by Charles P. Jefferies
The Sager NP8660 claims to be the world's fastest 15.4-inch gaming notebook. It is based on the new Intel Centrino 2 platform and features a top-of-the-line 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800M-GT graphics card.
Before we start the review, I would like to give a special thanks to Donald Stratton of PowerNotebooks.com for sending us this evaluation unit.
Our Sager NP8660 has the following specifications:
This configuration goes for a shade over $2,350 on PowerNotebooks.com. The NP8660 starts at $1,742 as of writing.
Items worth noting in our configuration are the DDR3 memory and Intel Turbo Memory 2.0. Both come as part of the new Intel Centrino 2 codename "Montevina" platform. Details on the Turbo Memory 2.0 can be found in this article.
Reasons to Buy
The NP8660 is aimed squarely at gamers. The 15.4-inch chassis is part of its main appeal; all other notebooks using the GeForce 9800M-GT use a 17-inch chassis. A 15.4-inch notebook is considerably more portable.
The NP8660 looks solid and business-like. Its chassis is nearly all black, save for a silver trim piece around the border of the lid and base of the notebook. The NP8660 has a traditional squared-off design: there are no fancy design curves on this notebook as there are on typical multimedia consumer notebooks.
The back of the lid and around the keyboard is covered in black brushed aluminum, which both looks and feels of high quality. There are only two places on the NP8660 where glossy plastic can be found: a thin strip bordering the keyboard, and a thin trim piece going around the far outside of the inside lid. Again, this notebook is business-like and foregoes flashy design elements. The look is solid and smart, and is refreshing to see considering the all-glossy surfaces trend in the traditional consumer market.
This machine is very well-built. The palmrest area does not flex unless considerable pressure is used - the same goes for the back of the lid. The base of the notebook resists twisting, which shows this notebook has a strong internal frame. The display hinges are sturdy and hold the display in place nicely - there is little screen wobble. The lid also resists twisting as well. Only by using a lot of pressure could I get ripples to appear on the screen. The lid stays closed without hinges.
The plastic used on the bottom of the notebook is thick and solid. All of the visible parts used in the NP8660's construction fit together tightly with even spacing; there are no unusual gaps or unevenness. The solidness of this design is remarkable.
Overall, I am more than impressed with the build quality and design of this notebook. This squared-off, solid beast is built to last. Its build quality is on par with high-end business notebooks.
The NP8660 is available with two different resolutions: WSXGA+ (1680x1050) and WUXGA (1920x1200); ours has the former. The screen is glossy though not overly so; the glossy finish on this display is not as reflective as other glossy screens I have used. Brightness is more than adequate and contrast is sharp. The display suffers from some sparkle, though it is mostly hidden. Head-on, this display looks more like a matte display than a glossy one.
Viewing angles are about average for an LCD. Looking at the display from either side does not result in any significant image changes, though from above the display washes out somewhat and from below, the display darkens. I noticed no ghosting while gaming with this display.
On the whole, the end user is sure to be happy with the WSXGA+ glossy display. Games and movies look great, and the sharp contrast makes it easy to read text.
These speakers are about the same as typical notebook speakers. They have basically no bass and too much treble. I found the upper range of these speakers to be harsh.
The headphone jack is crystal clear and has no static. The best way to enjoy audio with this notebook as with most notebooks is through external speakers or headphones.
Heat & Noise
This is an area where the NP8660 shines. The engineers of this notebook designed a cooling system that is both quiet and effective.
The NP8660 has a single large fan that outputs air through a massive vent in the back of the notebook. At idle, the fan noise is basically non-existent. During benchmark runs, the single fan spools up and is audible, but most of the sound produced comes from air exiting the back vent. There is little motor noise.
Component temperatures remained reasonable under stress. The following temperatures were recorded while running a stressful PCMark Vantage benchmark (it takes about an hour and a half to run):
When I first heard of this notebook, I was skeptical about the single-fan cooling system. However after putting this system through its paces, I no longer have any doubts. The extra thickness of this notebook (relative to other 15.4-inch notebooks) helps with heat dissipation. The hard drive runs a bit warm, however it is well under specification (note that the Seagate 320GB 7200RPM drive in our test unit is rated for 60 degrees Celsius).
The processor in this notebook is rated for 105 degrees Celsius, yet only reaches 64 degrees Celsius under full load - most impressive. The GeForce 9800M-GT has a refreshingly cool high temperature of 69 degrees. Many notebooks with Nvidia graphics cards reach well into the 80-90 degrees Celsius range.
The NP8660 uses the best processor and graphics card cooling solution I have seen in a 15.4-inch notebook.
The NP8660 has a full-size keyboard with a standard layout; all keys are in their expected positions. The keys have shallower key presses than I am used to seeing on a notebook keyboard, so the tactile feedback could be improved. However, this does not detract from the usability of the keyboard. It is flex-free and easy to use. I would have no problem using this keyboard everyday.
The touchpad is small and basic. It has a matte surface, which is easy to track on whether your fingers are moist or dry. The two buttons are quiet. In between the two buttons is the biometric fingerprint reader. I have no complaints about this touchpad.
Input & Output Ports
All descriptions are done from left to right.
Only the optical drive on this side
7-in-1 card reader, ExpressCard/54 slot, 2x USB, RJ-45 LAN jack, RJ-11 phone jack
Vent, DVI-out, HDMI-out, combined eSATA/USB, USB, power jack, security lock slot
Headphone-out, microphone-in, S/PDIF-out, mini-IEEE 1394 (mini Firewire), LED indicator lights
The Sager NP8660 comes standard with the top-of-the-line Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5300. It supports 802.11a/b/g/draft-n standards, and has five antennas. I had no trouble connecting to a variety of different wireless g networks. Signal strength was excellent.
The NP8660 also comes standard with built-in Bluetooth V2.0+EDR.
The eight-cell battery pack provided about two hours of battery life during my testing, with the screen at 1/3 brightness and while surfing the Internet. This battery life is lower than a typical 15.4-inch gaming notebook, which achieve around two and a half hours with a six-cell battery. Note that the video card in the NP8660 is at least twice as powerful, if not more than in the typical 15.4-inch gaming notebook. The 9800M-GT video card in the NP8660 no doubt increases power consumption. In the end, battery life is acceptable for this notebook considering the powerful components inside.
Operating System & Software
The NP8660 comes with no operating system as the base option; our version has Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (32-bit version also included). Windows XP and other versions of Windows Vista are also available. There is a minimal amount of software pre-installed. The software includes webcam software, Nero Home Essentials SE, CyberLink PowerDVD, a security software package for the fingerprint reader, and Intel Turbo Memory management software.
All Sager computers are backed with lifetime technical support. Sager's support website has a variety of tech support options, including driver downloads.
Through PowerNotebooks.com, customers are provided with domestic 24/7 tech support. I have used PowerNotebooks' technical support line several times, and the technicians are very good at their jobs. I was always able to get my questions answered.
The Sager NP8660 is an excellent high-performance notebook. It is as powerful as most 17-inch gaming notebooks, yet sits in a 15.4-inch chassis. The build quality is outstanding. The input devices and screen of are good quality, and the battery life is reasonable for a notebook with this kind of power. The hallmark of this system is its stellar cooling system, which does its job quietly and efficiently. Users of this notebook will not have to worry about it overheating, because it will not.
It is my pleasure to give the Sager NP8660 my full recommendation for a portable powerhouse and gaming machine.
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