Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7181/eurocom-x5-clevo-p177sm

Over the last decade or so, Clevo has been one of the more enduring notebook original design manufacturers, particularly when it comes to gaming and workstation-centric desktop replacements. I’m talking about the kind of 17” behemoth notebook that weighs 10 pounds and has a power brick approximately the size and weight of a compact automobile. I’ve typically shied away from reviewing this type of machine, because I typically would never use one for my day-to-day computing needs. I understand the value that they hold, but I tend to enjoy a lot more mobility in my mobile computing devices.

But when I got the chance to review a system from Clevo’s newly redesigned line of Haswell-based gaming systems, I jumped at it. This particular system came from our friends at Eurocom, with a configuration that made me legitimately laugh out loud when I saw it. Based on the Clevo P177SM barebone, our Eurocom X5 evaluation unit came with an i7-4930MX, NVIDIA’s GTX 780M, 32GB of memory, a Chi Mei N173HGE 17.3” 1080p display, a 120GB Crucial M500 mSATA SSD, and a 1TB hard drive. Originally, I was supposed to get one with a pair of SSDs and a pair of mechanical storage drives, but apparently saner heads prevailed at some point.

This is the "big brother" to the Clevo P157SM chassis that Jarred just reviewed, and other than the size there are only a few minor differences. Here's the complete list of the X5 configuration we received for testing:

Eurocom X5 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4930MX
(4x3.0GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.9GHz, 22nm, 6MB L3, 57W)
Chipset Intel HM87
Memory 4x8GB DDR3-1600 (Maximum 32GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB GDDR5
(1536 CUDA cores, 771MHz/850/5GHz core/boost/memory clocks, 256-bit memory bus)

Intel HD 4600 Graphics
(20 EUs, up to 1.35GHz)
Display 17.3" LED Matte 16:9 1080p
Chi Mei N173HGE-L11
Hard Drive(s) Crucial M500 120GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD

Hitachi Travelstar 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive Panasonic UJ-260 Blu-ray writer
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Killer Wireless-N 1202 dual-band 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD audio (Sound Blaster Cinema)
2.1 speakers
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Battery 8-cell, 77Wh
Front Side -
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Left Side Vent
3x USB 3.0
SD card reader
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Back Side Kensington lock
AC adapter
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 16.56" x 11.44" x 1.0-1.84"
414mm x 286mm x 25.3-46.1mm
Weight 9.0 lbs
Extras HD Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
SoundBlaster Cinema audio
Configurable backlit keyboard
3x mSATA SSD Striped RAID
Warranty 2-year parts and labor
Pricing $3494 as tested, starting at $1559 ($1880 with GTX 780M)

The i7-4930MX Extreme Edition is the most expensive SKU in Intel’s mobile Haswell lineup, at $1096, and comes with four Hyper-Threaded cores clocked at 3.0GHz (max turbo is set at a lofty 3.9GHz). The 57W TDP is a full 10W higher than the normal i7 mobile quads. The onboard graphics processor is Intel’s HD 4600 (GT2) with 20 execution units at up to 1.35GHz. The dedicated graphics card is obviously of more value to us in a system like this—this is the same GTX 780M we looked at in the MSI GT70 Dragon Edition and Mythlogic Pollux 1613, with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, a 771MHz core clock that can boost up to ~850MHz, 5GHz memory clocks, and a 256-bit memory bus.

Like the MSI, the Eurocom relies on Qualcomm Atheros Killer Networking, with the dual-band 2x2 Killer Wireless-N 1202 card providing 802.11a/b/g/n. I’ll be thrilled when ac is a default, but sadly it’s hard to rely on some PC manufacturers even giving us the 5GHz WiFi band in $1000 notebooks, so I’ll consider it a pipedream and pray for the day when my notebook PC has more advanced wireless connectivity than my smartphone.

The total sum for this particular Eurocom X5, as delivered with Windows 7 Home Premium and a calibrated display, is a staggering $3494. That’s on the verge of insane, and I honestly can’t advocate anyone who actually has to pay for one of these springing for the $826 Extreme Edition option—save $650, scale back to the 2.7GHz (3.7 turbo) i7-4800MQ, don’t pay $477 for a RAM upgrade that really only costs $250 if you bought the parts yourself on Newegg, etc. Pricing looks much more reasonable if you exercise sound financial judgement in the configuration stages.

