The lastest laptop trend, even top end gaming machines, is to offer them with only soldered CPU's and in many cases, soldered GPU's as well. This is primarily due to Intel offering their latest mobile Haswell chips only in a BGA form factor. This means no more user CPU upgrades. Clevo grabbed this bull by the horns and offered something that is unique and new in the laptop world. They offer a desktop CPU in a 15" laptop configuration, supporting up to the i7-4790k 88W TDP CPU at that.
Laptops have been offered in the past with desktop CPU's before, but they were quite unique an usually in 17" or larger form factors that were very heavy and the definitive example of a desktop replacement notebook PC. What makes the new Sager NP9752 / Clevo P750ZM laptop so unique is that it manages this in a 15" form factor in a package that is no bigger than past 15" gaming notebooks in size and weight.
While most of Sager's laptops which offer top end GPU's are primarily used for gaming, offering a desktop CPU opens up the potential even more for users needing the high end performance that only a desktop CPU can offer. With the i7-4790k and GTX 980m (which is nearly equivalent to a desktop GTX 970), this machine is basically an easily portable desktop.
The specifications for this specific laptop are as follows:
Sager NP9752 based off Clevo P750ZM
15.6" 1080p LG IPS Matte
Intel i7-4790k desktop CPU with hyperthreading, 4.4GHz single core boost, 4.2GHz quad
nVidia GeForce GTX 980m 8GB GDDR5 6000MHz (*NO OPTIMUS*)
2x8GB Kingston Hyper-X 1866MHz CAS11 DDR3L RAM (defaults to CAS10)
Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD
Killer Wireless 1525 AC
The system comes packaged with a 230W power supply with the option for the 330W power supply. Although from testing so far, 230W is more than sufficient for stock perforamnce.
CONSTRUCTION AND APPEARANCE
First impressions of this laptop are impressive. When you first pick up the Sager NP9752 you wouldn't expect it to contain a desktop CPU and top end mobile GPU because of it's remarkably light weight. The styling is in line with Clevo's late 2014/early 2015 other models like the P650SE/SG models with soldered CPU's and GPU's. Solid black all around with rear faceted black exhaust grilles on both sides, with hard feature lines along the sides of the lid and an angled front edge of the lid give it a "stealth" look. There is a definitive split line beteween the upper panel and lower panel of the laptop.
The lid and palm rest have a black matte rubberized finish to them, with an aluminum black speaker bar above the keyboard running the width of the laptop just under the LCD, and the LCD itself is encompassed by a matte black plastic bezel. A dull chrome is used for the power button and status lights centered above the keyboard. The touchpad is large with independent buttons and a fingerprint reader nesteled between them. The three zone backlit keyboard is full size with non-island keys and is solid as a rock.
Moving along the outside of the laptop to the ports, there are a multitude of ports that bring this laptop up to snuff with the latest tech. The left side contains, from back to front, a gigabit ethernet port, three USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and an eSATA/USB 3.0 combo port. The front edge contains an LED lit strip configurable with the keyboard software, and a couple status lights on the right side. On the right side, there is a Kensington, four 3.5mm audio jacks: audio in, microphone, headphone, and digital audio out, with a single USB 3.0 port to finish out the ports on that side. The back of course has the vent bezels, with three video jacks in the center: one HDMI, two DisplayPort with the 4-pin power port in the back center of the laptop btween the two DisplayPort jacks.
Flipping the machine over exposes the copious amounts of vent slots over the CPU and GPU and their respective fan intakes, and five large rubber feet; two at the rear and three at the front. There are two removable plastic panels, the main bay which contains the CPU, GPU, two of four RAM slots, one M.2 SSD bay, and the CMOS battery. The main bay is secured by four screws, with the center one being longer than the others. The other panel, secured by two screws, houses the two 2.5" SATA drives and the other M.2 adapter bay.
Removing the main bay panel exposes the most noticeable part of this laptop, the ginormous heatsink that spans the width of the laptop between both fans on opposite sides, cooling both the CPU and GPU with five heatpipes to cool the CPU and four for the GPU, with two shared heatpipes between the two. The heat pipe assembly is also black which is likely for appearance purposes since I don't see how this would offer any additional cooling performance. As a matter of fact pretty much everything outside and inside this laptop is black. All the more reason this laptop has been affectionally dubbed "the Batman" by the NBR community. Only some slight portions of the main blue PCB are exposed.
