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Core i7 Laptop Maker Talks to Us About Merits

By , Angela Lan - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 16 comments

Intel's Core i7 is one of the most innovative CPU releases to date. It's fast, efficient, and cutting edge. The thing about cutting edge though, is that you'll often pay a premium to gain access.

What about if you're a laptop user? Usually, you'll have to wait several months for either AMD or Intel to release a mobile version of its new processors. These mobile CPUs have smaller packages as well as lower power usage. So what options do you have if you want the latest CPU in a laptop? You have to compromise on several fronts:

• Price: prepare to pay a premium for laptops that are able to take desktop processors.
• Battery: these hybrid desktop-replacements are power hungry. Mobile computing is not one of their strong points.
• Size: because of the space and cooling requirements, these laptops are often very thick, close to a 1U chassis when closed.
• Weight: they're back breakers.

We decided to talk to AVADirect, one such company that is launching a new desktop Core i7 mobile platform. We asked them to attempt to convince us on the merits of such a mammoth laptop. Our questions are in bold.

What differentiates the AVADirect Core i7 notebook from, say a seemingly identical system like the one from Eurocom?

AVADirect: Both AVADirect and Eurocom utilize the same hardware from the same OEM. This OEM is Clevo, based in Taiwan which is not widely known to the general public. However, its systems are used by various resellers and Integrators such as previously mentioned Eurocom, Alienware, Pro-Star and Sager.

What differentiates AVADirect from these other companies is our distinctly wide array of customization options. No other VAR offers the level of selection in our configurations, thus this is our main advantage over the competition, freedom of choice. That being said, if the selection seems a bit overwhelming, our knowledgeable sales staff is always eager to build you a perfect system amidst plethora of options.

The benefits of using a desktop CPU are clear, you get the latest technology early, without waiting for a mobile CPU version to be released. But you trade this for heat, power usage and size. How does the AVADirect system combat this?

AVADirect: Unlike your normal notebook cooling, which combines the heat of the processor, chipset, and other chips together via heat pipes, each of the major components are cooled by their own respective heat sink and fan. If you notice on the underside of the D900F, there are four fan vents on the bottom of system. Each of these fan vents hide a large copper heat sink and a dedicated low-profile fan. This ensures that each component is sufficiently cooled for maximum stability and longevity.

Consumers are leaning towards thinner, lighter products, like ultra-portables and netbooks.  How does the AVADirect Core i7 notebook fit in, considering its hefty size and weight?

AVADirect: The Core i7 notebooks are not designed to be used by mainstream consumers. This particular D900F notebook was designed for gaming enthusiasts, engineers, scientists, CAD designers, and other users who need the most performance from a mobile system.  This is not your standard home/office notebook, where netbooks have a clear advantage.

We understand the AVADirect Core i7 notebook is a desktop replacement. Its weight and size, as well as pitch, indicate it not to be an ideal mobile computing platform, therefore used mainly stationary.  At its current base price of $2538.26, could one not build a more powerful actual Core i7 desktop?

AVADirect: Absolutely. However, while a desktop provides a better performance and higher upgradability to value ratio, that benefit is moot if the person using the system is constantly traveling or even moving around their place of business or at home. So, the bottom line is if you're looking for a mobile workstation with the power of quad-core desktop CPU, up to 12 GB of RAM, high-end graphics both gaming and professional (professional graphics card to be released later on this year), up to 3 SATA or SSD drives for storage and all the necessities then the D900F [is ideal]. We realize weight can be an issue to some people but that's the "price" you pay, besides the price itself of course.

In the current pricing economy, people are seeking out lower cost alternatives.  Where do you see this system fitting in; with what kind of purchaser?

AVADirect: As stated before, this notebook is not intended for the mainstream consumer such as your typical home/office user. The vertical markets that we are targeting with this system know very well the cost of a high-end workstation. With some desktop workstations costing more than a new car, the price point we are offering this notebook at is a great value for the performance and benefits that it offers.

If I was a gamer, with a $2600 budget, how would you convince me to go with the AVADirect Core i7 laptop, versus a small desktop that would otherwise be able to pack more hardware and be more expandable?


AVADirect: We do not convince or push our customers into a solution that is not right for them.  We listen to their needs and wants and offer recommendations to what might be the perfect system for them.  We do not push features and options that the customer does not want.  Every customer is unique and so is the system we build for them.

However, to answer the question, if you were an Enthusiast Gamer who was always on the move or constantly going to LAN parties, then this system would be a great fit. For gamers with all budgets, we have many great gaming notebooks and desktops that can match and exceed their ever growing needs for quality, speed and bragging rights.