I think my ideal configuration involves a similar storage configuration to our evaluation unit, with a 120GB or 240GB mSATA SSD and 1TB Hitachi hard drive, as well as the GTX 780M option (an absolute must-have), but scaling the CPU and memory back to the 4800MQ and 16GB saves $1120, and tweaking connectivity (I’d save $55 to go with Intel’s 6235 WiFi/Bluetooth instead of Killer-N 1202) and optical drive (the $110 Blu-ray recorder is meaningless for me) options will save a bit more on top. For reasons I can’t explain, Windows 7 Home Premium costs $15 more than Windows 8, so there’s that too. Mess around a bit, and you’re left with a system that’s 98% as capable as our $3500 review unit and retails at $2237.

Of course, one of the interesting questions is finding out just how much faster (or not) the i7 Extreme processor is relative to other CPU choices. We've now tested several i7-4700MQ systems, and we had the i7-4900MQ with the Mythlogic, where we discussed some of the situations where the GTX 780M can be bottlenecked by the CPU. This is as fast as you're going to get in a modern notebook, so it will be fun to turn the dial up to eleven.

The P177SM is a new chassis for Clevo, a kind of ostentatious refresh on the traditionally staid lines of the previous generation notebook chassis. I never had a P170-based notebook, though I did spend time with both the P150EM and the W110ER, so I have a decent idea of what the general Clevo design language was. It was pretty simple, really—there wasn’t one. If you wanted some amount of generically chunky laptop, Clevo would serve it up to you in spades. Just pick a screen size and a thickness and that was it. The P150EM drove me mad, because it had such a bland and monotonous expanse of plastic—the W110 at least had interesting (or comical, depending on your viewpoint) proportions; the P150 was just boring and ugly.

The P177SM (and also the 15” P157SM) brings with it crisper lines, with more defined and bold shapes that are certainly more interesting than the previous chassis. It’s busier as well, with many more design features—there’s a pair of vertical ridges near the right and left edges of the lid to introduce a bit of visual interest, and then a ton of bling after you open the notebook. The lid and most of the interior surfaces are a matte black plastic with a rubberized, soft touch finish, a material choice that has a reasonably upscale feel to it.

If this trend had carried throughout the entire interior, I’d be thrilled, because it’s a good look. There’s one exception though—the strip of plastic above the keyboard is a mirror finish panel with a ton of LEDs. The left and right side have the common status lights and the power button (with a blue LED logo), both of which make sense, but the majority of this panel is occupied by an audio level display, somewhat similar to the type of thing you used to see in stereo systems or aftermarket automotive head units. It lights up in blue LEDs, responds to every kind of sound that goes through the speakers (the number of LEDs that light up scales with the volume or intensity of the sound), and it cannot be disabled or turned off in any way unless you mute the audio output. It’s like having a hardware version of a Windows Media Player visualization running constantly. (Note that this is not on the smaller P157SM.)

For the first 5 minutes you have this laptop in your possession, it will be the coolest thing on earth (and it will always, without fail, appeal to your inner 10 year old). The day I received the X5, I sent our Eurocom contact an email essentially saying “wow this new chassis is cool”. I almost could have included “shiiiiiiiny”, but I thought that might be considered unprofessional. But that was before I had spent a whole lot of time with the system.

So it turns out, if you’re using your notebook in the dark, the brightness of the constantly active volume level meter, as well as the blue glowing touchpad, quickly go from “wow, that’s cool” to “wow, that’s incredibly annoying”. In well-lit scenarios, it isn’t much of a problem, though it’s still a bit odd to see the lights react to every sound the system makes. It’s just one of those features that makes me laugh, because it’s so random. But why, in the name of all that is holy, can the speaker graphic not be turned off? It's incredibly distracting in the dark, as is the backlit trackpad. I find this absolutely bewildering. This notebook lights up like a Christmas tree, except entirely blue including the keyboard backlight (and you can customize the colors if you want). Thus far, the only ways I've heard of to disable the audio lights are to uninstall the driver, though it seems unclear which driver that actually is, or have them physically disconnected, which Eurocom says they've done for customers. Or, I suppose there's an alternative route that involves duct taping over the lights to cover them up (no joke, when I was looking this issue up, another review actually suggested doing this.)

It’s worth noting that Clevo did release Haswell refreshes of their old chassis in the form of the P170SM and P150SM, which retain the much more understated and conservative, though no more attractive, designs of the previous generation notebooks. And while it may seem like I’m complaining quite a bit about the design, I do prefer the new P177SM to the older notebooks. It’s a notebook with character, and despite its flaws I think it’s an improvement on the P170 chassis. I feel like I’d prefer this with the P157SM, because I think the design language would suit itself to a smaller chassis quite well, or at least better than the 17.3” form factor. Jarred already reviewed the P157SM, though with a custom lid, so you can get his take on the industrial design and overall feel.

