Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

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Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby henrybutt » 16 Jul 2009, 19:03

Novatech X1 GTX (Clevo M980NU) Review

by Henry Butt

The X1 GTX is a brand new product for Novatech coming in right at the top of their range. It combines the most powerful dual core mobile CPU from Intel with two of the latest nVidia 280M GTX graphics cards to produce probably the most powerful gaming notebook you can buy today.

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Specification

• Screen: 18.4” (1920 x 1080) Full HD with Gloss Finish
• Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T9900 (3.06GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 6MB Cache)
• Memory: 4GB DDR3 RAM
• Storage: 2 x Samsung 64GB SSD, 1 x 500GB 7200RPM HDD
• Optical Drive: Blu-Ray / DVD+-RW
• Wireless: Realtek 8187B (AGN)
• Graphics: 2 x nVidia GeForce 280M GTX 1GB DDR3
• 2 Mega Pixel Camera
• Battery: 12 Cell Lithium Polymer
• Dimensions: 439mm x 299mm x 44mm
• Weight: 4.9KG with Battery
• OS: Windows Vista Home Premium 64 bit
• Retail Price: £2741.50 inc. VAT

Build and Design

There is no other way of describing the appearance of the X1 but breathtaking. From the sleek black gloss finish highlighted by LED system lighting to the borderless screen and macbookesque keyboard. The only slight disappointment to the high end finish is the plastic used for the area around the keyboard which, although makes a nice contrast, also looks slightly cheap and out of place. As always however, the acres of glossy plastic are very easily marked by fingerprints and small scratches so you have to be careful while using this laptop. It is obvious that this machine is designed with gamers in mind – aside from the “look at me” system lights there is eight user programmable gaming shortcut buttons to the left of the keyboard.

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As one would expect for a notebook of this price tag, build quality is exceptional. All of the plastics are of the highest quality, even the cheap looking matte plastic around the keyboard, and the entire machine feels like it has some substance. There is no palm rest flex altogether and applying pressure to the back of the screen produces no show through whatsoever The hinges also feel very solid and in fact are all that holds the lid shut when the notebook is closed. It is noticable however that the furthest you can set the screen back is at a 45 degree angle which some users may find annoying, however is not surprising considering the size of the screen. The notebook itself is around 6 cm thick when closed so it is no surprise that it weighs a hefty 4.9kg including the battery.

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The LED system lighting is something which really sets this notebook out from the crowd. It is a great feature although could have been implemented slightly better. It is a shame that the keyboard is not backlit as even some much lower spec machines feature backlit keyboards and it’s also a shame that only the lid and vent lights change colour, with the majority remaining blue all of the time. It is also a shame that you cannot switch the lights off as they are quite intrusive when watching a movie in the dark.

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Screen

The X1 has one of the best screens I have ever seen on a notebook. Aside from being bright and clear it has a 16:9 aspect ratio which is favourable for watching DVD’s and Blu-ray as it eliminates the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. The screen itself is Full HD (1920 x 1080) so is perfect for gaming and watching movies in high definition and also has the almost standardized glossy coating which improves clarity and contrast although is a little over-reflective compared to some others. The screen has great viewing angles from the sides, however is not so good vertically. Overall the screen is very impressive however it may be nice to see Novatech offering some sort of LED backlit display to improve brightness and power consumption.

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Speakers

The speakers on the X1 are way above average for a notebook. They produce a surprising volume and have reasonably bass for their size. This is probably due to the sizable (for a notebook) subwoofer on the underside. They do however lack substance do not seem well balanced, even when you switch between the optimized modes using the media button above the keyboard.

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Although the X1 uses integrated audio by Realtek, it still produces 8 channel output via the software configurable audio jacks on the right hand side, and also has a digital output.

Processor and Performance

The X1 sports the latest Intel Core 2 Duo T9900 which is the most powerful mobile dual core processor that is available at the moment, running at a healthy 3.06 GHz. This is supported by dual nVidia 280M GTX graphics cards which are also the most powerful mobile graphics cards available at the moment, making this one of the most powerful gaming notebooks available today. If this power isn’t enough for you however, Novatech provide the option of upgrading to the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9300 processor, although this upgrade costs in excess of £500.

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Being such a large machine, the X1 has enough room for three hard disk drives and in the Pro configuration, they are filled by two Samsung 64GB Solid State Drives for extreme performance and a 500GB 7200RPM hard drive for storage.

