Introduction and Design
MSI’s unapologetically large GT70 “Dominator Pro” series of machines knows its audience well: for every gripe about the notebooks’ hulking sizes, a snicker and a shrug are returned by the community, who rarely value such items as portability as highly as the critics who are hired to judge based on them. These machines are built for power, first and foremost. While featherweight construction and manageable dimensions matter to those regularly tossing machines into their bags, by contrast, MSI’s desktop replacements recognize the meaning of their classification: the flexibility of merely moving around the house with one’s gaming rig is reason enough to consider investing in one.
So its priorities are arguably well in line. But if you want to keep on dominating, regular updates are a necessity, too. And with the GT72 2QE, MSI takes it all up yet another notch: our review unit (GT72 2QE-208US) packs four SSDs in a RAID-0 array (as opposed to the GT70’s three), plus a completely redesigned case which manages to address some of our biggest complaints. Oh yeah, and an NVIDIA GTX 980M GPU with 8 GB GDDR5 RAM—the fastest mobile GPU ever. (You can find much more information and analysis on this GPU specifically in Ryan’s ever-comprehensive review.)
Of course, these state-of-the-art innards come at no small price: $2,999 as configured (around a $2,900 street price), or a few hundred bucks less with storage or RAM sacrifices—a reasonable trade-off considering the marginal benefits one gains from a quad-SSD array or 32 GB of RAM.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 22, 2014 - 05:32 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Windows 8.1, notebook, netbook, Mullins, hp, amd, A4 Micro-6400T
According to internal support documents unearthed by Liliputing, HP is preparing to launch a new budget notebook powered by an AMD "Mullins" APU. The HP 14Z-z000, which will also be known as the HP Stream Notebook, is a 14-inch netbook running the full version of Windows 8.1 weighing 3.9 pounds and measuring 13.5" x 9.5" x 0.7". The Stream will be the second device from HP to utilize AMD's latest mobile "Mullins" APUs (the first device being the $250 10-inch Pavilion 10z).
HP's Stream notebook is a traditional laptop-style design that uses a hinged 1366x768 display, full keyboard, trackpad, 720p webcam, and four Beats Audio speakers. However, internally, the Stream resembles tablet hardware more than laptops because the internal storage, processor, and RAM are not upgradeable. Physical IO ports include one HDMI, one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, and a SDXC card slot.
Internally, the Stream uses an AMD A4 Micro-6400T processor, 2GB of RAM, either 32GB or 64GB of eMMC storage, a 802.11n+Bluetooh 4.0 radio, and a 32Whr battery. The A4 Micro-6400T processor is the interesting bit here, as it is a solution that has not seen many design wins yet. This APU is part of AMD's "Mullins" family which is the successor to Temash. The 28nm HKMG chip features four Puma+ cores (improved Jaguar) clocked at 1.6GHz, a 128 core GCN GPU clocked at 350MHz, 2MB of L2 cache, and support for DDR3L 1333MHz memory. The Micro-6400T is rated at 2.8W SDP (Scenario Design Power) and 4.5W TDP (Thermal Design Power). Further, it features TrustZone technology and new power management features that allow it to boost (or downclock) clockspeeds in certain situations with an emphasis on extending battery life.
HP is bundling the Stream with 100GB of Microsoft OneDrive which is free for two years.
The Stream should be available shortly with a starting price of $199 from HP. I do wish HP was less stingy with batteries in these low power systems (here's looking at you HP X360), but this Mullins-powered netbook should at least be performance competitive with existing Bay Trail based notebooks according to these Mullins APU benchmarks. I would like to see how this midrange APU (The Micro 6700T is actually the top end Mullins) stacks up to the newer Z3770 Atom.
Are you interested in this new generation of budget notebooks?
The notebook market of today barely resembles the notebook market of 5 years ago. People are spending less money on their computers than ever before, and we find even sub $1000 options are adequate for casual 1080p gaming. However the high-end, boutique gaming notebook hasn’t been forgotten. Companies like Maingear still forge on to try to provide a no compromise portable gaming experience. Today, we look at the Maingear Pulse 17 gaming laptop.