It’s interesting though, the Clevo doesn’t hide its bulk well. I went to the detailed specifications list expecting to find something closer to 2.4” as the maximum thickness, not 1.84”. The minimum thickness of 1” is indicative of the aggressive sloping, but it’s still not that thick. The P177SM felt as bulky to me as the 2.15” M18x R2 that I had earlier in the year or the 2.45” ASUS G74SX from last year. Perhaps my perspective has warped a bit after surrounding myself with ultrabooks or otherwise ultrathin notebooks over the last couple of years, but I still found it shocking that the Clevo was sub-2” thick.

Clevo’s design team has never done the most refined work out there; their conception of the term “industrial design” has always seemed to be far more industrial than it was design. The entire system still looks pretty clunky, with really blocky shapes all the way around. It’s anti-sleek. And beyond the ridiculousness that is the mirror finish interior piece and associated LED assembly, some of the more minor design details are not necessarily to my liking—the prominent gap between the LCD and the chassis when the notebook is opened, the large seams between the various plastic panels, the weirdly angular hinge design, the vents being kind of haphazardly placed on the back, and I could go on. The latter is actually a huge pet peeve of mine from the P150 as well, which was even worse with the randomly angled vents on the back of the chassis—that one design element annoyed me to absolutely no end with that system when I had it last year.

But I guess where I’m going with this is to say that Clevo has never paid the most attention to detail with their designs. I don’t mind so much that their laptops are bulky, but that they almost feel like they were designed by people that just didn’t care how their systems looked or even put in very much thought to the aspects of the design that weren’t strictly functional. Alienware has shown us time and time again (and Dell with their previous 17” XPS line) that it’s possible to create a very bulky 17” notebook chassis with an attractive design. If you pay enough attention to detail, really focus on the little design details, you can make a great looking computer even if it’s roughly the size of a barn door and weighs 12 pounds (cough, M18x). And admittedly, the Clevo machines are cheaper than the corresponding Alienwares and far more customizable, but they aren’t inexpensive by any means, and if I had spent $3000 or more on one of these, I don’t think I’d be too pleased by some of the more obvious design oversights and missteps here.

The entire interior of the notebook feels well built, the rubber painted plastic has a high quality, soft touch feel. The keyboard is quite good, well spaced (as one might expect on a 17.3” system) and devoid of much flex (as one might expect on a 1.84” thick system). The layout was decent, as well, though I’m really struggling to understand why some companies are moving the Fn key to the right side of the spacebar. It’s the wrong side of the keyboard, guys. In day to day use, it just feels unnatural. Other than that ergonomic question mark, the typing experience is excellent.

The touchpad is a bit less stellar, with Sentelic hardware that is pretty significant steps below Synaptics and ELAN. It’s far better than the last Sentelic touchpad I had to deal with in the first-generation Vizio CT15. That’s definitely a good sign, but not really saying much considering that Vizio had the single worst touchpad I’ve seen in the last half-decade of reviewing notebooks (second worst: the Dell Inspiron 11z, which also had a Sentelic touchpad). I’m glad that Sentelic has moved their pads into a range I’d consider usable day to day, though with a notebook like this, I suppose one could expect to have an external mouse plugged in with relative frequency.

Interestingly enough, this is the first Extreme Edition CPU I’ve had the opportunity to review since I started at AnandTech. The first Intel Extreme I’ve actually ever spent any time with, even. So I was definitely intrigued. This is more than overkill for my use cases, but damn if I wasn’t psyched to benchmark it. My reaction was actually akin to a clip from Top Gear that I’m rather fond of:

So, anyways, the i7-4930MX. It’s a quad-core, eight thread CPU clocked at 3GHz and a max turbo that’s nearly at the magical 4GHz mark. The 57W TDP of the CPU alone is more than the entire thermal envelope of the last notebook I reviewed....times two and a half. As such, this is the fastest notebook we’ve got on our charts, though we'll be updating these shortly when we add a second i7-4930XM equipped MSI GT70 to the list.

Cinebench R11.5 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

x264 HD 5.x

x264 HD 5.x

The primary points of comparison for our Eurocom X5 test unit are the MSI GT70 Dragon and the Mythlogic (Clevo P157SM) – as outlined in the introduction, the two have a fair amount of similarity in specification and target market. The two key performance differences come in the CPU – the MSI had the i7-4700MQ (2.4GHz base, 3.4GHz turbo) and the P157SM has an i7-4900MQ (2.8GHz base, 3.8GHz Turbo) – and storage, with the MSI’s multi-mSATA SSD RAID configuration and Mythlogic's 512GB mSATA.

