Clevo had a hit with the miniscule but mighty laptop that was the W110ER. A very popular model that packed in the components typically found in much larger laptops into a 11.6" form factor. Well Clevo decided to discontinue that model, but they bring us a 13.3" model with an even more impressive full feature set of hardware. It can house a full 47W TDP Intel Haswell CPU, the powerful nVidia GeForce GTX 765m, up to 16GB RAM with two RAM slots, a wi=fi half-height card, and two mSATA plus one 2.5" SATA slot, not to mention a 1080p 13.3" IPS panel and backlit keyboard. This model is coined Sager NP7330 based on the Clevo W230ST and it is chock full of gaming goodness.
The laptop being reviewed here is a Sager NP7330. And has been fitted with the following components:
LCD: 13.3" 1920x1080 Chi Mei IPS
CPU: Intel i7-4800MQ (2.7-3.7GHz)
GPU: nVidia GeForce GTX 765m with 2GB GDDR5 @ 2000MHz
RAM: 2x8GB Kingston HyperX 2133
STORAGE: 2x128GB Plextor M5M mSATA RAID 0 + 960GB Crucial M500 2.5" SATA SSD
Wi-Fi: Intel 7260 802.11AC Wi-Fi
OS: Windows 8 Pro
Dimensions: 12.99 x 8.94 x 1.26
Weight: 4.6 lbs
Battery: 62WHr / 11.1V, 5600mAH
Power Supply: Chicony 120W / 19.5V, 6.15A (5.75"x3.0"x1", 1 lbs)
portsAPPEARANCE AND PORTS
First I will offer a general overview of the laptop. Clevo is known for their conservative styling, but this year they've thrown us a curve ball with their larger SM models with hard angle styling, more accent lighting, and backlit touchpads. Well the W110ER isn't quite as dramatic, but it does offer a lot less bland styling cues from previous generation laptops. First and foremost is the two-tone design; black outer surface with steel gray touch surfaces i.e. keyboard and touchpad bezels, and LCD bezel, and nice touch with a chrome accent around the power button. The black bottom bezel comes up the side and covers about the front third of the laptop and then the gray bezel extend down the sides to the rear. The LCD bezel is a smooth surface and has two thin bumpers, one on each side to keep the LCD separated from the keyboard with the lid closed. The keyboard has chiclet style keys, and a white backlight. All the way around the laptop the top face angles down to a smaller base. The construction is entirely made of plastic, but it is a very rigid and sturdy machine.
As far as ports and features around the laptop, a majority of the ports are located on the right side of the laptop: three USB 3.0 ports at the front, with HDMI, VGA, ethernet, power jack, and Kensington lock slot at the rear. On the left are two audio jacks, one headphone, and one mic, with a single USB 2.0 port behind that one. The single system fan vent takes up the rest of the left side of the laptop. The only device on the front of the laptop is the card reader nestled on the lower right side. The back side houses the 62WHr battery. While I understand there had to be compromises in order to engineer all these powerful components in a small package, having most of the ports on the right side is a bit of an undesirable concession. All the ports are at the front of the laptop so if you have a couple USB cables, ethernet, and a VGA or HDMI cable plugged in, it can get in the way of your mouse, so the cables need to be tightly packaged to go to the rear of the laptop, and 90 degree flat connectors might be a worthy investment if you plan on plugging in HDMI, VGA, or ethernet frequently while using a mouse.
A 2.0MP camera is in its traditional location above the LCD in the center with mic port to the right. A red LED to the left lights up when the webcam is active.
Underneath there is a single large panel to access the internal components of the laptop, secured with three screws. One speaker is located on each rear bottom side of the laptop. Similar to other Sager laptops as of late they utilize Onkyo speakers.
Fit and finish is very good with little to no noticable gaps around the perimeter, and no soft or squeaky spots on the palmrest or other areas like the USB ports where you want a rigid panel when plugging and unplugging USB devices.
Picking up and handling the machine itself, it has some heft to it, but it's noticeably lighter and can be easily handled with one hand. It's thinner than the 11.6" W110ER and packs performance nearly double that of the W110ER. For the few days I've had this laptop I can easily say I will gladly port this laptop around instead of the 15.6" NP9150 that I have been in the past. Not to mention the power adapter is much smaller and lighter as well.
