Manufacturer: PC Perspective

I say let the world go to hell

… but I should always have my tea. (Notes From Underground, 1864)

You can praise video games as art to justify its impact on your life – but do you really consider it art?

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Best before the servers are taken down, because you're probably not playing it after.

Art allows the author to express their humanity and permits the user to consider that perspective. We become cultured when we experiment with and to some extent understand difficult human nature problems. Ideas are transmitted about topics which we cannot otherwise understand. We are affected positively as humans in society when these issues are raised in a safe medium.

Video games, unlike most other mediums, encourage the user to coat the creation with their own expressions. The player can influence the content through their dialogue and decision-tree choices. The player can accomplish challenges in their own unique way and talk about it over the water cooler. The player can also embed their own content as a direct form of expression. The medium will also mature as we further learn how to leverage interactivity to open a dialogue for these artistic topics in completely new ways and not necessarily in a single direction.

Consciously or otherwise – users will express themselves.

With all of the potential for art that the medium allows it is a shame that – time and time again – the industry and its users neuter its artistic capabilities in the name of greed, simplicity, or merely fear.

Care to guess where I am headed? Buckle in.

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lucid

Introduction, Virtual V-Sync Testing

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In my recent review of the Origin EON11-S portable gaming laptop I noted that the performance of the laptop was far behind that of a larger 15.6” or 17.3” model. The laptop won a gold award despite this, as all laptops of this size are bound to physics, but it was an issue worth nothing.

Origin surprised me by responding that they had something in the works that might buff up performance. This confused me. Were they going to cast a spell on it? Would they beam in a beefier GPU? What could they possibly do that would increase performance without changing the hardware?

Now I have the answer. It’s called Lucid VirtuMVP and it uses your existing integrated GPU to improve performance. As with Lucid’s other products, VirtuMVP makes it possible for two different GPUs – in this case, your integrated GPU and your discrete GPU – to work together. It’s not magic – just ingenuity.  Let’s take a closer look.

Click here to read the entire article.

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction, Design

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I often think of ASUS as the PC’s answer to Apple. Their products are not up to Apple’s rigorous engineering, nor is the customer service as accessible, but ASUS does offer a number of products that were obviously designed to meet a set of high standards. I’ve always enjoyed the company’s G-Series gaming laptops, ultraportables like the U33 Bamboo and high-end multimedia laptops like the N53 and N56.

The original Zenbook didn’t impress me, however. PC Perspective never reviewed it, but I did have some hands-on time with one courtesy of Intel’s CES 2012 ultrabook giveaway. The build quality wasn’t great, the touchpad was quite poor and the overall look and feel proved a bit tacky (the cursive lettering below the display panel being the most obvious example).

ASUS has now followed up the original Zenbook with the new Zenbook Prime. There are a couple of different variants. We received the 13-inch UX31A which come equipped with the 1080p IPS display panel. As for the rest? Well, see below.

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This is one well equipped ultrabook, which explains why it comes with a nearly $1500 price tag. You don’t have to spend that much, however. The basic Zenbook Prime, which still has the IPS display but downgrades to a Core i5, is $999 on Amazon.

Does the flagship of ASUS design deliver the goods? Let’s find out.

Continue reading our review of the new ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A Ultrabook!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction, Design

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Lenovo has become an important player in the mainstream laptop market. Five years ago the offerings from Lenovo were not great, but today the IdeaPad line has matured. This has been reflected in Lenovo’s growth. The company has posted gains in global market share over the last few years.

In this review we’re looking at the Z580, a laptop that’s smack dab in the middle of the company’s IdeaPad brand. It’s a 15.6” laptop that starts at $469 but can be optioned to around $900. Our review unit is a well configured version which includes an Intel Core i5-3210M processor. Lenovo’s website prices it out at a cool $599.

What else will six Benjamin Franklins buy you? Let’s take a look.

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The $600 price point is important. Studies of the laptop market have consistently shown that the average price of a new laptop hovers around $600 (much to the dismay of manufacturers, who’d rather people spent more).