It’s interesting to look at the MSI, which is by all accounts an extremely powerful computer, and see how much faster the Eurocom’s Extreme Edition processor is in some of the CPU intensive tasks. It’s awesome. There has never been a faster mobile processor, and that makes this (and every other) Extreme Edition CPU special. On the other hand, the i7-4900MQ is basically half the price and in several benchmarks it delivers higher performance, suggesting there are other factors at play.

Unless your name is Smaug and you live in a castle buried in gold, I don’t think the Extreme Edition is necessarily the most prudent financial decision. But bragging rights cost money, and so does the cutting edge in performance. Now, to top this, I want a mobile hex. That’d really be something.

PCMark 7 (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark 11

3DMark basically tells a similar story, again with the fastest systems swapping places. Drivers are likely playing more of a role here as well, and our test drivers on the Eurocom are slightly older than what we used with the Mythlogic. Let's see how things go in actual games.

The GTX 780M is the top dog in the mobile GPU space right now, but our last experience with it in the MSI GT70 was a bit touch and go. It seemed like the combination of the 47W Haswell quad and the 100W 780M was really pushing the GT70 chassis to the limits of its thermal headroom, or perhaps the CPU just wasn't quite as fast as the 780M wanted. This resulted in poorer performance than the Ivy Bridge/GTX 680M combination we saw in the Alienware M17x R4 in some of the more CPU-intensive games.

Bioshock Infinite - Mainstream

Bioshock Infinite - Enthusiast

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim - Mainstream

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim - Enthusiast

GRID 2 - Mainstream

GRID 2 - Enthusiast

Metro: Last Light - Mainstream

Metro: Last Light - Enthusiast

Sleeping Dogs - Mainstream

Sleeping Dogs - Enthusiast

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm - Mainstream

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm - Enthusiast

Tomb Raider - Mainstream

Tomb Raider - Enthusiast

At stock clocks, the 780M has 22% more shader power than the 680M and 39% more memory bandwidth, so the expectation would be to get substantially better performance; couple that with an i7 Extreme CPU and we have a recipe for maximum performance. The P177SM chassis seems to have much higher thermal limits, so performance increases across the board relative to the GT70, but there is still a question about the M17x R4. Performance in the CPU intensive games is pretty even with the M17x, even with a definite increase in both CPU and GPU horsepower, indicating that there’s still some interesting CPU-related behavior happening under load.

When it comes to large gaming notebooks, battery life is never really a concern, but since NVIDIA’s Optimus graphics switching technology basically became standard on all Intel/NVIDIA notebooks across the board, it’s actually been possible to see a solid few hours of life out of this class of system. The sheer size of the notebooks typically allows for 90-100Wh batteries that would be considered absolutely massive by normal standards, so with the large display and high TDP quad, we’ve been seeing Haswell gaming notebooks end up in the 4 hour range for web-browsing battery life.

Battery Life 2013 - Light

Battery Life 2013 - Medium

Battery Life 2013 - Heavy

Battery Life 2013 - Light Normalized

Battery Life 2013 - Medium Normalized

Battery Life 2013 - Heavy Normalized

That’s honestly pretty impressive; I still remember the days when the batteries in 17” Alienwares and Clevos almost served more as uninterruptible power supplies than any kind of mobile power source. An hour or two would be considered good back then. Obviously, both CPU and GPU microarchitectures have gotten far more efficient in the last handful of years, and Optimus really changed things for the better.

None of our battery tests stress the CPU enough for the extra 10W TDP of the Extreme Edition to make a discernible difference in terms of battery life relative to the lower end mobile quads. Battery life is slightly lower than the Clevo P157SM we tested, but that had less RAM, a smaller LCD, and a single SSD (instead of an SSD and HDD), so a slight reduction in battery life is expected.

Our battery tests aren’t that intensive, mostly focusing on internet, music, and video use cases; there’s a lot of CPU idle time where we already know that Haswell excels, so this is no real surprise. Between the CPU and GPU, this system has a thermal envelope of roughly 160W under load, so the 77Wh battery would go pretty quickly under any sort of intensive workload (like gaming).

