Gaming laptops are something that most people are quick to reject as out of their price range. There is a lot of sense in this train of thought. We know that laptop components are inherently lower performing than their desktop counterparts, and significantly more expensive. So the idea of spending more money for less powerful components seems like a bad trade off for the added gains of portability for many gamers.
However, we also seem to be in a bit of a plateau as far as generation-to-generation performance gain with desktop components. Midrange processors from a few generations ago are still more than capable of playing the vast majority of games, and even lower-end modern GPUs are able to game at 1080p.
So maybe it's time to take another look at the sub-$1000 gaming notebook options, and that's exactly what we are doing today with the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro Black Edition.
The Aspire V Nitro is equipped with fairly modest components when compared to what most people think of gaming laptops as. Where machines such as the MSI GT70 Dominator or ASUS G751 seem to take the kitchen sink approach towards mobile gaming machines, The Aspire V is a more carefully balanced option.
|Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro Black Edition|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6 GHz|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GTX 960M 4GB|
|Storage||1 TB Hard Drive|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||15.34" x 10.14" x 0.86" - 0.94"|
Anchored by an Intel Core i7-4720HQ and a GTX 960M, the Aspire V Nitro isn't trying to reach to the top stack of mobile performance. A 15.6" display along with 8GB of RAM, and a single 1TB spindle drive are all logical choices for a machine aimed towards gaming on a budget.
While it's difficult for us to recommend that you buy any machine without an SSD these days, a 1TB drive is great for game storage on a machine like there. There are also other configurations optiosn which add SATA M.2 SSDs alongside the 1TB drive, and we managed to open up our sample and put an SSD in ourselves with little pain.
Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2015 - 03:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: windows update, Samsung, notebook, Malware
A report from Paul Thurrott draws an uncomfortable comparison between the behavior of Samsung's notebook software and the recent Superfish controversy, and should be cause for concern for anyone using Samsung laptops with factory software.
Image credit: Samsung
The behavior is rather malware-like, as Thurrott point out: "In disabling Windows Update, the Samsung utility is behaving like malware—is, in fact, malware—which of course opens this event up to a comparison with Lenovo’s Superfish fiasco."
This behavior is apparently designed to prevent Microsoft drivers from installing over Samsung's proprietary versions, but this obviously has significant security implications. The fact that this happens automatically in the background is a signifant breach of trust for consumers. This discovery was initially made by a Microsoft MVP, Paul Barker, who posted this response from Samsung on his blog:
“When you enable Windows updates, it will install the Default Drivers for all the hardware no laptop which may or may not work,” he was told. “For example if there is USB 3.0 on laptop, the ports may not work with the installation of updates. So to prevent this, SW Update tool will prevent the Windows updates.”
There are instructions for disabling this software, but it might just be time for all of us to go to the trouble of creating our own official restore media and starting fresh with a clean install of Windows.
Subject: Mobile | June 2, 2015 - 09:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: notebook, msi, Intel Core i7, gaming notebook, computex 2015, computex, Broadwell
MSI has unveiled a refreshed notebook lineup featuring the new quad-core Intel Broadwell mobile processors.
Broadwell launched as a dual-core only option, which resulted in some high-performance notebooks opting to stay with Haswell CPUs. With the introduction of quad-core versions of the new Broadwell chips for mobile, MSI has jumped on the bandwagon to offer a few different options. Of the 20 new notebooks offered by MSI, 18 of them are powered by Intel Core i7 chips.
Intel’s 5th Generation Core i7 processor powers 18 MSI laptop models, including the GT80 Titan SLI, GT72 Dominator, GS70 Stealth, GS60 Ghost, GE72 Apache, GE62 Apache, GP72 Leopard, GP62 Leopard, and the newly announced PX60 Prestige. Available immediately, all gaming notebook models come with an array of superior technologies, including Killer DoubleShot Pro for lag-less gaming, SteelSeries Gaming Keyboard for exceptional customization and feel, and more.
