Mar 22, 2015

Sager NP9377 (Clevo P377SM-A) with 980m SLI Review

INTRODUCTION

The Sager NP9377 is an SLI capable notebook and was reviewed a few months back sporting dual Nvidia GTX 880m GPU's. This time around LPC-Digital was kind enough to send another NP9377 with dual GTX 980m GPU's to evaluate for performance compared with the 880m. The 980m is Nvidia's flagship mobile GPU and based on the new Maxwell architecture that launched with the 840m, 850m, and 860m mobile GPU's earlier this year. Except these are GM204 architecture based directly on the GTX 970 and 980 desktop GPU counterparts.

If you are interested in more details about the Sager NP9377 based on the Clevo P377SM-A feel free to read the review here: http://forum.notebookreview.com/sag...ger-np9377-clevo-p377sm-review-htwingnut.html

This will be an abbreviated review, and what this review will focus on is how the the system performance with gaming using dual GTX 980m GPU's, as well as power consumption and heat. Additionally LPC provided this machine with the new Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD that will be evaluated for overall performance, and the LCD this time around is a standard 60Hz TN panel unlike the 120Hz of the last one.


SPECIFICATIONS

But before we get started here are the specifications of the laptop:

Sager NP9377 based on Clevo P377SM-A
17.3" 1920x1080 Matte LCD 60Hz CHI MEI N173HGE-L11 (Device ID CMO1720)
Intel i7-4810MQ CPU
Nvidia GeForce GTX 980m x 2 in SLI configuration each with 8GB GDDR5 vRAM
Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD
2x8GB DDR3-1600MHz RAM
Intel 7260 802.11AC wireless adapter
Windows 8.1

Measured Specs:
NP9377 Weight: 9lbs 9oz
NP9377 Dimensions: 16.5 x 12.0 x 2.0 inches

330W AC Weight (all cables): 3lbs 0oz
330W AC Dimensions: 8.0 x 4.0 x 1.75 inches

Here you can see the laptop and the guts exposed with the heatsinks removed.

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Nvidia GeForce GTX 980m SLI

Now, we'll get right down to it, the NP9377 is a beast of a mobile machine that contains performance equaling that of higher end gaming desktop PC's. The dual 980m GPU's working together offer absolute top end performance for any gaming notebook out there, there is nothing faster. Overall the system has a quality feel to it and is nothing that would stand out as too elitist or scream uber geek. It's just a simple but elegant notebook that doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is, a pure gaming machine.

The GTX 980m has been long anticipated since it is based on the newest Maxwell architecture which results in high performance at significantly reduced temperatures and power consumption compared with its 880m Kepler predecessor. There was also the issue of throttling with the 880m GPU's which, based on the testing below, one can see that is no longer an issue with the 980m.

Let's take a look at the details of the 980m first before we delve into the performance metrics:

1038MHz Base clock speed with 1127MHz Boost
Maxwell 28nm TSMC Architecture
1536 Shader ALU's
96 TMU's
256-bit GDDR5 5000MHz
Suupport for DirectX 12
TDP ~ 100W

The 980m in SLI was run in two configurations:
(1) Stock clocks of 1038MHz with boost to 1127MHz and vRAM at 5000MHz
(2) Overclock of GPU limited by vBIOS to +135MHz to 1173MHz with boost to 1262MHz and vRAM at 5800MHz

The 880m and 980m single cards were run at stock configuration. All tests were run using stock thermal paste as applied from Sager. A repaste of the system resulted in only about a 2-3C difference in general for both CPU and GPU.


