In and Around the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17

Say what you will about the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17, but say this: it's not exactly a looker. Utilizing a slightly modified MSI GT70 chassis, it's unfortunately still a poster child for why many Taiwanese firms (outside of ASUS) still can't quite seem to catch fire on western shores. The aesthetic is gaudy in places, chintzy in others, and unfortunately just don't gel. Alienware notebooks may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they have a consistent, clear aesthetic and they don't look cheap.

That lack of attention to aesthetics is evident on MSI's own GT70 page, which overflows with features but only remarks on the keyboard's backlighting. iBuyPower has done what they can to mitigate it; the plastic lid features two glowing stripes and a glowing iBuyPower logo, while the rest of the chassis is largely matte black plastic. Thankfully, glossy plastic is kept to a minimum, confined to the inner bezel of the display, the keyboard bezel, and the touch-based control strip above the keyboard.

The control strip is one of the other aspects that's different on iBuyPower's build; the MSI version has a stripe, logo, and an oversized power button, but the iBuyPower version is much cleaner. The touchpad buttons are the other place where a change has been made, but this time it may not be for the better; two dedicated buttons and a backlit accent have been replaced by a larger backlit accent and essentially a single rocker for the left and right click. It's cleaner looking, but less functional.

These complaints are all before you get into the staggering 2.2" thickness of the notebook, but I would argue that thickness plus its wedge shape help it to run both cooler and quieter than the competing Alienware M17x R4, so I take it as a wash. The bottom line as far as aesthetics is that the CZ-17 is by and large not for show. Thankfully it has a great personality.

The two places where the CZ-17 excels are two of the aspects that matter most: the keyboard and the display. The keyboard appears to still be using MSI's licensed SteelSeries design, and it has a depth and feel to it that's miles ahead of the other gaming notebooks I've used. Mechanical keyboards just aren't going to happen in notebooks, but I was pleasantly surprised at the tactile response of the CZ-17's. The backlighting is also configurable similar to Alienware's. Where it takes a hit is the layout, which gives Insert, Pause/Break, and Scroll Lock dedicated keys while forcing Page Up and Page Down to share with Home and End as Fn combos. There are other quirks to the keyboard's layout, but essentially it appears to just be an international skeleton that's barely customized to a North American layout; there's a backslash key both above the Enter key and next to the spacebar, where the key next to the spacebar would be an alphabet toggle on East Asian keyboards. Despite my misgivings with the layout, though, the keyboard remains very comfortable to use.

The CZ-17's other victory is the display. MSI's CZ-17 appears to use the same panel as the Samsung Series 7 that we looked at last week, and it was one of the highlights of that laptop. While the measurements are solid if not exceptional, and we're still on a TN panel, it's nice to see a matte display on a gaming notebook after coping with the glossy display on my M17x R3 for so long. The M17x R3's glossy edge-to-edge surface photographs great and seems cool initially, but its reflective nature and penchant for picking up fingerprints and dirt makes it problematic over time.

Ultimately I continue to be disappointed by the relatively cheap plastic used for the majority of the shell. It still feels much more solid than older Clevo units did, which were powerful hardware in a candy shell, but the CZ-17 just isn't that much fun to look at. Like I said, though, the display and keyboard are excellent and I find the notebook to be very comfortable to use in practice.

Introducing the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    Absolutely, I did not even think of that. My last gaming laptop was from the 200M days and my i7 didn't even come with integrated graphics (i7-820QM).

    The battery life on it was atrocious but I got it for higher frame rates.
  • NA1NSXR - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    The M17X uses separate blowers and radiators on its 3pipe GPU sink and 2pipe CPU sink. I doubt this thing will out cool it. You also get 4 bins of OC available to you on 3720QM and up with the M17X. That gets you up to 3.8GHz on 4 cores and 4GHz on single core turbo for +$150 option. M17X is also capable of OC'ing Kepler cards now. I just shopped this segment and did a lot of research on the options out there and quite frankly Alienware is the best value if the customer has any sort of computer knowledge. Its biggest weakness is that it cannot be purchased for $1450 similarly equipped to this ibuypower. I think if you know well enough to get your own RAM kit at retail instead of as a configurator upgrade, how to repaste, how to OC, basically know what you're doing overall, the M17X R4 is worth the premium. If you just want to buy and use as is, then that is the case where this ibuypower looks like a good value....
  • Freakie - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    I've never seen a laptop with a high end GPU like this not have two separate fans and heatsinks, and laptops that do 2 GPU's use 3 heatsinks. It's just what is required for something so powerful, so your argument there is completely invalid.

    OC'ing on clevo barebones is also just as possible as it is on an Alienware. Do all Clevo barebones have the feature? No. But do all of the high end ones that compete with Alienware? Yes. So your point still remains invalid.

    Alienware really isn't worth the premium for most people. While it can offer a few cosmetic features of other brands, it's performance is no better, it's hardware is no better, and it looks childish to use anywhere in a professional environment. The problem that Alienware has more than anything isn't the price, it is the looks, as a "customer [that] has any sort of computer knowledge" tends to actually have a day-job in a professional environment and needs something that looks professional, which Alienware does not. I'm not saying I have a problem with Alienware (besides their price) I just think that trying to call it superior is silly. It's just another option for laptop enthusiasts and it is typically reserved for only young people who have not yet fully assimilated into the typical adult life. Many Alienware owners grow up and decide that an ASUS, MSI, or Clevo barebone is much better suited to real life while giving them the same features.
  • Dribble - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    Cooling is a major problem on these laptops, lots of them get so hot they clock down when you give them a demanding game (that hits gpu hard and has multicore support to hit all cores of cpu). In addition reviewing a brand new laptop with squeaky clean fans is pretty different to what you get after a few months of use. So for life expectancy of chips, quietness of laptop and ability to play games smoothly cooling is very important.

    imo the M17X is a great machine, and there's always special offers if you know where to look so it's not that expensive. The biggest problem is the warranty - that's so expensive from dell. Other manufacturers (acer, toshiba) offer a basic three year warranty at a fraction of the cost, or some like asus give a two year warranty as standard.
  • Meaker10 - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    Alienware, MSI and Clevo seem to be fine on the cooling front.

    My clevo lets me clock my cpu to 3.9ghz on all 4 cores just fine.

    My graphics is also overclocked 50% just fine too.
  • AssBall - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    My B.S. meter works just fine too.
  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    My laptop has an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M and I overclocked the core clock by 75% and the Memory clock by 76% higher than stock. But, any higher it is unstable.

    Lots of laptop GPU's are crazy overclockable, but you just have to watch out for the high temperatures to avoid throttling.
  • danwat1234 - Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - link

    This MSI laptop uses a 12 Volt fan I believe, which moves about 25 CFM of air and uses about 7 watts at full RPM! In this case I believe a single fan can affectively cool the CPU and GPU even if they are both under a full load. Why use two less powerful fans when you can use 1 powerful fan?
  • Darkstone - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    You can overclock the GPU on MSI, clevo and alienware barebones. However, you can only overclock the CPU (non-extreme CPU's) with the alienware.

    Yes, you can run the 3920XM at 4x3.9ghz if you like. And the M17x does just that, well, 3.8GHZ, with the 3720QM that is $/€500 cheaper.

    And the price argument: The base alienware with 1080p display and HD 7970m is actually cheaper than the cheapest clevo reseller in the netherlands. You're paying a premium to get clevo with their horrorid drivers. That just doesn't make any sense.
  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    I always ignore driver support of an OEM because it makes sense to always wipe and put a clean install of Windows these days. Every single component needing drivers in a laptop usually has a driver download from the manufacturer of the component, right?

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