Introduction and Design
Introduction and Design
In the wilds of the laptop market, nestled between the hordes of 15.6” mainstream laptops and the slim ultraportables, there is an odd breed. The 14” multimedia laptop. Even describing them as such is limiting because each model seems to offer its own take on the concept. Some are nearly as thin and light as laptops with much smaller displays while others are bulky powerhouses hidden behind a façade of portability.
Lenovo has long been a proponent of the 14-incher in actions if not words. IdeaPads of this size have also been common, usually gracing Lenovo’s website as a smaller alternative to a 15.6” laptop with a similar model name.
As a result, absolutely no one was shocked when Lenovo announced the IdeaPad Y480. It’s exactly the kind of product most consumers end up buying and exactly the kind of product tech journalists don’t care to talk about.
So what’s powering this new mid-size laptop? Let’s have a look.
Introduction, Driver Interface
There exist a particular group of gamers that are consumed by dreams of gigantic dual-SLI laptops that replace towering desktops. And who can blame them? Walking into a LAN party with a $5,000 laptop under your arm is the geek equivalent of entering a party wearing a $2,500 jacket or driving through your neighborhood in a $250,000 car. We can dream, right?
On the other hand, those super-powerful laptops are a bit...boring from a critic’s standpoint. Why? Because they are almost always excellent machines (due to price) and because most readers gandering at a review (of an expensive gaming laptop) I pen about will never buy one – again, due to the price.
Most folks – even many geeks – lust over a beefy gaming rig, but end up buying a $600 to $1000 multimedia laptop. This is the laptop that the average person can actually afford, regardless of his or her enthusiasm about computer hardware.
In the past, this market segment was a gaming wasteland, but that began to change about five years ago. The change was due in part to the fact that many game developers started to veer away from (a focus on) jaw-dropping graphics in favor of expanding their potential markets by going after clients with average/medium-range hardware.
About two and a half years ago Intel (again) committed to raising the bar on integrated graphics with the release of Intel HD and has since consistently improved its IGP offering with each new generation. AMD has done the same with its Fusion products and NVIDIA (already in the game with its numerous x10/x20/x30M products) just recommitted to power efficient GPUs with its Kepler architecture.
These changes mean that “serious” gaming is now possible on an inexpensive laptop. But how possible? What sacrifices do you make and how do low-end IGPs and GPUs stack up against each other?
Introduction, Design, User Interface
This summer is shaping up to be an amazing time to buy a gaming laptop. Intel has launched its Ivy Bridge processors, bringing faster performance to the entire range without increasing power consumption. Nvidia’s new Kepler based parts, although technically launched a couple months ago, are only now widely available.
We’ve already looked at many low-end solutions including Trinity, HD 4000 and the Kepler-based Nvidia GT 640M. We’ve also looked at one high-end gaming solution in the form of the ASUS G75V.
Today we're reviewing the Origin EON17-S, an obvious competitor to the G75V. It's packing an Nvidia GTX 675M. An Intel Core i7-3920XM joins the party as well. Clearly, this laptop is meant to provide maximum performance - as the other specifications make clear.
Though it has gobs of high-performance hardware our review unit did not arrive with an internal optical drive (it did come with an external Blu-Ray). The drive had been removed and a 1TB hard drive installed in its place. This is a clever bit of packaging that makes a lot of sense and isn’t offered by Alienware, Maingear or ASUS. While I know some gamers do still use optical drives, I personally can’t remember the last time one was required for install.
Our review unit tallies up at about $3500 bucks, which is expensive but not outrageous. Spending much more is difficult and requires that you either pony up for every frivolous option available or buy Nvidia Quadro graphics cards instead of the consumer-market GTX. Or you can put the price in reverse by downgrading to a Core i7-3610QM, which saves you over $1000.
Subject: Mobile | June 7, 2012 - 11:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x460dx, video, ultraportable, tablet, slider s20, notebook, msi, laptop, computex
MSI has been extremely busy at this year’s Computex trade show by releasing tons of new hardware. The company today officially announced two new Ultra series laptops that are less than 1” thick and made to be ultraportable and stylish.
