The Highest-End Notebooks, 2009by Jarred Walton on October 14, 2009 3:10 AM EST
Clevo W870CU Specifications
Clevo makes the base notebook chassis for many companies, but this particular sample comes directly from the manufacturer -- courtesy of Intel. The W870CU is the first notebook to hit the market that utilizes the mobile variant of the Core i7 processors. That means you can get quad-core plus Hyper-Threading without resorting to the extreme cooling measures of the D900F. The result is that the W870CU weighs several pounds less than the D900F and M980NU. At the same time, it also offers less performance, and it typically costs less. AVADirect and others allow extensive customizations for the W870CU, and here are the common options.
|Clevo W870CU Specifications|
|Processor||Core i7-720QM (4x1.6GHz+HTT, 45nm, 6MB L3, 2.5GT/s QPI, 45W)
Core i7-820QM (4x1.73GHz+HTT, 45nm, 8MB L3, 2.5GT/s QPI, 45W)
Core i7-920XM (4x2.0GHz+HTT, 45nm, 8MB L3, 2.5GT/s QPI, 55W)
|Memory||2x1024MB DDR3-1066 to 2x4096MB DDR3-1333|
|Graphics||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M 1GB GDDR3|
|Display||17.3" HD+ (1600x900) or 1080p (1920x1080)|
|Hard Drive||Up to two HDDs/SSDs with optional RAID 0/1|
|Optical Drive||8x DVDR SuperMulti
Blu-ray Reader/DVDRW Combo
|Networking||Realtek Gigabit Ethernet (RTL8168/8111 PCI-E)
Intel Wifi Link 5300 AGN WiFi
|Audio||6-Channel Realtek ALC888 HD Audio
(4 stereo speakers with four audio jacks+digital out)
|Battery/Adapter||4-cell, 11.1V, 3800mAh, 42.18Wh
120W Power Brick
|Left Side||Optical Drive
1 x USB 2.0
1 x Mini FireWire
MS/MS Pro/SD/MMC reader
Optional TV Tuner Input
|Right Side||4 x Audio/Microphone jacks
1 x USB 2.0
1 x eSATA
|Back Side||2 x Heat Exhaust
2 x USB 2.0
|Operating System||Windows Vista or Windows 7|
|Dimensions||16.22" x 10.98" x 1.77-2.11" (WxDxH)|
|Weight||8.8 lbs (with 4-cell battery)|
98-Key Keyboard with 10-Key
3 touch-sensitive multimedia keys
Optional Fingerprint Scanner
|Warranty||1-year standard Warranty
2-year and 3-year extended warranties available
|Price||Starting at ~$2150 online.
Tested configuration priced at ~$3325.
At present, there are only three mobile Core i7 processors. The slowest i7-720QM comes clocked at 1.6 GHz with single-core Turbo mode boosting clock speed up to 2.8 GHz. It's priced at $364, but the lower clock speeds may not be enough for some users. The i7-720QM also comes with 6MB of L3 cache instead of 8MB. The midrange i7-820QM runs at 1.73 GHz with single-core Turbo mode running at up to 3.06 GHz. That's going to be the sweet spot for most users, as the CPU cost of $546 is half of the $1054 Extreme Core i7-920XM, which runs at 2.0 GHz and has a single-core Turbo mode of 3.2 GHz.
Intel is the only company making QPI chipsets, so there's no getting around the requirement of the PM55. This is similar to the desktop P55, with 16 integrated PCI-E lanes that can be split into dual x8 lanes. Down the road, we will likely see SLI notebook variants, but for the time being we are limited to single GPU solutions. Depending on the laptop vendor, you should be able to get a single GTX 280M, GTX 260M, or a Mobility Radeon HD 4870XT. The latter has an ETA of December 2009 at Eurocom, with prices likely to be around $100 higher than the GTX 280M.
We don't know how it will compare in terms of performance or power requirements to the 280M, but it would be nice if ATI could provide some mobile GPU competition. Unfortunately, unless and until ATI begins providing mobile reference drivers, we remain very hesitant to recommend any gaming laptop with an ATI graphics chip. This is something ATI used to provide several years ago, but the OEMs apparently didn't like end-users being able to download drivers that they hadn't "validated". Frankly, this is a mistake, especially when it comes to gaming laptops. Clevo and other notebook OEMs need to work with ATI to remedy this situation!
The W870CU comes with two SO-DIMM slots, so users should be able to configure notebooks with anything from 2x1GB up to 2x4GB of DDR3-1333 memory. Likewise, we would expect to see reasonable options for hard drives, SSDs, optical drives, and other peripherals. Eurocom and AVADirect both have W870CU models, with the primary difference being that Eurocom supports a third hard drive using the optical drive bay. Intel originally equipped the laptop we're testing with a single 80GB Intel SSD, but they also included Windows 7 instead of Windows Vista. We swapped in an OCZ vertex 120GB SSD for testing under Vista; we will provide a look at performance under Windows 7 in the near future. Obviously, the Intel SSD is going to be slightly faster than the OCZ vertex (depending on application), but 80GB or even 120GB of storage disappears rapidly when you start installing modern games. Empire: Total War for example is a 15GB installation, and the same goes for Windows Vista/7. One game and the operating system and you've already used up almost half of your expensive SSD! Thankfully, the chassis supports two hard drives so you can have an SSD along with a large capacity HDD.
The W870CU we received for testing came with an HD+ 1600x900 LCD, but it looks like most companies will be shipping a FullHD 1920x1080 panel. Obviously, we won't be able to tell you how the 1080p panel compares to the HD+ panel, but it shouldn't be any worse. What's that mean? Well, unlike the other two notebooks, the HD+ panel in the W870CU doesn't have the same relatively high contrast ratio. While the panel is definitely bright, we would prefer improvements in contrast as well.
The Clevo W870CU is a lower power solution than the M980NU or the D900F. Unfortunately, battery capacity is also lower with the result being that battery life isn't any better -- and is sometimes worse. Clevo apparently doesn't think most users purchasing desktop replacement systems are interested in more than one hour of battery life; we would disagree. The battery compartment is rather large and it should be possible to at least double the battery capacity, which would give you twice the battery life. At least then we would have an area where the W870CU is clearly better than the D900F and M980NU, outside of size and weight. Prices start at $500 less than either of the big brothers, but you're most likely looking at $2500 for a reasonably equipped system so this isn't going to be a budget conscious notebook no matter how you slice it.