The most striking feature of the Pulse 17 is the namesake 17-in display. While we are used to seeing gaming laptops fall in the 15-in or higher range, there is something to be said about opening up the Pulse and being greeted by a massive display with 1080p resolution. The choice of a 17-in display here also enables one of the most impressive parts of this notebook, the thickness.
When most people think about gaming laptops, their minds go to the gigantic bricks of the past, The Pulse 17 manages to provide gaming power in a similar thickness to the average ultrabook at 0.86”. In fact, the form factor is similar to what I’d imagine a 17” MacBook Pro Retina as, if Apple decided to use a display that large.
Even though the screen size creates a large footprint for the Pulse 17, both the thickness, and the 6lb weight make this the first truly portable gaming laptop I have used.
Comparing the physical form of the Pulse 17 to a notebook like the ASUS G750JX, which we reviewed late last year, is almost comical. The G750 weighs in at 10lbs and just under 2” thick while toting similar hardware and performance to the Pulse 17.
Top: Maingear Pulse 17, Bottom: ASUS G750JX
Beyond physical attributes, the Pulse 17 has a lot to offer from a hardware standpoint. The Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor and NVIDIA GTX 765M GPU (as tested, it now ships with a 870M) mean that you’ll have all that you need to play any modern game on the integrated 1080p display.
Storage is provided by a 1TB Hard Drive, as well as 2x128GB mSATA SSDs in SuperRAID 0 to provide maximum throughput.
Introduction and Design
Alongside our T440s review unit was something slightly smaller and dear to our hearts: the latest entry in the ThinkPad X series of notebooks. Seeing as this very review is being typed on a Lenovo X220, our interest was piqued by the latest refinements to the formula. When the X220 was released, the thin-and-light trend was only just beginning to pick up steam leading into what eventually became today’s Ultrabook movement. Its 2012 successor, the ThinkPad X230, went on to receive our coveted (and rarely bestowed) Editor’s Choice Award, even in spite of a highly controversial keyboard change that sent the fanbase into a panic.
But all of that has since (mostly) blown over, primarily thanks to the fact that—in spite of the minor ergonomic adjustments required to accustom oneself with what was once a jarringly different keyboard design—the basic philosophy remained the same: pack as many powerful parts as possible into a 12.5-inch case while still maintaining good durability and battery life. These machines were every bit as capable as most other 13- and 14-inch notebooks of their time, and they were considerably smaller, too. About the only thing they lacked was higher-resolution screens, discrete graphics, and quad-core CPUs.
But with the X240 (and the T440s), portability has truly taken center stage, suggesting a complete paradigm shift—however subtly—away from “powerful (and light)” and toward “light (and powerful)”. Coupled with Intel’s Haswell CPUs and Lenovo’s new Power Bridge dual-battery design, this will certainly yield great benefits in the realm of battery life. But that isn’t all that’s different: we also find a (once again) revamped keyboard, as well as a completely new touchpad design which finally dispenses with the physical buttons entirely. Like in the X230’s case, these changes have roiled the ThinkPad purists—but is it all just a matter of close-minded traditionalism? That’s precisely what we’ll discover today.
Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2013 - 02:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: win 8.1, touchscreen, notebook, fail
It is going to be hard for Microsoft to flog its new OS when notebook manufactures are not interested in selling touchscreen notebooks. Apparently the idea of greasy fingers obscuring your view of Metro just hasn't caught on as was predicted by the GUI geniuses behind Win8. Though DigiTimes does not specify which vendors are abandoning touchscreens, first tier vendors include all of the names you are familiar with. The decision is financial, not spiteful, as a touchscreen does add around 10% to the cost of producing a notebook and as no one is buying them it is foolish to continue to produce them.
"Some first-tier notebook brand vendors have recently adjusted their notebook roadmaps for 2014 and will delay the releases of touchscreen conventional notebooks to focus on non-touchscreen models, which have a pricing advantage, according to sources from the upstream supply chain."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The TR Podcast 147: Amazon airlifts, 4K goes mainstream, and 290X goes wobbly @ The Tech Report
- Rambus versus Micron FINALLY OVER @ The Register
- Just when you were considering Red Hat Linux 6.5, here comes 7 @ The Register
- TSSDR Holiday Giveaway – Win Crucial M500 240GB, 480 and 1TB SSDs
Introduction and Design
Contortionist PCs are a big deal these days as convertible models take the stage to help bridge the gap between notebook and tablet. But not everyone wants to drop a grand on a convertible, and not everyone wants a 12-inch notebook, either. Meanwhile, these same people may not wish to blow their cash on an underpowered (and far less capable) Chromebook or tablet. It’s for these folks that Lenovo has introduced the IdeaPad Flex 14 Ultrabook, which occupies a valuable middle ground between the extremes.
