Introduction and Design
With few exceptions, it’s generally been taken for granted that gaming notebooks are going to be hefty devices. Portability is rarely the focus, with weight and battery life alike usually sacrificed in the interest of sheer power. But the MSI GE40 2OC—the lightest 14-inch gaming notebook currently available—seeks to compromise while retaining the gaming prowess. Trending instead toward the form factor of a large Ultrabook, the GE40 is both stylish and manageable (and perhaps affordable at around $1,300)—but can its muscle withstand the reduction in casing real estate?
While it can’t hang with the best of the 15-inch and 17-inch crowd, in context with its 14-inch peers, the GE40’s spec sheet hardly reads like it’s been the subject of any sort of game-changing handicap:
One of the most popular CPUs for Haswell gaming notebooks has been the 2.4 GHz (3.4 GHz Turbo) i7-4700MQ. But the i7-4702MQ in the GE40-20C is nearly as powerful (managing 2.2 GHz and 3.2 GHz in those same areas respectively), and it features a TDP that’s 10 W lower at just 37 W. That’s ideal for notebooks such as the GE40, which seek to provide a thinner case in conjunction with uncompromising performance. Meanwhile, the NVIDIA GTX 760M is no slouch, even if it isn’t on the same level as the 770s and 780s that we’ve been seeing in some 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch gaming beasts.
Elsewhere, it’s business as usual, with 8 GB of RAM and a 120 GB SSD rounding out the major bullet points. Nearly everything here is on par with the best of rival 14-inch gaming models with the exception of the 900p screen resolution (which is bested by some notebooks, such as Dell’s Alienware 14 and its 1080p panel).
Introduction and Design
As we’re swimming through the veritable flood of Haswell refresh notebooks, we’ve stumbled across the latest in a line of very popular gaming models: the ASUS G750JX-DB71. This notebook is the successor to the well-known G75 series, which topped out at an Intel Core i7-3630QM with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX dedicated graphics. Now, ASUS has jacked up the specs a little more, including the latest 4th-gen CPUs from Intel as well as 700-series NVIDIA GPUs.
Our ASUS G750JX-DB71 test unit features the following specs:
Of course, the closest comparison to this unit is already the most recently-reviewed MSI GT60-2OD-026US, which featured nearly identical specifications, apart from a 15.6” screen, a better GPU (a GTX 780M with 4 GB GDDR5), and a slightly different CPU (the Intel Core i7-4700MQ). In case you’re wondering what the difference is between the ASUS G750JX’s Core i7-4700MQ and the GT60’s i7-4700HQ, it’s very minor: the HQ features a slightly faster integrated graphics Turbo frequency (1.2 GHz vs. 1.15 GHz) and supports Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d). Since the G750JX doesn’t support Optimus, we won’t ever be using the integrated graphics, and unless you’re doing a lot with virtual machines, VT-d isn’t likely to offer any benefits, either. So for all intents and purposes, the CPUs are equivalent—meaning the biggest overall performance difference (on the spec sheet, anyway) lies with the GPU and the storage devices (where the G750JX offers more solid-state storage than the GT60). It’s no secret that the MSI GT60 burned up our benchmarks—so the real question is, how close is the ASUS G750JX to its pedestal, and if the differences are considerable, are they justified?
At an MSRP of around $2,000 (though it can be found for around $100 less), the ASUS G750JX-DB71 competes directly with the likes of the MSI GT60, too (which is priced equivalently). The question, of course, is whether it truly competes. Let’s find out!
Subject: Systems | August 1, 2013 - 02:45 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: origin pc, laptop, haswell, gaming, eon13-s
Origin PC has announced a new 13-inch gaming laptop called the EON13-S that packs some impressive mobile gaming horsepower in a 4.4 pound system.The new gaming laptop features Intel Haswell CPUs and NVIDIA GTX 765M graphics cards along with ample mechanical and solid state storage drive options.