The first two RAM slots and M.2 slot for the wireless card are located underneath the keyboard. Three screws secured the keyboard that need to be removed, and one of the screw ports has "KB" etched on it where you can push your screwdriver through to pop out one side of the keyboard and then gradually pop off the rest of it by hand.
This backlit keyboard, is without a doubt, the best I've used from Clevo in a while. It is not an island keyboard, but a standard cap top keyboard. The key travel feels like a regular keyboard, requires little effort to depress, and quiet during typing. There is absolutely no flex with this keyboard either, no matter how hard you push, it is solid as a rock.
Backlighting is adjustable through three color zones evenly spaced across the keyboard; left, center, right that can be tuned using the FlexiKey software for any combination of colors with 256 individual color tuning across each Red, Green, Blue scale along with three levels of brightness. It is possible to even add dynamic color changing if so desired. Three presets are available to be saved for chaning on the fly. The lightbar below the touchpad can also have its color adjusted independently of the keyboard.
There is nothing fancy about the touchpad. It is a comfortable size and tracks well and has individual left and right mouse click keys that have a deep travel and click quietly. The pad is driven by Synaptics software and has two finger gestures and three finger press and flick. Tracking overall felt comfortable but any gestures needed a little bit of self training on getting them to work properly. But with a little practice it seemed to work OK for the most part. I'm not a touchpad person, though, I will always seek a mouse over a touch pad any day.
This particular NP9752 laptop identified the LCD in Windows as having device ID of LGD037E which is an LG LP156WF4-SLB5 IPS 1920x1080 LCD. It has an LVDS interface, 300nit brightness, 400:1 contrast, 80 degree viewing angles, and identified as having 35ms respnose time. Before you freak out about the response time, it exhibits absolutely no ghosting or lagging or anomalies due to that listed response time. Even games that were running in excess of 100 FPS had no issues. Overall it is a high quality LCD that most users will be more than pleased with. If you want more details on this LCD visitPaneLook and their detailed breakdown of the specs on this panel.
Ample storage slots are avaiable and relatively easy to access as well. Two 9.5mm 2.5" SSD or HDD's can be mounted inside the laptop in addition to two M.2 PCI-e or M.2 SATA SSD drives. The 2.5" drives are mounted perpendicular to each other, and can require you to remove one drive in order to remove the other, but otherwise not a big deal. It is essentially fastener free using some plastic clips attached to the chassis to hold the drives in place. One of the M.2 drive slots can accommodate PCI-e 2x or 4x, and the other can accommodate PCI-e 2x only. If you want 4x speeds then you sacrifice adding a second M.2 drive.
This particular model came equipped with a Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD. The 850 Pro uses MLC technology and is a very fast and reliable drive. Take a look at the performance numbers for this SSD:
Sager offers the option of either an Intel 7265 or Killer 1525 802.11AC cards in an M.2 form factor. This particular model came equipped with the Killer card. While many users may not find much difference, my personal preference is with the Killer card. I've personally used the Intel card extensively, but its sustained throughput tends to bounce around a lot, and there are frequent lag spikes during gaming that can cause odd experiences or even drops from games entirely. On the other hand, some users have experienced flaky Bluetooth connections with the Killer card. From my testing I personally haven't found it problematic using it to connect a Bluetooth mouse, which is about the extent of the testing I did with Bluetooth to ensure it was working.
Mobile Haswell CPU based laptops use 1.35V DDR3L So-DIMM modules, and up to four RAM modules can be equipped in the Sager NP9752, and up to 1866MHz speed. This machine came equipped with two 8GB Kingston HyperX DDR3L 1866MHz CAS 11 modules for a total of 16GB of fast reliable RAM. The system actually auto detected the RAM and set the timings to CAS 10 by default. The faster RAM is welcome considering a desktop CPU graces the guts of the NP9752.
Sager noteboks thankfully are known to never include any spamware or trialware with the systems. As a matter of fact they come default without any operating system. The only added software that comes with the system is the Clevo Control Center which offers users some control over their system power state, fan speed, enable or disable camera and touchpad, keyboard backlight brightness, and launching apps like Intel XTU or the backlit keyboard configuration app.
