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Killer Notebooks’ 17.1” Odachi: Hardware

SLI & Centrino 2: Gaming Laptops Battle
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Killer Notebooks takes a completely different approach than Alienware or ASUS does—an approach that requires a little more hands-on involvement from the customer for an ideally better-suited build. Killer doesn’t give you the option of configuring and ordering through its Web site. Rather, you get a breakdown of each of its four models and can contact the company to get an order started.

Processor

As with Alienware’s m17x, Killer Notebooks’ Odachi is no Centrino 2 prodigy. In fact, it’s not even based on a mobile platform. It instead comes with a desktop Core 2 Quad Q9650 processor running at 3 GHz. Naturally, this is going to give the Odachi a significant benefit in multi-threaded applications, since it’s the only offering in our roundup sporting four cores.

The Q9650 is one of the best-rounded chips in the Core 2 Quad family. Centering on Intel’s Yorkfield design, it’s manufactured at 45 nm, armed with 12 MB of L2 cache, and set up to run on a 1,333 MHz front side bus.

Two blowers on the left......and two on the right

The caveat, of course, is that this is a desktop CPU with all of the power and thermal requirements that accompany such a chip. Perhaps most significant is its 95 W TDP—more than twice that of the Core 2 Extreme X9000 used in Alienware’s Area-51. Then there’s the desktop chipset needed to enable this processor: Intel’s P965 platform. We’d expect these factors to weigh in on the battery benchmarks.

Memory

With support for DDR2 at up to 800 MHz, the P965 isn’t a bad chipset choice for a performance notebook—it’s just not the most current. Nevertheless, Killer Notebooks loads the Odachi down with 4 GB of DDR2-800 running aggressive 5-5-5-18 timings in a dual-channel configuration.

Again, as with the Alienware, our sample showed up recognizing all 4 GB of installed memory. However, this was because Killer Notebooks shipped the system with a 64-bit copy of Vista Ultimate (Alienware included x32 Home Premium). After clearing everything off for our 32-bit benchmark suite, the system wasn’t able to see all 4 GB. But the company sent us a detailed instruction list on getting Vista to see all installed memory if we wanted to use it. Clearly, this is an organization dedicated to a more tuned experience than what you’d get from the tier-one brands.

Graphics

Although they come from a previous generation of named graphics processors, the GeForce 8800M GTX GPUs used in Killer Notebooks’ Odachi are actually better than the 9800M GTs used in Alienware’s m17x. Again, chalk it up to poor naming on Nvidia’s part.

From an architecture standpoint, the two mobile components are similar. Both center on the G92M GPU manufactured at 65 nm. Both include 96 unified shader processors fed by 512 MB of GDDR3 memory on a 256-bit bus. Where the components differ is clock speed. The 8800M GTXs boast 560 MHz clocks, 1,400 MHz shaders, and 900 MHz memory. All three figures are faster than what you’ll get from the 9800M GTs.

The Odachi wields two 8800M GTX boards running in SLI. Because the P965 only offers one PCI Express x16 pathway (at v. 1.1 signaling speeds), the pair is forced to share the chipset’s limited bandwidth. Again, GPU-Z reports that each card has its own x16 connection, though—likely due to the N100 bridge chip used to make SLI possible on Intel-based platforms.

Storage

Here’s where Killer Notebooks gets really aggressive. The Clevo chassis used to build the 17” Odachi notebooks can accommodate three 2.5” SATA hard drives—two in a special cage and one more under the battery. Whereas Alienware shot for capacity by using two 500 GB, 5,400 RPM Samsung drives, Killer Notebooks opts for a trio of 160GB Western Digital Scorpio Black Edition drives spinning at 7,200 RPM. Interestingly, all three are striped together in a super-quick RAID 0 array.

However, our storage goblins were out to get us again. During the course of testing, one of the Scorpios consistently threw up errors that prompted Intel’s Matrix Storage Manager to warn us a drive was failing. We pulled the culprit, rebuilt the RAID array using two drives, and continued on our way.

Fortunately, Killer Notebooks offers a one year global warranty on its products. In this case, an advanced replacement would have been covered. We’re still wary about RAID 0 on mobile platforms, though. SSDs truly seem like a more durable way to enable great performance on a notebook—especially these premium models.

Networking

Gigabit Ethernet is enabled through a Realtek controller and 802.11a/g/draft-n comes standard.

