AVADirect's Clevo X7200 Redux: AMD 6970M CF Takes the Crownby Dustin Sklavos on June 2, 2011 3:05 AM EST
Re-introducing AVADirect's Clevo X7200
A little over seven months ago, we took at look at a Clevo X7200 courtesy of AVADirect that featured a desktop hex-core processor and a pair of NVIDIA's then-fastest mobile graphics cards, the GeForce GTX 480M. Since then NVIDIA has refreshed their mobile top end, and while we hope to review the GTX 485M in SLI soon, in the meantime we have another pair of mobile parts that have been making waves: the AMD Radeon HD 6970M.
Since our previous review, nothing has changed about the Clevo X7200 whitebook that AVADirect sent us. At its core, it's still an X58-based monster of a notebook, and the review unit we received is essentially comparable to the last one with only minor differences between the two.
|AVADirect Clevo X7200 Gaming Notebook|
Intel Core i7-990X
(6x3.46GHz + HTT, 3.73GHz Turbo, 32nm, 12MB L3, 130W)
|Chipset||Intel X58 + ICH10R|
|Memory||3x4GB Crucial DDR3-1333 (Max 3x4GB for now)|
2x AMD Radeon HD 6970M 2GB GDDR5 in CrossFire
(960 stream processors, 680MHz/3.6GHz core/memory clocks, 256-bit memory bus)
17.3" CCFL Glossy 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
LG Philips LP173WF1-TLC1
OS: Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB
Data: 500GB Seagate Momentus XT 7200RPM Hybrid
|Optical Drive||6x Blu-ray/8x DVDR Combo (HL-DT-ST CT21N)|
JMicron JMC250 Gigabit Ethernet
Killer Wireless-N 1102 802.11a/b/g/n
Realtek ALC888 HD Audio
Four audio jacks
|Battery||9-Cell, 14.8V, 5300mAh, 78.44Wh|
|Front Side||N/A (Speaker grilles)|
4 x audio jacks
3 x USB 2.0
9-in-1 Flash reader
(Optional HDMI In)
eSATA/USB combo port
2 x USB 3.0
4 x Exhaust Ports
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Dimensions||16.5" x 11.3" x 2.22-2.4" (WxDxH)|
98-key keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
1-year standard warranty
2-year and 3-year extended warranties available
Starting at $2118
Price as configured: $4463
Since our previous review, Intel updated their top end processor to the Core i7-990X; it's a minor 133MHz speedbump, but the 990X is still one of the fastest, if not the fastest, processors available today. This is a desktop processor in a "mobile enclosure," running at a nominal 3.46GHz on all six cores and able to turbo up to 3.73GHz. Our review unit this time around is also down a Crucial RealSSD C300, so we'll have to settle for "just one" instead of two in RAID 0.
It's worth noting our display panel in this review unit is actually different than the previous one; the last one had a HannStar panel but this one includes an LG and as you'll see in our screen tests, it's both better and worse.
And of course, there's the reason we're all here: two AMD Radeon HD 6970M GPUs in CrossFire. The 6970M is basically the mobile equivalent of AMD's desktop Radeon HD 6850, with 960 shaders in the old VLIW5 configuration and a 256-bit memory bus. Clocks are much lower, though: the 6970M runs at only 680MHz on the core and 900MHz on the GDDR5 (for an effective 3.6GHz). To compensate for the mobile market, AMD stacks it with 2GB of video memory instead of the 1GB found on desktop cards.
For this review we're going to eschew the usual look at the notebook and its build quality; this is the same shell we reviewed last year, so there's nothing new to say. You can read the previous overview if you have any additional questions.
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patfactorx - Thursday, June 2, 2011 - linkGIVE Me thIS CASE!
matty67 - Thursday, June 2, 2011 - linkThere is nearly a 20% price premium on an already $4500 laptop here. I mean honestly for that additional cost it had bloody well better be faster, I'd expect it to do all kinds of other things too. A fanboy would declare the winner as the fastest card without any other consideration. A rational person would take the overall speed with a grain of salt and put it into perspective.
The SLI will likely be faster but $650 faster? Odds ain't good on that one.
TrackSmart - Thursday, June 2, 2011 - linkI'm always astonished by the performance of these laptops until I look at the dimensions, weight, and price. I'm guessing the market for these things must be small (but lucrative?). I'm guessing this is for folks who regularly attend LAN parties? Even if you traveled between two homes, it would be cheaper to build two desktop computers to satisfy your gaming needs. I'm clearly not in the demographic, whatever that demographic may be...
Rasterman - Friday, June 3, 2011 - linkYeah before ordering one I didn't think it would be that big, lol it was huge, mock up a box of its size and see how big it is, its nuts, then add on to that the size of the power brick which is about half the size of a phone book, and heavier!
TrackSmart - Saturday, June 4, 2011 - linkHA ha. Yeah, I think all reviews of these sorts of laptops should put them next objects of various sizes (or show the side view with a ruler next to it) to put the system size in perspective. For instance, the laptop looks about half of it's actual thickness in the main photo presented in the article...
