High and Ultra Gaming Settings

We'll start taxing the Envy 17 at our "High" preset. The AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5850 shouldn't have too much of a problem with our gaming suite at these settings, even at the notebook's 1080p native resolution.

In every case but StarCraft II, the Mobility Radeon HD 5850 is able to produce smooth performance at the Envy 17's native resolution, and even in that case it's still fairly playable. As we're often keen to point out, though, again you can see the major difference in performance going from mainstream-class to enthusiast-class graphics in a notebook: there's no middle ground here. Unfortunately it seems like our "High" preset is near the peak of what the 5850 can do.

Once we start pushing the GPU at our "Ultra" settings, the weaknesses of AMD's mobile line-up are finally revealed. Lest NVIDIA get cocky, it should be noted that the Quadro 5000M doesn't fare that much better. We're near the top of the line in mobile graphics here, but the gulf in performance going from mobile to desktop graphics is absolutely tremendous. Only the Clevo X7200 is able to pull playable framerates across the board, but it also costs three times what the Envy 17 does.

Now's as good a time as any to reiterate what we said back when we initially reviewed the AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5870: AMD needs to get their act together. The state of modern high-end mobile graphics is pitiful, and "good enough" just isn't going to cut it anymore. AMD seems willing to barely compete at most, leaving NVIDIA to produce equally lazy parts like the GeForce GTX 480M. "Consolitis" has kept modern game requirements fairly reasonable, to the point where a desktop Radeon HD 5770 can for the most part get the job done at 1080p, but we're still having issues with mobile parts.

Without good competition and envelope pushing from either side, mobile graphics stagnate horribly and leave us with a mediocre top-end. The 5850 in the Envy 17 is adequate and should play most games at native, but we've been sitting at "adequate" for entirely too long. Here's hoping that the mobile variants of AMD's 6800/6900 series can leverage features such as PowerTune to give mobile gaming a shot in the arm.

Application and Futuremark Performance Battery, Noise, and Heat
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  • truk007 - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    "...we've been sitting at "adequate" for entirely too long. Here's hoping that the mobile variants of AMD's 6800/6900 series can leverage features such as PowerTune to give mobile gaming a shot in the arm."

    I've been waiting a very long time to buy a new laptop with the hopes that I can play the games I love at settings better than native. I want my laptop to be able to do most of the things my desktop does, especially gaming.
  • vol7ron - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    I think we all are waiting for that day. The ability to truly replace my desktop with a laptop and docking station is approaching, especially with USB3.0 and eSATA performance increases.

    I'm curious if the GPU in this laptop was clocked down for heat, or if battery life also played a role - I'd believe either.

    What would be nice is if there was an interface that enabled me to use my desktop GPU on the laptop. I've seen mods where a guy set his desktop GPU and PSU on his desk and used it for his laptop (actual high-detail gaming). - If only there was a port on the laptop and an apparatus that you could sit your GPU into (with a high-data cable that connected to that port) that would serve as a more conventional way to do the same thing. Less modding and more standard.
  • Tros - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    I used to think the same thing, seriously.

    A SFF desktop will blow any desktop-replacement laptop out of the water though, and let you get a laptop for what it's made for (mobility). I used to have an Inspiron 9300 (17 in, GeForce 6800 Ultra), and it was fantastic. But then a couple years passed by and it wasn't good for gaming anymore, heavy, and didn't last long on a charge.

    Now I have a shuttle-equivalent though, and LAN parties are better.
  • tyke - Friday, December 17, 2010 - link

    "at settings better than native"

    I don't think your comment really means anything.
  • Great_Scott - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    So I guess you're not familiar with docking stations?
  • MobiusStrip - Sunday, December 26, 2010 - link

    We've also been sitting staring at our own reflections for too long. The continued fraud of glossy screens is just pathetic at this point. Even in the commercials and glamour shots for these computers, the screen is obscured by a white sheen, ruining the "deep blacks" and "rich colors" promised by third-tier vendors at Best Buy. And who's taking their cues from these purveyors of fake-chromed plastic laptops? Apple. HP. What an embarrassment for the companies and slap in the face to users.
  • dagamer34 - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    I think calling anything a XXX killer dooms it to failure, and comparing this laptop to a MacBook Pro is a bit disingenuous. The only thing similar to this laptop and a MacBook Pro is the screen size, the price range, performance, and intended use cases are completely different!

    Anyway, outside of the few people that would rather not use suitcases to carry their PC to a LAN party, I see these laptops as being rather niche, even in a gamer's world.
  • quiksilvr - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    Agreed. You can get 16" laptops with similar (if not better performance) and a smaller weight and footprint.

    To me, you can hit all markets with simply three laptop sizes: 12", 14", 16"
  • gc_ - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    Screen size is not the same either --
    MacBookPro 17 has a 1920x1200 screen 16:10, case is 39.3 x 26.7 x 2.5 cm
    Envy 17 has a 1080p (1920x1080) screen 16:9, case is 41.6 x 27.5 x 3.87 cm

    Similarities include thinnish aluminum case, no-button pad, glass-to-edge display.
  • OneArmedScissorB - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    "I think calling anything a XXX killer dooms it to failure"

    But it guarantees people will click on the article and even reply. We're all being professionally trolled! :p

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