MYTHLOGIC Pollux 1400: Clevo's W150HR Testedby Jarred Walton on August 23, 2011 12:00 AM EST
Clevo W150HR: Like the Clevo P150/P151, Only Thinner and Lighter
Okay, let’s not get carried away: this is not a thin and light laptop by any stretch. However, it’s also not as bulky as the Clevo P15x laptops. At first encounter, they look strikingly similar, but when you start focusing on the details there are plenty of changes. Obviously, Optimus support is one change, though that shouldn’t require any major reworking of the motherboard. The bigger changes come in the areas of chassis layout and cooling.
We’ve got a few shots of the P151HM and W150HR together in the gallery below, and the most notable change is that the two exhaust ports on the rear of the P15x are gone, replaced by a single exhaust to the left. The chassis is also slightly smaller/thinner and weighs about a pound less. The reduced size and weight of the laptop means that the 55W i7-2920XM CPU is no longer an option, and the GPU tops out at the GT 555M we’re testing—as opposed to the GTX mobile parts offered in the P15x models. Obviously the lion’s share of the weight loss comes from the removal of one large HSF (heatsink + fan). With one less HSF and a less power hungry GPU, noise levels are down as well.
The overall shape of the chassis is less wedge-like than the P15x, and the overall design works well in our testing. Note that the original laptops we received for testing come with a glossy cover and LCD bezel; we asked MYTHLOGIC about this and they informed us they have switched to a matte cover, though the glossy LCD bezel remains. (Why, Clevo, WHY!?) That glossy bezel probably works well with the glossy LCD options, but there needs to be a matte bezel for the matte LCD upgrade. The palm rest looks like brushed aluminum, but it’s actually just a textured plastic; still, it does a good job at not picking up fingerprints (unless you have really greasy hands). MYTHLOGIC sent us some pictures of the matte cover as well, which we’ve included at the end of the above gallery.
Our complaints against the Clevo keyboard remain. I’ve covered this so many times that I’m simply going to quote what I said on the P150HM review:
Perhaps the most egregious flaw is the keyboard layout. I’ve gone off on this in the past, but every new Clevo system seems to continue the trend, so let’s be a more specific. We’ve still got the all-but-useless number keypad on the right, with the small-sized enter key where the decimal point belongs. Plus and minus are moved up top with the decimal point, which is where numlock, divide, and multiply should be. The zero key is half-sized and overlaps with the right cursor key, and finally there’s an extra row up top where the divide and multiply now sit. It makes the inclusion of the number keypad pointless for any touch 10-key typists.
If you move to the cursor keys, you’ll find that once again there’s no dedicated PgUp/PgDn/Home/End present if you’re using the number keypad. Instead, you have to use Fn+Cursor combinations to those shortcuts, and as someone that uses them all the time I find this highly annoying. The simplest solution for me was to eschew the use of Numlock and just use the 10-key for faster access to the other keys; besides, I can input numbers just as fast using the regular number keys as I can with the mangled 10-kay area. Given that there’s easily an inch of space Clevo could recover from the left and right of the keyboard area, why they can’t just ditch their tried-and-terrible layout and add put in a proper 10-key layout is beyond me.
I will say that I’ve grown slightly more accustomed to using Fn+Cursor to access Home/End/PgUp/PgDn (thanks to using Dell’s XPS 15z, whose layout is actually worse in my book than the XPS 15). I’d still prefer no 10-key with a column of document navigation keys to what Clevo has right now, but if you use the laptop long enough, you might get used to it—though I have yet to adapt to using their 10-key, given so many of the keys are in the “wrong” places.
Outside of the keyboard and gloss gripes, I don’t have too many major complaints. In the minor complaints division, however, the chassis is pretty much all plastic, which means it doesn’t provide me with a sense of solidity found in something like a ThinkPad T-series or Dell Latitude. Long-term, I suspect the chassis will start to feel a bit loose and creak when handled, but the same goes for most consumer laptops. The battery life also fails to meet expectations; clearly Clevo could do more work to optimize power use when unplugged. For reference, at idle running off the 62Wh battery, the W150HR draws around 14.4W; that goes up against Dell’s XPS 15 at ~9.6W and Alienware’s M14x at 9.7W, and even the large 17” Toshiba Qosmio X775 with a GTX 560M (Optimus) only draws ~10W. With Optimus, the GPU shouldn’t even be a factor for this test, so somewhere in the motherboard and other circuitry Clevo appears to be sucking down 40% more power at idle than competing solutions.
Speaking of the GPU, I also have a concern there. Yes, this is NVIDIA’s single name menagerie. There are at least three different GT 555M configurations I’m aware of, and they’re all different enough to make it important to know what exactly you’re getting. At the top of the GT 555M performance heap is the 192-bit DDR3 model with 144 CUDA cores. That’s what we tested in the Alienware M14x, and even though the 3GB VRAM is excessive, performance is at least good. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the GDDR5 version with 96 CUDA cores, but only 16 TMUs and 4 ROPs (vs. 24 TMUs and 16 ROPs). It has more memory bandwidth but the castrated ROPs is a bad joke—stay away from this model! And just to make things exciting, there’s a third version with a 128-bit memory interface but with 144 CUDA cores. That’s what we have in the W150HR: 2GB instead of 3GB and 2/3 the memory bandwidth. 3GB VRAM for a midrange GPU is overkill, but the extra 64-bit memory interface certainly has potential to help, so we’ll have to see how the M14x compares with this W150HR GPU.
In the face of all these criticisms, the W150HR does offer one trump card: the LCD. I’ve looked at a lot of laptop LCDs over the years, and short of IPS panels (e.g. HP DreamColor), this is the best looking LCD I’ve encountered. It’s at the top of the TN panel heap, and being able to get it in matte or glossy depending on your personal preference is merely icing on the cake. The model number is B156HW01 v4 from AU Optronics, and you can get the same panel in Lenovo’s W510/W520. I’ve seen the AUO B156HW01 glossy in the Dell XPS 15, which appears to be the same as the 95% NTSC glossy panel. (We’ve also tested the B156HW01 v1, which is the matte in the P150/P151 and it doesn’t have a high color gamut, and the v6, which is frankly terrible by comparison.) It’s true that the high gamut can make some sRGB content look oversaturated, but I prefer that to the washed out look of the <50% NTSC displays that most other laptops use. Incidentally, the Lenovo W520 with similar components and a Quadro 2000M will set you back two large; I’d actually be inclined to make that upgrade if I were in the market, but $350 extra for build quality and a slightly faster GPU definitely isn’t chump change.
Overall, the Pollux 1400 is an amazingly snappy system, but any laptop with a good SSD and a 2720QM CPU should offer a similar experience. The price is reasonable, the features are all there, and MYTHLOGIC offers a wealth of customizations. Before we come to a final verdict, let’s hit the benchmarks and see just where the Pollux/Clevo W150HR stands relative to the competition.