Chassis/LCD

Whitebook builders will recognize Killer Notebooks’ Odachi as a Clevo D9C (listed as the D900C on the company’s Website. Clevo sells that particular model with three different 17.1” LCD panel choices: WXGA (1440x900), WSXGA+ (1680x1050), or WUXGA (1920x1200). The Odachi’s graphics subsystem is, for the most part, able to drive the highest-end configuration at its native resolution, so we were happy to see our sample ship with a sharp 1920x1200 screen.

The Clevo D9C sports lots of I/O. Up front you’ll find audio connectivity—a headphone output, microphone input, digital S/PDIF output, and a line-in jack. The right side of the notebook sports four USB 2.0 ports and a Kensington lock. The left side includes a card reader, an ExpressCard bay (in which Killer Notebooks installed an 8 GB Lexar SSD), a mini FireWire 400 jack, Gigabit Ethernet, a modem jack, VGA output, and S-Video/CATV connectors. An optical bay below all of those connectors hosts a dual-layer DVD burner, through Killer Notebooks also offers a Blu-ray upgrade option. Spin the notebook around and you’ll find a DVI output, an AC power hookup, and a curiously-located video input.

Killer Notebooks’ Odachi sports a 12-cell, 6,600 mAh battery, just like Alienware’s offering does. Not surprisingly, it also doesn’t last very long away from a power outlet. Must have something to do with that 95 W CPU.

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  • 3 Hide
    kitsilencer , September 24, 2008 9:05 AM
    From a money point of view, it's never going to make sense buying a gaming laptop. Scaled down performance and inability to upgrade are issues.

    But it sure as hell feels good having one ^___^
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 10:57 AM
    Hey, that aint green...
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , September 24, 2008 11:24 AM
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-notebook-roundup,2023-6.html
    "shipped the system with a 64-bit copy of Vista Ultimate (Alienware included x32 Home Premium)."
  • 2 Hide
    ap90033 , September 24, 2008 12:01 PM
    4 Grand? Are you guys nuts? I would say that right there would rule out about 90% of us normal gmaers..

    Besides the gaming scores looked weak imo..

    I personally thought it was a better idea to go get a Gateway P7811FX with a single Geforce 9800GTS. It plays Call of Duty at 1920x1200 max settings around 50FPS. AND it cost me ONLY $1249 (Plus Best Buy let me pick any game I wanted for FREE!)
  • 0 Hide
    jas39 , September 24, 2008 1:01 PM
    what about www.xtremenotebooks.com?
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 1:07 PM
    agree with kitsilencer, gaming laptop is never practical.

    even with a beast graphics card, you'd be pretty hard to get more than 2 hours of shitty performance.

    get a gaming desktop and perhaps an EEE or iPhone for travelling. my iPhone has 20+ games and enough media (don't forget TV connector for watching films in hotels) to keep me busy for more than one week away from my gaming rig.
  • 0 Hide
    ap90033 , September 24, 2008 2:10 PM
    oops cant spell "gamers" lol
  • 0 Hide
    ap90033 , September 24, 2008 2:13 PM
    Not true my "Gmaing Laptop" is great at LAN Parties and I play it for 6-8 Hours straight there...

    I think maybe you had a bad experience with a laptop that claimed to be a "gaming" laptop. I bought one before like that and it have an 8600M Geforce and it Sucked bad... If you get a good laptop with say a 9800gts or so you would be suprised...
  • 3 Hide
    GlItCh017 , September 24, 2008 2:15 PM
    ap900334 Grand? Are you guys nuts? I would say that right there would rule out about 90% of us normal gmaers..

    99.90%
  • 2 Hide
    ap90033 , September 24, 2008 2:22 PM
    PS gaming laptops hold value much better than desktops. I had one I paid 1250 for, had it for a year, then sold it for $1100 and bought the newer "upgraded" model that just came out for $1250. I got an Upgraded CPU (From Core 2 1.67 GHZ to Core 2 Centrino 2 2.26 GHZ), Memory (from 3 Gigs DDR2 667MHZ to 4 Gigs DDR3 1066MHZ), Hard Drive (faster), Video Card (from 8800gts to 9800GTS), Screen (from 1440x800 to 1920x1200) and OS (From 32 bit to 64 bit). Not bad upgrade for $150 or so!
  • 4 Hide
    frozenlead , September 24, 2008 2:43 PM
    Yeah, I'm a student at a university, and I find my laptop invaluable. Saves tons of space on my desk, and can play any game maxed out - save crysis, where I have to lower the res - with 60fps or more. I payed $2500 for it, too. It gets 2 hours on the battery. I haven't ever run into a situation where I needed it and it was dead.
  • 1 Hide
    groo , September 24, 2008 3:50 PM
    There are many types of people that I can think of that would be better off with a gaming laptop.
    Truck driver's, students, profesionals on the move or frequent travelers.
    then there are people who like low electrical bills.