The flagship GT80 Titan SLI has these impressive specs, including an Intel Core i7-5950HQ processor:
GT80 Titan SLI
- Screen: 18.4” 1920x1080 WideView Non-Reflection
- CPU: Intel Core i7-5950HQ, 2.9 - 3.7 GHz
- Chipset: HM87
- Graphics: Dual GTX 980M SLI, 8GB GDDR5 VRAM each
- Memory: 24GB (8GB x3) DDR3L 1600MHz (4 SoDIMM slots, max 32GB)
- Storage: 256GB Super RAID (128GB M.2 SATA x2, RAID 0) + 1TB 7200 RPM HDD
- Optical: BD Burner
- LAN: Killer Gaming Network
- Wireless: Killer N1525 Combo (2x2 ac), BT 4.1
- Card Reader: SDXC
- Video Output: HDMI 1.4, mDP v1.2 x2
- MSRP: $3799.99
The GT80 Titan SLI gaming notebook
1920x1080 with this model seems low, especially considering the obscene amount of VRAM (8GB per card on a laptop? Really?). Still, this notebook has excellent external monitor support with dual mini-DisplayPort outputs, though HDMI is limited to version 1.4.
MSI has also introduced a refreshed GT72 Dominator with NVIDIA G-Sync (covered here), and this new version also features USB 3.1. And for the more business-minded there is the premium PX60 Prestige, now refreshed with Broadwell Core i7 as well.
These refreshed notebook models will be “available immediately” from MSI’s retail partners.
Introduction and First Impressions
The ASUS X205 offers the full Windows 8.1 notebook experience for the cost of a Chromebook, and the design offers a surprising amount of polish for the price. Is this $199 Atom-powered notebook a viable solution as a daily driver? We're about to find out.
What do you use a laptop for? A thoughtful answer to this question can be the most important part of the process when selecting your next notebook PC, and if your needs are modest there are a growing number of very low-cost options on the market. For example, I personally do not play games on a laptop, typically alternating between web, email, and Microsoft Office. Thus for myself the most important aspects of a notebook PC become screen quality, keyboard, trackpad, and battery life. High performance is not of utmost importance, and I assure myself of at least speedy load times by always choosing (or installing) a solid-state hard drive. For those reasons when I first read the description and specifications of the ASUS X205 notebook, I took notice.
The X205 is a small notebook with an 11.6” display and 1366x768 resolution, essentially matching the form-factor of Apple's 11.6" MacBook Air. It is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor with 2GB of RAM, and onboard storage is solid-state - though limited to 32GB and of the slower eMMC variety (which is in keeping with many Chromebooks). There is adequate connectivity as well, with the expected wireless card and two USB 2.0 ports. One aspect of this design that intrigued me was the trackpad, which ASUS claims is using "smartphone technology", indicating a touchscreen digitizer implementation. Smoothness and accuracy are the biggest problems I find with most inexpensive notebook trackpads, and if this turns out to be a strong performer it would be a major boon to the X205's overall usability. I opted for the Microsoft Signature Edition of the X205TA, which carries the same $199 retail price but does not come preloaded with any trialware or other junk software.
At the outset this feels like a compelling product simply because it retails for the same price as an average Chromebook, but offers the flexibility of a full Windows 8.1 installation. Granted this is the “Windows 8.1 with Bing” version found on low-cost, low-power devices like this, but it offers the functionality of the standard version. While Chrome OS and Google's productivity apps are great for many people, the ability to install and run Windows applications made this highly preferable to a Chromebook for me. Of course beyond the operating system the overall experience of using the laptop will ultimately decide the viability of this inexpensive product, so without further preamble let's dive right into the X205TA notebook!
Subject: Mobile | March 13, 2015 - 09:33 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Razer Blade Pro, razer, notebook, laptop, i7-4720HQ, GTX 960M, gaming notebook
Razer has updated their massive Blade Pro notebook with new dual storage options and NVIDIA’s newly announced GeForce GTX 960M graphics.