This market is extremely completive as a result. If you want a portable laptop with an IPS display you don’t have many options, but consumers who want a powerful and competent laptop for $600 have a buffet to choose from. Can the Z580 make room for itself in this crowd?

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Z580 Notebook!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction and Design

 

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Samsung played a little trick on me when I reviewed the Samsung Series 5 earlier this year. You see, I barely finished my review of it when – surprise! – Samsung announced the new Series 5 550.
 
With that said, I can forgive them. They sent me the new model to review as well. It is a complete redesign both inside and out. The updated exterior is built with better quality materials and is only available in silver instead of your choice of white or black. 
 
Inside, Samsung has thrown Atom aside and replaced it with an Intel Celeron 867. This part uses the Sandy Bridge architecture and offers two cores clocked at 1.3 GHz. It, of course, lacks the Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost features found in some Core series products.
 
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The rest of the laptop is similar to the previous model. The display size is the same and the hard drive is still a 16GB SSD instead of a standard mechanical hard drive. Going with a Sandy Bridge part has also upgraded the graphics, so the pathetic GMA 3150 found in the previous Chromebooks has been replaced with Intel HD, albeit a low-power version with a base clock of 350 MHz and a maximum clock of 1 GHz.
 
These improvements have resulted in a price adjustment that brings the new Series 5 back in line with the debut price of the original. You can expect to pay $450 for the Wi-Fi model or $550 for the 3G version. Consumers who opt for the 3G version receive 2 years of free service from Verizon, but the data cap is a strict 100MB per month. That’s enough for occasional web browsing but not enough for serious use. 
 
Increasing the price puts the Samsung Series 5 back in competition with budget ultraportables like the ASUS 1225B and the Lenovo X130e. Can the Chromebook and Chrome OS hold up against such competitors? Let’s find out.
 
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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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Change is hard. The Internet, for all of its talk about openness and cultural advancement, seems to have crystalized this more than any other form of communication. If something popular is changed, for better or worse, it’s only a matter of time before the virtual pitchforks are brought out.
 
Laptop manufacturers usually dodge this bullet because they change designs before they have a chance to gain a following. It’s hard for fans to become mad about a new design if the old one wasn’t used long enough to create an expectation. But there’s always been on exception – Lenovo’s ThinkPad. 
 
Though this line of matte-black business laptops has been expanded over the years with the ThinkPad Edge the core of the line-up has remained stubbornly similar. The ThinkPad T420 I reviewed earlier this year was strikingly similar to the T42 that I owned in college. Yes, the display’s aspect ratio had changed, but the keyboard, trackpointer and overall design aesthetic was familiar. 
 
I wasn’t surprised to see Lenovo’s announcement that it would be changing the keyboard on its new ThinkPad laptops send waves through the enthusiast community. Now Lenovo has sent the X230, one of the re-designed models, and I can see if this change is blasphemy or a new revelation. 
 
Oh, and the hardware’s different, as well. Ivy Bridge, blah blah blah, Intel HD 4000, blah blah blah. You’re likely familiar with this tune – but you may be surprised to hear it played on an instrument this small.
 
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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction, Design and Connectivity

 

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All of my past tablet reviews have come to a similar conclusion – buy the iPad. Unless you have a particular, specific use for your tablet which Apple’s walled garden does not support there is little reason to go with anything else. The problem is a combination of both hardware and software. Cupertino’s closed approach, which develops both in-house, has provided better products so far.
 
If you can’t beat them, you can always sell to a somewhat different market. And so we have the Google Nexus 7. There are three things about this tablet that has made many geeks very interested – it has a Tegra 3 processor, it runs Android 4.1 and it starts at $200 for the 8GB version.
 
This is, in fact, the production version of the $249 Tegra 3 tablet that we all ooo-ed and ahh-ed over during CES 2012. Google hasn’t paid much lip-service to ASUS, but the company’s logo is on the back of the tablet. I have no complaints about this partnership. ASUS has made the best Android tablets for some time, so going with them is an obvious choice.
 