The MSI X460DX is a 14” thin and light notebook with metal alloy chassis, Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, NVIDIA GT630M graphics card, HDMI, Bluettoth, and USB 3.0 technology. It also supports the company’s Turbo Battery+ technology and a hotkey to turn off idle hardware. The computer sports a stylized trackpad, chiclet keyboard, and metal accents.
The MSI X460DX weighs in at 2kg and is less than an inch thick. No word yet on pricing or availability.
The other MSI Ultra series notebook is the Slider 20. The 11.6” device is constructed of plastic with brushed metal textures, weighs in at 1.3kg and is stated to be “less than 2 centimeters thin.” The interesting bit about the MSI Slider S20 is the touchscreen, however. The 11.6” screen (which has a resolution of 1366x768) can lay flat over the keyboard in slate mode or slide back and tilt upwards. In laptop mode, the chiclet keyboard is exposed. The computer will run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system. Powering the ultrabook is an Intel Chief River based Core i3 CULV processor, Intel IGP for graphics, and accelerometer. On the outside it features an Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, audio output, and webcam.
The MSI Slider S20 is certainly an interesting form factor, and I suspect it will be sturdier than other convertible tablets that utilize a single hinge in the center to connect the display and keyboard. Engadget managed to get their hands on the device. They reported that although the Slider S20’s keyboard is a bit cramped and even a little too flexible, the screen hinge felt sturdy and the device felt rather lightweight. Beyond that, MSI isn't talking detailed specifications.
Word around the Internet is that the S20 will be sold for under $1,000 USD which is pretty good (depending on just how far under it is). I’m certainly interested in seeing what this Windows 8 tablet can do.
Subject: Mobile | June 7, 2012 - 06:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: laptop, inspiron special edition, inspiron 14z, inspiron, dell, back-to-school
Dell is gearing up for the back-to-school shopping season with a refresh of its Inspiron laptop portfolio. They are releasing updated laptops in its Inspiron Z, Inspiron R, and Inspiron R Special Edition computers in several sizes. The systems range in starting/base prices of $599.99 USD and $1,299.99 USD and will be available in June (more specific numbers below).
Dell recently announced that it is releasing a number of new laptops under its Inspiron brand. The three sub-series that are receiving updates include the Inspiron Z, Inspiron R, and Inspiron R Special Edition. The Inspiron Z laptops are thin and light notebooks (the 14z is classed as an Ultrabook) while the Inspiron R series are larger products for everyday computing. The Inspiron R Special Edition notebooks are paired with “studio-quality multimedia and audio.”
The new laptops feature curved edges, a “Moon Silver” band around the edges, Waves MaxxAudio technology, and Skullcandy brand speakers. Sam Burd, Dell’s Vice President for the Personal Computing Product Group stated that “the expanded and redesigned Inspiron family helps parents embrace technology and make a smart investment in their childrens’ success.” Needless to say, the company is pushing the computers hard as college friendly, especially the thin and light Inspiron Z laptops.
Inspiron Z Laptops - Thin & Light
The new Inspiron Z series comes in 13” and 14” varieties with the Inspiron 13z and Inspiron 14z respectively. The thin and light models will offer mobile broadband radios with Dell’s NetReady service which is a “pay-as-you-go” no contract service. Further, both notebooks offer around seven hours of claimed battery life (the 13z claims 7.5 hours, to be more specific, versus 7 on 14z).
The 13z is the smallest notebook of the updated lineup. It features Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors and HD 4000 graphics, six GB of DDR4 memory, a 500GB hard drive, and non-replaceable battery offering up to seven and a half hours. The hardware then powers a 13.3” TrueLife display with a resolution of 1366x768. It will be available in Moon Silver, Fire Red, and Lotus Pink colors. Further, it weights 3.81 pounds (1.73Kg) and measures .82” thick.