The Flex 14 looks an awful lot like a Yoga at first glance, with the same sort of acrobatic design and a thoroughly IdeaPad styling (Lenovo calls it a “dual-mode notebook”). The specs are also similar to that of the x86 Yoga, though with the larger size (and later launch), the Flex also manages to assemble a slightly more powerful configuration:
The biggest internal differences here are the i5-4200U CPU, which is a 1.6 GHz Haswell model with a TDP of 15 W and the ability to Turbo Boost (versus the Yoga 11S’ i5-3339Y, which is Ivy Bridge with a marginally lower TDP of 13 W and no Turbo Boost), the integrated graphics improvements that follow with the newer CPU, and a few more ports made possible by the larger chassis. Well, and the regression to a TN panel from the Yoga 11S’ much-appreciated IPS display, which is a bummer. Externally, your wallet will also appreciate a $250 drop in price: our model, as configured here, retails for just $749 (versus the $999 Yoga 11S we reviewed a few months back).
You can actually score a Flex 14 for as low as $429 (as of this writing), by the way, but if you’re after any sort of respectable configuration, that price quickly climbs above the $500 mark. Ours is the least expensive option currently available with both a solid-state drive and an i5 CPU.
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!
Introduction and Design
It seems like only yesterday (okay, last month) that we were testing the IdeaPad Yoga 11, which was certainly an interesting device. That’s primarily because of what it represents: namely, the slow merging of the tablet and notebook markets. You’ve probably heard people proclaiming the death of the PC as we know it. Not so fast—while it’s true that tablets have eaten into the sales of what were previously low-powered notebooks and now-extinct netbooks, there is still no way to replace the utility of a physical keyboard and the sensibility of a mouse cursor. Touch-centric devices are hard to beat when entertainment and education are the focus of a purchase, but as long as productivity matters, we aren’t likely to see traditional means of input and a range of connectivity options disappear anytime soon.
The IdeaPad Yoga 11 leaned so heavily in the direction of tablet design that it arguably was more tablet than notebook. That is, it featured a tablet-grade SOC (the nVidia Tegra 3) as opposed to a standard Intel or AMD CPU, an 11” display, and a phenomenal battery life that can only be compared to the likes of other ARM-based tablets. But, of course, with those allegiances come necessary concessions, not least of which is the inability to run x86 applications and the consequential half-baked experiment that is Windows RT.
Fortunately, there’s always room for compromise, and for those of us searching for something closer to a notebook than the original Yoga 11, we’re now afforded the option of the 11S. Apart from being nearly identical in terms of form factor, the $999 (as configured) Yoga 11S adopts a standard x86 chipset with Intel ULV CPUs, which allows it to run full-blown Windows 8. That positions it squarely in-between the larger x86 Yoga 13 and the ARM-based Yoga 11, which makes it an ideal candidate for someone hoping for the best of both worlds. But can it survive the transition, or do its compromises outstrip its gains?
Our Yoga 11S came equipped with a fairly standard configuration:
Unless you’re comparing to the Yoga 11’s specs, not much about this stands out. The Core i5-3339Y is the first thing that jumps out at you; in exchange for the nVidia Tegra 3 ARM-based SOC of the original Yoga 11, it’s a much more powerful chip with a 13W TDP and (thanks to its x86 architecture) the ability to run Windows 8 and standard Windows applications. Next on the list is the included 8 GB of DDR3 RAM—versus just 2 GB on the Yoga 11. Finally, there’s USB 3.0 and a much larger SSD (256 GB vs. 64 GB)—all valuable additions. One thing that hasn’t changed, meanwhile, is the battery size. Surely you’re wondering how this will affect the longevity of the notebook under typical usage. Patience; we’ll get to that in a bit! First, let’s talk about the general design of the notebook.
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.