Razer targets the Blade Pro at both gamers and professionals, placing emphasis on the usefulness of the device beyond gaming. However, being limited to 1920x1080 on a 17.3-inch display will eliminate this from consideration by most creative professionals (though the display does feature an anti-glare matte finish). Aiding the performance/gaming side of the notebook is Razer’s localized heating system which the company claims “focuses on directing heat away from the main touch surfaces of the notebook, to areas that can dissipate heat quickly and are not commonly touched by the user. This allows the laptop to pack in the highest performance available with NVIDIA’s critically acclaimed GTX graphics”.
The Blade Pro is constructed from aluminum and while reasonably thin at 0.88 inches, the notebook weighs in at a hefty 6.76 pounds (though the probably battery life of such a high-powered system precludes this from a lot of portable use anyway).
One of the most interesting aspects of this design is Razer’s Switchblade User Interface (SBUI), which the company says “is designed for a more efficient and intuitive experience for professionals and gamers.” It combines 10 customizable tactile keys and a unique LCD trackpad (which I would assume features a glass surface). Meanwhile the keyboard is backlit and features anti-ghosting technology as well.
Intel Core i7-4720HQ Quad Core Processor (2.6GHz / 3.6GHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M (4GB GDDR5 VRAM), Optimus Technology
16GB System Memory (DDR3L-1600 MHz)
Windows 8.1 64-Bit
128GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 256GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
17.3" Full HD 16:9 Ratio, 1920 x 1080 LED backlit
Intel Wireless-AC 7260HMW (802.11a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth 4.0)
Gigabit Ethernet port
3x USB 3.0 ports
HDMI 1.4a audio and video output
Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater Edition
Built-in stereo speakers
3.5 mm microphone/headphone combo jack
7.1 Codec support (via HDMI)
Built-in full-HD webcam (2.0 MP)
Compact 150 W Power Adapter
Built-in 74 Wh Rechargeable lithium ion polymer battery
Razer Switchblade User Interface (SBUI)
Razer Anti-Ghosting Keyboard (with adjustable backlight)
Razer Synapse Enabled
Kensington Lock interface
16.8 in. (427 mm) Width x 0.88 in. (22.4 mm) Height x 10.9 in. (277 mm) Depth
6.76 lbs. / 3.07 kg
The Razer Blade Pro starts at $2299.99 and is available now from the Razer online store.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 7, 2015 - 10:51 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: nvidia, notebook, mobile graphics, mobile gpu, GeForce 965M
With zero fanfare NVIDIA has released a new mobile graphics chip today, the GeForce GTX 965M.
Based on the 28nm Maxwell GM204 core and positioned just below the existing GTX 970M, the new GTX 965M has 1024 CUDA cores (compared to the 970M's 1280) and the new 965M has a lower 128-bit memory interface (vs 192-bit with the 970M). The base clock is slightly faster at 944 MHz (plus unspecified Boost headroom).
Compared with the flagship GTX 980M which boasts 1536 CUDA cores and 256-bit GDDR5 this new GTX 965M will be a significantly lower performer, but NVIDIA is marketing it towards 1080p mobile gaming. At a lower cost to OEMs the 965M should help create some less expensive 1080p gaming notebooks as the new GPU is adopted.
The chip features proprietary NVIDIA Optimus and Battery Boost support, and is GameStream, ShadowPlay, and GameWorks ready.
Specs from NVIDIA:
- CUDA Cores: 1024
- Base Clock: 944 MHz + Boost
- Memory Clock: 2500 MHz
- Memory Interface: GDDR5
- Memory Interface Width: 128-bit
- Memory Bandwidth: 80 GB/sec
- DirectX API: 12
- OpenGL: 4.4
- OpenCL: 1.1
- Display Resolution: Up to 3840x2160
More information on this new mobile GPU can be found via the source link.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 08:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Realsense 3D, realsense, notebook, Intel, ces 2015, CES, acer
Intel's “Perceptual Computing” initiative, later branded Intel RealSense 3D, is beginning to be integrated with consumer electronics. For a while now, developers could pick up a Creative Labs-produced SDK with a camera, depth sensor, and dual microphones (in an array) for $99 USD. We will probably hear more about it tomorrow during Intel's CES 2015 Keynote at 7:30pm EST. Hopefully, they will also have some compelling software to go along with it.