    and most of these people can use thier laptop plugged in.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 5:00 PM
    "Although they come from a previous generation of named graphics processors, the GeForce 8800M GTX GPUs used in Killer Notebooks’ Odachi are actually better than the 9800M GTs used in Alienware’s m17x. Again, chalk it up to poor naming on Nvidia’s part.

    From an architecture standpoint, the two mobile components are similar. Both center on the G92M GPU manufactured at 65 nm. Both include 96 unified shader processors fed by 512 MB of GDDR3 memory on a 256-bit bus. Where the components differ is clock speed. The 8800M GTXs boast 560 MHz clocks, 1,400 MHz shaders, and 900 MHz memory. All three figures are faster than what you’ll get from the 9800M GTs."

    These are overclocked, it has nothing to do with poor naming by Nvidia.
  • 1 Hide
    theworminator , September 24, 2008 6:07 PM
    Gaming laptops have their niche in the computer world. It's obviously not as big as a gaming desktop, but it's definitely there. This is also a competition of which laptop is the best (in performance, value etc), not if gaming laptops are viable.

    Either way, it's always fun to watch Alienware's overpriced creations get thrashed. Go Killer Notebooks :D 
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 6:48 PM
    Well, the review does a great job of pimping Alienware & one of the most expensive Clevo resellers (Go KillerNotebooks? They're way overpriced too). You can get equivalent ones cheaper at other resellers, and no, it's not $4k at these places, for the same notebooks.

    Try $1800ish for the 15inch Montebello equivalents (same as Eurocom's price or thereabouts), with a much better cooling design than cheaper systems (Gateway 7811x's - which should have also been reviewed in here, as well as a few others). Ah well.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 6:54 PM
    Base price for the D901C at other resellers (Power Notebooks, XoticPc - Sager resellers, ProStar, Lynnbay, Eurocom) is $2090 starting. Sure you can put in overpriced (currently) dual cards and tack on $1200, and put 3 overpriced RAID'd hard drives and pay a lot more, or you can do it yourself, save money and/or put one card in and upgrade later. So yeah, pretty over the top pricing estimates (And I've priced KillerNotebooks, at least for the M860TU 15.4inchers, and they've come out to $700 more - ouch).

    Decide what's worth the price. $850 extra for an extreme CPU? No.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 8:31 PM
    Um, isn't the point of all this to build the fastest notebook? Money no object?

    Well Done Killer Notebooks!

    The Silk Pigs

  • 0 Hide
    radguy , September 24, 2008 8:55 PM
    Its nice to see these charts but I watched prices at bestbuy on the gateways P-6860FX all summer and picked it up when it hit 1150. I wanted something that could play games on the go and I think the 1000-1500 dollar gaming notebook range is about to really open up. As price is really an issue for most of us and while they sacrafice some specs they can play games. Maybe we can get some more reviews on cheaper gaming notebooks hint hint.
    Side note: I really wanted something smaller so I'm hoping that the 15.4 inch gaming notebooks become more affordable.
  • 0 Hide
    Luscious , September 24, 2008 10:34 PM
    The Gateway P-7811FX is a useless piece of trash. I went through 5 bad units from two different BB stores because they would all lock-up and freeze 5-20 minutes into any game I played.

    About the only positive I could say about it was that the CPU, RAM, HDD and optical drive were all user-replaceable. The WUXGA screen had backlight bleeding problems and the GPU gave decent framerates in Crysis at 1920x1200, until the damn thing froze...

    I find it difficult to see that there is no viable option between a $1300 Gateway and a $4000 boutique build. $2000 could get you all the parts for a top-performing 17" gaming laptop. Why those wingnuts haven't figured it out yet is beyond me.
  • -1 Hide
    jtnstnt , September 24, 2008 10:45 PM
    Well the 6860-fx is now $809 dollars at select best buys with 1.83ghz dual core and 8800gtx gpu and a 320gb hard drive
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