Benchmarks

CPU-Z

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GPU-Z

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Windows Experience Index

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HD Tune

-SSDs (in Raid)

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- HDD

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3DMark06

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- SLI Disabled

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-SLI Enabled

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3DMark05

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-SLI Disabled

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-SLI Enabled

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Super Pi

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Cinebench R10

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Heat and Noise

Thanks to the insane amount of high performance components under the hood, the X1 sports three cooling fans, the larger cooling the CPU and two smaller ones cooling the two GPUs. Under normal usage, the fans are barely audible, in fact, when the “silent” mode where the machine clocks down the CPU and GPUs, the fans actually speed up! One area where the X1 does get slightly warm is the right palm rest, under which the third hard drive and batter reside, although this is far from unbearable.

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Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard is one of the few areas that the let X1 down. Although it has been designed to mimic the integrated style of a Macbook keyboard, it sadly suffers from a noticeable amount of flex all over, although this isn’t really noticeable during normal usage. It is also noticeable that the keyboard isn’t central to the rest of the machine – although this doesn’t affect operation majorly, it takes a while to get used to and makes the machine seem slightly unbalanced. This does however provide room for the eight user programmable gaming buttons to the left of the keyboard which are a welcomed addition considering the nature of this laptop. It might however have been better to have four on each side of a centred keyboard; however this is only personal preference.

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Above the keyboard there is a variety of touch sensitive buttons which are mainly to control built in functions such as the web camera, Bluetooth, wireless, and volume. The buttons are reasonably sensitive and change colour when they are pressed so you know the touch has registered. The volume control is in the form of a touch slider which works very well – the only drawback being the feedback noise from the computer when this is altered. It would have been nice to see some media control buttons alongside these which are now standard on most notebooks.

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The touchpad is another area which lets the X1 down slightly. Although it is large and well placed it has a gloss finish which makes it difficult to navigate around it and it also seems quite unresponsive. This is largely due to the borderless nature of the touchpad as it is part of the palm rest which also has a gloss finish. It is also noticeable that the touchpad buttons are a little far from the actual touchpad and the fingerprint reader in between the buttons is far too easy to knock accidently which brings up the included software.

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I would definitely recommend using a proper mouse with the X1 which you will probably be doing anyway if you are using it as a gaming notebook, however this is no excuse for the poor touchpad.

Input and Output Ports

The X1 has almost every connection you could possibly need from a notebook and probably more. It includes both a DVI port and an HDMI port for outputting high definition video to an external display. The audio connectors are well placed on the right hand side of the notebook, however it would be nice to see more of the connectors on the rear side so the cables are kept out of the way.

All descriptions are from left to right

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1. DVI
2. 2 x USB 2.0
3. Ethernet Jack
4. HDMI
5. Optical Drive
6. 5 in 1 Media Card Reader
7. Expresscard Slot
8. Mini-Firewire Port

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1. Headphone Jack
2. Microphone Jack
3. Line Out
4. S/PDIF Out
5. CATV Jack
6. 1 x USB 2.0
7. 1 x USB 2.0 / E-SATA
8. Kensingon Slot
9. Power Button

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1. Speaker
2. Status Lights
3. Speaker

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1. GPU Exhaust
2. AC in
3. CPU Exhaust


Wireless

The X1 makes use of the Realtek 8187B AGN card which has a reasonable range and achieves decent speeds even when only using a G connection. Sadly this card isn’t quite up to the level of the Intel cards and it would be nice on a notebook of this price to have a slightly better card as standard. The X1 also features Bluetooth which is expected on a laptop of this calibre.

Battery and PSU

Due to the nature of the X1, battery life isn’t an area in which it excels. Even though it sports a large 12 cell battery, you would be lucky to get 1h 30 out of it under minimal usage and brightness, however under load the battery life becomes negligible. It would have been nice if Novatech had included a binary graphics option such as the one available on the Alienware M15X to improve battery life however with the large screen, it is unlikely that it wouldn’t improve battery life significantly.

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The PSU of this notebook is nothing but huge. It is almost twice the size of my M570RU’s one which is large itself. It weighs at least a kilogram so also detracts from the already non-existent portability of the notebook.

Operating System and Software

My review model of the X1 had Vista Home Premium 64bit installed, however it is available with most flavours of Vista or without an operating system at all. It is nice to see that for once, Novatech have included a disk as well as the system restore function. The only pre-installed software that the X1 ships with is a 60 day trial of Microsoft Office and the only disk which comes with it is a Driver disk which also contains a .PDF version of the user manual.