GPU: NVIDIA GTX 980m
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 980m is Nvidia's current top end GPU, and Clevo's model is paired with 8GB of GDDR5 RAM at 5000MHz in an MXM 3.0b form factor. There is plenty to like about the 980m and its Maxwell 2.0 architecture, primarily the fact that it runs cool and has a great power consumption to performance ratio, especially compared with the previous gen flagship mobile 880m that it replaces.
Specifications for the GTX 980m are noted here:
CUDA Cores: 1536
GPU Clock Speed: 1038MHz +Boost to 1126MHz
Architecture: Maxwell 2.0
vRAM: 8GB GDDR5 5000MHz 256-bit
No Optimus is utilized with this laptop. The 980m stands alone and drives all displays from all ports, and the GPU integrated in the CPU is not even utilized. This is actually good if you want optimum performance and maximum potential from Nvidia's display drivers and the multitude of A/V ports (two DisplayPort and one HDMI 1.4)
8GB of fast 256-bit GDDR5 vRAM is coupled with the 980m GPU on the MXM 3.0b board, which is a huge amount of vRAM considering the desktop Maxwell top end counterparts, GTX 970 and 980, come with only 4GB GDDR5 vRAM. In any case I guess more is better than not enough, just that it likely ended up costing consumers considerably more money and heat just to have that extra vRAM made available.
CPU: INTEL i7-4790K
Pretty much all new Haswell laptops come with the CPU soldered, with no replaceable socketed options available. Clevo has circumvented this by offering a desktop CPU in the P750ZM. There is no doubt that this raises eyebrows with users that don't use laptops for high power work loads, but it works remarkably well in this well thought out and engineered chassis and cooling system design. The Sager NP9752 will accommodate chips that fit the FCLGA1150 socket, but the i7-4790k is a good choice because the "K" series basically opens up options for tuning the CPU to your needs.
The i7-4790K is a quad core desktop CPU with 88W TDP, supporting hyperthreading, with a base CPU speed of 4.0GHz with boost to 4.4GHz for single and dual threaded apps. Four cores can max boost at 4.2GHz. Details for this specific CPU can be reviewed at Intel's website: http://ark.intel.com/products/80807/Intel-Core-i7-4790K-Processor-8M-Cache-up-to-4_40-GHz
While the system BIOS is sparse with user configurable options, Intel's Windows based application, Extreme Tuning Utility (aka "XTU"), allows users to easily adjust settings for the CPU and even system RAM as desired. There is even a link in the Clevo Control Center to launch Intel XTU. While the stock configuration at load likely will push the thermal limit that the heatsink and fan system can dissiptate, there is opportunity to reduce voltage, drop clocks, or even increase just the single or dual core speeds for those apps that favor a fast single or dual core CPU.
Details on performance can be found below in the benchmarks and power and cooling sections.
All benchmark results in this review for the NP9752 are with a stock system as provided directly from Sager as if ordered from their factory like anyone else. The only changes were that I did repaste the CPU and GPU with IC Diamond myself, and also propped up the back end by about 10mm using bottle caps. This combination seemed to improve overall peak temperature cooling performance by 4-5C over a stock and flat laying laptop.
A number of productivity application benchmarks were run with many that stressed the CPU heavily, but some that also stressed the GTX 980m. These bencharks are compared with the mobile i7-4710HQ in the Sager NP8651 that's coupled with a GTX 970m.
The i7-4790k was run both at stock speeds and voltages as well as a tuned undervolt profile that basically runs the CPU at 80mV less than stock, and the CPU cache at 100mV less than stock. This essentially reduces system heat and less likely to throttle the CPU. However, despite some instances of the CPU reaching mid to high 90C temperatures, the CPU never wavered from the 4.2GHz four core boost speed even when taxed 100% on all four cores or eight threads (with hyperthreading).
It is clear from the results of these benchmarks that the desktop CPU offers a significant advantage, from 25-40%, over the base level mobile CPU.
