CyberPower's X6-9300 and MSI's GT680R: Fighting for Your Mobile Gaming Dollarby Jarred Walton on May 13, 2011 10:59 PM EST
CyberPower X6-9300: Checking Out Clevo’s P151HM
We’ve looked at more than a few Clevo notebooks over the years, and we’ve had our ups and downs. Most recently, we’ve been impressed by the LCD used in their P150HM, and the Xplorer X6-9300 from CyberPower we’re looking at today uses the Clevo P151HM chassis with the same beautiful, matte 1080p panel as the P150HM. Pricing is good and performance is right where you’d expect from the component choices, so if you’re after an affordable gaming notebook with an awesome display, you can almost stop right here. Almost. The catch of course is that it’s still a Clevo chassis, so there are some compromises and omissions you’ll have to deal with.
CyberPower offers a wealth of configuration options for the X6-9300, and they sent us a moderately loaded notebook for review. The table below summarizes the test configuration in bold, with alternatives listed in a standard font.
|CyberPower Xplorer X6-9300 Specifications
Intel Core i3-2310M (dual-core 2.10, 35W)
Intel Core i5-2410M (dual-core 2.30-2.90GHz, 35W)
Intel Core i7-2630QM (quad-core 2.00-2.90GHz, 45W)
Intel Core i7-2720QM (quad-core 2.20-3.30GHz, 45W)
Intel Core i7-2820QM (quad-core 2.30-3.40GHz, 45W)
Intel Core i7-2920XM (quad-core 2.50-3.50GHz, 55W)
1x4GB + 1x2GB DDR3-1333
2x4GB DDR-1333 (CL9)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460M 1.5GB GDDR5
192 SPs, 675/1350/2500MHz Core/Shader/RAM clocks
15.6” LED Anti-Glare 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(AU Optronics B156HW1-v1)
250, 320, 500, 640, 750GB 5400RPM HDD
250, 320, 500, 750GB 7200RPM HDD
30 to 256GB SSDs from various vendors
500GB 7200RPM HDD
(Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS)
8X Tray-Load DVDRW(TSST Corp TS-L633F)
Blu-ray Reader/DVDRW Combo
Gigabit Ethernet(JMicron JMC250)
802.11n WiFi (Realtek RTL8191SEvB)
802.11n WiFi + Bluetooth 3.0 (Intel Advanced-N 6230)
802.11n WiFi (Intel Ultimate-N 6300)
802.11n WiFi (Killer Wireless-N 1102)
2.1 Speakers + THX TruStudio Pro (Stereo speakers and subwoofer)
Four audio jacks (Microphone, Headphone, Line-In, Line-Out)
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI/SPDIF)
|8-Cell, 14.8V, 5.2Ah, 77Wh
Memory Card Reader
1 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0
2 x Exhaust vent
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 Combo
|Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
|14.8” x 10.08” x 1.38-1.69” (WxDxH)
|6.93 lbs (with 8-cell battery)
Flash reader (SD, MMC, MS)
98-Key keyboard with 10-key
1-year standard warranty
Life-time technical support
Starting Price: $1094
Price as configured: $1322
We received a moderate configuration, all things considered, but the price even with the upgrades still comes in at a compelling $1322. We’d love to get a decent SSD in there, like the OCZ Vertex 3 240GB, but that would bump the price up nearly 50%. It’s a shame there’s not a second HDD bay, as a moderate 60GB SSD for the OS and apps paired with a larger 750GB HDD would be a great combination. (Of course, you could use the optical bay with an appropriate Clevo adapter—note, I’m not familiar with that site, but it’s one of the few places that clearly stocks the correct part.) Outside of the quad-core CPU and the 8GB memory, everything is stock. The 1-year only warranty is also a bit of a concern; notebooks go through a lot more use and abuse than desktops, and ponying up for a 3-year warranty often works out well in the long run. With CyberPower, your only choice is their default warranty, though you do get unlimited technical support.
All of the important specs are present, with USB 3.0, eSATA, and Firewire available should you need them. The fingerprint scanner is something a lot of people prefer over typing a password, and there’s a flash memory reader on the side. I’m still not sold on putting the video, power, and eSATA ports on the back of the chassis, but some people like that approach—just be careful if you ever tip the notebook back. Also interesting is that Clevo skips VGA and DisplayPort and instead includes a dual-link DVI port on the back—just in case you want to hook up to a 30” LCD.
The notebook itself looks virtually identical to the P150HM, except the soft-touch coating is gone and in its place is standard ABS plastic. I actually liked the rubberized paint texture so this feels like a downgrade, but the touchpad benefits because I don’t want my finger to stick when tracking. We also get the same old story of matte plastic literally everywhere, except for the screen bezel. That’s a double whammy when you factor in the anti-glare LCD, so you thankfully lose the reflections there but get them around the border. I frankly just don’t get why manufacturers go this route.
The other issue is a familiar refrain: the keyboard and its layout. Key travel isn’t very good, and while you can type on it well enough, the number keypad makes the layout for that element useless. The keys themselves also feel a little small, especially when you consider this is a 15.6” chassis. Of course the keyboard layout was pretty much set in stone a year (or three) ago, and if you want the rest of the notebook you’re going to have to live with the keyboard. I’m sitting here typing this out on the keyboard right now, and it’s certainly not the worst experience in the world (that would be a 10” or smaller netbook in my book), but besides the layout I really wish it had a backlit keyboard to go with the other premium components.
Clevo has a THX TruStudio PRO sticker on the P151HM (just like the MSI we’ll get to in a minute), and the chassis sports a 2.1 speaker configuration. Unfortunately, while music and games don’t sound bad, the P151HM is not at the same level as the Dell XPS 15 (or the MSI we’ll look at in a moment). Even with the subwoofer, audio comes across as tinny and lacks bass response, so you’d want a set of good headphones (or speakers) for serious audio. At least the speakers don’t actually rattle and distort at maximum volume, and they’re fine for general use, but gaming and movie viewing come up short.
We’ve got one more laptop to discuss before we get to the benchmarks, but the X6-9300 puts in a good showing. Pricing is better than many similarly equipped alternatives, and the LCD alone is worth the cost of entry. As far as gaming notebooks go, the 2630QM and GTX 460M is the current sweet spot. With the 460M, you have enough GPU performance to handle medium to high quality gaming at 1080p, without the high price premium of faster GPUs like the 485M or 6970M. On something like the Clevo P150HM from AVADirect, it’s $225 to move from the GTX 460M to the HD 6970M, and that’s a sizeable performance jump. Unfortunately, the P150HM also carries a $110 premium over the P151HM, so it’s actually a $335 upgrade at AVADirect, and CyberPower has better pricing on the P151HM so it ends up being a over $500 extra to move from the X6-9300 we’re reviewing to a P150HM with HD 6970M. If only the P151HM had support for Optimus, this would be a do-everything, go-anywhere notebook; instead, it’s a gaming notebook with plenty of performance and a great screen, but only so-so battery life.