Part II: AVADirect Clevo P170EM Gaming Notebook with GeForce GTX 680M

We took Clevo’s P170EM for a spin last week, equipped with a Radeon HD 7970M and a variety of other high-end options. Today we have our follow up where we use the same core hardware but with NVIDIA’s GTX 680M in place of AMD’s top mobile GPU. Now that we have an apples-to-apples comparison between the two fastest mobile GPUs, who can claim the mobile gaming crown?

For this second installment, we’ve taken some time to run additional gaming tests, we’ve updated the BIOS and rerun battery life numbers, and we take a detour into discussing drivers and GPU utilization figures. Having spent more time using the P170EM, I’ll also try to reevaluate the overall package in light of the above areas to see if I might have been a bit too harsh with my initial assessment. If you need a fast desktop replacement/gaming notebook, is Clevo the way to go?

Let’s start with a quick recap of the laptop hardware—everything is the same, other than the change in GPU and a slight difference in RAM (the brand, not the speed).

AVADirect Clevo P170EM Gaming Notebook Specifications
Processor Intel i7-3720QM
(Quad-core 2.60-3.60GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Prolimatech PK-3 Thermal Compound
Chipset HM77
Memory Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600
(Running at 9-9-9-24-1T Timings)
Graphics Intel HD 4000
(16 EUs, up to 1250MHz)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M 2GB GDDR5 (Optimus)
(1344 cores at 720MHz, 256-bit GDDR5-3600)
Display 17.3” WLED Matte 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(Chi Mei N173HGE, 72% Gamut)
Note: LCD upgrade currently not available
Storage 256GB SATA 6Gbps SSD (Crucial M4-CT256M4SSD2)
Optical Drive DVDRW (Slimtype DS8A8SH)
Networking 802.11n dual-band 450Mb WiFi (Intel Ultimate-N 6300)
Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
Audio Realtek ALC269
Stereo Speakers
Headphone/Microphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI)
Battery/Power 8-cell, 14.8V, 5200mAh, ~77Wh
FSP Group 220W Max AC Adapter (19.0V, 11.57A)
Front Side IR Port
Left Side Memory Card Reader
1 x USB 3.0/eSATA Combo
2 x USB 3.0
Gigabit Ethernet
Mini-FireWire (1394A)
Right Side DVDRW
Headphone
Microphone
Line-Out
Line-In
1 x USB 2.0
Back Side 2 x Exhaust Vents (CPU/Chipset and GPU)
DisplayPort
HDMI
Dual-Link DVI-D
AC Power Connection
Kensington Lock
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 16.22” x 10.87” x 1.65-1.79” (WxDxH)
(412mm x 276mm x 41.8-45.4mm)
Weight 8.58 lbs (3.9kg) (DVDRW + Single HDD)
Extras HD Webcam
102-key Keyboard with Standard 10-key
Configurable backlighting for keyboard (7 colors)
Memory Card Reader (MMC/MS Pro/SD)
Warranty Standard 1-year Warranty
$103 for 2-year Clevo Warranty
$211 for 3-year Clevo Warranty
Price Starting at ~$1489 (Oct. 12, 2012)
As configured: $2249 (with 1-year Warranty)

We’ve covered all of this previously, so we won’t dwell on things too much. Note that this laptop has a matte LCD, but when we first received our sample AVADirect listed a high gamut matte LCD option as a ~$150 upgrade. We’re not sure what panel is used for the standard matte LCD, but it's a "free" upgrade from the glossy panel at AVADirect so it may not deliver results quite as good as this panel. In a direct price comparison, the difference between the HD 7970M and the GTX 680M is currently $274, so we’re looking at $1975 vs. $2249 for the AMD vs. NVIDIA matchup; that’s a price difference of just under 14%, so ideally you’d want the GTX 680M to be at least 14% faster to warranty the upgrade.

Second, we noted on the AMD unit that the Kingston HyperX RAM didn’t have a working profile for DDR3-1600 operation on the P170EM, but the Corsair memory addresses that “shortcoming”. In practice, outside of a few specific benchmarks (that are more theoretical than practical in nature), there’s no performance difference between DDR3-1333 and DDR3-1600, but with pricing being the same there’s also no reason I can see to opt for RAM that won’t run at 1600MHz in this particular notebook. In other words, we recommend getting the Corsair Vengeance RAM (or some other RAM that you know will run at 1600MHz).

