Mobile Gaming Showdown

The 4GB of Kingston DDR3 coupled with the second-fastest quad-core in Intel's mobile lineup should ensure an extremely capable showing in our regular benchmarks. What we're really going to be interested in is seeing who winds up with the fastest mobile graphics part, barring the value-adds from vendors. Here's a refresh of the configurations of our review units:

AVADirect Clevo W860CU Testbed
Processor Intel Core i7 820QM
(4x1.73GHz, 45nm, 8MB L3, Turbo to 3GHz, 45W)
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5
(800 Stream Processors, 750MHz/4GHz Core/RAM clocks)

(128 CUDA Cores, 576MHz/1.5GHz/2GHz Core/Shader/RAM clocks)
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
Hard Drive(s) Corsair 128GB Nova Series SSD
Optical Drive Blu-ray and DVD+/-RW Drive
Battery 3-Cell, 12V, 42Wh battery
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Pricing $2477.12 (Radeon HD 5870)
$2555.60 (GTX 285M) as configured from AVADirect

These are gaming notebooks, so let's cut straight to the meat and run some gaming tests. For gaming-level hardware, we're going to need settings that really push these GPUs. Mercifully, the W860CU comes with a beautiful 1080p screen that allows us to see just how far these solutions can go. At the top of the line, the GeForce GTX 285M and Mobility Radeon HD 5870 should both produce fluid gameplay at the W860CU's native resolution. We'll also run 1600x900 results to see how dropping down to HD+ affects performance.

We used the built-in benchmarks for every game except Mass Effect 2, which we measured using FRAPS by playing through a section of the game. For games that support DirectX 11, we also ran benchmarks using it on the Mobility 5870 to see if there was a performance benefit or hit.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Crysis: Warhead

DiRT 2

Empire: Total War

Far Cry 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mass Effect 2

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

In every case except for DiRT 2, the Mobility Radeon HD 5870 meets or beats the performance of the GeForce GTX 285M, and in DiRT 2 the 5870 remains perfectly playable even when DirectX 11 is enabled.

Though we average the scores of the four benchmarks in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., it does bear mentioning that while the GTX 285M produced higher numbers in the first three, the 5870 consistently hit 30fps in the Sunshafts benchmark, a feat the 285M could not pull off.

Unfortunately, the news isn't as good as we'd like. Crysis: Warhead still remains the outlier; at “Gamer” settings and 1080p, neither GPU can make it over the 30fps hurdle. A difference between notebook and desktop hardware is expected, but Cypress-based desktop cards can handle Crysis: Warhead at Enthusiast settings at 1080p with performance to spare. These notebook chips are still sitting on the low-end of the last generation's top of the line.

Likewise, one can't help but be underwhelmed by the performance of the Mobility Radeon HD 5870. The performance of NVIDIA's mobile graphics parts has been a sitting target for a long time now, and while the victory is still technically decisive, it's really not the supreme triumph it ought to have been. G92 has been around for a long time now, with NVIDIA resting on its laurels. Anyone hoping AMD's new chip would shock NVIDIA out of its complacency has to be disappointed by these results. Needless to say, GTX 480M shouldn't have too much trouble reclaiming the mobile crown (albeit with higher power requirements that might make it difficult to fit into a 15.6" chassis).

AVADirect Clevo W860CU Overview Speedy Application Performance as Well
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  • DannyH246 - Sunday, June 6, 2010 - link

    The review concludes with - "Unfortunately, AMD squanders a grand opportunity here"

    So AMD have a faster, cheaper, and less power hungry card - but they've squandered a good opportunity and we should wait for an architecture that is both known to be hugely power hungry and dissapointing performance wise.

    An NVIDIA marketing employee couldnt have said it better. Nice unbiased review, well done!
  • whatthehey - Sunday, June 6, 2010 - link