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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Origin

Introduction, Design

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The death of the Alienware M11x seemed as if it might leave a hole in the market – or not. As it turns out, that discontinuation of the world’s smallest gaming laptop coincided with the introduction of a new generic 11.6” gaming laptop chassis from Clevo. You can still get your netbook-sized game on.
 
Origin was kind enough to send us the EON11-S – one of several laptops based on the Clevo chassis – for review. If you’re in the North American market, the EON11-S is going to be one of the most attractive variants simply because of the company behind it. Origin is an established and well-known company with a great reputation.  
 
The Alienware M11x, which you can still purchase (while supplies last!) ended its life at the tail end of the Sandy Bridge era. It also always relied on Intel’s low voltage processors instead of the standard models – something I noted as a disadvantage when we reviewed the M11x in 2010. The lack of an optional quad-core processor made the Alienware feel half-baked as well.
 
Origin’s EON11-S, on the other hand, is the full enchilada. Base models come with a Pentium dual-core, but our review unit arrived packing an Intel Core i7-3720QM. All EON11-S laptops come with an Nvidia GT 650M as well. Let’s check out the full specifications.
 
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While the base model is priced at $999, our review unit rings up at $1,626. That’s quite a chunk of change – for the same money you could have a nicely equipped ASUS G55 or G75. Those laptops aren’t nearly as portable, however – so does gaming on the go justify the premium? Let’s find out.
 
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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple

Quick glance at the new MBP

The newly released retina-screen MacBook Pro has been an interesting product to me since it was first announced. I have long been a proponent of higher resolution screens for PCs, hoping for the lower cost screens that we are just now finding in the Korean 27-in screen market (like the Achieva Shimian we recently reviewed). When Apple announced a 15-in notebook with a screen resolution of 2880x1800, my hopes were raised that other vendors would take note and duplicate the idea – thereby lowering costs and increasing visual quality for users across the board.

While I didn’t have enough time with the retina MacBook Pro to give it a full review, I did spend an afternoon with one that had Windows 7 installed. After getting some benchmarks and games installed I thought I would report back to our readers with my thoughts and initial impressions on the laptop from a PC perspective.

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The hardware inside the new retina MacBook Pro includes an Ivy Bridge Core i7-3720QM processor, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M discrete GPU, 512GB Apple-branded solid state drive, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt and of course that impressive 2880x1800 screen.

Continue reading our quick look at the retina MacBook Pro under Windows 7!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: HP

Introduction and Design

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One of the most impressive laptops at CES 2012 was the HP Envy Spectre. It was a sleek, attractive laptop that seemed to indicate that HP was really starting to understand what the Envy brand could be about. It’s been a long time since a PC OEM was able to challenge Apple in the arena of design. The Spectre indicated that might change.
 
There more to any laptop than design, however. What had made Apple’s products popular is combination of design and functionality. Connectivity aside, the MacBooks are useful tools with big touchpads, nice keyboards and beautiful displays. Any PC alternative needs to compete on the same level.
 
And the HP Envy 14 Spectre is certainly a competitor. Its $1400 base price tag puts it well into MacBook territory. So what does that wad of dough buy you?
 
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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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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.

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Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Y480!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer:

Introduction, Driver Interface

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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?

Continue reading our comparison of current generation notebook graphics options!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Origin

Introduction, Design, User Interface

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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.

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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.

Continue reading our review of the Origin EON17-S Gaming Notebook!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Design, User Interface

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In August of 2011 I reviewed the Acer AC700-1099, one of two Chromebooks available in the North American market. The review was almost entirely negative. The hardware wasn’t great and the operating system was a bit of a mess–capable of only the most basic tasks. 

