Portable Gaming On A 17.3" Screen
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|
|Platform||Intel FCPGA988, HM77 Express, MXM-3 Discrete Graphics|
|CPU||Core 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|
|RAM||4 x Samsung M471B5273DH0-CK0 (4 x 4 GB) DDR3-1600 SO-DIMM, CL11|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 7970M: 850 MHz, 2 GB GDDR5-4800|
|Display||17.3" FHD 16:9 Glossy LED Backlight LCD, 1920x1080|
|Audio||Realtek Integrated HD Audio with THX TruStudio Pro|
|Security||Kensington Security Slot|
|Hard Drive||Seagate Momentus ST9750420AS: 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s|
|Optical Drive||Lite-On DS-8A8SH: 8x Slim Internal DVD Burner|
|Media Drive||RTS5208 DSD/MMC/MS Flash Media Interface|
|Wireless LAN||Realtek RTL8723AE 802.11n PCIe Combo Card|
|Wireless PAN||Integrated Bluetooth Transceiver on Wireless Combo Card|
|Gigabit Network||Realtek RTL8168 PCIe 10/100/1000 Mb/s Ethernet|
|USB||1 x USB 2.0, 3 x USB 3.0|
|Expansion Card||Not Available|
|HDD||1 x eSATA/USB 3.0 combo port|
|Audio||Headphone, Microphone, Digital Out, Analog In|
|Video||DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-I|
|Power And Weight|
|AC Adapter||220 W Power Brick, 100-240 V AC to 19 V DC|
|Battery||14.8 V, 5200 mAh (76.96 Wh) Single|
|Weight||Notebook 8.4 lbs, AC Adapter 2.6 lbs, Total 11 pounds|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition, OEM|
|Warranty||Lifetime 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.