The full specifications of the device can be found below:
• Beautiful color options with SWITCH lids: Moon Silver (standard), Lotus Pink, Fire Red• Standard 2nd Gen Intel Core i3 with HD Graphics 3000 or available 3rd Gen Intel Core i5 and i7CPUs and HD Graphics 4000ii pack plenty of performance into this surprisingly slim chassiso 2nd Generation Intel Core i3-2367M processor (3MB cache, up to 1.4GHz) (standard)o 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor (3MB cache, up to 2.6GHz)• 6GB dual channel memoryii• 500GB Hard Drive• 13.3-inch high definition (720p) WLED display with Truelife (1366x768 standard)• Battery life up to 7 hrs 30 min (with Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB memory and 320GB harddrive). Dell Inspiron 13z batteries are built into the laptop and are not replaceable by thecustomer• Waves MaxxAudio 4 audio; Skullcandy speakers• Intel Wireless Display supports streaming 1080p & 5.1 surround sound wirelessly• HDMI 1.4a output for HD entertainment and HD aspect Webcam with pre-loaded Skype• USB 3.0 (2); USB 3.0 PowerShare (1); RJ45 Ethernet; HDMI v1.4; 8-in-1 media card reader;Bluetooth 4.0 (standard)• Height: 0.82”-0.82” (20.7mm – 20.7mm); Width: 13.07” (332mm); Depth: 9.05” (230mm)• Weight: Starting at 3.81 lbs (1.73 Kg)• Starting price: $599.99• U.S. availability: June 19
The Inspiron 13z will be available June 19th in the US and Canada (already available elsewhere) starting at $599.99 USD.
The Inspiron 13z will come in three colors.
The 14z is the company’s second ultrabook (the first being the XPS 13), and the first Inspiron branded ultrabook. It starts at 4.12 pounds (1.87Kg) and .83” thick and will be available in Moon Silver and Fire Red (coming later this summer) with a brushed aluminum textured finish. It will feature Intel’s Rapid Start Technology to improve boot times and features a claimed seven hours of battery life.
Full specifications for the 14z are as follows:
• Beautiful aluminum finish in Moon Silver or optional Fire Redi• Standard 2nd Gen Intel Core i3 with HD Graphics 3000ii or available 3rd Gen Intel Core i5 and i7CPUs and HD Graphics 4000ii pack plenty of performance into this surprisingly slim chassiso 2nd Generation Intel Core i3-2367M processor (3MB cache, up to 1.4GHz) (standard)o 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor (3MB cache, up to 2.6GHz)o 3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3517U processor (4MB cache, up to 3.0GHz)• Memory options from 6GB (standard) up to 8GB dual channel memoryii• Hard drive options: 500GB with 32GB mSATA cardiii; optional 128GB SSDiii• AMD Radeon HD 7570M with 1GB GDDR5 graphicsii (option with Core i5 and i7 configuration)• 14-inch high definition (720p) WLED display (1366x768 standard)• Battery life up to 7 hrs 01 min (with Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB memory, AMD 7570M 1GBgraphics, and 500GB hard drive). Dell Inspiron 14z batteries are built into the laptop and arenot replaceable by the customer• Waves MaxxAudio 3 audio; Skullcandy speakers• Intel Smart Response Technology quickly recognizes and caches most frequently used files andapplications, allowing quick access• Intel Rapid Start Technology boots in seconds; resumes in seconds; saves power when sleeping.• HDMI 1.4a output for HD entertainment and HD aspect Webcam with pre-loaded Skypevi• USB 3.0 (1); USB 3.0 PowerShare (1); RJ45 Ethernet; HDMI v1.4; 3-in-1 media card reader;Bluetooth 4.0• Height: 0.81”-0.83” (20.7mm – 21mm); Width: 13.66” (347mm); Depth: 9.45” (240mm)•Weight: Starting at 4.12 lbs (1.87 Kg)vii
Inspiron R Laptops - Everyday Computing
The Inspiron R notebooks are aimed at everyday computing and feature HD displays, Waves MaxxAudio 3 technology, lots of connectivity ports, and have several different processor, memory, and hard drive combinations available to users. They support Intel’s WiDi technology that can wireless transmit video and audio to your home theater setup. They come in 15” and 17” models as the 15R and 17R respectively.