In typical Sager fashion, all the system components are easily accessible through removal of the bottom panel. Once the three screws securing the bottom panel are removed it just lifts up and pivots for easy removal. Inside the laptop you will see all the replaceable components: CPU/GPU Heatsink, CPU (socketed), GPU (soldered), wi-fi card, two mSATA slots, one 2.5" SATA slot, two RAM slots, CMOS battery, and even the system fan is removable for easy cleaning and/or replacement.
Screws are already existing for the two mSATA slots, so no need to worry about finding one for it if you decide to add your own mSATA SSD. There is a basic plastic bracket used for the 2.5" drive bay that comes preinstalled with whichever SSD or HDD comes with your laptop, otherwise Sager will provide one in your kit along with the screws. The bracket really isn't needed as the drive pulls out easily without it, but there is a foam block on top of it that presses against the back panel to help keep your drive from flopping around. If you have a 7mm height drive you will need a 2.5mm spacer to make sure the SSD is properly engaged and not flexing in the slot.
The heatpipe/heatsink assembly attaches to both the CPU and GPU with two separate heatpipes to a common heatsink and single fan. Four spring captured screws secure the CPU and three small removable screws retain the GPU. All seven screws need to be removed in order to pull off the heatsink. Removing the heatsink and reapplying thermal paste can be done in a snap, with no difficulty.
Adding to the features of this laptop is a nice white backlit keyboard. Using the Fn+F12 key combo or Clevo Control Center, there are two white intensity levels to the keyboard backlight, and can also be turned off. It is a chiclet style keyboard and has a very solid base and does not flex. Main keys are full size including the arrow keys located at the lower right. Home, PgUp, PgDn, Del keys are nicely aligned along the right edge as well. F keys are half height, and Print Screen, Pause/Break, Insert, Del keys are to the right of the F keys. The left Ctrl key is in the far left corner with the Fn key just to the right followed by the Windows key. I only mention that because some laptops swap the Fn key and Ctrl key locations. Personally I like the Control key at the outboard edge.
Ghosting is present like other Sager notebooks. Of note are when the W+A or Q+W keys are pressed the X key does not activate. Also with Q+W+E pressed Z,X,C,V,Space will not activate. But this is no big concern, seeing as it is common among laptop keyboards.
So far I have not experienced any missed keystrokes. Overall it is a very solid keyboard.
Thankfully Sager offers a thin and light power supply with this laptop. The Chicony 120W supply is significantly smaller than the 120W that was provided with the W110ER, and weighs only 1lbs. So far it hasn't seemed to skip or stutter even with the laptop maxed out. In very few conditions though did the laptop push the 120W limit, although when it did you wouldn't know it because the performance was maintained and fluid with this PSU. For the cable that connects between PSU and the wall it uses the round three prong type instead of the typical PC three blade type typically found on desktop PC PSU's. The barrel connector to the laptop is 5.5mm outer diameter, 2.5mm inner diamter so the laptop should be compatible with many other brands, as long as they match the 19.5V output.
One of the major selling points of this laptop is the 13.3 inch 1920x1080 matte screen. The specific screen in this laptop is Chi Mei IPS. Other machines may apparently get the AUO AHVA screen, which is AUO's version of IPS. The Chi Mei screen though is simply gorgeous. The contrast is rich, brightness is very bright, and viewing angles are better than what you'd get with your regular TN panels. 1080p resolution on a 13" screen is much more enjoyable than I thought. Things are smaller but they also look very crisp. The pixel density is very tight and makes it look like a much higher resolution than it actually is. The matte finish and brightness make it useable outdoors, even in direct sunlight if max brightness is used, 50-60% is usable in shade.
The high resolution and high quality screen makes it easier to be productive because of the extra pixel real estate we're used to with larger monitors, so less time is spent flipping through windows and more time multi-tasking, at least that's my take on it. I was concerned with the high pixel density and size of icons and text in Windows, but so far it has not been challenging nor resulted in any eye fatigue, and I've used this laptop for running the benchmarks, writing this review, and compiling all the data.
Video scaling during gaming for 1280x720 hardly shows any "jaggies" that would require any amount of Anti-Aliasing. However 2xAA seems to improve whatever jagged lines you may have. It is really difficult to tell if you're running 1080p or 720p.