---

Thanks to AVADirect for answering some of our questions.

Now, we're still reserved of laptops in this category. Laptops that utilize the latest desktop CPUs command a big premium, as you read above. If you're going to frequent gaming events, our opinion is a SFF box, that will be able to pack more upgrades. The main advantage here is that the screen is integrated, so you don't have to lug around a separate LCD.

Of course, you also get a powerful desktop CPU. If you have to have the best of the best, and don't mind to pay the premium then these types of desktop-replacement solutions are worth looking into. But always consider your options and longevity.

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  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , May 28, 2009 7:02 PM
    Why not throw something more power efficient in there? A 95w Core2 or AM3 Phenom II quad is a much better choice for something like this, not a 130w quad that runs at 80c(probably hotter in a laptop). I'm going to laugh if they get sued out of existence because people are getting 3rd degree burns from it.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 28, 2009 7:31 PM
    well i think if you use one of those rolling bags it's a great laptop otherwise a big back pain
  • 1 Hide
    Greatwalrus , May 28, 2009 7:31 PM
    LawsuitFanboyWhy not throw something more power efficient in there? A 95w Core2 or AM3 Phenom II quad is a much better choice for something like this, not a 130w quad that runs at 80c(probably hotter in a laptop). I'm going to laugh if they get sued out of existence because people are getting 3rd degree burns from it.


    I agree, especially if the consumer is going to take the system to LAN parties and use it mainly for gaming. Go for (good) dual or tri core processor and a better video card.
  • Display all 16 comments.
  • 1 Hide
    leafblower29 , May 28, 2009 7:46 PM
    That must run very hot.
  • 3 Hide
    fulle , May 28, 2009 8:50 PM
    Its a balancing act between the Graphics card and the Processor. If you have a really fast graphics card, and a slow processor, you get bottle-necked by the processor. If you have a really fast Processor, with a slower Graphics card, you get bottle-necked by the Graphics card. This isn't rocket science.

    So, when you have a little GeForce GTX 280M Graphics w/1GB GDDR3 graphics card, you can only get so much out of it. You need a processor that's fast enough not to bottleneck the graphics card, but once you hit a certain point diminishing returns really start to set in, and it becomes pointless. Considering the power of the GTX 280M... the i7 CPU is waaay overkill, and completely unnecessary, just making the system less power efficient, and hot.

    With laptops especially, its imporntant to have a well balanced machine. If its matching components that don't pair well, its price performance ratio really suffers, battery life suffers, and people don't buy it. There's not going to be too many of these sold... I'd be surprised if there is any difference in gaming FPS on a Sager NP5797 vs a Sager NP9280.
  • 0 Hide
    porksmuggler , May 28, 2009 8:56 PM
    it screams niche market, there will always be people sold on the newest components, regardless of value/performance. go for it, how else to boutique builders keep their margin.
  • 0 Hide
    RADIO_ACTIVE , May 28, 2009 9:58 PM
    I'm running a Sager NP9262 with an E6850 in it and 2 7950gtx cards in it. The thing is a beast! I like it because its easy to move anywhere, where as my desktop is very stationary (Thermaltake Armor case HUGE!) and both play games very well.
  • -2 Hide
    jaragon13 , May 28, 2009 10:02 PM
    LawsuitFanboyWhy not throw something more power efficient in there? A 95w Core2 or AM3 Phenom II quad is a much better choice for something like this, not a 130w quad that runs at 80c(probably hotter in a laptop). I'm going to laugh if they get sued out of existence because people are getting 3rd degree burns from it.

    Well, AMD really invented the Core i7 for Intel, Intel packaged it with their 10 billion dollars of development money.
    Truly, I want to see a laptop that features a Server CPU rather than a desktop or laptop - something with desktop speed abilities, but doesn't take as much power ( server CPU's are certified to run on less )
  • 0 Hide
    frozenlead , May 28, 2009 10:26 PM
    They seem to be talking a lot about the chassis which they didn't even make. That's a Clevo product, there.
  • 0 Hide
    nittanylancer , May 28, 2009 10:49 PM
    Don't buy an AVADirect. Seriously, don't. I worked for a major defense contractor and we were forced to buy their boxed due to their minority ownership and status as a preferred vendor.

    We never, ever, ever got a box that lasted more than 6 months before a major part failure. Usually they wouldn't last 6 days. We had scores die from bad power supplies. We had a good number come HORRIBLY configured (IE Linux boxes that wouldn't even boot into the OS). We had boxes come in missing software licenses (which we were required to have for auditing purposes) and were often told they don't provide licenses... even after we would pay for them and EXPLICITLY require them.

