Test Setup

For this initial look, we're only going to include a subset of our performance benchmarks. Normally we would include results from PCMark, but the Clarksfield system shipped with an SSD and the other test systems have their own take on storage, making PCMark results meaningless. We all know SSDs are faster at certain tasks, but without using the same SSD in all three systems we can't really compare performance. That's part of the reason why this is only an abbreviated preview; we have a lot more benchmark results, but we're not just comparing CPU performance. We will have a complete review of all three notebooks in the near future, where we will go into further details about configuration options. For now, here's the skinny on what we are testing.

Clevo W87CU Test System
Processor Intel Core i7-920XM (2.0GHz 55W TDP)
(Quad-core + Hyper-Threading, 45nm, 4x256K L2, 8MB L3)
Memory 2x2048MB PC3-10700 @ DDR3-1333 9-9-9-24
Graphics 1 x NVIDIA GTX 280M (Driver Version 186.81)
Display 17.3" Glossy WXSGA+ (1600x900)
Hard Drive OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD
Optical Drive 8x SATA DVDR
Battery 6-cell, 11.1V, 3800mAh, 42.18Wh
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit

Eurocom M980NU XCaliber Test System
Processor Intel Core 2 QX9300 (2.53GHz, 45W TDP)
(Quad-core, 45nm, 2x6MB Shared L2)
Memory 2x2048MB PC3-10700 @ DDR3-1333 9-9-9-24
Graphics 2 x NVIDIA GTX 280M (Driver Version 186.03 SLI/186.81 No SLI)
Display 18.4" Glossy 1080p (1920x1080)
Hard Drive Seagate 500GB 16MB 7200RPM
(Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420ASG)
Optical Drive 8x SATA DVDR/BD-ROM
Battery 9-cell, 14.8V, 4650mAh, 68.82Wh
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit

AVADirect Clevo D900F Test System
Processor Intel Core i7-975 (3.33GHz, 130W TDP)
(Quad-core + Hyper-Threading, 45nm, 4x256K L2, 8MB L3)
Memory 3x2048MB PC3-8500 @ DDR3-1066 7-7-7-20
Graphics 1 x NVIDIA GTX 280M (Driver Version 186.81)
Display 17.0" Glossy WUXGA (1920x1200)
Hard Drive 2 x OCZ Vertex 30GB SSDs in RAID 0
Seagate 500GB 16MB 7200RPM
(Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS)
Optical Drive 8x SATA DVDR
Battery 12-cell, 14.4V, 6600mAh, 95.04Wh
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit

Clevo's W87CU is our Clarksfield test platform. Unfortunately (fortunately), Intel shipped it to us with their 80GB SSD and Windows 7. That creates a couple problems. First, all of our previous laptop results come from Windows Vista, and as we recently showed, your choice of OS makes a difference. Since we wanted to try to compare apples-to-apples, we replaced the OS with Vista on our own OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD (our disk cloning software wouldn't work with the W87CU hardware, so we left the original Windows 7 installation alone - we will go back to it in a later review). The system ships with a single GTX 280M.

Representing the old guard, Eurocom's M980NU XCaliber uses a Core 2 Extreme QX9300 - the pinnacle of laptop performance prior to the launch of Clarksfield. The CPU is paired up with two GTX 280M graphics cards in SLI, all stuffed into a gigantic 18.4" chassis. This is essentially the NVIDIA equivalent of the 4870X2 ASUS W90Vp, with a slightly faster CPU. (Remember that the W90Vp allows an easy overclock to 2.27GHz.) We will also test performance with SLI disabled in order to compare results with the other two notebooks.

The final entrant in our benchmarks today really muddies the waters. The Clarksfield i7-920XM is the fastest mobile CPU currently available, which makes the Clevo W87CU the fastest notebook available, right? Well, no, since Clevo already went and stuffed a desktop i7 Bloomfield CPU into their D900F - and not just any Bloomfield CPU; the D900F supports everything up to the top-end i7-975. AVADirect was kind enough to send us just such a system for review, and it also ships with a single GTX 280M. It also has dual 30GB SSDs for the primary drive, providing a ton of bandwidth for data transfers.

