB sticks. At least iBuyPower includes a blu-ray combo drive standard, and the Killer Networks e2200 gigabit ethernet (complete with connection management software) is a nice touch.

In and Around the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17
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  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    Absolutely, I did not even think of that. My last gaming laptop was from the 200M days and my i7 didn't even come with integrated graphics (i7-820QM).

    The battery life on it was atrocious but I got it for higher frame rates.
    Reply
  • NA1NSXR - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    The M17X uses separate blowers and radiators on its 3pipe GPU sink and 2pipe CPU sink. I doubt this thing will out cool it. You also get 4 bins of OC available to you on 3720QM and up with the M17X. That gets you up to 3.8GHz on 4 cores and 4GHz on single core turbo for +$150 option. M17X is also capable of OC'ing Kepler cards now. I just shopped this segment and did a lot of research on the options out there and quite frankly Alienware is the best value if the customer has any sort of computer knowledge. Its biggest weakness is that it cannot be purchased for $1450 similarly equipped to this ibuypower. I think if you know well enough to get your own RAM kit at retail instead of as a configurator upgrade, how to repaste, how to OC, basically know what you're doing overall, the M17X R4 is worth the premium. If you just want to buy and use as is, then that is the case where this ibuypower looks like a good value.... Reply
  • Freakie - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    I've never seen a laptop with a high end GPU like this not have two separate fans and heatsinks, and laptops that do 2 GPU's use 3 heatsinks. It's just what is required for something so powerful, so your argument there is completely invalid.

    OC'ing on clevo barebones is also just as possible as it is on an Alienware. Do all Clevo barebones have the feature? No. But do all of the high end ones that compete with Alienware? Yes. So your point still remains invalid.

    Alienware really isn't worth the premium for most people. While it can offer a few cosmetic features of other brands, it's performance is no better, it's hardware is no better, and it looks childish to use anywhere in a professional environment. The problem that Alienware has more than anything isn't the price, it is the looks, as a "customer [that] has any sort of computer knowledge" tends to actually have a day-job in a professional environment and needs something that looks professional, which Alienware does not. I'm not saying I have a problem with Alienware (besides their price) I just think that trying to call it superior is silly. It's just another option for laptop enthusiasts and it is typically reserved for only young people who have not yet fully assimilated into the typical adult life. Many Alienware owners grow up and decide that an ASUS, MSI, or Clevo barebone is much better suited to real life while giving them the same features.
    Reply
  • Dribble - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    Cooling is a major problem on these laptops, lots of them get so hot they clock down when you give them a demanding game (that hits gpu hard and has multicore support to hit all cores of cpu). In addition reviewing a brand new laptop with squeaky clean fans is pretty different to what you get after a few months of use. So for life expectancy of chips, quietness of laptop and ability to play games smoothly cooling is very important.

    imo the M17X is a great machine, and there's always special offers if you know where to look so it's not that expensive. The biggest problem is the warranty - that's so expensive from dell. Other manufacturers (acer, toshiba) offer a basic three year warranty at a fraction of the cost, or some like asus give a two year warranty as standard.
    Reply
  • Meaker10 - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    Alienware, MSI and Clevo seem to be fine on the cooling front.

    My clevo lets me clock my cpu to 3.9ghz on all 4 cores just fine.

    My graphics is also overclocked 50% just fine too.
    Reply
  • AssBall - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    My B.S. meter works just fine too. Reply
  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    My laptop has an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M and I overclocked the core clock by 75% and the Memory clock by 76% higher than stock. But, any higher it is unstable.

    Lots of laptop GPU's are crazy overclockable, but you just have to watch out for the high temperatures to avoid throttling.
    Reply
  • danwat1234 - Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - link

    This MSI laptop uses a 12 Volt fan I believe, which moves about 25 CFM of air and uses about 7 watts at full RPM! In this case I believe a single fan can affectively cool the CPU and GPU even if they are both under a full load. Why use two less powerful fans when you can use 1 powerful fan? Reply
  • Darkstone - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    You can overclock the GPU on MSI, clevo and alienware barebones. However, you can only overclock the CPU (non-extreme CPU's) with the alienware.

    Yes, you can run the 3920XM at 4x3.9ghz if you like. And the M17x does just that, well, 3.8GHZ, with the 3720QM that is $/€500 cheaper.

    And the price argument: The base alienware with 1080p display and HD 7970m is actually cheaper than the cheapest clevo reseller in the netherlands. You're paying a premium to get clevo with their horrorid drivers. That just doesn't make any sense.
    Reply
  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    I always ignore driver support of an OEM because it makes sense to always wipe and put a clean install of Windows these days. Every single component needing drivers in a laptop usually has a driver download from the manufacturer of the component, right? Reply

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