This is the previous model. For the new version, see the video below.
But this announcement is from Acer, which will launch a new Aspire V 17 Nitro notebook with a built-in Intel RealSense 3D camera. The company believes that the technology will be used for controlling games, or scanning your face and objects for 3D printing. I'm... not so sure about printing my face, but I could see facial recognition being an interesting feature of upcoming software, even if it is not good enough for secure authentication purposes.
The laptop itself will be built on a Haswell-based Core i7-4710HQ that is paired with a GeForce GTX 860M GPU (4GB GDDR5). It can be configured with up to 16GB of system memory, up to 256GB of SSD space, and up to a 1TB secondary hard drive. As the name suggests, the display is a 17-inch IPS panel, which is apparently not a touch-screen.
The Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro will be available this month, but no pricing information is available. The previous model is still on Acer's website for $1400 USD, without RealSense 3D.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2015 - 03:00 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ultraportable, tablet, notebook, nec, Lenovo, lavie, ces 2015
Lenovo, in a joint venture with NEC, is bringing the world's lightest notebook and the world's lightest convertible to market. And as the first products from the joint venture to be released outside of Japan, the new LaVie Z HZ550 notebook and LaVie Z HZ750 convertible are impressive.
Both 13.3-inch devices are constructed of a magnesium-lithium body with custom Mg-Li reinforcements to create a sleek looking and lightweight PC that does not compromise strength versus other magnesium alloy products. The HZ550 and HZ750 measure 16.9mm thick and weigh 1.72 pounds and 2.04 pounds respectively.
The notebooks feature a 13.3" WQHD display, YAMAHA audio, stereo mic and 720p webcam. There are two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI video output, SD card reader, and headphone jack along the edges (and the notebook is just big enough for those full size USB ports). Other features include a dual hinge design reminiscent of other Lenovo (Yoga) products, a chiclet style keyboard, and a wide touchpad sans physical buttons. The dark frame has an angular design. The HZ750 adds a lightweight film touchscreen (no cover glass) and a 360-degree hinge to allow tablet mode.
The Lenovo NEC LaVie Z PCs are powered by Intel's latest Broadwell-U Core i5 processors, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The HZ750 can further be upgraded to a Core i7 and 8GB of RAM. Both PCs feature 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The HZ550 notebook is fitted with a 29.6 Whr battery while the HZ750 has a 44 Whr battery.
The LaVie Z HZ550 and HZ750 will be available in May starting at $1,299 and $1,499 respectively. They are slick looking notebooks and the magnesium-lithium frame is interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing how they stack up and what else Lenovo NEC has in store (the joint venture agreement was recently extended to 2026).
What do you think about the new PCs?
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 4, 2015 - 10:00 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Thinkpad, notebook, Lenovo, ces 2015, carbon, business
Today at the Consumer Electronics Show, Lenovo announced updates and new additions to its Think-branded products aimed at business customers. New ThinkPad PCs, ThinkVision displays, and stackable ThinkPad accessories are launching early this year.
ThinkPad Notebooks and Ultrabooks
Lenovo, a leading manufacturer of PCs, recently reached a milestone with the production of its 100 millionth ThinkPad, code-named Eve, which will be on display at CES. The company has a plethora of business machines and updates are coming to the entire family of ThinkPads including the X, T, L, and E series. According to Lenovo, the company has opted for 5th gen Core i processors for most of the machines to provide the best performance and vPro capabilities.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a third generation ultrabook that is lighter and faster than before. The 14" ultrabook builds upon its predecessor with an updated (optionally backlit) keyboard, three button clickpad, and up to a WQHD touchscreen display. The X1 Carbon with its carbon fiber cover weighs 2.9 pounds and is 17.72mm thick (18.46mm if you opt for a touchscreen).
