AVADirect, the custom computer manufacturer, has announced their "most powerful notebook for gamers." The powerhouse notebook is an update of the older Clevo M980NU, replacing the Intel Core 2 Duo and NVIDIA GTX 280M SLI with a Core i7 and a GTX 285M SLI to provide a sizable bump in performance. The new model, NBK-CLV-X8100, uses the Clevo X8100 chassis with the same 18.4" 1920x1080 LED-backlit screen as its predecessor.

At the heart of the machine is a choice of Intel Core i7 processors from the 1.6GHz 720QM, to either a 1.73GHz 820QM or a top of the range 2.0GHz 920XM. All of these i7 CPU's are quad-core with Turbo Boost technology for greater single core performance and Hyper-Threading for when quad-core isn't enough for your multitasking needs. The 820QM and 920XM also come with 8MB L3 cache compared to 6MB on the 720QM. You can read specifics about the Clarksfield CPUs in our launch article.

A variety of DDR3 RAM options are available from 2GB to 8GB. There are also many HDD/SSD options spread over three drive bays with RAID 0 or 1 available. A Blu-Ray reader/writer is also available as an option to make the most of the full HD screen, and the X8100 comes with HDMI, DVI and VGA video outputs.

Powering the huge screen is an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285M SLI setup. Each GPU has 1GB RAM for 2GB total, though effectively it's the same as a 1GB single GPU. However, for such a graphically orientated notebook, it is a mystery why a previous generation GPU is used. While it's no slouch for graphical productivity applications, for gamers looking to upgrade, Direct X11 is the must have feature for the near future. NVIDIA's DX11 parts, the GeForce GTX 470 and 480, will be unleashed on March 26th, barely more than two weeks away, but no mobile variant has yet been announced.

Ignoring that fact though, we already have very competent DX11 cards from ATI. For example, the rather nifty looking ASUS G73J comes with an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 and looks to perform exceptionally well. That means users are now going to have to decide between NVIDIA DX10/10.1 mobile GPUs or ATI DX11 GPUs, and with ATI's new mobile driver program we're inclined to go with ATI until NVIDIA starts shipping mobile DX11 solutions.

The latest Clevo offering also features built-in 5.1 speakers, a 7-in-1 flash reader, 2MP webcam, Bluetooth, ExpressCard 34/54, eight programmable buttons for gaming, and eight touch sensitive buttons for the usual notebook functions such as changing the volume. An integrated mini-PCI TV tuner with remote control is also an option. In a rather strange move, 802.11n is an "upgrade" starting at $30.25—apparently AVADirect wants users to be able to choose exactly what sort of hardware they get, even allowing them to forego the standard WiFi adapter. More perplexing is that in spite of the huge chassis that will attract many multimedia and gaming peripherals, there are only three USB 2.0 ports and a single Firewire 1394a port. Fortunately eSATA , which doubles as a fourth USB port, and gigabit Ethernet is present for storage and networking needs.

Chassis-wise it is largely identical to its predecessor, complete with a chiclet-style isolated keyboard with a full numerical pad. The lid and wrist rest feature a "Mirror-Black" finish, which will undoubtedly be a fingerprint magnet. A review of the chassis in M980NU guise is available here. To round things off, a variety of Windows 7 (and strangely Windows Vista) versions are available, and although battery life isn't specifically mentioned, it is likely to be non-existent should you ever wish to haul the 12.50 lbs. notebook anywhere. Unfortunately for a notebook of this specification, it only comes with a standard 1-year warranty; extended 2-year and 3-year warranties are available for $157 and $286, respectively.

To be honest it is hard to recommend such a machine. The aforementioned ASUS G73J couples the same Core i7 CPU with a DX11 capable GPU with the same, and in some cases better, specifications in all other areas, but in a much lighter chassis with a 2-year warranty from a very respectable $1599.99—and that's after the $100 extra surcharge due to demand (MSRP for the G73J is $1500). Did I mention the ASUS chassis is designed to look like an F-117 stealth fighter jet? Full details are available on the ASUS website.

Should you prefer the Clevo X8100 gaming notebook—it will certainly be faster than other gaming notebooks, thanks to the 285M SLI configuration, even if it doesn't support DX11—it is available at www.avadirect.com starting at $2472.55, though once you add the usual upgrades you'll likely pay a lot more. We specced out a system with the i7-820QM, 2x4GB DDR3, a 160GB Intel X25-M G2 SSD, and a pair of 500GB 7200RPM drives for mass storage; total cost of such a system comes to $3740.

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  • tviceman - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - link

    "with ATI's new mobile driver program we're inclined to go with ATI until NVIDIA starts shipping mobile DX11 solutions."

    Woah easy there. ATI has yet to deliver anything. Plenty of promises are made every day by lots of companies. Until they start regularly releasing mobile driver updates, then lets take what they (or anyone else) says with a grain of salt until proven true.
  • Rob94hawk - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - link

    If I play Zork on this beauty could I get at least an hour on the battery life? :D
  • FXi - Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - link

    DX11 is really going to be very popular. When the next gen of consoles comes, they will have DX11 and it will proceed to be in everything. DX11 provides for physics and Directcompute and Tesselation. Now it does automatically downscale to DX10 and 10.1 so it's not a disaster if you don't get it, but laptops can't change out GPU's. What you get now you LIVE with for as long as you have the machine, which is usually long enough to see one DX changeover. If you go DX10 now you may see DX12 before your machine gets replaced, and you don't want to be 2 generations behind then. I wouldn't at least.