ARTIFICIAL BENCHMARKS:

3DMark 11
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3DMark Fire Strike
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Catzilla 1.3
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Unigine Heaven Extreme
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GAME BENCHMARKS

Battlefield 4
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Bioshock Infinite
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Crysis 3
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Final Fantasy XIV
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Grid 2
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Metro Last Light
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Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
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Resident Evil 6
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Sleeping Dogs
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Thief
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Tomb Raider
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THROTTLING AND CPU LIMITING

The GTX 880m had some throttling issues with many users where the CPU clock speed would constantly drop or bounce around. This does not seem to be the case here with the GTX 980m. Three games that stress the system intensely were chosen to check for any CPU throttling: Crysis 3, Grid 2, and Metro Last Light. The clock speed pegged the boost speed for the most part, and never bumped down below the base clock speed for either GPU.

Crysis 3
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Grid 2
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Metro Last Light
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CPU Performance Limitations

I'm sure some users are curious if the i7-4810MQ will limit the performance of these two powerful GTX 980m's in SLI configuration. The answer is yes and no. It depends on the game really, and some games are just sensitive to CPU speed even at high clocks. The CPU clock speed was fixed at 3.0GHz, 3.5GHz, and 4.0GHz to check for any indication of performance change in the game benchmarks. Full fans were utilized and Intel XTU used to adjust the TDP and amps so that it would not throttle while running at 4.0GHz.

Here are the results:

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The adjusted clock speeds did affect Bioshock Infinite, Grid 2, and Resident Evil 6 in the same way it also did with a single 980m, but considering the FPS in those games is well over 100FPS and the difference is not very considerable, it is of little concern. For extensive overclocking, it might become an issue but at stock and light overclock it's hardly an issue.


SSD PERFORMANCE

This laptop was fitted with a 512GB Samsung 850 Pro SSD. This SSD is based on relatively new vertically stacked NAND coined as (V-NAND) which uses 32 stacked cell layers to achieve high density and endurance. Samsung also Warranty's the 850 Pro drives for 10 long years, so you know they have confidence in the technology. The drives are also very fast and run cool in the NP9377, never exceeding 35C, idling usually around 30-31C.

Check out the performance of the Samsung 850 Pro in relation to some other common consumer drives. All drives were filled approximately 50% full and let idle for an hour or so to let garbage collection to work its magic before running the tests. CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD results are shown.

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POWER AND TEMPERATURE

Power
One of the positive results of the new Maxwell technology is reduced heat and power consumption. Take a look below at the performance differences. You can see the power draw from the wall for 980m SLI are slightly below that of 880m SLI, but with an overall gaming performance improvement of about 25%! Considering the 330W power supply, there is still ample room for some hefty overclocking should someone dare to venture that direction.

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Temperature
Cooling two 100W+ video cards and a 47W CPU is no small feat for a compact form factor. The NP9377 handles it reasonably well even when taxed with overclocked GPU's. The CPU cooling results were 1-3C cooler than the system with 880m's and the 980m's on average about 5C cooler.

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The fans also do not ramp up very loudly while gaming to keep the system at these temperatures. Running the fans at full speed drop the temperatures considerably more if that's something important to you.


LCD

This NP9377 came with a TN panel 17.3" 1920x1080 Matte LCD 60Hz CHI MEI N173HGE-L11 (Device ID CMO1720). Colors and brightness are decent, but as with most TN panels, viewing angles are a bit lackluster. Overall though it was more than fine for gaming and general computing tasks.

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CONCLUSION

The Sager NP9377 is a laptop that easily manages the power of dual top end GTX 980m GPU's and a mid range Intel i7 quad core CPU. Gaming performance is incredible, playing games at 100FPS+ in most instances makes things look buttery smooth and also opens up the opportunity for adding a lot of additional features or anti-aliasing that you might not otherwise be able to do with any single card system. With an average of 25% performance over its 880m predecessor while running about 5C cooler and drawing less power is an amazing feat. Gamers looking for the top most performance in a mobile system should highly consider this machine. It looks sleek, has a solid build, and is not overly cumbersome to handle and runs quiet while idle with reasonable fan noise while gaming. Coupled with a high performance SSD like the Samsung 850 Pro, this laptop is hard to beat for an ultimate portable gaming experience.

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