    Some people... Let's look at the facts: AMD saves you $78: stated. AMD is overall faster: stated. NVIDIA's old part is very competitive: yup. NVIDIA has a new part coming this month: yes. AMD's latest and greatest uses less power: yes, but there are bugs that cause the "higher power" 285M to get better battery life. AMD doesn't support CUDA or PhysX, while DirectCompute and OpenCL aren't used enough to matter yet. So a part that has been out less than four months can't clearly dominate a part that has been around (more or less) for well over a year. AMD should have increased the power envelope of the 5870 and given it more shader cores and bandwidth; then NVIDIA would have something to fear. As it stands, I agree that this is a "missed opportunity". But then, AMD/ATI GPUs have been tough to recommend in laptops for a long time, and only in the past four months (with the new drivers) has that changed.
  • Hrel - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    If someone could do a review on the laptop that I currently suspect is the best "bang for your buck" out there. It's made by compal, and available on who's machines you've reviewed before. If you'd like it configured like I did, which I think is the best bang for buck, do this: Go to the website. mouse over 15.6" Laptops and click on the $999 Xplorer X6-8500. It has a 1080p screen. (I'm not sure why the people who run this site do this, but even though the other configurations use the same chassis when personalized they come out to cost more than this one; annoying since it makes me configure all 3 or 4 machines built on the same base chassis to figure out which one is cheapest/best for me.) Then I configured it with the Core i7-620M CPU. (to get it over 1K so I can take advantage of the 5% off.) 4GB 0DDR3-1333, hopefully 7-7-7-21, probably not, but hopefully. ATI MR HD5650 1GB GDDR3 320GB 7200rpm HDD (I did this cause I'm gonna take that HDD out and use the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, thanks for that review!!) Everything else on that page I left untouched. The only thing I did on page 2 was switch to Intel wifi with bluetooth; Though I'm curious if the MSI option is equal/better; 17 bucks isn't nothing. It has HDMI out and a fingerprint reader. This page says 3 USB ports, the specs sheet says 4USB ports; not sure which is true. (I do wish they were USB 3.0 ports, but I was hoping you guys would test some stuff and tell me if that even matters for use with an external hard drive, mechanical disk 7200rpm. Transferring large files like movies and games mostly.) On page 3 I select "none, format only" for the OS. And select "LCD perfect assurance" cause even 1 dead pixel is unacceptable to me. This brings the total to $1008.90 after 5% off, or $992.75 if you get the MSI network card. So yeah, I really hope you guys can get a hold of one of these for review; as a loner or given as a review unit or maybe someone will just buy one and review it cause it's really tempting me right now... like a lot! If you're review is good I'm gonna start saving up and hopefully be able to buy it around Christmas. Thanks guys! A loyal reader. - Brian
  • lappyhappy - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    Nice review Dustin. I've seen and love your articles that you have written on I know some have been critical of your article but if they look at some of your work at notebookreview they will see that you are not bias at all, and are quite good at stating the facts. Everyone, check out Dustin's articles and he does a great job of explaining laptops and how they work. This guy really does know his stuff.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - link

    Hey, thank you for the kind words! It's really cool to see someone follow me between sites and actually recognize my work, very gratifying.

    What's funny is that I know that I do have a personal bias, but the fact that my bias is being read as favoring Nvidia reassures me that I'm doing a good job as a writer. :)
  • lappyhappy - Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - link

    I almost put that from what I've seen you actually have an AMD bias so yes you did a great job of putting it the other way. In all honesty though I think your reviews from what I've seen have been quite neutral and you always go with what is best but do know that you really want for AMD to be competitive.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - link

    NVIDIA has released their reviewer's guide for GTX 480M. Obviously, there's the potential they cherry picked some of the tests, but in general I'm guessing most of the scores are realistic. After all, if you use the DiRT 2 built-in benchmark, you can't really change the settings. Here's the guide for the interested:
  • coldwave007 - Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - link

    Hi There,

    After reading the article, I read through the comments and was very surprised by the negativity. I just wanted to say that I thought it was a very fair and balanced review, andthat you did an excellent job.
  • mod_to_odd - Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - link

    When it comes to quality gaming laptops, I dont think any body comes even close to Alienware and Sager. They have amazing customization options which no other brand offers.

    I had almost bought the Asus G73jh but after reading thousands of horrifying issues on the net regarding the customer support and faulty components even after RMA, i dint want to take any chances. In fact, one of my own friend who recently bought the G73jh is in a state of depression as he is dealing with new issues since the very day his notebook arrived.
    The most ridiculous of all is that when you are all excited to unbox the G73, u realize there is no windows7 dvd, you actually got to make backup discs of the Operating System. Asus does not provide you with a windows7 dvd along with such an expensive notebook, instead they fill up your laptop with loads of bloatware. Way to go ASUS...
    Asus needs to really improve big time on quality and customer satisfaction.

    It rather makes sense to buy a gaming notebook from a reputed company even if the price is a bit on the higher side. But then again, to each his own.
  • whenamanlies - Saturday, July 24, 2010 - link

    Very nice review since I'm right in the middle of configuring a laptop for myself.
    Want to switch from G51J (i7-720QM + GTX 260M) to something more powerful (and lower resolution).

    Now it all clear regarding which GPU to get, but what about CPU? I'm little bit disappointed with 720QM so I'm wondering if i5-540M or i7-620M would be a better option? My feeling that higher frequencies would be a better option for games. Heck, even TF2 suggesting me to disable multicore rendering :)

    You thoughts?

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