The 15R comes in four colors including Moon Silver, Lotus Pink, Fire Red, and Peacock Blue. The Laptop measures up to 1.34” thick and weighs in at 6.05 pounds (2.744Kg). It comes with Intel’s WiDi to hook up to external displays but it does feature a built-in 15.6” WLED display with 1366x768 resolution. The company claims that the laptop can get up to 6 hours and 46 minutes when equipped with an i5 CPU, 4GB memory, and 500GB mechanical hard drive. Processor options can include either a Sandy Bridge Core i3-2370M processor, Ivy Bridge i5-3210M, or Ivy Bridge i7-3612QM processor running at 2.4GHz, 2.9GHz, and 3.1GHz respectively. Users can select either 6GB or 8GB of DDR3 memory and up to a 1TB 5400 RPM hard drive. Connectivity options include HDMI 1.4a, three USB 3.0, USB 3.0 PowerShare, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA output, SD card reader, and Bluetooth 4.0.
The Inspiron 15R will be available June 19th with a starting price of $549.99.
The 17R is very similar to the 15R in terms of internal hardware with the same processor, hard drive, and memory options. It does have a larger display at 17.3” with a resolution of 1600x900 pixels. It will come in either Moon Silver, Lotus Pink, or Peacock Blue colors and will weigh in at 7.15 pounds (3.24Kg). External connectivity options are the same as the Inspiron 15R as well. The company is claiming a slightly shorter battery life of 5 hours and 34 minutes, however.
The Inspiron 17R is already available in certain Asian and European countries. It will go on sale in the US and Canada starting June 19th with a base price of 599.99 USD. The full specifications for the 17R are as follows:
• Beautiful color options with SWITCH lids: Moon Silver (standard), Lotus Pink, Peacock Blue i• Standard 2nd Gen Intel Core i3 with HD Graphics 3000ii or available 3rd Gen Intel Core i5 and i7CPUs and HD Graphics 4000ii pack plenty of performanceo 2nd Generation Intel Core i3-2367M processor (3MB cache, up to 1.4GHz) (standard)o 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3210M processor (3MB cache, up to 2.9GHz)o 3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3612QM processor (6MB cache, up to 3.1GHz)• Memory options from 6GB (standard) up to 8GB DDR3 memoryii• Hard drive options from 500GB (standard) to 1TB 5400 RPM SATAiii• 17.3-inch high definition plus (900p) WLED display with Truelife (1600x900)• Battery life up to 5 hrs 34 min (with Intel Core i5 processor, and 6GB memory)• Waves MaxxAudio 3 audio; speakers with sub-woofer• Intel Wireless Displayv supports streaming 1080p & 5.1 surround sound wirelessly• HDMI 1.4a output for HD entertainment and HD aspect Webcam with pre-loaded Skypevi• USB 3.0 (3); USB 3.0 PowerShare (1); RJ45 Ethernet; HDMI v1.4; VGA; 8-in-1 media card reader;Bluetooth 4.0• Height: 1.25”-1.46” (31.7mm – 37.1mm); Width: 16.4” (416.8mm); Depth: 10.87” (276mm)• Weight: Starting at 7.15 lbs (3.24 Kg)vii• Starting price: $599.99• U.S. availability: June 19
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 6, 2012 - 05:33 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: motherboard, laptop, headsets, gaming, ASUS ROG, asus
Today we received a number of photos from ASUS that show off some upcoming hardware from their upcoming Republic of Gamers line. Except for the Xonar Phoebus (which has launched), the hardware in these photos is not yet released and ASUS has not revealed when it will be available for sale – or how much it will cost. Still, I can’t think of a better way to start the day than getting a glimpse of some shiny unreleased hardware – especially when I get to share it with you!
