As PC games continue their eternal march onward, many a laptop is left in the dust shockingly fast. What’s usually holding them back is the poor graphics solution. Even laptops with dedicated cards find themselves unable to run newer games inside of a year. A new AMD product called ATI XGP could solve all that. The AMD 5000 Series Mobility External GPU would provide the power for a real 3D gaming experience.
The new cards will require a full PCI-e pinout, which isn’t currently standard. However, the existence of MiniPCI-e means this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The new system was demoed on an old Acer Ferrari running a Radeon X1270. The difference was quite clear. The external GPU was able to run Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. on a triple monitor system using the Eyefinity system.
The external box itself has one DVI connector, one HDMI, three display port, two USB 2.0 ports, and a 35W power adapter. No word yet on when you’ll be able to get a laptop that supports ATI XGP, but keep an eye out.
If there’s one thing that might take your mind off your financial woes, it’s some good old-fashioned fragging. And Asus is happy to oblige by offering the most affordable full-fledged gaming notebook that we’ve ever tested. The G51Vx-RX05, sold exclusively through Best Buy, costs less than a grand—OK, at $999, that’s a technicality, but still, this 15-inch notebook is cheap. It’s half the cost of the 15-inch iBuypower M865TU gaming rig we reviewed in November.
Of course, Asus had to cut some corners to get there. The notebook’s Core 2 Duo P7350 CPU, for example, boasts a mere 2GHz clock speed—that’s 33 percent slower than the iBuypower’s proc. And true to form, the G51Vx-RX05 performed about 30 percent slower than the iBuypower (our new zero-point rig) in our Premiere, Photoshop, ProShow, and MainConcept benchmarks.
A Power Control Panel option in the G51Vx-RX05 lets you overclock the CPU by up to 150MHz. That’s a 7.5 percent boost, which amounted to around five percent of additional performance in our CPU-centric benchmarks: Using the so-called “Extreme turbo” mode, we shaved 11 seconds off our original Photoshop time and a minute off of Premiere Pro. That doesn’t do much to bridge the gap between the G51Vx-RX05 and its higher-clocked competition, but it does add some value to the package.
From the looks of it, you probably wouldn’t figure iBuypower’s M865TU for a gaming notebook. Its aesthetic is much more subdued than typical representatives of that class. The chassis is covered in a subtly textured black plastic, with tasteful silver trim around the edges and the touch pad. Unlike other gaming notebooks, backlighting is limited to the power button and an unobtrusive iBuypower logo on the notebook’s lid. Furthermore, the 15-inch M865TU is smaller than many gaming rigs and has a more streamlined formfactor.
But despite its smaller stature and no-nonsense appearance, the M865TU’s got game. That’s courtesy of the Nvidia GTX 260M GPU under its hood. Based on a reworked G92 chip, which uses a smaller, faster process (55nm vs. 65nm) and features slightly higher clocks, the GTX 260M proves more capable than previous-generation G92 mobile parts. For example, the M865TU performed almost 30 percent better in Far Cry 2 and Call of Duty 4 than the 9800M GTX-equipped Qosmio X305 we reviewed in June, with scores of 31.3fps and 58.3fps, respectively, at the notebook’s 1680x1050 native res and the highest quality settings. (This month, we jettisoned the games we have previously used for notebooks reviews in favor of FC2 and CoD4, which are far more indicative of a GPU’s prowess—expect to see these titles integrated into our benchmark chart going forward.)
PC vender Acer is on quite the roll as of late. They’ve finally become number two in worldwide notebook sales, beating out Dell. Now they expect to be able to ship 40 million notebooks in 2010, and take the number one spot from market leader HP.
Earlier this year Acer was predicting only 33 to 37 million units shipped, but better than expected performance in the second half of the year caused them to raise expectations. One of Acer’s major problems is the ongoing shortage of hardware, including optical drives, LCD panels, hard drives, and graphics chips. Acer Chairman, JT Wang, indicated that even with possible shortages the company would likely reach its goal.
Acer has become a major player in the last few years. Their notebook shipments have more than doubled, mostly due to the success of netbooks marketed heavily to consumers. They plan to continue on this path into next year.
In our August 2009 ultraportable notebook roundup we fell hard for Toshiba’s Portégé R600—the lightest, sleekest ultraportable notebook we’d ever tested. At $2,150, however, that notebook isn’t cheap.