Since then, the small surge of hype that surrounded the Chrome OS release has receded. You could be mistaken for thinking Google has abandoned it, but they haven’t. In typical Google fashion it has been slowly, quietly improved. Performance tweaks have allegedly improved web browsing, a proper file manager has been added and Google has just launched Google Drive, its cloud storage service. 

Such enhancements could address a lot of the concerns I had with the Acer rendition. Do they? That’s what we’re here to find out. Let’s start with the basics - what’s inside?

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The hardware inside the Samsung Series 5 is nearly identical to what was inside the Acer AC700-1099 that we reviewed late last year. We’re talking an Atom processor that must rely on its own IGP, two gigabytes of RAM and a tiny–but quick–16GB solid state drive. 

While the equipment is the same, the pricing has changed. When we reviewed the Acer Chromebook it was $349.99. That has been slashed to $279.99. The Series 5, which used to be priced at $429, is now sold for just $299.

Let’s see if improved software and a lower price can turn Chromebooks into winners. 

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Product Specifications And Line-Up

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Earlier this year I penned an editorial about ultrabooks. It wasn’t all that nice. I pointed out that they are slow, that they require design sacrifices that not everyone will enjoy and that ultraportables often provide a better experience at the same price or lower. 

Since then I’ve also discovered, through various reviews, that ultrabooks so far have not shown any battery life advantage over ultraportables. The advantage of a low-voltage processor is consistently negated by the smaller batteries squeezed into Intel’s thin form-factor.

I’m not on the bandwagon. This, however, should not come as a surprise. It’s exceedingly rare for a company, even of Intel’s size, to knock a new product out of the park on its first try. The models that released so far were decent products in some ways, but they were also the hardware equivalent of a beta. Intel and laptop manufacturers are now responding to what they’ve discovered.

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This brings us to Ivy Bridge. As I noted in my Ivy Bridge for mobile review, Intel’s architectural update seems to be more exciting for laptops than for desktops. The Core i7-3720QM we received in our Ivy Bridge reference laptop was a beast, easily defeating all previous processor benchmarks and also posting surprisingly good results in gaming tests. Despite this, battery life seemed to at least remain the same. 

Continue reading our review of the Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5-3427U for Ultrabooks!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction, Design, User Interface

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When Ivy Bridge was released Ryan did a deep-dive and desktop review while I worked on a review of the mobile processor. My mobile review was based on a reference laptop known as the ASUS N56VM. Although considered a “reference platform,” the laptop is really a production product and successor to the outgoing ASUS N55. We held off on a full review to provide coverage of the new G75, but now it’s time to revisit the N56.

This is an important product for ASUS. The 15.6” laptop remains a sales leader and the N56 will likely be the company’s flagship in this arena for the coming year. This means it won’t be a high-volume model, but it serve as a “halo product” – an example of what ASUS is capable of. If the company follows its usually modus operandi we’ll see this same chassis used as the basis for a number of variations at different price points with different hardware.

As you may remember from our Ivy Bridge for mobile review, the model we received is equipped with a Core i7-3720QM processor.  It’s hard to say if this is a mid-range quad given the limited number of Ivy Bridge products available so far, but it probably will end up in that role. What about the rest of the system? Well, take a look.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS N56VM Ivy Bridge Notebook!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged: trinity, radeon, igp, gpu, APU, amd

Introduction, Overview



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AMD’s position is not enviable. Though they’re the only large competitor to Intel in the market for x86 processors, the company is dwarfed by the Giant of Santa Clara. As a resident of Portland, I can’t forget this fact. Intel offices are strewn across the landscape of the western suburbs, most of them at least four times larger than any office I’ve worked at.

Despite the long odds, AMD is set in this course for now and has no choice but to soldier on. And so we have today’s reference platform, a laptop powered by AMD’s latest mobile processor, codenamed Trinity. These processors, like the older Llano models, will be sold as the AMD A-Series. This might lead you to think that it’s simply another minor update, but that’s not the case. 