    USB 3 is really here, despite what Intel doesn't know. Laptops have pretty much one primary way to talk to the outside world, USB. Yes there are Expresscards and there is ESATA, but really 99% of everything you get talks USB. And USB 3 is a once every 10 YEAR changeover. Why wouldn't you wait a couple of months for a once a decade change to the #1 way for your laptop to communicate with other devices. One USB 3 hub take a single USB port and cover external hardrives, external graphics/monitors, Vidcams, Memory sticks and more. You could run sound, video and external hardrive and not saturate the port. And it uses less CPU cycles than USB 2. Win win, really.

    LED screens are going to inhabit every laptop made in 2011 (at least as an option if not the only option). They last longer. They have a purer light frequency, making filters more efficient and colors truer than days of old. And they can get brighter on the same amount of power. Go look at any super electronics store at two of the same model of Television, one with and one without LED backlight. Take your pick, Sony, Samsung or LG. And you'll see immediately why. LED's will go into every LCD that has a backlight by the time another year or two goes by. LED production just needs to catch up. So picking a LED screen now is just good sense.

    Nvidia needs DX11 mobile chips. Much like they didn't see Eyefinity coming, they don't know just what a wave is coming with the advent of widespread 40nm DX11 mobile GPU's. This isn't just about the high end. 40nm uses less power at every performance level. DX11 is already on it's way in the door. Over 50% of sales are in laptops. To miss that market by failing to deliver DX11 and multiscreen ability in a mobile chip is literally something that can cripple earnings for a year or more. It may well be something Nvidia can't deliver. Once AMD gains the foothold in the mobile world, that it has in the desktop world, Nvidia earnings will go way down. That takes away funds to fuel chip development, which makes delays even more hurtful. Let's hope for the sake of competition that they can step up, and not too long from now. The 285M BETTER be just a holdover. If that is their "one top chip" for 2010, they are in for sad news in the earnings dept.

  • The0ne - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - link

    I think you might be getting ahead of yourself in your projections there. Next generation consoles won't be release anytime soon as they once were. There are many reasons for this, of course, but one would be that the hardware still serves it purpose, at the very least due to the high learning curve. PS3/xbox potential, imo, has not been fully utilize.

    USB 3.0 is not here yet. We're seeing it trickle down but it isn't mainstream as of yet. I don't want to have to put a card in my PC to get the support, for example. Just take a gander at the various laptops offered and most don't have USB 3.0 ports. I'm thinking it'll hit mainstream at the end of this year, at the earliest.

    LED screens is the same as USB 3.0 They are not mainstream, not even for TV. They are just starting to show and few consumers know of the technology. Again, take a gander at laptops and you'll see there isn't much around with LED.
  • Penti - Thursday, March 11, 2010 - link

    LED TFT's _are_ mainstream, it's low end tech, USB 3 will trickle down into everything the next chipset refresh. _RGB_ LED won't be mainstream neither will anything with good color.

    I think nVidia will do just fine, their mobile GPUs are powerful. DX11 doesn't really give anything yet.

    As said next gen consoles are a few years away. Todays GPUs will be slow compared to what they get. But middleware today is very flexible and many games don't push the graphics. So I wouldn't worry, but I wouldn't buy anything like this. High-end gaming and notebooks don't mix though.
  • Souka - Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - link

    I wonder if I can convince my boss to replace my Sony Vaio C2D VGN-series laptop with one of these little puppies...

    I will for sure stay away from that ASUS F-ugly system... yuck, that is just ugly...
  • The0ne - Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - link

    :) I had the exact same thoughts just seeing the headline. Problem is I have 2 extra laptops that has no home now so I think it's unlikely lol.
  • whatthehey - Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - link

    Are you serious? You really think that this X8100 monolith looks better than the ASUS G73J? Because I'm on the opposite side of the fence. The X8100 has that stupid ass mirror finish everywhere. The G73J looks damn slick if you ask me! I wonder how it will actually perform? Is the 5870 mobile chip anywhere near as fast as the desktop part? Because NVIDIA's mobile stuff is less than half the performance of the desktop chips.
  • Roland00 - Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - link

    The gtx 285 is effectively a downclocked/dieshrunk 8800gts 512 but with 1gb of memory instead of 512
    gtx285m 1024.....128 shaders 576 core:1500 shader:2040 memory
    8800gts 512......128 shaders 650 core:1625 shader:1940 memory
    9800gtx 512......128 shaders 675 core:1688 shader:2200 memory
    9800gtx+/gts250..128 shaders 738 core:1836 shader:2200 memory

    The 5870 mobile is effectively a downclocked version of the 5770. Same shaders as the 5770, core clock of the 5750, and memory clock that is lower than both 5750 and 5770.
    mobility hd radeon 5870.....800 shaders 700 core:1000 memory
    hd radeon 5750..............720 shaders 700 core:1150 memory
    hd radeon 5770..............800 shaders 850 core:1200 memory
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