This month we tested Toshiba’s more affordable ultraportable, the Portégé A605, to see how this consumer-class model compares with its fancier business-class kin.
In looks, the two machines are quite different. While the R600 wowed us with its silver, svelte stylishness, the A605 looks more commonplace. Inside and out, it’s adorned with that shiny black plastic you see everywhere these days, which looks really good… until you smudge it. Its keyboard, thankfully, has the same fingerprint-proof silver coating as the R600’s, and more importantly, sports the same full-size dimensions that make typing on it easy. The A605, which measures 11.3x8.8x1.2 inches, is close in size to the R600, just not as wafer-thin, and it’s a noticeable three-quarters of a pound heavier. Like the R600, the A605 offers a generous selection of ports and expandability options, including a USB/eSATA port (in addition to two standard USB ports), an ExpressCard slot, and an SD media reader.
Michael Dell had some harsh words for netbooks in a recent speech. He claimed that a user might like a netbook just fine, until they’ve used it. “About 36 hours later, they're saying 'The screen's gonna have to go. Give me my 15-inch screen back,’” said Dell. He claimed that consumers really prefer higher end machines in the long run.
Of Windows 7 Dell said, “Performance is kind of coming back.” This may have been a well masked condemnation of Vista’s inability to run acceptably on netbooks. Clearly, he would prefer you buy a more expensive computer, but according to Dell’s CEO, 80% of their business doesn’t come from individual consumers anyway. He pointed out that this dynamic meant Dell could bounce back from the slowdown quickly.
The next time you’re about to buy that cheap netbook, just take a second. Think about what Michael Dell would like you to do: spend more money. He’s probably just saying it because he’s concerned for your user experience, right?
Acer owes its rapid strides in the PC market to its success in the netbook segment. Now it expects to benefit from the launch of Windows 7 and a resurgent global economy. Acer chairman JT Wang is confident that the company will meet its revenue forecast for Q4 2009. The company is expected to register a 10% growth in consolidated revenues during the ongoing quarter.
He believes that the entry of Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba into the ultra-thin notebook segment is bereft of seriousness, and this very lack of sincerity is preventing Intel’s ultra-thin notebook technology from taking off.
If the Voodoo Envy was HP's answer to Apple's Macbook Air, than the just-announced Envy 13 and 15 laptops are diect responses to Apple's Macbook Pro lineup. Sacrificing edgy styling and ridiculously-thin dimensions (seriously, who cares anymore?), the new Envys are built more for performance to meet the demands of the high-end market. These are definitely not underpowered thin-and-lights -- the 13.1-inch model packs a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo, 3GB of DDR3 memory, and an ATI Radeon HD 4330 discrete graphics card. The 15-inch model is even more powerful. And both support an innovative battery slice add-on for prolonged use.
Read on for our full impressions of both laptops and a large gallery of hands-on photos!
When we last visited the Lenovo Thinkpad T400s, we gave it a relatively good score based on its sleek, black matte chassis, its comfortable ergonomic keyboard and its reliable on-the-go specifications, which included a 128GB SSD. Now, the T400s has had a minor overhaul in hardware (including a touchscreen LCD) and software and we were lucky enough to get some hands-on playtime with the still-in-beta SimpleTap multi-touch software.
With all the fuss being made about netbooks, you’d think they were God’s gift to computing convenience. Sure, there’s something to be said for those low-cost, low-power machines, but what if you actually need to get some real work done? There’s nothing convenient about being hobbled by an anemic processor, a relatively low-res screen, a shrunken keyboard, and the various other compromises that contribute to a netbook’s cost savings.
For extreme portability in a machine that packs a punch, you’ll need to set your sights higher, to an ultraportable notebook. Ultraportable notebooks are every bit as light, or lighter than, a netbook, with the added benefit of superior features and a more powerful processor. As a general rule, you’ll find your hardiest ultraportables among the business-class models, which are made for both regular travel and all-around productivity. Of course, convenience of this caliber comes at a premium price—usually four to five times the cost of the average netbook.
Thus, choosing an ultraportable is not a decision to be taken lightly. To help you out, we gathered up four elite representatives of the class and put them through rigorous testing. Obviously, we can’t expect any ultraportable machine to have the muscle required for chores like video editing, batch transcoding, or serious gaming. But we do expect these notebooks to accomplish the gamut of typical day-to-day tasks, including photo editing, slide-show creation, and multitasking. And we expect them to offer all the comfort and features necessary for full-fledged computing on the go.