First up is a new Replublic of Gamers motherboard called the Maximus V Extreme. This board is similar to the mATX Maximus V GENE board that was announced recently, but the Extreme motherboard is full ATX.
While full specifications are unknown, from the photo you can see that the board has an LGA 1155 socket, making it compatible with the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processors. Further, it is sporting four DDR3 DIMM slots, five PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, and one PCI-E 3.0 x4 slots. Other features of the board include ASUS’ Extreme Engine Digi+ II digital power control technology, power and reset buttons on the board itself, voltage check points, Lucid Virtu MVP GPU virtualization technology, and AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI support. The VRM area and southbridge area of the board is covered by large black and red heatsinks.
Rear IO includes five USB 2.0 ports (one to be used with ROG Connect), two USB 3.0 ports, an Intel-powered Gigabit LAN, HDMI, DisplayPort, optical audio output, PS/2 port, five analog audio outputs and a TOSLink connector. Additionally, the board features CMOS clear and reset buttons, a mini-PCIe + mSATA combo card, and a Republic of Gamers OC Key accessory. The OC Key plugs into the DVI port of the graphics card and provides an on-screen-display for overclocking information and voltage tweaking.
In addition to the ASUS Maximus V Extreme, the company is producing the Maximus V Forumula motherboard, which is then further available with or without the ThunderFX audio accessory. The Formula board is another socket 1155 board with a red and black color scheme that is ready for Ivy Bridge processors and multi-GPU setups (SLI or CrossFireX). The heatsinks on the formula are a little less beefy than those on the Maximus V Extreme, but the VRM heatsinks are ready to be integrated into a water cooling loop. Further features include four DDR3 DIMM slots, eight SATA connectors, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, and a single PCI-E 3.0 x4 slot.
The board also features the SupremeFX integrated sound card (which has been isolated from the rest of the board by routing the wiring through its own PCB layer) and a mini-PCI-E + mSATA combo card. One version of the motherboard also comes with the SupremeFX accessory which you can see in the photo below.
Rear IO of the Maximus V Formula motherboard includes four USB 2.0 ports (one for ROG connect), four USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, DisplayPort, HDMI, Intel-powered Gigabit LAN, five analog audio jacks, two optical audio outputs, and CMOS clear and reset buttons.
The Maximus Extreme V Formula comes with a device called the ThunderFX that is a high end headphone amp and DAC offering 120dB SNR, and noise cancellation technology. The included GamEQ comes with three preset profiles but also offers you a wide range of options to tweak your sound to your own desires. There is also onboard audio in the form of the SupremeFX IV audio chipset which will keep those who prefer speakers more than happy with their audio quality.
You can also see that the large anodized aluminium heatsinks have barbs for you to include them in a watercooling loop so that all components on your motherboard can be cooled without resorting to fans to move air. GameFirst II is the name ASUS has given their networking software and it is designed to examine an prioritize packets to reduce lag and ping times. It comes with both an EZ Mode as well as offering advanced options for those who know what they are doing. As we have seen on other boards, the Maximus Extreme V Formula comes with a mPCIe Combo card with dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. This board is also shattering records in Super PI 32M, 3DMark05 and Heaven to name a few.
Earlier this year I had the chance to take a look at the first ultrabook with discrete graphics, the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3. My review was not particularly favorable, but the idea of placing discrete graphics in an ultrabook is both compelling and necessary. Intel’s low-voltage processors have difficulty with gaming when paired with the HD 4000 IGP and this flaw is difficult to excuse in products typically priced at $800 or above.
Four new ultrabooks with NVIDIA discrete GPUs have been unveiled to tackle the problem of gaming with a slim laptop. The list includes two laptops from Acer, two laptops from Gigabyte and one from ASUS.
The Gigabyte U2442N, which has a 14” 1600x900 display and a GeForce GT 650M GPU, is obviously the most powerful and the product that offers the most promising gaming experience on paper. Only the ASUS UX32 looks questionable. There’s no way that a GeForce GT 620M is going to handle gaming on a 1080p display.