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Customer Support

Novatech provides some of the best customer support I have ever experienced from a computer manufacturer. Every issue I have had with the laptop I purchased from them has been dealt with in a professional and efficient way, and I have been nothing less than 100% satisfied with it. Novatech have both phone support and a live chat which I have tried out and both seem to be very helpful. I have to say their live chat is on a whole different level to that of Dell. As standard, all Novatech laptops come with a 12 month return to base warranty, however this can be upgraded to a 2 year C & R warranty which I think is a must have.

Conclusion

The Novatech X1 GTX is one of the most powerful gaming notebooks available today and produces an extreme amount of power allowing it to chew through all of the latest games at amazing frame rates and also anything else you throw at it. The main downside of the notebook is the sheer size of the thing – it is around six centimetres thick and is larger than almost all 17” gaming notebooks today. This is very much a desktop replacement laptop designed for minimal movement, maybe to the odd LAN party, but not to be used as anything which requires remote portability.

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Pros

• Sleek design with a premium finish
• Desktop performance in a laptop form factor
• Available with a variety of OS’s or none at all
• Great Build Quality
• Amazing Screen
• Dual Graphics

Cons

• Keyboard Quality
• Touchpad
• Size

Thanks to Chris and Charmaine at Novatech for organizing this review unit for me.
Last edited by henrybutt on 11 Aug 2009, 02:05, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby EviL Ras » 16 Jul 2009, 19:31

holy crap that is sexxx! WOW!!!!
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby Advocate » 16 Jul 2009, 20:05

got to ask - do those blue LEDs turn off ever? they would be very distracting if say watching a film...
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby Roadshow » 16 Jul 2009, 20:23

I am hating the buttons to the left of the keyboard and that irritating bloody dial lit to the top right.

Can we assume this is identical to Rock's latest offering (http://www.rockdirect.com/viewNotebook. ... 0840%20SLI) and that of Kobalt (http://www.kobaltcomputers.co.uk/comanc ... erview.php) . Will be interesting to see how they all stack up in terms of price, warranty, delivery etc.

Also disappointed that despite the labelling of Nvidia's mobile gfx cards, they are such old and poor performers (http://www.rockforum.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=14293). A next gen notebook ought to have next gen graphics, not still be beaten by a desktop with 8800gtx. These machines ought to have dumped nvidia in favour of something like the Mobility Radeon 4870 X2, would be interesting to see how they compare in some actual gaming as opposed to optimised benchmarks.
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby Tappy » 16 Jul 2009, 21:05

Yey for Novatech giving you one to look at! Nice job on the review.

And gawd, that thing is thick! I was drooling on all the pics until it came to the side shots. Hugemongous! Whey too big for my requirements, and if I was going 17"+ I would probably go for the Alienware just because it is teh sexx.
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby henrybutt » 16 Jul 2009, 21:21

I have yet to figure out whether you can actually turn the lights off... so far it would appear not. At the moment I'm trying to optimize it as I dont feel that the benchmarks are doing it justice.

I do know what you mean about the volume slider... i think it would be better if it were a straight line to fit in with the rest of the buttons and I dont personally like the gaming buttons either.

Also... the thing is humungus... it makes my M570RU which i thought was massive feel and look like a boring midget that is years old... I have to say having the choice I would keep the M570RU over the M980NU... its just so much more utilitarion and less gimmicky.
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby EviL Ras » 16 Jul 2009, 21:57

why would you ever want to turn the lights off! Its pure Ras sex!
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby Johnmcl7 » 16 Jul 2009, 22:39

Wow, great to see a review of the machine so quickly - thanks a lot!

Is the touchpad entirely flush with the palm rest? I have to say I really hate these touch controls along the top of keyboards, both the XPS M1330 and XPS 1640 have them and I find them really annoying, I much preferred the buttons along the front of the laptop design they previously used. I also think glossy surfaces on laptops are daft as they make them looks so messy, I cannot keep the XPS 1640 clean at all. I think the over the top glossiness jars badly with the more functional looking sides. Bit of a sore point but it's worth bearing in mind that the keyboard design is Sony's which Apple followed with a few years later...