The EON13-S features a 13.3” 1920x1080 IPS LED-backlit display, backlit keyboard, and a 2MP webcam. External IO includes three USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, one HDMI out, two audio jacks, and a Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 port.
Internal specifications include Intel Core i7 “Haswell” processors, GTX 765M graphics cards supporting Optimus technology, up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM, up to a 1TB mechanical hard drive and two mSATA drives in RAID 0 or 1. Alternatively, users can swap out the 2.5” HDD for a SSD up to 960GB in capacity. Users can further choose between a 802.11ac compatible Intel or Killer NIC, and a dedicated sound card up to a Sound Blaster X-Fi Recon3D. Also, an external DVD or Blu ray writer is available. A 6-cell battery powers the notebook and is rated at 300 minutes. The EON13-S will come pre-loaded with either Windows 7 or Windows 8.
The EON13-S starts at $1,418 and is available now. More details can be found on the EON13-S product page.
Introduction and Design
With the release of Haswell upon us, we’re being treated to an impacting refresh of some already-impressive notebooks. Chief among the benefits is the much-championed battery life improvements—and while better power efficiency is obviously valuable where portability is a primary focus, beefier models can also benefit by way of increased versatility. Sure, gaming notebooks are normally tethered to an AC adapter, but when it’s time to unplug for some more menial tasks, it’s good to know that you won’t be out of juice in a couple of hours.
Of course, an abundance of gaming muscle never hurts, either. As the test platform for one of our recent mobile GPU analyses, MSI’s 15.6” GT60 gaming notebook is, for lack of a better description, one hell of a beast. Following up on Ryan’s extensive GPU testing, we’ll now take a more balanced and comprehensive look at the GT60 itself. Is it worth the daunting $1,999 MSRP? Does the jump to Haswell provide ample and economical benefits? And really, how much of a difference does it make in terms of battery life?
Our GT60 test machine featured the following configuration:
In case it wasn’t already apparent, this device makes no compromises. Sporting a desktop-grade GPU and a quad-core Haswell CPU, it looks poised to be the most powerful notebook we’ve tested to date. Other configurations exist as well, spanning various CPU, GPU, and storage options. However, all available GT60 configurations feature a 1080p anti-glare screen, discrete graphics (starting at the GTX 670M and up), Killer Gigabit LAN, and a case built from metal and heavy-duty plastic. They also come preconfigured with Windows 8, so the only way to get Windows 7 with your GT60 is to purchase it through a reseller that performs customizations.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | July 9, 2013 - 06:40 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: laptop, Lenovo, Thinkpad, haswell, Intel, windows 8
A new ultrathin laptop for business users has appeared on Lenovo’s website. Called the Lenovo ThinkPad T440S, it is an Intel 4th Generation Core "Haswell"-powered machine running Windows 8.
The ThinkPad T440S features a magnesium and carbon fiber chassis that is 21mm thick. It has a full size, spill resistant, keyboard with multimedia function keys, a TrackPoint, and a multi-touch trackpad. The T440S has a 14” display with optional multi-touch and a resolution of 1920 x 1080.
This laptop will start at 3.5 pounds. It can be configured with two 3-cell batteries with one internal and one removable battery. In this configuration, users can swap out the removable battery for a spare without powering down the system (a technology Lenovo calls Power Bridge). Other features include a 720p webcam with dual noise canceling mics.
IO includes three USB 3.0 ports, one Mini DisplayPort and one VGA video output, and a SD card reader. The T440S also comes equipped with an NFC radio.
Unfortunately, additional specifications and pricing data is not yet listed on the Lenovo site. If you are a business user in need of a thin and light laptop, keep a lookout on this product page for more information as the laptop gets closer to release.
Introduction and Design
As headlines mount championing the supposed shift toward tablets for the average consumer, PC manufacturers continue to devise clever hybrid solutions to try and lure those who are on the fence toward more traditional machines. Along with last year’s IdeaPad Yoga 13 and ThinkPad Twist, Lenovo shortly thereafter launched the smallest of the bunch, an 11.6” convertible tablet PC with a 5-point touch 720p IPS display.