The suite of benchmarks include:
(1) AutoCad 2015 - Cadalyst 2015 benchmark which includes 2D, 3D, and CPU calculation performance metrics
(2) Blender 2.72b Pabellon Barcelona scene - both CPU and GPU benchmark run
(3) Cinebench R11.5 - To test 3D scene rendering capabilities of the CPU
(4) Photoshop CC 2014 - Speed Test run
(5) wPrime 2.10 - Maximum multi-threaded performance
(6) x264 5.0 - Encode 1080p video clip
(1) Sager NP9752 (Clevo P750ZM) with i7-4790k, GTX 980m, 16GB DDR3L @ 1866MHz
(2) Sager NP8651 (Clevo P650SE) with i7-4710HQ, GTX 970m, 16GB DDR3L @ 1866MHz
Temperature, CPU load, and CPU clock speed were also recorded and shown for many of these tests since max temps and loads don't really tell the full story.
A number of benchmarks for the GTX 980m have been shown when configured in other machines like the Sager NP9652 or MSI GT72, but we will show them here as well. Normally I like to include overclocking performance for whatever level of overclocking can be managed using stock vBIOS and software, but during this time, Nvidia has decided to lock out overclocking with the last several driver releases, and using an older driver doesn't always quite equate to performance with the latest drivers. Additionally I was unable to find even an older driver that would allow for any software overclocking. This should hopefully be rectified with future driver releases since Nvidia finally decided to reverse their decision on locking out overclocking of mobile Maxwell GPU's, and will be supported in future driver releases. There is always the option for a third part vBIOS mod, but that would also void your laptop warranty.
In any case, the benchmarks that will be compared with the Sager NP8651 (Clevo P650SE) with 970m and the Sager NP8652 (Clevo P650SG) with 980m both stock and overclock.
Artificial and actual in-game benchmarks or gameplay benchmarks being compared will run at 1080p unless otherwise specified:
(1) 3DMark 11 (both P and X scores)
(2) 3DMark Fire Strike (Standard, Extreme, Ultra)
(3) Catzilla 1.3 1080p
(4) Unigine Heaven (Extreme Preset 1600x900 Full Screen)
(1) Battlefield 4 Multiplayer (Ultra)
(2) Bioshock Infinite (Ultra + DDOF)
(3) Crysis (Very High aka Maximum)
(4) Dragon Age Inquisition (Ultra) - both built-in benchmark and gameplay
(5) Grid 2 (Ultra 4xAA)
(6) Far Cry 4 (Ultra)
(7) Final Fantasy XIV (High - Desktop)
(8) Metro Last Light (Very High, Tesslation Normal)
(9) Resident Evil 6 (High)
(10) Sleeping Dogs (Extreme)
(11) Shadow of Mordor (Ultra, Very High at both 1080p and 4k)
(12) Tomb Raider
The system configurations noted in the benchmark results are as follows:
(1) Sager NP9752 / Clevo P750ZM - i7-4790k stock, GTX 980m stock
(2) Sager NP8652 / Clevo P650SG - i7-4720HQ, GTX 980m stock
(3) Sager NP8652 / Clevo P650SG - i7-4720HQ, GTX 980m OC +125MHz Core (1254MHz Boost), vRAM at 5600MHz
(4) Sager NP8651 / Clevo P650SE - i7-4710HQ, GTX 970m stock
ARTIFICIAL GAMING BENCHMARKS RESULTS
GAMING BENCHMARK RESULTS
POWER AND COOLING
The Sager NP9752 comes stock with a 230W power supply, with an optional 330W. Considering the testing I've done there was only one instance where the power supply approached near max capacity and that was with the Thief game benchmark which had a 232W power draw from the wall. Assuming an 85-90% efficiency factor, it was still well below the 230W capacity, and this was also peak load, where sustained loads were typically well below 230W. It can't hurt to have more power though, and if you're considering a spare to keep in your bag, then perhaps a 330W at home and 230W in your bag. In either case these power supplies are not small, so you don't gain much there by going with the 230W over the 330W.
Power measurements shown are that as taken from the wall using the 230W power supply.