What we have are three top-of-the-line desktop replacement notebooks, using the three fastest CPUs you can find in a notebook (even if one of them is a desktop CPU). All of the systems use NVIDIA's GTX 280M, so when we look at graphics performance we can remove the GPU as a factor and see how the CPUs impact frame rates - if at all.

Clarksfield Summary System Performance
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  • Hrel - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    I consider any dedicated card with at least 16SP's and at least 512MB of dedicated memory to be a gaming laptop; 16 SP's IS the ABSOLUTE minumum, but that should be enough to run everything ecxept maybe crysis (Which I really hate anyway) at 720p or higher with playable frame rates. Who cares about eye candy? As long as the game runs smoothly. Desktops are for eye candy, laptops and consoles are just for gaming. Reply
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  • MonicaS - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Man, as someone who hasn't used a desktop as personal computer for the last 4 years, the move to laptop was a very difficult one. You have the convenience but lack the performance. Now couple this processor with two raid ssd's and 8 gigs of ram in a 64bit Windows 7 laptop and you finally have a beast of a machine in your probably burning lap.

    I'd love to get that setup and finally not feel as though I'm loosing out to a desktop in anyway. The only true limitation is Crysis, but seriously that game sucked anyway!

    Can't wait!

    Monica S
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    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    Heh, "Gamers Are Going Mobile". My video card is the size of some laptops. And I'm not playin on no 15" screen. Reply
  • FXi - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    I have to say the mobility right now is more of a draw than a higher level of eye candy. Now mind you, I have both laptop and desktop so if I really crave eye candy, I can go to the desktop room and game.

    But with two little ones, I find that my 'gaming time' is often measured in 20 min spans here and there, and that being able to surf or get some work done wherever the kids happen to be is a benefit that I very much enjoy. So I can run Witcher on my old 7950M, windowed @ 1620 and have the settings lower and be "ok" with that.

    Mind you I do crave a bit more oomph, a more modern machine, but I can bide my time. The mobility is very nice, and I don't LAN (no time!). Having SLI or a higher end mobile chip simply means the laptop is "acceptable" for a longer period of it's life.

    I won't argue the bang for the buck. Mobile gaming is pricey and not cost effective. But the mobility is nice, the space taken up by a machine I can throw in the closet is also nice. And within some limits, lower res or lower eye candy is acceptable as payment for that mobility.

    Now I just need USB 3 (USB changes only happen every 10 years or so) and then I might consider upgrading.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    When checking my laptop for Ubuntu vs Xp battery life, I accidentally ran my first XP test with my standard undervolt on, didn't seem to impact battery life any. Reply
  • ambientmf - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    Am i the only one who thinks these chips are ridiculously overpriced? I would never drop more than $350 on a CPU even in a desktop, it just doesn't seem economical for a $1K laptop processor. especially if it's only running at a 2.0GHz base.
    The cheaper options seem really underwhelming and like others have said, the thermal output of these chips just doesn't make sense for a laptop.
    Reply
  • cjb110 - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    The big problem with gaming laptop's is that they aren't balanced. The display is always at higher res than the cpu/gpu can drive.

    I'd get a gaming laptop if it can drive all current gen games at max settings at the native res of the panel it comes with. Even if that res is <1080p.

    If it can't do that, then I've spent a lot of money on something that's already behind the desktop I can get for cheaper.
    Reply
  • Mugur - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    ... if there is one? I mean that that 1.6 Ghz part looks very nice: quad-core with HT and turbo.

    I think someone could make a decent notebook, not a desktop replacement out of a 720QM.
    Reply
  • FXi - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    Shouldn't the Quad core mobiles be 32nm and the Dual cores 45nm? I know that's not the case but what was Intel thinking? It doesn't even look like there's a refresh of the Quad's to 32nm in the Spring.

    Crazy, cuz they look like good chips with a shrink.
    Reply

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