Unlike its newer, more powerful counterpart, the Yoga 11S, it runs Windows RT and features an NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core system on a chip (SoC). There are pros and cons to this configuration in contrast to the 11S. For starters, the lower-voltage, fanless design of the 11 guarantees superior battery life (something which we’ll cover in detail in just a bit). It’s also consequently (slightly) smaller and lighter than the 11S, which gains a hair on height and weighs around a quarter pound more. But, as you’re probably aware, Windows RT also doesn’t qualify as a fully-functional version of Windows—and, in fact, the Yoga 11’s versatility is constrained by the relatively meager selection of apps available on the Windows Store. The other obvious difference is architecture and chipset, where the Yoga 11’s phone- and tablet-grade ARM-based NVIDIA Tegra 3 is replaced on the 11S by Intel Core Ivy Bridge ULV processors.
But let’s forget about that for a moment. What it all boils down to is that these two machines, while similar in terms of design, are different enough (both in terms of specs and price) to warrant a choice between them based on your intended use. The IdeaPad Yoga 11 configuration we reviewed can currently be found for around $570 at retailers such as Amazon and Newegg. In terms of its innards:
If it looks an awful lot like the specs of your latest smartphone, that’s probably because it is. The Yoga 11 banks on the fact that such ARM-based SoCs have become powerful enough to run a modern personal computer comfortably—and by combining the strengths of an efficient, low-power chipset with the body of a notebook, it reaps benefits from both categories. Of course, there are trade-offs involved, starting with the 2 GB memory ceiling of the chipset and extending to the aforementioned limitations of Windows RT. So the ultimate question is, once those trade-offs are considered, is the Yoga 11 still worth the investment?
Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2013 - 02:48 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: computex, notepal u2 plus, mobile, laptop cooler, laptop, cooler master, computex 2013
Cooler Master has released a new notebook cooler called the NotePal U2 Plus that is the latest model in the NotePal U-series. This cooler supports up to 17" laptops and allows you to move the two included fans for optimal cooling (ie, actually put the fans over the vents).
Other features of the NotePal U2 Plus include raised feet that lift up your laptop at a slight angle to make long typing or gaming sessions more comfortable, according to Cooler Master. The cooler feet also aid in cable management by allowing you to loop your long cords around the included hooks. Finally, the NotePal U2 Plus can attach to your laptop and be carried with along using an elastic strap and the cooler feet to hold your notebook in place.
The new Cooler Master notebook cooler is available now with an MSRP of $29.99.
A Reference Platform - But not a great one
Believe it or not, AMD claims that the Brazos platform, along with the "Brazos 2.0" update the following year, were the company's most successful mobile platforms in terms of sales and design wins. When it first took the scene in late 2010, it was going head to head against the likes of Intel's Atom processor and the combination of Atom + NVIDIA ION and winning. It was sold in mini-ITX motherboard form factors as well as small clamshell notebooks (gasp, dare we say...NETBOOKS?) and though it might not have gotten the universal attention it deserved, it was a great part.
With Kabini (and Temash as well), AMD is making another attempt to pull in some marketshare in the low power, low cost mobile markets. I have already gone over the details of the mobile platforms that AMD is calling Elite Mobility (Temash) and Mainstream (Kabini) in a previous article that launched today.
This article will quickly focus on the real-world performance of the Kabini platform as demonstrated by a reference laptop I received while visiting AMD in Toronto a few weeks ago. While this design isn't going to be available in retail (and I am somewhat thankful based on the build quality) the key is to look at the performance and power efficiency of the platform itself, not the specific implementation.