I agree with the comments about size, the XPS M1710 is as big as I'd go - I decided when I bought the XPS M1730 it was just too big and having been given one I don't think any different, it's impractical to move at all. Given mobile technology on both processor and graphics card is lagging a long way behind right now I think this type of machine is less useful although I'm sure there will be buyers out there. I'd hope there'd be a way to turn off all the lights though as they're fine for briefly showing off but irritating otherwise.

Henry - having tried a few different machines now, what's your thoughts on your own ideal laptop?

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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby henrybutt » 17 Jul 2009, 11:33

Yes the touchpad is entirely flush with the palm rest which means you can easily accidentally venture into the palm rest when using it without noticing! The only border is the surrounding light which is a bit of a shame. I have to say the touchpad is growing on me although is still a little annoying - it feels quite like the surface of the iPhone although not quite as slippery if you get what i mean :P

Haha... after reviewing so many different machines I am seriously considering going for a macbook... thats pretty awful i know! As for windows though I would go for the X55 MV personally because it has ample power to do everything i want and also suffice for minimal gaming at a really good price!
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby poor_man_jim » 17 Jul 2009, 19:11

Henrybutt, you have been busy! :-) I'm surprised at the modest 3DMark06 score though. I'd have thought it would've got nearer the 15k mark as has the Alienware M17x supposedly with one 280M GTX (using Nvidia's 179.85 driver);
http://www.notebookcheck.net/Hands-On-A ... 322.0.html
I'm highly dubious about the single GPU claim though as their GPU-Z screenshot clearly reads 2 GPUs! Still, somewhat faster than the Clevo.

I then looked at a German review of the M980NU with the dual 280M GTX setup (using the same Nvidia 179.79 driver as in henrybutt's review);
http://www.notebookjournal.de/tests/rev ... -sli-923/2
Whilst better than the Novatech scores (I wonder why?), the difference in general performance between the latest single and dual GPU setups (looking at FPS and 3DMark06) isn't what I'd call impressive. I refer to this laptop here;
http://www.notebookjournal.de/tests/rev ... m-i7-893/2
(German)

SLI driver immaturity perhaps? Or can the i7 CPU really make a difference? Otherwise, what's the point then for SLI? To drive huge/multiple external monitors capable of much higher resolutions?
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby Johnmcl7 » 17 Jul 2009, 20:31

poor_man_jim wrote:SLI driver immaturity perhaps? Or can the i7 CPU really make a difference? Otherwise, what's the point then for SLI? To drive huge/multiple external monitors capable of much higher resolutions?


In short yes to both your points, SLI performance gains are more likely to be driving high resolution monitors (you can't have multiple monitors with SLI enabled) - to go to the extremes, quad SLI really only show the big performance gains (against the massive cost) when running at 2560x1600.

The Core i7 processor can really make a large difference as it's a very powerful processor leaving a big gap between even the top end (and extremely pricey) mobile processors. I have the Core i7 2.93 Ghz processor and the Core 2 Duo 2.8Ghz mobile processor and the difference in cpu tasks such as encoding is very noticeable, if you throw anything multithreaded at the i7 it just powers though it.

I wish Intel would hurry up and get on with their i7 derivatives as even a dual core based version with a dual channel memory controller would be a noticeable step onwards.

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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby poor_man_jim » 17 Jul 2009, 21:12

PC Watch posted some unofficial roadmaps recently which show Q4 this year for the high-end Core i7 invasion.

Chart
http://pc.watch.impress.co.jp/img/pcw/d ... aigai3.jpg

Article (Japanese)
http://pc.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/colu ... 02074.html

That together with DirectX 11 and alleged multi-threading improvements (games like Dirt 2 are being delayed to take advantage of the new feature set) should make for some interesting times ahead then. Have no idea what to expect from the GPU realm though. More evolution than revolution?
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby Johnmcl7 » 17 Jul 2009, 21:55

I don't think that roadmap is accurate, the mobile Core i7's slated for release this year are meant to be topping out at 2GHz and they're not full Core i7's despite having that name.

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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby henrybutt » 18 Jul 2009, 17:21

Lolll... it would seem that my review unit has some kind of fault with the slave card which is causing artifacting and possibly unrepresentative benchmarks so Novatech are swapping the unit out on tuesday for a new one :)
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Re: Novatech X1 GTX Pro (Clevo M980NU) Review

Postby Roadshow » 03 Sep 2009, 08:16

PCPRO have reviewed this machine here: http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/laptops/ ... ech-x1-gtx

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