Llano was released around the same time as Bulldozer, but it did not use Bulldozer cores. Instead it used yet another update of Stars, which is a mobile incarnation of Phenom II, which was of course an improvement upon the original Phenom. The “new” Llano APU in fact was equipped with some rather old processor cores. This showed in the performance of the mobile Llano products. They simply could not keep up with Sandy Bridge’s more modern cores.

Bulldozer isn’t coming to mobile with Trinity, either. Instead we’re receiving Piledriver. AMD has effectively skipped the first iteration of its new Bulldozer architecture and moved straight on to the second. Piledriver includes the third generation of AMD’s Turbo Core and promises “up to 29%” better processor performance than last year’s Llano-based A-Series.

That’s a significant improvement, should it turn out to be correct. Is it true, and will it be enough to catch up to Intel?

Continue reading our review of the AMD Trinity APU!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction, Design, User Interface

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Intel has decided to lead its introduction of Ivy Bridge for mobile with its most powerful quad-core parts. Many of these processors will end up in mainstream laptop, but they’re also great for gaming laptops. In our first look at Ivy Bridge we saw that it holds up well when paired with its own Intel HD 4000 graphics – if you keep the resolution around 1366x768. A bit more than that and the IGP just can’t hang.

Gamers will still want a beefy discrete GPU, and that’s what the G75 offers. Inside this beast you’ll find an Nvidia GeForce GTX 670M. Those who were reading our Kepler coverage will remember that this is not based off Nvidia’s newest architecture but is instead a re-work of an older Fermi chip. That mean seem a bit disappointing, and it is – but the performance of Nvidia’s older mobile chips wasn’t lackluster. 

So, this new laptop is packing a spanking-new Core i7-3720QM as well as Nvidia’s new GTX 670M. That’s an impressive combination, and ASUS has wisely backed it up with a well-rounded set of performance components.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS G75V Gaming Notebook!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Overview, What is New With Ivy Bridge

This article will focus on the new Ivy Bridge, 3rd Generation Core Processor from a mobile perspective.  If you are curious as the performance and features of the Ivy Bridge desktop processors, be sure to check out our desktop Core i7-3770K review here.

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It would be an understatement to say that Intel’s had a good streak as of, say, the last five years. If life was commented on by the announcer from Unreal Tournament, Intel’s product releases would now be followed by the scream of “M-M-M-MONSTER KILLLLLLLL!” This is particularly true in the mobile market. Atom aside, Intel’s processors have repeatedly defeated AMD and its own preceding products.

Many companies in this position might feel it’s time to take a breather, but Intel has reached this point precisely because it doesn’t. The “tick-tock” strategy of constant improvement has made the company and its products stronger than ever before. Even the Pentium-powered Intel of the mid-90s seems weak compared to today’s juggernaut.

And so we come to the launch of Ivy Bridge. This is not a new architecture but instead an update of Sandy Bridge – however, that does not mean the under-the-hood revisions aren’t substantial. There’s a lot to talk about.

The reference system provided for our review is an ASUS N56VM, but this is not a full review of the laptop. That will be published later, after we’ve had more time to look at the laptop itself. Our focus today is on the new Intel hardware inside.

Let’s get to it.

Continue reading our review of the new Intel Ivy Bridge Mobile Platform!!

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Introduction, Design, User Interface

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Dell has long tried to enter the high-end luxury laptop market. These attempts have always been met with mixed results. While Dell’s thick, power and relatively affordable XPS laptops are a good pick for people needing a desktop replacement, they don’t cause the thinness-obsessed media to salivate. 

Enter the Dell XPS 15z. It’d be easy to think that it’s a MacBook Pro clone considering its similar pricing and silver exterior, but reality is simpler then that. This is just an XPS 15 that has been slimmed down. Like the standard XPS laptops, the 15z follows a form-balanced-by-function approach that is common among all of Dell’s laptops. 

Slimming the chassis has forced the use of some less powerful components, but our review unit still arrived with some impressive hardware. Let’s have a look.

Continue reading our review of the Dell XPS 15z notebook!!