Clevo X8100 Gaming Laptop: Great Performance, but Large and Unwieldy
At a Glance
AVADirect Clevo X8100 Core i7 Gaming Notebook
If you need an all-in-one gaming rig for a LAN party, the Clevo X1800 does the job, but a compact deskop may be better.
When I unpacked the AVADirect Clevo X8100, I coined a new acronym: LINO, for "laptop in name only."
It's hard to describe just how massive the Clevo X8100 is. I can tell you that this laptop ships with a bright, colorful 18.4-inch display. I'll also mention that it weighs 12.5 pounds, without the power brick (it's almost 15 pounds with the 220W power supply). But no words can prepare you for the overall heft of this beast. The problem is isn't so much the weight as it is the balance: Toting the Clevo is awkward. You should use the included carrying case, even when moving the unit relatively short distances.
I'll hit the high points first. The 18.4-inch, LED-backlit LCD screen is one of the better ones we've seen on a mobile PC. Colors are richly saturated, and side-to-side viewing angles are surprisingly good for a laptop. Vertical viewing angles are lacking, but that's pretty typical. Blu-ray and high-definition WMV files looked stunning, although the glossy screen reflects background light. We tossed in the Blu-ray versions of Serenity and Casino Royale, and both looked terrific. Games also looked good--well saturated, with relatively decent black levels in dark areas.
The mobile Intel Core i7-820QM quad-core processor delivered excellent performance, posting an impressive mark of 120 in WorldBench 6. As expected with such a beefy system, though, battery life was a scant 1 hour, 26 minutes.
DVD upscaling was less than fulfilling. I popped in the DVD version of Serenity, which offers very good image quality, and noticed substantial edge enhancement when playing the movie in PowerDVD. The upscaled image also appeared a little soft.
Audio is a mixed bag. Movies sounded pretty good, as did games, though volume levels were fairly low. The speakers lacked accuracy in musical material, however, with a noticeable boost in midrange, a muted high end, and limited bass. Mysteriously, stereo imaging with music seemed to be shifted to the right just a bit, while movie audio was centered almost perfectly.
Game performance was quite good for a laptop, due to the system's dual nVidia GeForce 285 GTX mobile GPUs. Still, it wasn't quite up to the performance of a desktop with discrete graphics. The Far Cry 2 action benchmark barely hit 20 frames per second in DirectX 10 mode at the full 1920 by 1200 resolution. The recently released Just Cause 2 fared better, reaching 35 fps with all of the eye candy pumped up (but without antialiasing enabled). If you're willing to sacrifice a little resolution and a few graphics settings, you should get good frame rates in most PC games.
The keyboard is excellent for typing, and the additional function keys--reminiscent of Logitech's gaming-keyboard macro keys--look promising. AVADirect includes a lightweight macro-recording tool, making this laptop particularly attractive for MMO players. Despite the large keyboard area, the keyboard still lacks discrete Page Down/Up and Home/End keys, though it does have a dedicated numeric keypad.
Network connectivity is quite good, with gigabit ethernet, 802.11n, and Bluetooth available. Interestingly, the Clevo X8100 offers an HDMI input port, allowing external HDMI devices--such as a game console--to use the laptop's display. Other display interfaces include an HDMI output port and a dual-link DVI port, but no analog VGA output. Four USB ports are present, two on each side; one of the USB connectors on the right side serves double duty as an eSATA port. Audio input and output jacks are on the right side, as well. Also available on the right is a connector labeled 'CATV'; a TV-tuner card is optional, but wasn't included in our test unit. The left side houses all the video connections and a mini-1394 jack.
Ultimately, I have mixed feelings about the AVADirect Clevo X8100. I love the large display and the overall feel of the keyboard, but I'm somewhat put off by the awkwardness of the weight distribution and the sheer physical bulk of the unit. The game performance is excellent for a laptop, but it still can't quite keep up with that of even small form-factor desktop PCs that use current-generation, discrete graphics cards. The price of our tested configuration (as of June 3, 2010) is steep, too, at over $4100. However, the entry price, which still includes the 1080p display and the dual GeForce GTX 285M GPUs, is under $2500. If you're looking for an all-in-one gaming system, the Clevo X8100 will fit the bill. But be sure to carry some ibuprofen for the inevitable backache.