SLI & Centrino 2: Gaming Laptops Battle

Roundups of any sort are always tricky. Matching apples to apples is rarely possible, and the brand loyalists are always quick to defend their build of choice. So we made this roundup easy. We reached out to some of the most prolific names in gaming notebooks and asked them to send us their best and brightest example of a gaming machine. Price be damned, we wanted to see some stunning performance numbers.

Four vendors—Alienware, ASUS, Eurocom, and Killer Notebooks—responded to our call. The other big names you might expect to see in a cage match like this all came up with reasons to pass. Dell preferred to have Alienware represent its best efforts (R.I.P. XPS?). VoodooPC’s Envy is armed with Intel’s GMA X3100 integrated graphics core and is not suitable for gaming in any capacity. Falcon Northwest wanted to wait for new graphics adapters, and though they became available toward the tail end of our testing, the show had to go on. And OCZ’s Hypersonic brand didn’t have anything available at retail. Nevertheless, we still managed to round up a motley crew of performance-oriented systems at a number of different price points.

The first, Alienware’s m17x, got out of the gate before anyone else with Nvidia’s new GeForce 9800M GT graphics adapters—in SLI, thanks to a bridge chip mated to Intel’s PM965 chipset. It also boasts 1 TB of storage, a Core 2 Extreme CPU, and perhaps the classiest chassis design we’ve ever seen. Last month we took a look at Alienware’s smaller m15x. While that notebook was a solid piece of kit, the Area-51 m17x is decidedly more tenacious in its approach to mobile performance.

Next up, ASUS’ G71 represents the first Centrino 2 laptop design to land in our labs. Its hardware manifesto is significantly more mainstream than the configuration that Alienware sent in. However, there’s something to be said for a fully modern notebook with the latest power-saving technology. We expect the G71 to serve up a better balance between price, performance, and battery life.

Eurocom’s exotically-named Montebello is the third offering in our line of potent portables. Smaller than the other three contenders with a 15.4” LCD, it effectively hides Intel’s fastest dual-core mobile processor, the latest Centrino 2 platform, and an Nvidia GeForce 9800M GT graphics card inside a fairly pedestrian shell. This one’s probably the biggest surprise in the bunch.

Finally, Killer Notebooks submitted its own weapon of mass destruction, the Odachi. Laden with a 3 GHz desktop processor, two of the fastest mobile GeForces in SLI, three 7,200 RPM hard drives striped together, and 4 GB of DDR2 memory, it’s the gun in this knife fight. But you do give up some aesthetic appeal in favor of all that muscle.

Read on as we introduce the hardware in each notebook, get hands-on with look and feel, and benchmark each machine in our standard suite of tests.

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  • Anonymous
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  • leexgx
    Please use Propper size pictures as i am not zooming every one (takes 3-4 secs to load each one when doing that)

    even when i use the Print option thay are still in 200 x 120 pixels when it should be 450 x 271 pixels for both print and per page viewing

    rest of the review is good
  • Solitaire
    Okay, I have no idea about the battery life of ANY of the contenders - no mention of them in the text and that one vital image of the battery chart is missing from Toms. Good going guys!

    Not that you can claim credit for any of the graphs on this article - all the rest are borked as well. They do show up - as tiny thumbnails. Nice one. Real classy.

    Now back to the actual article subject, aka Rant#2. Hasn't it occured to the OEMs that we have a major niche going unfulfilled here? I can think of several nomadic user bases (how about students for starters anyone?) who want gaming laptops but who are unwilling to part with €5000 for something that has the same performance as a €500 desktop. Even with Centrino 2 bringing the RAM and motherboard back up to scratch the near-inability to run games such as SupCom and Crysis shows that the gap between standard and mobile CPUs and GPUs is now reaching crisis point.

    You'd think that with such a large potential user base some of the big facs or OEMs would be innovating, but they ain't. AMD seem to have given up on mid-high-range lappies entirely, which give nVidia and Intel carte blanche to sit there doing very little (note to Nintel fanboys - this is what would happen to desktops if your hated AMD died for you - €5000 desktops to not-run Crysis). And yet OEMs continue to specify WUXGA screens that the tiny GPUs cannot hope to power, and all that HD clarity will go out the door if you drop down the res - LCDs suffer badly when running resolutions that aren't native or a root of 2 of the native (and the root-2 res for WUXGA is 950*600 - nonstandard and way too small for use!). Why aren't OEMs using high-quality (and potentially cheaper) 1650*1080 or even 1440*900 screens instead?

    As for processors... if Intel really gave a damn they should have implemented mobile quads that electrically isolate half the cores when away from AC, halving TDP. Even without this some OEMs should have put in BIOS tools that overclock and underclock CPU/GPUs depending on power status (battery, AC...). Nope. Asus did try, bless 'em, but their lappy isn't even a high-end gaming machine! Desktop-replacers take note. Alienware should be taking notes - they could really do with those features, especially as their machine is supposed to be a gaming lappy - unlike Killer, who isn't afraid to admit their "laptop" is really a small desktop light enough to be carried :)

    At least AW got the ventiltion right... everyone else still has easily-blocked fan ports on the bottom. Why hasn't Clevo tried to put some side intakes on their larger units yet?
  • leexgx
    guess thay do not bother to read these posts any way
    them pictures are to small mite be ok if my desktop was at 640x480, mite even be viewable on my PDA (if it was not for the best of media stuff)