Introduction

AVADirect first contacted us in early 2008 to see if we would be interested in doing a notebook review. While normally we wouldn't want to turn down any manufacturer, the fact is they were offering to send us another Clevo M570RU notebook -- the same basic notebook as the WidowPC Sting 517D2 that we had just finished reviewing. Retreading old ground didn't seem to be very useful, so we had to figure out if there was anything new we could bring to the table.

After further consideration, we came up with several areas that we would like to investigate further. First, the WidowPC notebook shipped with Windows Vista 64-bit installed; that's definitely not a problem, but we didn't have the time to install the 32-bit version to see if there was any difference in overall performance. So our first request was that AVADirect configure a system with a 32-bit OS. Let's make things clear: considering they are shipping a system with 4 GB of memory, we definitely think a 64-bit OS is the way to go, and AVADirect does support (and recommend) such a configuration.

Then Dell sent us their XPS M1730 equipped with SLI video cards. We ran a ton of benchmarks on that system, but trying to report on everything in a single article became increasingly difficult. We felt a look at SLI scaling performance would make an interesting addition to this review. We will thus be including results from the AVADirect M570RU (a single GeForce 8800M GTX notebook) and comparing it to the Dell XPS M1730, the latter running with SLI enabled as well as disabled.

Finally, one topic that invariably seems to come up with discussions of gaming notebooks is video drivers -- and particularly long-term support from companies in the way of providing new driver updates. We spoke with NVIDIA quite a bit on the subject, and we definitely feel it's a topic that should interest anyone who owns or plans to own a gaming notebook (at least if it has an NVIDIA graphics chip). We also have a few other interesting pieces of information regarding video drivers that we hope will find useful.


While the AVADirect M570RU is literally identical to the WidowPC Sting 517D2 in terms of appearance -- with the exception of the logo on the front of the laptop -- there are some differences we want to discuss. These differences fall into two general categories: differences in configuration options, and differences between the companies. So let's return to the Clevo M570RU once more, only this time we'll see how AVADirect approaches this notebook chassis.

AVADirect System Overview
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  • feelingshorter - Friday, March 14, 2008 - link

    With these high end laptops (it gets more FPS than my desktop on gaming!), i can only imagine that the components are heating up pretty good inside such a small package.

    Every desktop computer I've had failed on me sooner or later (not hard drive related). So how long are these laptops expected to last?
    Reply
  • Donkey2008 - Friday, March 14, 2008 - link

    I am an AVID gamer with the Dell XPS M170 that I bought 2 1/2 years ago and I have had very few problems playing ANY games with the old stock drivers. Yes, I have tried the laptopvideo2go drivers a few times and A) I saw almost no performance increase and B) I had many more problems in games, not to mention the loss of the Powerplay function (I do use this monster on the road at times).

    My XPS M170 (with Go 7800GTX) uses an almost 2-year-old graphic driver from June of 2006, yet I have played CS Source, RS3:RS, COD2, COD4, Joint Ops, FEAR, BF2, BF2142, C&C Generals, WIC, Dawn of War, GTA:SA, Bioshock, Crysis (tried at least :P), etc. without almost no problems. In fact, I am staring at my shelf full of games and I cannot see a single game that didn't play just fine on my XPS with those "crappy" old stock drivers.

    Exactly what games do you have problems with? I'd like to know.

    Also, one thing gaming laptops need badly IMO is either the ability to move the LCD horizontally on an axis or a keyboard that can be tilted left-right/forward-back on an axis (so I can angle the keys like a split keyboard). I use a normal keyboard at an ~45 degree angle to my left hand/arm when playing games, which is MUCH more natural to the human anatomy, but playing games with my arm straight on to a laptop keyboard has practically given me carpal tunnel. That is my only complaint.

    Anyway, gaming laptops RULE. I can easily bring my gaming to work, plug into the corporate network and play LAN or MP games with my co-workers (afterhours of course). Then I simply pack it up and can do the same thing at home. Let's see someone with a monster case (Antec 900-ish) and a huge LCD do that! :P

    Now, I just need to win the lottery and get one of those Alienware M15x rigs :-)
    Reply
  • FXi - Friday, March 14, 2008 - link

    Well done. Lots of things that are bothering us gaming notebook owners and future customers of more include, drivers, screens, performance and power issues.

    Owning a 1710 the driver issue has been frustrating (liveable with laptopvideo2go.com) to say the least. I don't understand how a vendor can be so short sighted. If you frustrate the current owner, how likely are they to come back? We all know the prices of these things are in a class to themselves. And we already know we are making tradeoffs, some of which are severe enough, but are technology based. To then fail to have regular driver updates is a slap in the face, and I've seen more folks comment in the forums that this is the last gaming laptop they'll buy based on this. It's a premium product, but they don't support it like one.

    It's nice to see this change, but it really should be a night and day change not a "we'll work on it" or "we can give you beta drivers, how's that?". How'd you like to go buy a Lexus and get told that they'd be happy to charge you a Lexus price but they can't repair them so at the first breakdown, you buy a new car?

    Every time Dell comes out with a new laptop they offer new drivers. And much the same goes for Nvidia and the new 8800M. That's why the "beta drivers" are available only in Vista for 8 series and only XP for 7 series. They are just trying to fool the users into thinking they'll be supported by showing they have the latest drivers now. To be fair, Nvidia must know this is a problem and even Dell aren't total fools. But for me, before I'm going to shell out more $ for that fancy new mobile quad core and 1740, I'm going to want to see some very serious and regular driver updates. Once a quarter had better happen and it better be the minimum. Serious bugs should be fixed in weeks. Your not selling the mobile gpu's at some discount to the desktop ones, quite the opposite.

    Have 3 year warranty? How about returning a laptop because it won't run a game? That might get their attention. Class action suits have won on less ground.

    Overall it's a great article on a segment that could be even more booming. There are so many "burned" old users that it's difficult to grow when so many current owners report their experience. But that can and probably will change. Your article hits tons of the issues on scaling, cpu performance, even the OS. Might have been nice to throw in a 8800 gtx desktop reference line just to keep buyers aware of what they face.

    Overall great, great job.
    Reply
  • Inkjammer - Friday, March 14, 2008 - link

    I really agree with you.

    I bought an SLI Alienware m9750, and I love the laptop to death, but I have the same driver issue as well. The drivers Alienware shipped with the laptop could not run Crysis, a game Alienware was demoing on the same laptop all over their website. Which was, in my view, rather false advertising.

    However, given the recent news with Epic coming out and saying "computers are not for gaming, not good for gaming" and companies ditching out on the PC industry, it becomes more and more difficult to justify the cost of a $3,000+ gaming laptop.

    And it still comes down to the fact that companies claim upgradability in laptops via MXM graphics components, yet still fail to provide said components. My m9750, despite promises, can not be upgraded.

    Laptop gaming is definitely awesome, but highly flawed given the entry costs.
    Reply

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