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AVADirect's W860CU: Mobility Radeon HD 5870 Vs. GeForce GTX 285M

The 'Build Your Own' Alternative?

Everyone’s idea of the “perfect system” is a little different, and that’s what drives enthusiasts towards the “build your own” market. But what if you can’t build your own? Power users have, for many years, begged for a standardized notebook form factor that would make “build your own” and “fully upgradeable” possible, but notebooks are far more sensitive to changes in technology than their desktop siblings. That is to say, if anyone ever did come up with a completely universal notebook form factor, a change in technology would make it obsolete before the owner ever got around to attempting a full upgrade.

However, many notebook components are standard or fall into a narrow range of interfaces governed by a standard. Most notebook drives, for example, employ a 2.5" form factor with a 9.5 mm z-height and SATA interface, making interchangeability between different models easy. The same is true of DDR3 SODIMM memory modules (and was previously true for DDR2 SODIMMs and 2.5” Ultra ATA drives).

Of these standards, the most interesting may be Nvidia’s MXM interface. What makes Nvidia's Mobile PCI Express Module (MXM) so interesting from the custom-build standpoint is that, even though it’s an Nvidia creation, many system manufacturers have used the format for their AMD-based graphics cards, too.

Of course, there is a little snag in the form of custom cooling, which still makes securing exactly the right parts for your own custom build a challenge. That’s why professional builders like AVADirect have become an important part of approximating your notebook dreams. The company sent us two custom-configured Clevo W860CU-based notebooks, identical in every aspect except for the graphics module and driver. Here’s the features table for the Mobility Radeon-based system:

AVADirect W860CU Component List
PlatformClevo W860CU Core i7 15.6" Barebone, Intel PM55 Express, MXM-III Discrete Graphics
CPUIntel Core i7-820QM Quad-Core 1.733 GHz, 2.5 GT/s QPI, 8MB L3 Cache, 45 nm, 45W, OEM
RAMKingston 4GB (2 x 2GB) PC3-10666 DDR3 1,333 MHz SDRAM SODIMM, CL9, 1.5V, Non-ECC
GraphicsRadeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Mobile Graphics Card
Display15.6" "Full HD" Glossy TFT, 1920x1080
Webcam2.0 Megapixel
AudioIntegrated HD Audio
CoolingArctic Cooling MX-2 High-Performance Thermal Compound
SecurityBuilt-in Fingerprint Reader
Storage
Hard DriveCorsair 128GB Nova Series SSD, MLC, 270/195 MB/s, 2.5", SATA 3 Gb/s, Retail
Optical DriveMatshita UJ-130A Blu-ray Reader and Super-Multi DVD±RW
Media DriveMulti-Format Flash Card Interface
Networking
Wireless LANIntel WiFi Link 5300, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/Draft N, 11/54/450 Mb/s, Internal PCIe Half Mini Card
Wireless PANClevo Internal Bluetooth
Gigabit NetworkBuilt-in 10/100/1,000 Mb/s Ethernet
IEEE-1394Built-In Jmicron IEEE-1394 FireWire 400 controller
TelephonyIntegrated 56K V90/92 Fax/Modem
Power & Weight
AC Adapter120W Power Brick, 100-240V AC to 18.5V DC
Battery11.1V 3,800mAh (42.18Wh) Single
WeightNotebook 7.7 lbs., AC Adapter 1.6 lbs., Total 9.3 lbs.
Software
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition, OEM
Accessories
RJ11 Telephone Cord
DVI-I to VGA Adapter Block
Software/Documentation Binder
Deluxe Nylon Notebook Bag
Service
BackupOEM System Recovery (secure HDD partition only)
WarrantyStandard One-Year Warranty
Price$2,446.65

Standing in for Nvidia’s top part is its GeForce GTX 285M, a component that adds $56 to the cost of the above system. Engineers and other 3D-rendering professionals will be pleased to know that AVADirect also sells an upgrade for the Quadro FX 2800M, though its $705.50 price increase will frighten non-professionals.

  • DjEaZy
    ... do they have AMD CPU's too?
    Reply
  • anamaniac
    How many partners use Clevo laptops and just rebrand them?
    Reply
  • ta152h
    I'm a little confused why you'd choose an i7 920 to compare with a different platform, but maybe it's because I don't know the mobile platform that well.

    But, if it's like the P55, which it seems to be, there's the added uncertainty of the architecture thrown in.

    Particularly with PCI-E being implemented differently, you might be seeing the inferior implementation of the P55 architecture responsible for a small amount of the relatively poor mobile performance. Since this implementation needs to multiplex the memory bus of the processor, you can run into situations where there is contention.

    I doubt it's significant, but I'm curious why you wouldn't want to make a comparison with a more similar desktop platform. Was it because you couldn't get an unlocked Lynnfield to get the clock speeds for the processors the same in Turbo mode?
    Reply
  • This doesn't make much sense to me... if a 5870M chip = roughly a 5770 desktop chip and a 285M = roughly an 8800gts.. why is it not completely spanking it? we all know 5770>8800.. by a rather large margin! what could be the cause of this?
    Reply
  • anamaniac
    Tom's, you should show your power usage results to AMD and ask for an explanation, on why a lower rated part is using more power.
    Granted, with a 45W CPU and 50W GPU, 30 mins is expected on a 40W battery if fully stressed.
    Reply
  • gti88
    It's not "mobile gaming" at all.
    So, is there any reason to own such notebuook?
    Reply
  • jkeopka
    I liked this article because I found it so darn relevant... I actually have this same Clevo Laptop, with the 5870 and 8 gigs of RAM.

    The GTX 285M was a $50 premium over the 5870, and I am glad I chose to stick to the 5870. It is kind of strange one would pay more to have less performance. I guess thats what fanboyism are all about?
    Reply
  • jkeopka
    anamaniacHow many partners use Clevo laptops and just rebrand them?Lots. Mine is a Sager 8690... which is a rebranded Clevo W860CU...

    I have seen this model at other sites as well.
    Reply
  • falchard
    Looks more like a bottleneck then anything conclusive. The results in nearly all the tests were close, yet 1 of them should have been clearly ahead.
    I think an ASUS JH73-A1 verse this would have been more interesting as its a bit cheaper for better parts.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    TA152HI'm a little confused why you'd choose an i7 920 to compare with a different platformSame speeds in Turbo mode, which is used during games, the primary focus being gaming performance.TA152HBut, if it's like the P55, which it seems to be, there's the added uncertainty of the architecture thrown in.That's true, but neither graphics solution provided the performance needed to highlight the mobile processor's on-die PCIe controller's performance advantage.TA152HI'm curious why you wouldn't want to make a comparison with a more similar desktop platform. Was it because you couldn't get an unlocked Lynnfield to get the clock speeds for the processors the same in Turbo mode? Exactly. Besides, Tom's Hardware has already seen that clock-for-clock, Lynfield games at least as well as Bloomfield when a single card is used. If nothing else, the comparison favors the mobile solution's lower power consumption.
    Reply