Screen in direct sunlight with maximum brightness
Different angles of the W230ST (center) alongside the Sager NP9150 (1080p 15.6" 72% gamut) and NP6110 (11.6" 1366x768) in spoiler tag
The synaptics touchpad is 3.25"x1.25", has two separate left and right mouse buttons, and pretty much on size with the Clevo W110ER. The buttons have a solid but softened click noise to them, only accentuated by harder presses. This specific touchpad requires more than just a feather touch to move the mouse, but in my opinion, this is better than the alternative where your mouse jumps all over the place just by resting your hand on the palm rest, and you accidentally overwrite text or place the cursor in a random location. Three finger press and three finger flick are supported, otherwise it's your standard one, two finger commands with pinch zoom, rotating, tap and drag, and configurable tap zones.
speakersSpeakers and Audio:
Dual Onkyo tweeters make up the stereo system. They are located in the rear bottom of the laptop, one on either side. They lack bass, otherwise the audio is pretty normal quality for laptop speakers, nothing special. Sound Blaster Cinema software is included which helps tune the audio to your liking and can actually boost the loudness a bit. It won't overpower my kids when they're yelling and screaming, but in a medium quiet environment it can easily be heard.
Audio through the headphone jack was crisp and loud, and did not exhibit irackle.
cccClevo Control Center:
I bring this up in every review, but I think it's important for users to know this software exists. The Clevo Control panel offers a plethora of options for controlling system options like power options, screen brightness, speaker volume, along with a handful of other things like camera, touchpad, backlit keyboard, etc. Easily accessible through keyboard Fn+ESC. It's a nice little app to have at your finger tips.
No laptop these days can be considered a performance laptop without using an SSD at least for the boot drive. In the case of the NP7330 it offers two SATA III speed mSATA ports and a single SATA III 2.5" port. You can RAID any combination of two of these three with either RAID 0 stripe or RAID 1 mirror. For this review unit I decided to RAID 0 two 128GB Plextor M5M mSATA SSD's and use a single 2.5" Crucial M500 960GB SSD for additional storage. While RAID isn't for everyone it is good to have the option than not. If not RAID 0 for improved throughput, even running RAID 1 mirror may be useful for users with frequently changing critical information that want to keep running real-time if a drive for whatever reason decides to quit (although quite rare).
Boot times with UEFI are incredibly fast. Not timed but on the order of 10-15 seconds even with a RAID array. I believe there's a way to hasten the RAID detection as well with UEFI boot drivers, but I haven't figured that out yet. As it is, it is running very well beyond expectation.
In any case here are the performance numbers for the two Plextor M5M in RAID 0 and the single Crucial M500 960GB.
wifiWi-Fi: Intel 7260 802.11AC
The Intel 7260 Wi-Fi card is based off the 802.11AC draft standard which theoretically can run up to 1300Mbps, faster than gigabit. The Intel 7260 card, however, is rated up to 866Mbps and also supports Wi-Fi N as well as B/G. Using an Asus RT-AC66U router, which supports up to the maximum 1300Mbps transfer speed, I was able to attain about 40-45MB/sec (or ~ 320-360Mbps) up and down stream. While this is a far cry from the 866Mbps max that the card is rated for, it is also somewhat expected considering the performance drop due to the wireless protocols. Wi-Fi N achieves about 12MB/sec (~ 100Mbps) using this same configuration.
Range for this card/router configuration is pretty good. Where I use my laptop 90% of the time in my home is within 20 feet direct line of site to my router. If I go outside with the laptop, I switch to 2.4GHz because 5GHz just isn't good for penetrating walls. And while I get a signal about 50 feet from the router outside my house, sustained speeds are on the order of 25-30Mbps. Testing for this was pretty informal and accomplished just by doing file copies to/from my home server and timing the transfer.
One minor thing I noticed is while connected to the router with minimal network traffic, the speed states 866Mbps, but when I load it up, the speed shows 650Mbps, and the wi-fi graphic bar in Windows drops down to one or two bars. It doesn't really matter, because speeds are sustained, but it's always nice to have accurate status indicators.
