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Good but Not Great
If only we could take the best parts of all these rigs and roll them into one
We wish we could declare a clear winner in this roundup—one that offers the complete package of performance and portability, but unfortunately, each notebook has different strengths and weaknesses, and none comes out as being particularly impressive.
Sure, the Eurocom X3 mopped the floor with the others in the performance benchmarks, but it's also the most expensive laptop by a long shot, offers weak battery life, is the heaviest, and features an unimpressive TN panel. On the flipside, the Lenovo Y510p is much more affordable and bests both the Alienware 14 and Veloce in the graphics department with its SLI setup. But it has a relatively lackluster CPU, a frustrating trackpad, and also goes the less-than-desirable TN route. While the highly portable Veloce is equally affordable to the Y510p despite an upgrade to an IPS panel and offers impressive performance for its size, its build quality feels cheap and its fans are annoyingly loud. Then there’s the Alienware 14, which has the best battery life out of the bunch, offers the slickest aesthetics, but is on the pricey side and its overall performance is a bit lacking.
These are all respectable products, but it looks like the gaming laptop mountain doesn't have a king just yet.
|Lenovo Y510p||Eurocom X3||Alienware 14||Digital Storm Veloce|
|Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)||1,092||1,118||856||962||981|
|ProShow Producer 5 (sec)||1,786||1,769
|x264 HD 5.0 (fps)||12||9.7||14.9||13.5||12.8|
|STALKER: CoP (fps)||32.8||40.8||89.1||40.7||39.3|
|3DMark 11 Perf||2,979||5,194||7,967||4,170||4,319|
|Tomb Raider (fps)||N/A||45.3||69.8||32.6||32.6|
|Hitman: Absolution (fps)||N/A||24.3||35.6||14.3||14.9|
|BioShock Infinite (fps)||N/A||39.7||58.6||28.1||29.2|
Best scores are bolded. Our zero-point notebook is an MSI GT60 with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM, 12GB DDR3/1600, two 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drives, a GeForce GTX 670M, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. STALKER CoP tested at 1920x1080 with Ultra settings, Tessellation, and contact hardening. N/A denotes that benchmarks were not run on the zero point.
Intel’s Iris Pro integrated graphics steps it up
We’ve long used the analogy that if Intel is Lucy and integrated graphics is the gaming-capable football, we’re all Charlie Brown. Yup, that bald-headed kid who just keeps thinking that every time Intel says its integrated graphics are capable of playing games, we believe it and throw our back out trying to kick that football to the moon. Well, listen up, blockhead: Lucy is in front of you once again, dangling that pigskin, and this time, she’s really serious that she’ll let you kick it.
To find out if that football will stay in place or be snatched away again, we took CyberPower’s new Zeus Hercules—a $1,300, 14-inch portable equipped with an Intel Core i7-4750HQ and its highest-end Iris Pro 5200 graphics with embedded DRAM—and benched it against an Ivy Bridge graphics–equipped HP Spectre Ultrabook, as well as an older Acer Timeline M3 Ultrabook. The Timeline M3 has an aged 32nm Sandy Bridge CPU but it also has an Nvidia GeForce GT 640M discrete card on board.
The results? First off, the Intel HD4000 graphics in the HP Spectre are not even in the running. We’ll remind you that when Ivy Bridge came out, ol’ Lucy touted its graphics as being substantially improved. Um, yeah.
Against the GeForce GT 640M, the Iris Pro 5200 proved surprisingly comparable in most of our tests. When it was introduced, Nvidia said the GeForce GT 640M was capable of playing Battlefield 3 at
Ultra—quite a feat in 2012 (of course, playing at Ultra meant settling for less than 30fps). Still, that Intel’s Iris Pro 5200 integrated graphics can offer performance close to or better than that discrete part is finally proof that Intel won’t always pull that football out from under our feet.
Of course, looked at another way, the GeForce GT 640M is a pretty old GPU at this point. We believe current midrange discrete graphics would easily step away from Iris Pro 5200. However, Iris Pro 5200 is actually capable of playing a lot of games at 1366x766 resolution with very satisfactory frame rates. In addition to our benchmarks, we played Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and Minecraft with no complaints. Moving up to Battlefield 3, we had to turn down the settings a few notches, but the playability was far better than we’ve ever before experienced with integrated graphics.
One other performance metric we looked at was OpenCL computing. Since the Iris Pro 5200 features that massive 128MB of L4 cache we’ve been chattering about since Haswell launched (Intel, give us a socketed version, please), we wanted to see if the top-end IGP has it where it counts in compute. It does. It destroyed the Spectre’s HD4000 graphics in the OpenCL benchmarks we ran and came pretty close to the GeForce GT 640M in the OpenCL 1.1.3 benchmark. In LuxMark 2.0, it crushed both the HD4000 and the discrete part.
There are two things to take away from this: The first is that the high-end discrete GPU has absolutely nothing to fear from Iris Pro 5200—we didn’t even bother to compare it to the gaming notebooks in this roundup because it would be embarrassing for integrated graphics. They’re that much faster in gaming. The second is that for a lot of people who just want a “normal” notebook, the Iris Pro 5200 is good enough, and a hell of a lot better than anything that has come before. Let’s just say the next time Lucy approaches us with that football, we may not be so cynical.
|Acer Timeline M3||HP Spectre|
|GPU||Intel Iris Pro 5200||Nvidia GeForce GT 640M||Intel HD4000|
|CPU||Core i7-4750HQ||Core i7-2637||Core i7-3517U|
|3DMark 11 Extreme Overall||X637
|3DMark 11 Extreme Graphics||568
|3DMark 11 Performance Overall||P2,054||P1,840||P611|
|3DMark 11 Performance Graphics||1,811||1,750||532|
|3DMark New Firestrike Overall||1,310||1,213||512|
|3DMark New Firestrike Graphics||1,310||1,297||544|
|3DMark New Cloudgate Overall||9,513||5,248||3,302|
|3DMark New Cloudgate Graphics||11,585||9,044||4,344|
|3DMark Ice Storm Extreme Overall||52,958||55,600||30,406|
|3DMark Ice Storm Extreme Graphics||60,474||84,990||35,192|
|Unigine 4.0 13x6 (fps)||22.3||24.9||7.7|
|STALKER: CoP Day (fps)||56.3||67.8||21.7|
|STALKER: CoP Night (fps)||63.2||70.1||19|
|STALKER: CoP Rain (fps)||70.1||74.1||22.4|
|STALKER: CoP Sun Shafts (fps)||43.8||44.8||13.7|
|OpenCL 1.1.3 Physics: SPH Fluid Simulation||1,434||1,515||525|
|OpenCL 1.1.3 Vision: Optical Flow||1,389||1,649||302|
|LuxMark 2.0 Sala (score)||462||101||67|
|LuxMark 2.0 Room (score)||325||47||33|
Best scores are bolded.