Mar 22, 2015

Sager NP7338 / Clevo W230SS Review


System Specifications

Laptop Styling and Components
- Comparison with NP7330
- Styling and Construction
- Keyboard
- Ports
- Internal
- Speakers and Audio
- Storage

- CPU Intel i7-4810MQ
- GPU nVidia GeForce GTX 860m


Power and Cooling
- Power Consumption
- System Temperatures
- Surface Temperatures
- Fan Noise
- Battery Life



Clevo hit a home run last year with their popular 13" gaming laptop the W230ST. They packed a full 47W Haswell quad core CPU and an upper mid range GPU, the GTX 765m, into a compact package that performed on par with much larger machines wiht similar components. Since then, Intel has refreshed their Haswell CPU lineup by bumping their quad core CPU's by 100MHz and nVidia has released mid range GPU's with their supposedly cool running and low power consumption Maxwell architecture. The 860m is supposed to trump the 765m in power, heat, and overall performance along with longer battery life. This review will evaluate the W230ST with the 765m vs the new W230SS with the 860m.

LPC-Digital has supplied a review sample of the NP7338 which is the Sager version of the Clevo W230SS, to evaluate for this comparison and hopefully it will help users make an informed buying decision. With the NP7338 package, you get the laptop, 120W 19.5V power supply, user manual, driver disks for Windows 7 and 8, Blu-ray video software (even though the laptop does not come with any optical drive), and warranty information.

The specifications of the review laptop came configured as follows:

Sager NP7338 / Clevo W230SS
13.3" 1920x1080 IPS LCD
Intel i7-4810MQ Quad Core CPU
nVidia GeForce GTX 860m with 2GB GDDR5 5000MHz vRAM
2x8GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM
Intel 730 240GB 2.5" SSD
Intel 7260 802.11AC Wi-Fi Adapter
Windows 8.1 64-bit

Measured Dimensions: 13" x 9" x 1.25"
Measured Weight: 4lbs 8oz with two stick of DDR3 RAM, one mSATA, on SSD

Power Supply:
Measured Dimensions: 5-7/8" x 3" x 1"
Measured Weight: 1lbs 3oz with both cables

Laptop Overview:
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Brief Comparison NP7338 vs NP7330
If you were to put last year's NP7330 and the new NP7338 next to each other you physically would not be able to tell the difference except for one minor difference; there is a matte type coating on the touch pad. Otherwise ports, ventilation, chassis, and LCD bezel and lid are all the same. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just to note that it is basically the same machine on the outside. The guts, of course are a bit different with the latest Intel CPU and nVidia GPU. Granted it would have been nice to see a few changes to address some consumer concerns, namely USB port location, moving them rearward and preferably on the left side, improved speakers and speaker placement, and use a bit different material or construction on the palm rest to avoid wear over time. But to be honest, that is just nit picking an already great compact and powerful gaming laptop.


Styling and Construction
The construction of the laptop exterior is all plastic with a black lid and bottom shell, with a medium gray color (looks painted) around the keyboard, palm rest, and LCD bezel. A webcam is in the traditional location centered on the bezel above the LCD. Three status lights rest at the upper left corner above they keyboard for num lock, caps lock, and scroll lock. The chrome trimmed power button rests over on the right. The touchpad is centered below the keyboard spacebar, with a matte coating added to it, and has two independent buttons with definite physical feedback when clicked, but a light audible sound. One note on the touchpad is that the stock drivers seemed to cause a jumpy cursor. Downloading and installing the latest drivers from Clevo's website seemed to fix the issue.


The keyboard sports a white backlight running at two separate brightness levels and can easily be toggled with a Fn key + F12 or through the included Clevo Control Center "Hotkey" software. Typing is comfortable and since I have been using the W230ST extensively for the last year almost, I can personally say that it is quite comfortable and has long time comfort. Key travel is medium, and the chiclet keys make very little noise and have few missed keystrokes.

Starting from the left side back of the laptop, there is the single fan vent, a USB 2.0 port, headphone and mic jack. Along the front are status lights for power, battery, airplane mode, and hard drive. Unfortunately the molded-in symbols are difficult to discern what is what, but easy enough to get used to. Over to the right side at the front are three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI, a VGA, then Ethernet and power ports. A Kensington lock slot is nestled at the back end of the right side. There are no ports on the back, just the battery underneath.


Flipping the laptop over reveals the just mentioned battery, which runs along the back edge, removable with two slide latches. A single removable panel offers vents for the single fan and breather holes, and offers easy access all the swappable interior components including the CPU, GPU, two RAM slots, a single 2.5" SSD/HDD slot, two mSATA slots, and the Wi-Fi card. The CPU and GPU carry their own heatpipe but are joined at the fan with a single heatsink.