Systems measured were:
(1) Sager NP9752 (Clevo P750ZM) with i7-4790k, GTX 980m, 16GB DDR3L @ 1866MHz
(2) Sager NP9752 (Clevo P750ZM) with i7-4790k (same system as above) with voltage reduced by 80mV on core and 100mv on cache
(3) Sager NP8651 (Clevo P650SE) with i7-4710HQ, GTX 970m, 16GB DDR3L @ 1866MHz
Power Measurements From Wall
The cooling system for this system is well thought out and a bit different than what Clevo have done in the past, but it needed to be in order to cool two high TDP parts in a 15" laptop. There are two fans, with five heat pipes in total, with more heat pipes favoring the CPU cooling over the GPU. While having a single heatsink to share cooling between the CPU and GPU and dual fans opposite sides of the laptop from one another, there are some inherent downsides, primarily heatsink alignment. It's important to have as little gap as possible between a heatsink and the silicon die it's cooling. There's just more room for error if the heatsink were bent a bit out of tolerance that cooling potential could be lost.
In any case, this specific laptop did not appear to have any issues. I did repaste the system with IC Diamond myself, which seemed to drop peak CPU temperatures by 2-3C. Not overly significant, but still an improvement nevertheless. Propping up the laptop also improved peak temps by 1-2C, for an overall 3-5C improvement in cooling over a stock system. All results shown are with IC Diamond and a propped up laptop.
While I did do a Prime95 run with this system, I am reluctant to show results because Prime95 tends to be an absolute worse case scenario which is rarely, if ever seen in even the heaviest of CPU workloads. That being said, the system did handle it like a champ, although temperatures of the CPU did rise to 98C, but it maintained the maximum boost speed of 4.2GHz.
You can see an example of this Prime95 run here:
CPU and GPU tempertures taken from the benchmarks shown earlier in this review can be seen here. I also included temperature graphs to go along with some of the benchmarks to see the dynamic temperature cycle throughout the tests which gives a bit more detail than just peak temperatures.
CPU and GPU Temperatures
Along with cooling such beastly components like the i7-4790k and GTX 980m comes fan noise. But this cooling system seems to be very well engineered to keep fan noise at a minimum. At idle the fans were running very slowly or not at all and not even audible. The CPU fan profile can be configured to start and stop at a specified temperature and fan speed at maximum which is limited to 80%. That being said, fans can be toggled on and off to maximum speed at any given time using the Fn+1 key combo which will instantly boost the fans to maximum 100% fan speed. This obviously helps improve cooling, but also at that expense of a lot of noise. At the automatic max fan speed of 80% it is not nearly as audible, and thankfully the automatic cooling profile is sufficient for keeping the components in check.
You can hear fan speeds in this video here:
A laptop comprised of a desktop CPU and what is effectively a desktop GTX 970 GPU really shouldn't be expected to have any kind of remarkable battery life, and the Sager NP9752 does not. Light web surfing (with backlit keyoard on) resulted in 2hrs 12minutes of battery life. 1080p movie viewing with backlit keyboard off, LCD at 50% brightness, using headphones at 40% volume results in just under 2hrs of battery life, so barely enough to get through most movies. That being said, this is more of a portable workstation than a road warrior.
The Sager NP9752 / Clevo P750ZM is a remarkable beast that caters to the gaming enthusaiast and users that require high end CPU performance on the go. Despite initial reserverations, the desktop CPU and high powered mobile GPU can easily be cooled by the thermal management system Clevo engineered into this laptop, even the power hungry 88W TDP i7-4790k at stock settings. With some tweaking its possible to drop temps by several degrees C and even push the performance a bit on demand thanks to its highly configurable options and the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU). This results in a significant, 25-40% in most cases, improvement in CPU heavy apps.
While the unique attribute in this laptop is harboring a desktop CPU, let's not forget about the cool running and powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 980m with 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. It can easily chomp through games with ease at 1080p and offers reasonable performance for 3D applications like AutoCAD and CUDA rendering. It is quite a disappointment, however, that overclocking of the GPU is locked down completely, but that is a discussion for another day.
But a laptop isn't just about these two components. The entire package is well engineered with a solid overall stucture, firm keyboard that does not flex, a multitude of storage options, and a great LCD, and no crapware to infest the system.
It is very difficult to find anything wrong with this laptop, and anything noted would be nitpicking or just come down to personal preference. If I had to rate this laptop on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, this one deserves a solid 10/10.