It is powered by up to a 5th Generation Intel Core i7 (Broadwell-U) processor, four to eight GB of DDR3 memory, and up to a 512GB PCI-E SSD. 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 OneLink, Ethernet, analog audio, and a 720p webcam round out the system's connectivity options.
For the road warrior that finds the 14" X1 Carbon too unwieldy, the new ThinkPad X250 is a slightly lighter (starting at 2.88 lbs) PC with a much smaller footprint. The X250 features full HD (1080p) displays with optional touchscreens, backlit keys, the latest clickpad, and updated internal hardware. Lenovo is using Intel's 5th Generation Core i processor, HDD, SSHD, and SSD options, up to 8GB DDR3 memory, and its Power Bridge dual battery technology for a speedy portable with respectable battery life.
Beyond the X-series, Lenovo has added new models to the ThinkPad T, ThinkPad L, and ThinkPad E series. Lenovo has managed to refine the hardware while keeping the same design principles that have made the predecessors successful.
Lenovo ThinkPad T550
The new machines are thinner, lighter, have better battery life, more ports, high resolution display options, and use Intel's 5th Generation Core processors.
Lenovo's business focused products are slated for availability early this year with the majority of hardware coming in the next two months. For laptops, pricing and availability work out as follows:
|Lenovo Notebooks||Starting Price||Availability|
|ThinkPad X1 Carbon||$1,249||January|
The new machines are welcome evolutionary updates to the established ThinkPad pedigree. What are your thoughts on the new notebooks?
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Mobile | January 2, 2015 - 09:18 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: CES, wqxga, ultrabook, Samsung, notebook, laptop, intel core m, ces 2015, 5Y10c
Samsung has announced their latest ATIV ultrabook ahead of CES, and it looks impressive. Boasting a sleek all-aluminum design and packing 2560x1600 on its 12.2" screen, the latest ATIV Book 9 is powered by the newest Intel Core M technology with a fanless design for silent computing.
Beyond the Core M 5Y10c processor and Intel HD 5300 graphics, the Book 9 features a selectable 4GB or 8GB of memory, and either 128GB or 256GB of SSD storage. The notebook weighs in at just over 2 lbs (2.09, actually) and measures only 0.46 inches thick. The battery can provide up to 10.5 hours on a single charge according to Samsung, which would put it near the current-gen MacBook Air in that department (which honestly appears to be the direct inspiration for this notebook's design). Samsung hasn't skimped in the sound department, with a high-end Wolfson DAC for lossless audio playback.
You may have read Ryan's review of Broadwell-Y performance back in November, and the results for these new chips are impressive when considering the ultra-low power design. The processor in this Book 9 (the Core M 5Y10c) is targeting just 3.5W SDP (4.5W TDP) while providing up to 2.0 GHz with a 4MB cache. The extremely low power requirements from these 14nm parts will allow more fanless designs like this notebook going forward, though it will be interesting to see how performance scales under extended use without a fan.
Display: 12.2” WQXGA (2560x1600), 350nit (max 700nit) LED
Processor: Intel® Core™ M 5Y10c
Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 5300
Memory: 8GB (4GB also available)
Hard Disk: 256GB SSD (128GB also available)
Audio: PC-Fi (Wolfson WM5102 integrated)
Camera: 720p HD
Battery Life: Up to 10.5 hours
Dimensions: 11.19" x 8.37" x 0.46"
Weight: 2.09 pounds
Color: Imperial Black
I/O Ports: 2x USB 3.0, micro HDMI and SD, RJ45 (dongle), headphone/mic combo
Pricing: $1199.99 4GB RAM/128GB SSD, $1399.99 8GB RAM/256GB SSD.
Availability: Q1 2015 (listing already active on Amazon).