The LCD is the same as last year's model, CMN1343 Cheimei Innolux N133HSE-EA1. Brightness, contrast, viewing angles and overall image quality are excellent. Backlight bleed is still noticeable, however, with a dark screen. This seems to be the normal for an IPS screen for some reason, but a minor tradeoff considering all the other advantages/improvements over a TN panel. Response times are also good for an IPS panel, at 11ms, although not quite as good as many TN panels running at 2-6ms, but considering the 60Hz refresh and performance of the machine, it is not an issue for gaming. There is no ghosting or burn-in or other anomalies present.

A 3K screen is apparently eventually going to be made available for the NP7338, however was not available at the time of this review.




Speakers and Audio
The speakers remain Onkyo brand from last year, although the overall volume and richness of the speakers seemed improved compared with my NP7330. 

Like last year's model, the NP7338 supports two mSATA slots and a single 2.5" SATA drive bay. 9.5mm fits and included stick on 2.5mm spacers help accommodate a 7mm drive. All SATA ports are SATA III. This specific model came with the Intel 730. A full detailed comparison of this drive can be found in the review of the NP9377.


Intel i7-4810MQ
Typical with Intel releases, their CPU's receive a minor bump in clock speed, and the i7-4810MQ is just a minor refresh of the i7-4800MQ which bumps up the clock speed 100MHz for base and turbo clocks, running at 2.8GHz with turbo up to 3.8GHz with single threaded apps. Running a 47W TDP CPU in the small frame of the NP7338, and especially considering it shares a heatsink with the GPU, can contribute to higher than desirable temperatures during gaming. However, Intel XTU works with this laptop, and it is easy to tune the CPU by dropping voltage and/or CPU clock speed to achieve reasonable temperatures. Otherwise stressing only the CPU and not the GPU, the cooling is sufficient for taskes like compiling, encoding, or rendering.

nVidia GeForce GTX 860m
Maxwell, Maxwell, Maxwell... this is what lots of users have been waiting for. Many initially thought Maxwell would be based on the 20nm fabrication process instead of the same 28nm of the current generation Kepler. However, even while based on the same process, there are many prominant changes to the design which results in a significant performance, thermal, and power improvement. The 860m has 640 CUDA cores which are more efficient than the Kepler cores, which is why it the Kepler equivalent 860m has nearly double the CUDA cores. 

I have pitted the 860m against the 765m to compare performance, thermals, and power draw. The end result is pretty impressive. Gaming FPS was up about 35% over the 765m while consuming only slightly more power (about 5%) and generating 10-15% more heat. A die shrink to this process, which is only pure speculation at this point, should improve the performance by hopefully another 50% while improving considerably on power consumption and heat generated.

Both GPU's were also overclocked. The 765m overclocked to a level to hopefully meet the 860m performance to give a fair comparison of power and thermals. The 880m was also shown in the results as a comparison to the top end card which is 256-bit and 1536 CUDA cores (based on Kepler). The strange thing is that the results were all over the place when compared with the 880m. I can only imagine it was an issue with drivers or poor optimization of the game engine.

Even the latest version of GPU-Z 0.7.8 does not properly identify the clock speed of the 860m, it should be 1029 even though it shows 540, and also shows low texture fill rate, but the other details look correct.



Overclocking the 860m was done with nVidia Inspector. Like other nVidia cards, there is a hard limit of +135MHz over stock for overclocking. Reaching this level required bumping the voltage up about 150mV, otherwise at stock voltage it was only able to run at about +100MHz over stock. The 765m could reach the +135MHz overclock with stock voltage, but Prema's modded bios ( was used to achieve +200Mhz on the core but required a bump in voltage of about 250mV to reach it. Voltage is not adjustable for the vRAM, but was able to run at about +500MHz (effecitve 5500MHz) on the 860m. The 765m stock vRAM speed is only 4000MHz but was able to clock up to 5000MHz without issue. 

With the "overclock" setups, using Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (aka XTU) the CPU speed was reduced to 3.2GHz for 3 and 4 core activity and voltage reduced by 60mV to help keep temperatures under control.

In any case here is a comparison of the GPU's:

860m Stock: GPU 1029MHz (Boost 1097) / vRAM 2GB GDDR5 5000MHz
860m Overclock: GPU 1164MHz (Boost 1232) / vRAM 2GB GDDR5 5500MHz
765m Stock: GPU 797MHz (Boost 863MHz) / vRAM 2GB GDDR5 4000MHz
765m Overclock: 997MHz (Boost 1062MHz) / vRAM 2GB GDDR5 5000MHz
880m Stock: GPU 954MHz (Boost 993MHz) / vRAM 8GB GDDR5 5000MHz

The 860m seemed to maintain boost speeds during all gaming and benchmarking sessions.