FXi - Thursday, June 2, 2011 - linkJust curious. I don't think a 485M sli would win in every situation, but you are comparing 18 month old 480 sli combo to a brand new 6970 CF and saying the 6970 takes the crown. Ok. But was it too difficult to get two of the same machine with each configuration and just test them? I mean that is what you do right, test comparable stuff to just see what happens?
Guess not. Hope the AMD paycheck goes far :)
JarredWalton - Thursday, June 2, 2011 - linkAMD paid as much for our article as NVIDIA paid for your comment... actually, we might have been paid less! Anyway, it's nice to be accused of being in AMD's pocket for a change; usually it's accusations of Intel and NVIDIA paying us off, so we're apparently doing something right. :-)
The truth is, getting $5000 notebooks for testing isn't that easy; AVADirect would like to have as much coverage from the various enthusiast web sites as they can get, so sending two high-end setups to one place means they get one review for the "price" of two.
We should hopefully get something with 485M SLI, but I don't expect a major difference (depending on the game). As noted in my earlier review of a single 6970M vs. a single 485M, there are cases where each side is quite a bit faster, but on average they're very close. Depending on dual-GPU scaling, either could come out ahead.
As for the title, it's more in reference to this being the fastest setup *we* have ever tested, at this point in time. If/when we test something with 485M SLI, and if it comes out on top, we'll be sure to make a note of it. Someone else already pointed out the cost vs. performance question as well: 13% higher cost for what will very likely be less than a 10% gain in performance.
FXi - Friday, June 3, 2011 - linkWell if this is was meant to say this is the fastest setup we have ever tested then why not say that? I know, you're working on that part.
And I didn't say, in fact quite literally said they are pretty much neck and neck. I don't brook NV fans saying the 485's are all that nor the 6970's. AMD drivers are still out to lunch where they have to issue 5 "fix" files for every driver release they make and worse, practically no notebook maker can install drivers from the AMD website without a huge process.
But at least you said pointedly "yep we said it like we said it" and almost let it be at that. Or we could just blame AVAdirect for manipulating the market as they would sure rather sell you the stock of 6970's they have before the 580M's get to market.
Oh well, the ability to quote you as an unbiased source took a bit of a hit. You could have avoided it.
JarredWalton - Saturday, June 4, 2011 - linkComing up with a title that says enough but isn't too long is actually quite difficult -- it's why we have the two paragraph abstract on the front page, because the title can't convey everything. If you can give me a better title that's still meaningful without getting into every detail, I'd love to hear it. I've tossed around a few ideas and I'm still not sure what would be "better". I'm not sure how it makes us any more biased than before, especially given how much I've beaten on AMD's mobile CPUs during the past several years. What we're biased towards is good hardware, and if it performs well and costs less than the competing solutions so much the better!
These days, talk of drivers on either AMD or NVIDIA's side being "worse" is mostly hyperbole. AMD issues "hot fixes" for new games, especially games where CrossFire doesn't work without the hot fix. NVIDIA has beta drivers that frequently fill a similar role. My biggest complaints with AMD mobile drivers is that: 1) not all manufacturers participate in the "reference driver program" (Toshiba and Sony immediately come to mind); 2) you have to download a small utility that checks your card and then decides if you can download the driver. Ironically, if you can download the driver on a different notebook, I know that you can at least install it on Toshiba, and probably you can install it on Sony as well. So the whole process is silly and the only reason it's there is because of the OEMs -- if AMD had their druthers, they would include support for all chips (just like they used to way back in the ATI Rage 2 days).
580M (or whatever the inevitable refresh is called) will most certainly beat the 6970M, but it's not out yet. (Actually, 485M really ought to have been named 580M given the other naming changes.) More importantly, I'm still hoping someone will get back to the days of 75W mobile GPUs being the maximum, as 100W is pretty crazy for a notebook.
FXi - Saturday, June 4, 2011 - linkI honestly don't care for the 5% (which often equates to 2-5 meaningless fps) over or under. Don't care if the 580 beats or doesn't.
Drivers are still bad on the AMD side. You see a lot of reviews saying it's all changed, but a year into ownership it's the same old song and dance. It's kind of says something about qualtiy control when the hotfix department issues 5 fixes in 2 weeks. And it's not like this has happened once.
On average most of the "leavers" of AMD have given some of their best products a try for a year or more and simply have found the drivers to be too painful to deal with. Is Nvidia perfect? Heck no! And they should be at the prices they charge. So don't take this as one side is pristine and one is not. But simply it's the difference between a Toyota and a Nissan. Both are good. One is simply very good.
Yep AMD is cheaper on the perf/$ equation. And that MATTERS in this economy, believe that. But after years of trying to get better, you are still getting what you pay for, and cheap is still cheap for a reason.
And yes, I've owned, tinkered, and had to deal with the worst both parties can build and they can both mess it up a lot. One could probably make an easy argument that neither one is worth the money paid for them. Would that make Intel the better choice? Maybe in a few years who knows.