A couple weeks ago we looked at Intel's new Clarksfield mobile CPU. The short story is that it's the mobile equivalent of Lynnfield, except at lower clock speeds and higher prices. We provided a first look at Clevo's W870CU and compared it with a couple other high-end offerings: the AVADirect Clevo D900F and the Eurocom M980NU XCaliber. We didn't have time in our initial article to run all of our usual benchmarks, so today we want to look at the rest of the story and finish out our benchmark suite. We will also be providing detailed commentary on the design and features of the three notebooks -- something we omitted in the first article.

Taken as a whole, these three notebooks represent the high water mark for mobile performance for the next several months -- and perhaps longer. The AVADirect D900F is the pinnacle of "mobile" processor performance… not by using the fastest mobile processor, but by using the fastest currently available desktop processor. Clocked at 3.33 GHz, the Core i7-975 outperforms any Core i7 mobile CPU by a sizable margin. With one core active, Turbo Boost on the i7-920XM can reach 3.2 GHz, but that's as close as you can get (and the i7-975 can still Turbo up to 3.60GHz). Considering the two processors have the same price tag of $1000, the only reason to go with an i7-920XM is if you want lower power requirements.

On the other side of the table, the Eurocom M980NU represents the best of what we can achieve in mobile graphics performance. It pairs two of NVIDIA's GTX 280M GPUs in SLI. Needless to say, the two graphics chips can consume quite a bit of power, so the trade-off is that SLI is only practical right now when using mobile CPUs, and at present GTX 280M SLI is only available with Core 2 platforms. A similar notebook in terms of performance is Alienware's M17x, although the chassis and design is substantially different from the M980NU. Thus, you can choose between maximum processor performance (D900F) or maximum graphics performance (M980NU/M17x), but you can't get both.

The odd man out is the Clevo W870CU. In terms of graphics performance, it can match the D900F, but it's never actually faster. It can exceed the M980NU in CPU performance at times, but it can't keep up with the SLI gaming performance (unless the M980NU is CPU limited). What it does have is the ability to consume less power, sometimes quite a bit less. Unfortunately, this is counteracted by battery sizes. Where the D900F ships with a 12-cell battery, the W870CU only comes with a 4-cell battery. The model we received is rated at a paltry 42 Wh, although it appears that a high-capacity 65 Wh battery is an option at some vendors. Interestingly, the Eurocom M980NU also lists a 4-cell battery, so potentially we could see an 8-cell version offer nearly twice the battery life. Considering the size of the battery compartment, what we'd really like to see is something closer to the 95 Wh battery available in the D900F. The only reason to avoid such a large battery appears to be weight, and the W870CU is 3 pounds lighter than either of the other notebooks if that matters to you -- but it still weighs almost 9 pounds.

Besides performance, there are obviously differences in terms of chassis, features, and pricing. The W870CU is the cheapest of the three notebooks, starting at around $2150 and coming with moderately high-end options for around $2900. The D900F and M980NU both start at closer to $2500, with typical configurations ranging from $3000 up to $3500. If you want to start putting in multiple SSDs, you can of course get prices that scale into the $5000+ range.

As usual, if you're not in the market for a heavy, high-performance notebook it's unlikely you will be interested in any of these offerings. Battery life is horrible, typically lasting around one hour for moderate usage scenarios. As such, the mobility aspect should be viewed more as a UPS/battery backup instead of something that you will be able to use to go mobile. (Note that we'll look at the Alienware M17x separately in the near future, as it has slightly different mobility aspects.) These notebooks do have the ability to function as desktop replacements for many people, but again performance is going to be lower than what you can get in a similar cost desktop. The benefit is that you can easily pack up a notebook and carry it with you, and there are people that do exactly that, using these as mobile workstations. Now let's take a closer look at these three notebooks and see where they excel and where they may fall flat.

AVADirect Clevo D900F Specifications
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  • psonice - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    These things aren't really mobile - they're huge, weigh a ton, and have totally inadequate battery life. So what you have really is a desktop machine with a built-in keyboard and monitor. I'd call that an all-in-one :)
  • gstrickler - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    [quote]The only reason to avoid such a large battery appears to be weight, and the W870CU is 3 pounds lighter than either of the other notebooks if that matters to you -- but it still weighs almost 9 pounds.[/quote]If it's over 7.5 pounds travel weight (including battery and AC adapter, excluding carrying case), it's not a notebook or laptop. You can call it a transportable, an all-in-one, or a even a portable computer, but please don't refer to them as notebooks.

    If it doesn't get at least 2 hours runtime on battery, it's definitely not a mobile or portable computer, although the transportable or all-in-one name works.

    We really need some industry standard definitions for these, but until we have them, please refrain from using notebook to refer to 9 to 12 pound computers.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    I'd say we need less artificial market segmentation with dumb terms. For example, "netbook" was originally used to refer to cheap, small, light, low-powered laptops. However, you now have "netbooks" in 11-15" screen sizes and at prices pushing well into mainstream laptop territory. I'd argue that laptop/notebook should just refer to the basic form factor, and don't bother trying to differentiate on other features such as size and battery life.
  • IlllI - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    what that comment about something being beaten with an ugly stick?
    these machines are the epitome of function over form. well, i guess it does what its suppose to do.. but i'd be embarrassed to be seen in public with something that has all the aesthetics of a mobile phone from 1988

  • - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

  • Whoeverulike - Monday, September 22, 2014 - link

    The D900F is a great machine. We have run virtually ours 24 hours a day since 2009 so that some going. Now though, its time for some spares to protect our investment so we can earn the value from buying premium hardware. But guess what? Hardly anyone can help us with simple things like screen inverter or chassis feet, not even a cable to rewire the 4-pin DIN power jack lead to the inverter brick. Isn't that surprising? Maybe it isn't to those here but I am a little shocked by it. And now at a time when people like me come looking at sites like this, we are expecting to see something about long term use cases. The D900F and machines like it, before and since are about the nearest that [gaming] laptop users who also possibly have another use for the machine as well, are likely to come to a custom build. But as MonicaS says below building one, if you can do it - if you can know how you are buying for long term return on investment is about the only way one can actually justify some pretty hefty prices especially when we talk about no stripped down power unit but full monty desktop processors like the core i7 in the D900F. It will be interesting if someone else posts in response to this. I didn't see a button to alert me if there is another post to look at. Originally I came by to see if there was a direct contact at Anandtech who may know how to help us in our quest.

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