Kabini Architecture Overview
The building blocks of Kabini are four Jaguar x86 cores and 128 Radeon cores colleted in a pair of Compute Units - similar in many ways to the CUs found in the Radeon HD 7000 series discrete GPUs. Josh has written a very good article that focuses on the completely new architecture that is Jaguar and compared it to other processors including AMD's previous core used in Brazos, the Bobcat core.
Introduction and Design
While Lenovo hasn’t historically been known for its gaming PCs, it’s poised to make quite a splash with the latest entry in its IdeaPad line. Owing little to the company’s business-oriented roots, the Y500 aims to be all power—moreso than any other laptop from the manufacturer to date—tactfully squeezed into a price tag that would normally be unattainable given the promised performance. But can it succeed?
Our Y500 review unit can be had for $1,249 at Newegg and other retailers, or for as low as $1,180 at Best Buy. Lenovo also sells customizable models, though the price is generally higher. Here’s the full list of specifications:
The configurations offered by Lenovo range in price fairly widely, from as low as $849 for a model sporting 8 GB of RAM with a single GT 650M with 2 GB GDDR5. The best value is certainly this configuration that we received, however.
What’s so special about it? Well, apart from the obvious (powerful quad-core CPU and 16 GB RAM), this laptop actually includes two NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GPUs (both with 2 GB GDDR5) configured in SLI. Seeing as it’s just a 15.6-inch model, how does it manage to do that? By way of a clever compromise: the exchange of the usual optical drive for an Ultrabay, something normally only seen in Lenovo’s ThinkPad line of laptops. So I guess the Y500 does owe a little bit of its success to its business-grade brethren after all.
In our review unit (and in the particular configuration noted above), this Ultrabay comes prepopulated with the second GT 650M, equipped with its own heatsink/fan and all. The addition of this GPU effectively launches the Y500 into high-end gaming laptop territory—at least on the spec sheet. Other options for the Ultrabay also exist (sold separately), including a DVD burner and a second hard drive. The bay is easily removable via a switch on the back of the PC (see below).
Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2013 - 04:49 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Seagate, mobile, laptop, hard drives, 7200 rpm
Seagate Technology, the world’s second largest hard drive manufacturer (by market share), recently announced that it will be ceasing production on notebook hard drives featuring 7200 RPM spindle speeds. According to X-Bit Labs, Seagate Director of Marketing and Product Management David Burks stated that “We are going [to] stop building our notebook 7200rpm hard disk drives at the end of 2013.”
Stopping production of high-end notebook hard drives is a curious move for a company that is still dependent on hard drives to survive--with just a toe in the Solid State space with its hybrid hard drives. On the other hand, the market for such high-end notebook drives is likely feeling pressure from Solid State drives for pure performance at any price, cheap hard drives paired with a small mSATA caching SSD, and high-capacity 5400 RPM drives at extremely cheap prices. Users that would have traditionally favored 7200 RPM drives for an extra price during laptop configuration are now faced with more choices on the performance at modest price increases front with caching options. Further, with the advent of interfaces like Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, it is now more acceptable to go with a low capacity, cheaper, Solid State Drive for the operating system and applications while using external hard drives for your storage needs without incurring a transfer speed bottleneck that USB 2.0 exhibited.
Reportedly, Seagate will stop production of its Momentus 7200.4, Momentus 7200.2, and Momentus Thin notebook drive lineups. Further, the storage company will put more focus into further fleshing out its Momentus XT drives. The XT series features a spindle hard drive and small bit of SLC NAND flash for caching frequently accessed files. Hopefully the renewed focus on its hybrid hard drive series will result in drives with larger caches. That may necessitate the move to MLC flash to keep costs down, but I think a HHD with 32GB+ of MLC or TLC flash would be an acceptable compromise.
What do you think of the move? Customers will likely be able to get their hands on 7200 RPM mobile drives well into 2014 thanks to stock on hand at the various OEMs and retailers (and alternative options from other HDD manufacturers), so the fallout is likely to be minimal. Still, is it the right move for Seagate?
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