Unfortunately, a closer look at the announcement suggests these product lines aren’t that exciting. The Gigabyte laptops have received a lot of positive attention, but Gigabyte has no meaningful presence in the North American laptop market and it’s nearly guaranteed the laptop won’t be popular on this side of the pond. The Acer M5-581TG appears to be an Ivy Bridge updated version of the Acer Aspire M3 that we reviwed – and did not like – while the M5-481TG is just a smaller version.
That leaves the ASUS UX32 and its GT 620M which, although likely quicker than Intel HD 4000, isn’t sufficient for serious gaming.
Hopefully NVIDIA will be able to bring discrete graphics to more products from larger manufacturers, but the fact so few companies have gone this route suggests there is some underlying reason. My personal guess? Heat. The Acer Aspire M3 became quite toasty during load. It’ll be interesting to see if the U244N has some design trick that makes the GT 650M manageable – or if Gigabyte, like Acer, doesn’t mind putting out a laptop with high exterior temperatures.
NVIDIA recently revised its notebook GPU lineup, but there was one part notably missing – the GTX 680M. The x80M part has been NVIDIA’s fastest mobile GPU in each generation for some time, so we knew that a GTX 680M was coming. We had only two questions. When? And what architecture will it be based on?
Now we have the answers to both questions. NVIDIA has pulled the wraps off its flagship component. The new GTX 680M is a Kepler component (unlike other high-end 600 series parts, which are Fermi) packing 1344 CUDA cores and up to 4GB of GDDR5.
The green team is laying out some big numbers in its press release by claiming that performance is up about 80% in comparison to the GTX 580M and 30% in comparison to the AMD Radeon 7970M. NVIDIA also says that the new part will play every game available today at 1080p with maximum in-game settings.
Other selling points include NVIDIA’s FXAA and TXAA, Adaptive V-Sync, Optimus, SLI, PhysX and 3D Vision. The company is clearly making a strong effort to distinguish itself from AMD not only with performance but also with features.
Five launch laptops were announced. They include the Alienware M17x and M18x, the MSI GT70 and the Clevo P150EM/P170EM. The Clevo units are the chassis used by companies like Maingear, Origin and other boutiques. Only the M18x has confirmed SLI support and only the M17x has confirmed 3D Vision support. Pricing has not been announced.
We will of course be looking to obtain a review unit so we can see if the GTX 680M is as mightly as claimed.
Subject: Mobile | May 24, 2012 - 03:40 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: n56, mobile, laptop review, laptop, Ivy Bridge, asus
You are likely already familiar with the ASUS N56VM from Matt's review, if not you really should check it out. He was not the only one to receive this laptop to test out though, as The Tech Report also recently published a look at this powerful notebook. The new Core i7-3720QM really stands out and tops the performance charts, while the Nvidia GeForce GT 630M helps this notebook stand out for moderate gaming duties. They were disappointed with the battery life as it is not noticeably improved from the previous generation, however it will get a lot more done in the time that it has a charge to run on.
"Join us as we take a 15.6" notebook with a quad-core Ivy Bridge CPU and discrete GeForce 600M graphics through our mobile test suite."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Samsung Series 7 (NP700G7C-S01US) Review @ TechReviewSource
- ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 Android Tablet Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Asus G75VW-DS71 Review @ TechReviewSource
- ASUS Zenbook Prime (UX21A) Review: The First of the 2nd Gen Ultrabooks @ AnandTech
- Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Mobile CPU Comparison Guide @ TechARP
- The Archos G9 Tablet Reviews: Fast Enough @ AnandTech
- Genius Ring Presenter Wireless Device @ Pro-Clockers
- Cooler Master ARC Macbook and iPad Stand @ Benchmark Reviews
- WiMAX vs. LTE: Should You Switch? @ TechReviewSource
- HTC One X Android Smartphone Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Android to the Maxx, DROID Razr Maxx @ LanOC Reviews
- Blackberry Curve 9320 @ The Inquirer
- HTC One V @ The Inquirer
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