Digital Storm x17 Notebook Review: Radeon HD 7970M And Enduro, Again

The last time we looked at a notebook with AMD's Radeon HD 7970M in it, we stumbled across a problematic bug. Digital Storm's x17 employs the same graphics module. Do updated drivers cure what ailed the configuration previously? Let's find out!

While the contest between mobility and performance rages on, most enthusiasts will probably be fairly satisfied with some of the mid-size solutions out there. A combination of Intel's Ivy Bridge and Nvidia's Kepler architectures first took us by surprise in Eurocom Racer 2.0 Review: Intel's Ivy Bridge Meets Nvidia's Kepler, where those two worlds collided to give us stunning performance and reasonable portability.

But what would happen if a company combined the moderate thickness and weight of a mid-sized notebook with the larger screen of a desktop-replacement? And how might buyers respond to such a configuration, packed with high-end 3D graphics, at mid-market pricing? Digital Storm thinks it found a winner in Clevo’s P170EM.

Part of the value in Digital Storm’s custom-built x17 notebook comes from its reliance on AMD’s high-end Radeon HD 7970M graphics, a part that exhibited fairly strong performance in Xotic PC NP9150: Striking Back At Kepler With Radeon HD 7970M. But some folks rightly mentioned in the comments section that the graphics module's performance in a few games appeared weak, purportedly an issue with the company's Enduro technology.

We approached AMD about the issue and got the full story: its drivers were afflicted by a bug that bottlenecked the GPU, keeping it from being fully-utilized, particularly in situations where high frame rates were expected. The company promised a hotfix, but shied away from putting a date on it.

The company sort of fulfilled its promise by rolling the hotfix into its Catalyst 12.11 Beta release (now up to version 8)...on the desktop. We still haven't seen an official update on the notebook side, though, so part of today's story is going to require Digital Storm proving that AMD's Radeon HD 7970M was the right GPU to put in its x17 as the Pitcairn ASIC goes up against Nvidia's GK107 and GF114 parts. The company is off to a good start with a less expensive Ivy Bridge-based processor, but will AMD pull its weight in this competition, too?

Digital Storm x17 (Level 2) Standard Component List
PlatformIntel FCPGA988, HM77 Express, MXM-3 Discrete Graphics
CPUCore i7-3610QM (Ivy Bridge): 4C/8T, 2.3 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.3 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache, 45 W TDP
RAM4 x Samsung M471B5273DH0-CK0 (4 x 4 GB) DDR3-1600 SO-DIMM, CL11
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 7970M: 850 MHz, 2 GB GDDR5-4800
Display17.3" FHD 16:9 Glossy LED Backlight LCD, 1920x1080
Webcam2 MP
AudioRealtek Integrated HD Audio with THX TruStudio Pro
SecurityKensington Security Slot
Hard DriveSeagate Momentus ST9750420AS: 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
Optical DriveLite-On DS-8A8SH: 8x Slim Internal DVD Burner
Media DriveRTS5208 DSD/MMC/MS Flash Media Interface
Wireless LANRealtek RTL8723AE 802.11n PCIe Combo Card
Wireless PANIntegrated Bluetooth Transceiver on Wireless Combo Card
Gigabit NetworkRealtek RTL8168 PCIe 10/100/1000 Mb/s Ethernet
Peripheral Interfaces
USB1 x USB 2.0, 3 x USB 3.0
Expansion CardNot Available
HDD1 x eSATA/USB 3.0 combo port
AudioHeadphone, Microphone, Digital Out, Analog In
VideoDisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-I
Power And Weight
AC Adapter220 W Power Brick, 100-240 V AC to 19 V DC
Battery14.8 V, 5200 mAh (76.96 Wh) Single
WeightNotebook 8.4 lbs, AC Adapter 2.6 lbs, Total 11 pounds
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition, OEM
WarrantyLifetime Tech Support, Three-Years Labor, One-Year Parts

Digital Storm’s x17 is available in four basic configurations, and each can be further customized based on your needs. We received the $1777 configuration, which is a step up from the baseline build, with no further customization.

In addition to the flexibility Digital Storm allows on its parts list, the company also offers three warranty levels. An extra $126 gets you four years of labor and two years of parts protection, while a $247 premium secures five years of labor and three years of hardware coverage. The firm’s labor plan also honors manufacturer-backed component warranties above and beyond the plan you purchase.

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