Overall I am personally satisfied with these results. It just means indoors I can cut the cord. If doing lots of large file transfers I may hook up the wire but for the most part I feel more freedom to roam.
cpuCPU - Intel i7-4800MQ
The laptop used for this review utilizes the i7-4800MQ CPU. It is really the entry level power user CPU when you look at the line up of i7-4702MQ (37W), i7-4700MQ (47W), i7-4800MQ (47W), i7-4900MQ (47W), i7-4930MX (57W). The i7-4800MQ is the first "full featured" CPU if you look at the specs of the CPU's but the few items omitted (VT-d, TXT, V-Pro) from the i7-4702MQ and i7-4700MQ likely won't affect most users anyhow. While the W230ST is designed to accommodate 47W TDP Haswell mobile CPU's, they can also run fairly hot, by that I mean upper 90C in some situations, but typically only with gaming where the CPU and GPU are both taxed since they share a heatsink and fan.
This machine also supports some limited functions with Intel XTU software. The CPU multipliers can be adjusted up to +400MHz over stock boost speed with the i7-4800MQ (which means max boost from 3.5GHz to 3.9GHz with all four cores, or 4.1GHz with single threaded apps. Keep in mind that the i7-4700MQ can overclock +200MHz, and the i7-4900MQ can be overclocked as much as +600MHz. That being said this machine is pretty much thermally limited so the 4800MQ won't be able to use it's full potential and a 4900MQ just will be overkill and likely not perform much better than the 4800MQ.
In addition to the limited unlocked multipliers, the CPU voltage can be adjusted so you can optimize performance with cooling. Running CPU -100mV lower than stock the system was able to sustain all four cores at 3.5GHz for XTU stress test, Cinebench, wPrime, and x264 benchmarks while remaining under 80C. Otherwise at stock voltage it would struggle to maintain 3.2GHz. By reducing voltage the machine will actually run cooler and also maintain better performance for much longer resulting in better performance as shown by the benchmarks, while also running cooler.
DDR3 1600MHz RAM has been pretty standard for a while. One thing to note, however, is that this system recognized the DDR3 2133MHz RAM installed running at 1866MHz. Ivy Bridge systems wouldn't recognize past 1600MHz regardless of RAM installed. This may be due to the i7-4800MQ CPU or the chipset. In any case it is nice to see a system that recognizes faster RAM. In real world use, however, users won't see much difference in performance. Except with the IGP, it should improve performance with faster system RAM.
You can see results of the CPU in a few CPU benchmarks here, comparing stock config with reduced voltage, which actually performs better because it runs cooler and doesn't trip the TDP limit resulting in CPU throttling.
Here is my recommended way to overclock and see how undervolting can help performance.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/hRtFy7FpQF4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
gpuGPU - nVidia GeForce GTX 765m
Kepler is the latest architecture from nVidia and with the first generation Kepler cards in the 600m series it was clear the performance improvement over Fermi was significant and cooling vastly improved. The 700m series cards are more or less Kepler 2.0, and they made some revisions and improved performance efficiency while still maintaining a cool running GPU. The GTX 765m is quite a great performer and a great choice for this laptop considering how cool it runs, but still delivers exceptional performance even at 1080p.
The GTX 765m has a 128-bit memory bus which can limit its performance at higher resolutions, however it is equipped with 2GB of 2000MHz GDDR5 which helps make up for some of that bandwidth. The core is spec'ed at 850MHz + Boost speed. When taxed it actually runs at 900MHz steady no issue. With the review unit I have the core could only be overclocked +120MHz to 1020MHz with boost, but the vRAM seems to be running like a charm at +600MHz for a 2600MHz speed (5200MHz effective!) which makes up for some of the deficiencies of the limited width bus when gaming at 1080p. The 768 CUDA cores also help keep framerates high.
Performance of this card, are shown in the BENCHMARKS THAT CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING ON THIS LINK.
Games and benchmarks, where applicable, were run at both 720p and 1080p with Ultra or as close to ultra details as possible. Also an overclocked, or really optimized system was also run to show how much cooler an undervolted and slightly underclocked CPU can run but maintaining more than enough performance for gaming. This optimized system also ran the GPU overclocked to 1020MHz core and 2600MHz vRAM.
tempsTemperature and Noise:
In a compact and powerful system like this, temperature is always a concern, and along with that comes fan noise, but a necessary evil, to help keep it cool. Suffice it to say that the cooling system is more than adequate for the 765m GPU, but it struggles a little bit with the i7-4800MQ. Of course using measures described earlier, namely undervolting (thanks to Intel XTU software) helps maintain reasonable CPU temperatures. Other tricks like limiting the FPS of games using nVidiaInspector also can greatly reduce CPU and GPU temperatures.