    Our systems engineers would call their rep, who's name I believe was "Misha" or something, on a daily basis to get a part replaced or send a whole box back. Their QA and assembly was horrific... they sent us pics once and it looked to be teenagers in a garage.

    Side by side, you'd see a dozen AVADirect boxes die with a dozen Dell's (actually Concurrent re-badges) run fine and dandy.

    Seriously, we ordered HUNDREDS of systems over the years, and wasted millions of dollars in man-hours fixing their delivered products. It's not like we got a bad systems here or there... we NEVER got a good one.

    Do yourself a favor and avoid.
  • -1 Hide
    apache_lives , May 28, 2009 11:14 PM
    heh what stops them underclocking and undervolting that sucker to say ~2ghz with only dual channel DDR3 - sure it would still be hot and power hungry but atleast a bit more efficent etc and cheaper to produce (less cooling, size etc)
  • 0 Hide
    pylon757 , May 29, 2009 12:12 AM
    For $2600. Why not just build a decent Core i7 desktop for $1600 for the high performance stuff and then use the other $1000 for a business class ThinkPad or Latitude for mobile use?
  • 1 Hide
    ta152h , May 29, 2009 3:56 AM
    jaragon13Well, AMD really invented the Core i7 for Intel, Intel packaged it with their 10 billion dollars of development money.Truly, I want to see a laptop that features a Server CPU rather than a desktop or laptop - something with desktop speed abilities, but doesn't take as much power ( server CPU's are certified to run on less )


    Honestly, Jaragon, you are clueless. The Core i7 is a derivative of the Pentium III, and has nothing to do with the Athlon. They don't even execute the same instructions, their internal setup is completely different in terms of where their AGUs are, and how they process floating point instructions, etc...

    Now, what people who really have no understanding of CPU architecture like to say is, Intel copied the memory controller being on die, and of course the Level 2 cache being part of each processor.

    Integrated memory controllers are very old, in fact, they've had system on chips long before the Athlon 64 was even a twinkle in someone's eye. In fact, even in the x86 worlds, there was a chip in the 1990s made by NexGen that had an integrated memory controller. In fact, for desktops, it was a mistake to use it when AMD did, since the space was better served by a larger L2 cache in many instances.

    AMD also made a mistake by creating a native quad-core processor before they were ready. Making the L2 cache so it was no longer shared made sense with the native quad-cores, and in fact this is the simpler solution. Intel sharing the cache on the Core 2 was more difficult, but also, better. With a native quad core, it no longer made sense, so they made it in a way that did.

    These are hardly major architecture changes. The internals of the processors are clearly different, with Intel processors being vastly superior. AMD seems to have designed for worst case, Intel for most likely case, and there's a lot of legacy garbage in the Athlon processor that can go, like a powerful x87 processor, 3D Now!, etc... x87 isn't used anymore, SSE2 is, and x87 isn't even part of x86-64, so why does AMD still have a very powerful one? Getting rid of stuff like that will help them, at least to some extent. Better memory scheduling (aka memory disambiguation) will help a lot too.

  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 29, 2009 10:02 AM
    What are the odds of such a system to overheat? I remember having a huge and hugely heavy laptop once with a P4 desktop cpu and a geforce 4 card built in. Battery life when playing a 3d game was approximetly 35 minutes, and it kept overheating despite its seriously noisy fan - even the power supply had a built in fan that made noise in fact.
    I've actually not ever considered to buy a laptop again after that one. I've got my silly company one with a slow core 2 now, and that's gotta make do.
    I think laptops with desktop processors face these kinds of limitation now just like in the old days. I wonder if they could indeed be solved by now?
  • 0 Hide
    apmyhr , May 29, 2009 10:30 AM
    Intel is releasing their quad core Nehalem for laptops by the end of this year, called Clarksfield. It won't be as powerful as the Core i7, but it will use less than 1/3rd the power and you wont have to pay 2600 dollars and who knows how many thousands of dollars in kiropractor bills when your back breaks from lugging AVADirect's "laptop" (which is really a mini-desktop with an LCD screen).
  • 0 Hide
    apmyhr , May 29, 2009 10:32 AM
    pylon757For $2600. Why not just build a decent Core i7 desktop for $1600 for the high performance stuff and then use the other $1000 for a business class ThinkPad or Latitude for mobile use?

    Not that I want to defend this overpriced abomination, but you missed the point of their niche market, the people who would buy this are people that want portable gameing rigs. So your solution only applies to sane people like us, not the people who AVADirect is selling for.
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