We've had longstanding beef with laptop manufacturers over mediocre notebook graphics and downright shoddy screen quality. It's not bad enough that we typically have to deal with miserable TN panel screens with awful viewing angles; these screens are usually low resolution affairs (does anyone really think 1366x768 is useful for any kind of serious work?) with terrible contrast ratios and low color gamuts. The state of things is deplorable.
But wait, there's more! Over the past year the number of discrete graphics options available in notebooks has increased substantially, but there's been no clear favorite between AMD and NVIDIA. AMD's parts generally offered more performance compared to the competition, but NVIDIA leveraged Optimus for better battery life. The net result was often a compromise we still don't think the end user should really have to make. Now, however, NVIDIA looks to finally be entering with kit that can compete on both performance and power fronts with the GeForce 400M series.
AVADirect couldn't have sent us the Clevo B5130M at a better time, and they were kind enough to let us configure our review unit exactly how we wanted. That means we had the opportunity to not just test the B5130 as a notebook on its own and add the GeForce GT 425M to our charts, but we were also able to get it configured with Intel's fastest mobile dual-core chip to see how it compares to their entry level quad. We also went for a 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Black; I personally wanted to see how Western Digital's most recent mobile mechanical drive would fare in a world slowly being overrun with SSDs.
|Clevo B5130M Specifications|
|Processor|| Intel Core i7-640M |
(2x2.8GHz + HTT, 32nm, 4MB L3, Turbo to 3.46GHz, 35W)
|Memory||2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)|
|Graphics|| NVIDIA GeForce GT 425M 1GB DDR3 Optimus Technology |
(96 Shaders, 560 MHz core clock, 1120 MHz shader clock, 1400 MHz effective memory clock)
Intel HD Graphics IGP
|Display|| 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 1080p (1920x1080) |
Hannstar HSD06A5 Panel
|Hard Drive(s)||500GB 7200 RPM Western Digital Scorpio Black Hard Disk|
|Optical Drive||DVD+/-RW Drive|
|Networking|| Gigabit Ethernet |
Realtek RTL8191SE Wireless 802.11n (150Mb capable)
|Audio|| Via HD Audio |
Stereo speakers, headphone, microphone, and line-in jacks
|Battery||6-Cell, 11.1V, 5600mAh, 62Wh battery|
|Front Side||4-in-1 Flash reader|
|Left Side|| VGA |
2x USB 2.0
|Right Side|| Headphone, microphone, and line-in jacks |
|Back Side||AC adapter|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Dimensions||14.72" x 9.8" x 0.98"-1.46" (WxDxH)|
|Extras|| 2MP Webcam |
Keyboard with dedicated 10-key
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
|Warranty||1-year standard warranty|
|Pricing|| Starting at $930 |
Priced as configured: $1210.91
The other part to watch is the NVIDIA GeForce GT 425M. Jarred already got his paws on the GeForce GT 420M when he reviewed Dell's XPS 15, and found it to perform about between the old GeForce GT 330M and 335M parts. That's not too bad considering these are basically NVIDIA's new entry level mobile GPU. The 420M and 425M aren't terribly different though; both feature 96 shader processors—excuse me, "CUDA cores"—and a 128-bit memory bus connected to 1GB of DDR3. The 425M runs its core 60MHz higher at 560MHz, resulting in a shader clock of 1120MHz. On the flipside, the 420M in the XPS 15 had the full 1.6GHz on its memory; the 425M in the Clevo makes do with a lower 1.4GHz effective clock. And, of course, both parts leverage NVIDIA's Optimus technology to save power.
Going through the rest of the list is less exciting, as pretty much everything here is bog standard for a modern Arrandale-based notebook. The B5130M leverages the HM55 chipset and brings most modern connectivity with it, including a USB 3.0 port. As I mentioned earlier, though, we specifically custom ordered our review unit with the 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Black; most every review unit with a 7200RPM hard disk we've had came with Seagate's Momentus 7200.4, and we're curious to see how Western Digital's part stacks up.
If you don't like the configuration we selected, that's fine, because AVADirect as usual provides a ton of customization options. The CPU adds nearly $200 to the final price, for 266MHz more on the base clock relative to the i5-460M; the Turbo is quite a bit higher, but we're not convinced it will matter in all workloads. Ultimately, we're looking at a theoretical increase of 10.5% to the base clock and up to 24% higher single-threaded performance. If you're after a halfway house, the i5-560M bumps the price up $65 and gets you about 95% of the performance of the i7-640M. Then you could take the remaining $120 saved and really help overall performance by adding a decent SSD; unfortunately the B5130M only supports a single HDD/SSD, so if you want performance and capacity you're looking at ~$500 to get a C300 or SandForce 256GB/240GB SSD.