Following are the peak temperature results of the CPU and GPU for each of the benchmarks performed.
Surface temperatures in the area above and below the CPU can get a little warm, but on the keyboard nothing uncofortable even with peak CPU loads that encroach 90C. Measured surface temperature around the iopjkl keys at peak CPU load were no higer than 50C. At idle the temps remained in the mid to upper 30C range.
Noise is a tricky one to describe. The fan profile for this machine needs a little bit of work. It can burst to fast speeds out of the blue. It doesn't ramp up, just bursts. Although once fans are enabled they do a great job of keeping the system cool. If you need a quiet environment, however, there is always the Clevo Control Center option for choosing "quiet" mode which will prevent the fans from bursting on. It basically favors noise over temperature, although if you're gaming, the fans will obviously be blow near full intensity. The fan noise, however is a whoosing sound and not a whining noise. The one thing I did notice, however is that the fan when running very low RPM can cause a slight vibration in the palmrest, almost similar to what some hard drives do to laptops.
With Sager laptops, they incorporate a fan option to initiate full fans using the Fn+1 key. So if needed full fans can be applied for maximum thermal performance, however at the sacrifice of a louder machine.
Power consumption of the laptop as drawn from the wall during benchmarks:
The laptop configuration used here is probably the worse case scenario for battery life. It has a higher end CPU, two sticks of 1.5V fast RAM, and three SSD's installed. In my browser test, basically taking four Firefox browser tabs using the "reloadevery" add-in, refreshing each of the four fairly flash heavy pages every 1 to 5 minutes, resulted in about three and a half hours of use.
The laptop itself was set to power saver mode, LCD at 30% brightness, wi-fi on (of course), and keyboard backlight off.
Overall the NP7330 is very sturdy, with high quality components including an IPS 1080p LCD, solid backlit keyboard, plenty of ports, and a decent style to boot. While the system is offered with CPU's up to and including an i7-4900MQ, users are best to stick with an i7-4800MQ or i7-4700MQ or i7-4702MQ if offered due to thermal constraints. There are options to improve the cooling thanks to Intel XTU support, but it's not possible for the higher end CPU's to perform at their maximum potential. This does not mean that users looking for high performance with a CPU for video encoding or compiling code shouldn't consider a faster CPU, just that they won't realize the full performance of them.
The Sager NP7330 offers excellent gaming performance in a nice little package. Gaming performance was admirable, even at 1080p with ultra details in most cases. But dropping settings a little boosted performance well within playable levels for games that struggled a bit. Even if the machine ends up not performing to your expectations at 1080p (which Ultra details pushes even to end desktops), running at 720p or 900p was almost indiscernable in fidelity compared with the native resolution of 1080p due to the high pixel density, and I really had a hard time telling the difference.
Port location isn't the most ideal, as they seemed to push everything to the right side front of the laptop where cables and USB drives can interfere with your mouse. It appears the speakers forced this location, and to be honest am still trying to figure out why they weren't moved topside. But it's a minor gripe considering the rest of the laptop design and performance is top notch. Battery life is also a concern, but my testing was really worse case scenario. It should easily exceed 4 hours of light use, and will do some further testing to validate that claim. Sager also has been known to update their BIOS to help battery life as well, but right now, we can safely say 4 hrs is a light use realistic scenario.
If you're looking for something more portable than a 15" notebook but don't want to sacrifice screen pixel real estate or gaming performance, then this laptop will deliver. It's size makes it easy to grab and handle with one hand, but doesn't feel like it will get damaged sitting in your bag.
Overall I give this laptop a 9/10.
Three configurations of benchmarks:
(1) RED - Stock configuartion at 1280x720 resolution
(2) BLUE - Stock configuration at 1920x1080 resolution
(3) PURPLE - Overclock configuration at 1920x1080 resolution
CPU @ 3.5GHz (quad) stock voltage
GPU @ 900MHz core, 2000MHz vRAM
CPU @ 3.2GHz (quad) -100mV (0.9V)
GPU @ 1020MHz core, 2600MHz vRAM
artgpuArtificial GPU Benchmarks
abenchAllbenchmark RC5 (Catzilla)
fc3Far Cry 3
ffxivFinal Fantasy FFXIV
metrollMetro Last Light
re6Resident Evil 6
shogun2Total War Shogun 2
witcher2The Witcher 2