The end result if you look at comparison of 860m vs 765m results in:

Synthetic Benchmarks = 35.8% average improvement with a range of 20% to 70%
Game Benchmarks = 35.9% average improvement with range of 11% to 56% if you remove the odd flyers with Saint's Row IV and Metro LL


Synthetic Game Benchmarks
3DMark 11


3DMark FireStrike


Unigine Heaven

Unigine Valley

Game Benchmarks

Battlefield 4

Bioshock Infinite

Company of Heroes 2

Crysis 3

Grid 2

Hitman Absolution

Metro Last Light

Resident Evil 6


Sleeping Dogs

Saints Row IV
This was just some random action through similar parts of
the city which would explain the irregualar results.

Note that the FPS is capped at 60FPS, which will bias
the results below 60FPS.

Tomb Raider


Power Consumption
Power measurements were taken of the PSU as it drew from the wall. It is clear from the results that stock and even an overclocked system that the provide 120W power supply is more than adequate to support this machine. It can also be seen that in order for 765m to even approach stock performance of the 860m, the power draw required can be as much as 20% more.



System Temperatures
Temperature measurements wer taken using HWMonitor of both the CPU and GPU during the benchmarking. Since the cooling systems between the NP7330 and NP7338 look to be identical, it is a good and fair comparison to show the improvements in cooling potential with the new Maxwell technology. If you look strictly at the GPU temperatures, it looks like the 860m just runs hotter, but considering it performs 30% faster, the added 5-10% in thermals is not that significant.

CPU Temperatures during benchmarking


GPU Temperatures during benchmarking


Surface Temperatures
Temperatures were taken of the keyboard and palm rest surface and underneath the laptop while idle and also under load. In general the system felt perfectly comfortable to use during regular tasks. At load, the central keyboard area can feel a bit toasty, but nothing that is uncomfortable. Underneath the laptop also was comfortable resting on my legs, but with hot air blasting out the vent on the left, requires it to be manipulated so it's not blasting on you.



Fan Noise
Fan noise was about the same as the NP7330, however the bursting was not as noticeable, at least the fan did not jump to near 100% instantaneously. It would bump up once temps exceeded 60C or so, but not anything like it did with the original release of the NP7330. At idle though for the most part the fan was not even audible, and using the Clevo Control Center to set it to quite helps quite a bit. Granted this limits CPU and GPU performance a bit, but you can't have quiet and performance too. Of course during gaming the fan will ramp up, but to be expected and nothing out of the ordinary. You can even set the fan to full speed with the Fn+1 key combo if you want to reduce temps, at the sacrifice of more noise of course.

Battery Life
One of the significant improvements made this year to the NP7338, I am happy to say, is battery life. My typical light web browsing load, running in power save mode, 20% LCD brightness, keyboard backlight off, resulted in almost six hours of battery life. 5hrs and 58minutes to be exact, running from 100% down to 5%. While this is likely a little bit lighter load than your daily tasks, it is most certain to easily exceed five hours with a slightly stressed system runnind down to about 10% battery charge remaining. Compared with the NP7330 which achieved only about 3.5 hours, that is a significant improvement. Power draw according to BatteryBar indicated about 9-10W at any given time and considering the 62WHr battery five hours or so seems about right.



While the chassis, component layout, and cooling system has not changed much from last years NP7330, the NP7338 does have some noted significant improvements. Of primary note is the battery life nearing six hours on power saver mode. Then of course there's the improved performance of the 860m over the 765m sure to offer solid gameplay FPS running at 1080p. My thought from last year on the 765m was that it was a borderline 1080p GPU if you wanted to run the latest games at a reasonable detail level. Well the 860m seems to push that to a much more comfortable limit, running the latest games like Battlefield 4 on High settings averaging about 60fps with dips only in the 40's.

The average and minimum FPS of the 860m performs about 35% better than the 765m. Overclock potential right now seems a bit limited due to vRAM, but even running 5500MHz (+10%) and 135MHz increase (+13%) resulted in an almost linear improvement in FPS, about 10-11%. If Intel ever cares to unlock the max clock speed, there is potential to improve performance even more, and there is plenty of thermal and power available to push it further. There's likely also the option of a third party BIOS to help improve on this as well.

Other minor improvements like the refreshed Intel Haswell i7-4810MQ and the latest Intel 730 240GB SSD round off an otherwise solid package. It will be nice to see if Clevo redesigns their chassis for next year because simple changes like moving USB ports primarily to the left side AND to the back, as well as adding a DisplayPort, and moving the sleep fn button away from the volume controls will be a much added bonus. The stock 1080p IPS LCD is excellent all around for desktop work with good response for gaming as well, but looking forward to what the 3k screen options will bring.

With all the new 13" to 14" thin and light laptops being released, the NP7338 continues to hold its own. It may be a little bit thicker, but it the package overall is well balanced and solid for general computing and gaming.

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