Depending on reseller, you can get a variety of display panels with most Clevo systems. It’s one of the benefits to going the Clevo route—you have a lot more control over the individual components than you get with any of the bigger notebook manufacturers. Eurocom gives you three display options, all 17.3” 1080p TN panels. The standard display is a matte Chimei Innolux N173HGE, with the AUO B173HW01 available in matte (V.05) and glossy (V.04) variants for $45 extra. No matter which panel you chose, the display comes calibrated from Eurocom, a nice touch that not all resellers give you.

Our evaluation unit came with the Chimei Innolux display, but we’ve had a lot of experience with the AUO B173HW over the years as well. The V.05 matte version has been in both previous generations of Razer Blade, and Jarred reviewed the previous generation Clevo P170EM with the glossy V.04 panel.

LCD Analysis - Contrast

LCD Analysis - White

LCD Analysis - Black

The panel from Chimei Innolux is quite good, with great brightness and a contrast ratio on the good side of 1000:1. It’s actually the same panel that came in the GT70 Dragon, so we can see the panel-to-panel variation that exists. Color reproduction and accuracy are solid and it’s a very nice panel overall. I think the AUO is still a nicer looking panel, but you won’t miss much by skipping the option and saving that money. Both of them are TN panels, but they’re both of higher quality than you typically see in cheaper notebooks, and viewing angles are pretty solid considering that they don’t use in-plane switching or any of the other wide angle display technologies we have become accustomed to in the ultraportable space.

LCD Analysis - Color Gamut

LCD Analysis - Delta E

I’ve come to terms with the lack of IPS displays in the larger 17” gaming space; the response time of the panel tends to be more important to this market than the viewing angle, and some of the IPS panels out there on the notebook side do really suffer from sluggish response times. In smaller devices, the presence of an IPS panel basically means that there was legitimate money spent on the display and so the viewing experience won’t suffer. I can count the number of high quality 11”-15” TN panels that I’ve come across in the last four years on one, maybe two hands, and most of those are Apple notebooks (11” and 13” MacBook Airs, 13” and 15” MacBook Pros, the non-Retina ones). In the ultrabook/thin and light market, it’s almost a binary—if it’s an IPS panel, it’ll be good; otherwise it’ll be bad. That doesn’t really hold true with what I’ve seen in 17” gaming notebooks, so given that the rest of the display hasn’t suffered, I don’t think it’s too much of an issue here.

The Eurocom X5 is an interesting system to review. There’s a definite market for Clevo-based systems, something that’s abundantly clear if you spend any amount of time on the various notebook forums around the internet. Whether its because of the value or the customizability, or the close relationship that the various resellers have with the online notebook enthusiast communities, these whitebooks have endured in popularity despite their flaws. And, no doubt, there are many, particularly when it comes to design.

But there’s a lot of raw power on tap here for relatively accessible prices; in a mobile system, it’s almost unheard of to get a GTX 780M for less than $1800 like you can with Eurocom and other Clevo resellers. It’s just not possible to get something this powerful from a big box manufacturer for this price point. The cheapest configuration of Alienware 17 with a GTX 780M runs several hundred dollars more, though admittedly, that brings with it an aluminum chassis and much more polished industrial design. I think it’s pretty clear that the P177SM is a better high-end gaming platform than MSI’s GT70 chassis, the single fan cooling architecture that MSI chose is kind of laughable given the amount of compute the chassis houses. I’m not sure who their thermal engineers are, but the series of decisions that led them down that path show pretty poor judgement.

In the past, I never really understood buying a Clevo, and even still I don’t think I could ever get over the rawness of the design enough to actually purchase one. With that said, I came very, very close to buying a W110ER last year, and I probably should have. The ability to pick your components, from the exact display panel to the manufacturer of the hard drive, is pretty awesome. You don’t get anywhere near that level of control with the bigger companies; it’s much nicer to be able to choose and select the parts that go into your notebook instead of playing the component lottery game with Dell and ASUS. I genuinely like that, and if the raw power and value for money take precedence over aesthetics, it’s not hard to recommend going down the Clevo route.

The question of whether to go with the P177SM or the P170SM kind of depends on your personal preference. I’d rather have the former, as the dullness of the P150/170 design is too much for me to take. The P177SM has more flair, so even if the design is more gaudy and less clean, it at least isn’t as generic as the older models. If I actually owned it, I’d consider dismantling it and repainting some of the components to add a bit more color to the overwhelming blackness. But generally, after spending time with the Eurocom, I understand it. I know our evaluation unit carries a very hefty pricetag, but if you pay attention to the configurations, you can get a very powerful, highly capable portable gaming workstation for not too much money. And if that sounds appealing, look no further, this is the computer for you.

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