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Maximum PC Staff

Jul 20, 2010

iBuypower Armada Touch MT20X

At A Glance

Touch of Class

Mobile quad-core is powerful in apps; good multitouch response; screen remains fairly smudge-proof.

Touch of Evil

Multitouch gaming requires third-party app; graphics performance is middling; poor battery life.

No multitouch games? Roll your own

Veteran gaming-PC company iBuypower is offering the first multitouch gaming laptop, along with a workaround for the complete dearth of multitouch games.

The 15.6-inch MT20X features a capacitive screen with glass overlay to take full advantage of Win7’s multitouch support. All the neat features we’ve come to associate with multitouch—finger-based dragging, scrolling, zooming, rotating—are performed with smoothness and precision on the MT20X’s screen. But neat as this is, it felt a bit unnatural to use on a conventional laptop. For instance, we resented that the trackpad’s lack of a scroll feature forced us to move our fingers from the keyboard to the screen to scroll through web pages and documents.


We were pleasantly surprised that the MT20X’s glass-covered 1920x1080 touch screen didn’t appear covered in fingerprints after regular multitouch use.

But then again, the main selling point of the MT20X is gaming, and here touch functionality could actually be handy, particularly in RTS and MMO games, where you could dispense with all the mouse clicking and more directly control the action onscreen using your fingertips. Unfortunately, PC game developers don’t seem too keen on exploring this technology. No touch-supported PC games currently exist (other than the three casual games that Microsoft includes with its free Touch Pack software) and little attention was paid to touch gaming at this year’s E3—as all efforts seemed focused on 3D.

To fill this void, iBuypower has developed third-party software called MAGIC (short for Multitouch Advanced Gaming Interface Control) that lets you remap mouse and keyboard controls to multitouch gestures in games (and most other apps) that don’t support multitouch natively. The software is beta, but it’s available for free to anyone who buys an iBuypower multitouch laptop. The company provides a few sample profiles, but a straightforward interface makes it easy to create custom profiles. We experimented with a sample profile for Supreme Commander II and appreciated the added touch functionality, although the experience wasn’t perfect. There’s naturally a learning curve involved and the implementation itself has some glitches that iBuypower acknowledges. We were most frustrated at being unable to smoothly scroll around the game environment using our fingers. IBuypower says it is committed to refining the software over time.

Performance-wise the MT20X’s Mobility Radeon HD 5650 is DX11-capable but still just a midrange part. In our gaming benchmarks, it couldn’t hold a candle to our zero-point’s GTX 260M. Its performance was closer to that of the ultraportable Alienware M11x we reviewed in August. In DX11 titles, the MT20X didn’t buckle, but it hardly soared. In our STALKER: Call of Pripyat benchmark, it averaged 23.7fps at 1680x1050 with both tessellation and contact hardening shadows enabled. In the very graphically demanding Heaven DX11 benchmark, the MT20X averaged 8.2fps.

The MT20X is more impressive on the CPU side, thanks to its Core i7-720QM, which offers eight effective threads of processing power to apps that can take advantage of them, as well as Turbo Boost.

But it would be silly to buy the MT20X for productivity purposes, paying a premium for its touch screen in the process. As a gaming rig, it offers a novel, if still imperfect, new approach for enthusiasts of the RTS genre, but its GPU will likely hold it back on newer titles.

BENCHMARKS

Zero Point
Eurocom D900F
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec) 1,320
240 (+450.0%)
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
153 98
ProShow Producer (sec)
1,524 473 (+222.2%)
MainConcept (sec) 2,695
906 (+197.5%)
Far Cry (fps)
32.7 34.8
Call of Duty 4 (fps)
58.2 73.2
Battery Life
100.0 75 (-25%)

Our zero point notebook is an iBuypower M865TU with a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo T9900, 4GB DDR3/1066 RAM, a 500GB Seagate hard drive, a GeForce GTX 260M, and Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit. Far Cry 2 tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA; Call of Duty 4 tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA and anisotropic filtering.

Specifications

Eurocom D900F
CPU3.33GHz Intel Core i7-980X
RAM 4GB DDR3/1333MHz
Chipset
Intel X58
Drives
Three Seagate Momentus 500GB (7,200rpm), two in RAID 0
Optical LG Blu-ray combo drive (HL-DT-ST BDDVDRW)
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M
Ports HDMI, DVI, Ethernet, four USB, eSATA, FireWire, headphone, mic, line-in, media reader, Express Card slot
Lap/Carry11 lb. 15.2 oz / 14 lb, 15.6 oz
THE VERDICT

iBuypower Armada Touch MT20X

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