It Was a Monster Mash....

When Alienware announced the Ivy Bridge refresh for its gaming notebook lineup, one model was conspicuously absent. Word filtered out that the smallest member of the range, the 11.6” M11x, would not be refreshed and that Dell was preparing to discontinue the line. For ultramobile gamers, the loss of the M11x is a huge blow, because it was one of the more unique notebooks out there—a near ultraportable with legitimate gaming aspirations, backed up by gaming performance that lit the class standards on fire. It was a truly standout notebook, and it will be sorely missed.

But now, a spiritual successor emerges in the form of Clevo’s W110ER. We have this unit courtesy of Eurocom, who are calling it the Monster 1.0, but other boutiques selling the W110ER include AVADirect, OriginPC, Sager, and XoticPC amongst others. We typically see this with larger notebooks from Clevo and Compal, but it hasn’t been as prominent with smaller notebooks until now, with the exception of some ASUS models from years past.

The W110ER spec sheet actually reads like a pipe dream, something that you would come up with if things like thermal limits didn’t exist. The performance-class GPU is present and accounted for—Clevo ships every W110ER whitebook with a Kepler-based GT 650M (2GB DDR3, 384 CUDA cores, Optimus). But the most impressive thing here is that the W110ER has support for Intel’s new IVB 45W quad-core CPUs. Yeah seriously, a quad-core 11.6” notebook. Just to refresh your memory, the M11x made use of Intel’s low voltage dual-core parts, so this is a significant step up in CPU performance. It’s a ridiculous amount of performance stuffed into a tiny notebook.

The two closest competitors are probably the M11x R3 and the Sony VAIO SA (along with the forthcoming Ivy Bridge updated SA). The M11x is pretty soundly outgunned—the low voltage dual-core SNB vs. the IVB quad-core is not much of a comparison, and the update to Kepler on the GPU side is also a significant upgrade. The SA is an interesting point of comparison, because it’s not marketed as a gaming system, but it’s a 3.6lb 13.3”er that runs the normal-voltage SNB chips alongside an AMD HD6630M. Potent, yes, but both the Sony and the Alienware are relatively outdated at this point. IVB has power and thermal characteristics that make it possible to do ridiculous things like putting a quad-core in an 11.6” notebook, and the new 28nm GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA are generational leaps from their predecessors. It’ll be more relevant to reevaluate the segment after the Ivy Bridge update round completes; until then, the W110ER stands alone.

Let’s take a look at the Eurocom Monster unit that we received for evaluation. Eurocom shipped this unit with a Core i7-3720QM, the midlevel Ivy Bridge quad, along with 8GB memory, the glossy display (unfortunately the matte AU Optronics B116XW display was unavailable at the time our review unit was shipped), and a 750GB hybrid hard drive. I chose the hybrid hard drive purely out of curiosity—I hadn’t had one in a notebook before, and I was curious to see how it compared to the SSD experience. More on that later on.

Eurocom Monster 1.0 (Clevo W110ER) Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3720QM
(4 x 2.6GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.6GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM76
Memory 2x4GB DDR3-1866
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 2GB DDR3
(384 CUDA cores, 835/1800MHz core/memory clocks, 128-bit memory bus)

Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1.2GHz)
Display 11.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p
Infovision Optoelectronics 0489
Hard Drive(s) 750GB Seagate Momentus XT SSHD (8GB NAND cache)
Optical Drive None
Networking Killer Wireless-N 1103 802.11a/b/g/n
Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Audio VIA High Definition Audio
Stereo speakers
Battery 6-Cell, 62.16Wh (removable)
Front Side SD/MMC card reader
Right Side Kensington lock
AC Adapter
1 x USB 2.0
Left Side Exhaust vent
2 x USB 3.0
Ethernet jack
Headphone jack
Microphone/Line In
Back Side Battery
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 11.48" x 8.28" x 0.51-1.48" (WxDxH)
287mm x 207mm x 12.7-37.1mm
Weight 3.95 lbs
Extras 1.3MP Webcam
Warranty 1-year limited
Pricing Starts at $825, as configured: $1389

Our particular review unit retails for $1389 based on Eurocom’s online configurator, but you can get a system with an IVB quad for as low as $921 (or $825 with an i5 SNB dual-core). Granted, that’s with 4GB RAM, a 500GB 7200RPM hard drive, and no Windows install, but that’s not too bad. Eurocom’s RAM upgrades are questionably priced ($128 to get bumped to 2x4GB DDR3-1600 from the base 4GB DDR3-1333; you can get a 2x4GB PC12800 kit from Newegg for a hair over $40), but the hard drive options are more reasonable.