Subjective Evaluation: Mea Culpa?
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  • TrantaLocked - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Jarred you messed up with performance vs price on this one. On powetnotebooks.com and most resellers, the 7970m adds $300 to the price, while the 680m adds $495. That is a 66% increase in cost for a 20% gain in performance. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    If you want to talk GPU pricing, technically the MXM 7970M can be found for around $600 typically, which the GTX 680M goes for $900. But you can't buy a P170EM without any GPU, so it's still a strange discussion to have. Reply
  • TokamakH3 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    Oh? I bet if you contacted XoticPC or one of the other resellers, they'd probably be willing to sell you a P170EM without a GPU. Clevo systems are a lot more like desktops in that they're very configurable, esp if you include all the reseller options. The above post does make a good point, if you look at it from a purely upgrade price, the difference is an exaggerated 66%, if you look at it as a total system price, it's a very understated 15%. Clearly someone can choose whichever value they want to either emphasize the AMD price advantage or marginalize it.
    Seems like the fair thing to do would be to compare the OEM price.
    Reply
  • TrantaLocked - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Performance decreased heavily in Diablo 3, unless you had Vsync on for the 7970m for Diabo 3 Jarred? http://www.notebookcheck.net/AMD-Radeon-HD-7970M.7...
    The 7970m should be getting over 80FPS at ultra, with or without Enduro.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I tested a section of the game that was likely more demanding than the results elsewhere. It's something of a "worst-case", but that's where you notice problems the most. Reply
  • TrantaLocked - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Jarred could you test an Alienware with a 7970m with Enduro off and compare to the Clevo with 7970m and hotfix? I think that i more important to 7970m owners than 7970m vs 680m. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    We don't have one (yet? AMD said they'd try to get me one), but if I can get an M17x with 7970M, I'll definitely test both with and without Enduro. Reply
  • Hrel - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Performance advantage aside, those battery life results are why I go Nvidia lately; and Intel as a matter of fact. Not to mention the generally better/more stable driver support, CUDA and PhysX which both hold value. No, the value they add wouldn't be enough to make me buy Nvidia if AMD had a 50% performance lead at the same price, but they do not.

    Also last time I used AMD gpu's, HD4000 series, I ran into hiccups in running my PC. Audio stuff, some video stuff with certain video files, proper fitting to my HDTV screen, other random inconsistencies that aren't necessarily a deal breaker; but are most definitely annoying.

    Laptops though, Optimus being more mature and the better battery life at any given price range gives them the win in my book; all day.
    Reply
  • Bytales - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I own a p370em with dual 7970m. I play borderlands 2, diablo 3, star war the old repulbic. Other games, i havent tested.
    On notebookcheck, the 7970mCF is listed between 34491 and 35926 P GPU Vantage score.
    I have managed to install a 12.9 beta desktop driver on the laptop.
    Score is now 37200 P Gpu Vantage.
    Also note, that as of now, there still is NO DRIVER with OFFICIAL SUPPORT for the 7970m.

    Bugs that i encountered are a few with crossfire on, in swtor, like minimap flickering, and in single gpu stuttering with shadows, But i believe later on when we will have a driver with official support for the 7970m, we will get more performance, or at least not so many bugs.

    i gotta ask yah, what driver did you use for the 7970m tests ? Is that the driver supplied with the cd ? Cause if that is the case, then using the driver that i have, will bring more performance.
    The problem is, i think the dekstop driver cant be used on the laptop with integrated graphics.
    THe p370em's design is so that is bypasses the iGPU, there are no enduro problems, and no under utilization problems.

    I do think driver will fix a few more problems in the future and bring performance up a bit.
    Besides, i play games on a single cpu, and mine bit coins with the second :) and since i am home only 6 hours a day, i do profit from letting the GPUs mine coins, which is way better on the AMD gpus.
    Reply
  • whatthehey - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    Wow! Just wow. Mining BTC on a CrossFire laptop might help offset the cost a bit but that's going to take a long time to come anywhere near paying off the notebook. Assuming current rates, I assume your P370EM gets around 650Mh/s. That would mean around 0.19BTC per day, while drawing around 260W, so profit at $12/BTC could work out to ~$1.66 per day, or almost $50 per month. But in another six weeks or so, the block reward gets cut in half and you're then down to earning $0.60 per day. Sure, that's still $18 per month, but....

    How much wear and tear does it cost to run a GPU at 100% load 24/7? On a desktop, I could see it potentially being a viable tactic to earn some money, especially since you can buy a 7970 for $410 and mine at 650Mh/s on a single GPU. But on the P370EM you've invested how much? $2300? I think you'll end up killing hardware (fans or other elements could fail) long before you've recovered the initial cost. But best of luck!
    Reply

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