Honestly, I’d get the base system with the cheapest IVB quad and the matte screen option ($138)—the AUO B116XW02 should be a significant upgrade over the standard glossy 11.6” panel made by Infovision Optoelectronics. From there, I’d probably add an 8GB DDR3-1333 SoDIMM into the empty RAM slot (for a total of 12GB memory) and drop in an SSD of some sort, probably an Intel 330. Sans Windows, that’s a system that goes for approximately $1250. Spec rundown: i7-3610QM (2.3GHz, Turbo up to 3.3), GT 650M 2GB, 12GB DDR3-1333, 120GB Intel SSD 330, and a matte 11.6” display. That’s a light-the-world-on-fire kind of performer for not that much coin.

Like I mentioned earlier, there are a number of companies offering variants of the W110ER for sale. The only differences between the retailers are pretty much just price/options and branding, along with custom paint options in certain cases. Eurocom appears to be one of the very few offering the upgraded screen option, and for that reason alone, I’d recommend buying it from them. As always, feel free to shop around—we discussed several other resellers in our Clevo W11ER pipeline.

Eurocom Monster - Hardware
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  • ijozic - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    Thanks for a review of this little thing; was waiting for something like this to replace my portable Acer 1810TZ, although I'd need a better matte display and a backlighted keyboard.

    But, just had to note that I don't really see why all the cries after the M11x. Personally, it looked like a very thick laptop designed around a 14" 4:3 screen with a 11,6" screen fitted instead. While I like the Clevo's effort, I wish it was made with a nicer design, better materials and a higher quality screen (though admittedly, there aren't seem to be any available in this size apart from the matte option used on some variants).
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    Don't get rid of that 1810TZ. It's a goddamn gem.
  • Darkstone - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I digged up the specification sheet of the M11x R3 display you tested: it features an advertised contrast ratio of 500:1. In fact, i have never seen a datasheet with an contrast ratio below that.

    Saying that the matte display is better than the standard glossy display based on a number in a datasheet, is just not right. Those numbers are never accurate for budget LCD's anyway.
  • Menty - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    True, but saying the matt screen will be better than the glossy one is basically 99.99% true. Glossy screens are almost entirely terrible if you don't live in a dark cave, regardless of the numbers on the spec sheets.
  • plewis00 - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    This isn't necessarily true. Glossy screens are not terrible depending on the other specifications, I'd go as far to say contrast ratio and colour gamut are more important factors - the Dell XPS 15 1080p B+RGLED is a stunner however you look at it and I can compare that to my work Dell Latitude E6400 with a matte screen and I can't stand it, it looks dull and washed out.

    That said the Alienware M11x R3 was everything I wanted and expected from a computer like that with the exception of the screen - I loved the low idle power consumption meaning you could watch videos and browse the web in bed or on the sofa without heat being an issue.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    We're trying to get a version of the laptop with a matte LCD in for testing. It almost certainly can't be worse than the glossy display, but is it better? As you point out, datasheets often "lie".

    I've seen LCDs advertised as 500:1, and what I found in testing is that if I measured white at max brightness and black at min brightness, I would get around 550:1. The problem is that the LCD didn't even support dynamic contrast, which would at least make such a claim partially true. So the LCD in question was something like 250 nits white/1.25 nits black at 100%, and 80 nits white/0.47 nits black at 0%.

    I've got another laptop actually in house where the max brightness is 430 nits, but black levels at 100% are 1.66 nits. Drop to 25% brightness and you get 108 nits/.42 nits. Using the same "dynamic" range, the manufacturer might claim 1000:1 contrast, when the real contrast is closer to 250:1.
  • prdola0 - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I wonder if Asus comes with something similar/better. I would give my fist-born for a 11" 2core Ivy Bridge/GT640M Zenbook-style machine with Optimus, an Intel SSD 120GB inside and a matte screen with something like 1280x720 or so. Thunderbolt would be a great addition as well.

    Since this 11" Clevo is possible (although at the limit of thermals), my setup with smaller/slower CPU & GPU should certainly be possible too. Drop the D-Sub and Ethernet ports, leave just mini HDMI and Thunderbold and some USB 3.0, add backlit keyboard, and it is a bestseller.
  • htwingnut - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I own the Sager brand of this and have to say it is one sexy mini beast. A couple things to note is that if you just prop this laptop up at the back, temps can drop as much as 10C at load. The screen is a bit miserable, and should have been matte by default. It's impossible to use outside or with any kind of lights on in the background.

    Otherwise it runs like a charm. 60-80FPS in BF3 on high. Can even crank out games at 1080p without much issue.
  • bennyg - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I had a G51J that spent a LOT of its life with its GPU nearly boiling water. Sure it's not great, but the fact it survived 22 months without skipping a beat means high temps are somewhat tolerable. I made damn sure it sat on a cooler and the fan grilles and vents were cleaned every few months though. Ironically, it died when I ran over it... the base was resurrected minus a couple of ports and lives on as a ~50W HTPC now :)

    Every laptop with intake vents on the bottom benefit from being propped up or a cooler.
  • Meaker10 - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I think they could have taken the current M14X and slimmed it down into an edge 14" machine (tiny bezel).

    The 650M (which had GDDR5 btw instead of DDR3) at a native 1600x900 would be awesome.

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