- Extremely high performance
- Excellent customization options
- Impressive speakers
- Nice keyboard
- Surprisingly quite fans
- Lacks easy access for upgrades
- Plastic construction
- Frustrating placement of fingerprint reader
The newest gaming notebook from AVADirect, the Avant P870DM-G, arguably represents the pinnacle of PC gaming for early 2016. This high-end gaming notebook is a genuine desktop replacement with the optional desktop-class Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 graphics providing best-in-class performance for the latest generation of visually intense games. Combine that impressive GPU with a 6th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a blazing fast M.2 SSD, and suddenly there are fewer reasons for hardcore gamers to keep using desktops. That is, of course, except for that pesky price tag of more than $2600.
Build and Design
As the name might suggest, the AVADirect Avant P870DM-G is a customized gaming notebook built around the Clevo P870DM-G notebook chassis. The P870DM-G is notably heavier than most gaming notebooks; tipping the scales at 10.6 pounds (4.8 kg) and measuring 1.77 inches (45 mm) thick. In case you missed that, don’t expect to use the P870DM-G as a “laptop” and forget about trying to rest it on an airline tray table. This is a desktop replacement notebook designed for gaming enthusiasts who want a gaming PC that is more portable than a traditional desktop tower.
The chassis itself is made of plastic and features angular lines that sweep up and out from the bottom of the notebook toward the front edge. The aggressive lines on the back of the display lid are accented by multi-color LEDs and the AVADirect logo. The massive exhaust vents on the back edge of the chassis are topped by two equally massive stereo speakers powered by Sound Blaster’s X-FI MB5 (more on that later).
Unlike some of the previous Clevo-based notebooks we’ve reviewed that featured a matte rubberized finish, most of the P870DM-G’s exterior surfaces are only covered in a semi-matte (satin) paint finish. While we initially thought the painted exterior would make fingerprints and smudges more apparent, we found that skin oils didn’t leave obvious smudges on the notebook’s exterior. This gaming rig might have all plastic construction, but it feels solid and is easy to keep clean. The chassis is notably rigid; you won’t have trouble with flexing or bending in the palm rest or the keyboard. The screen lid provides adequate protection but it will flex under significant pressure. The centrally located display hinges hold firm you can still open the notebook with a single hand.
The option of DIY upgrades is both a strength and a weakness of the P870DM-G. As with most Clevo-based notebooks, almost every major component is removable and “user upgradeable” as long as you know what you’re doing. The only problem is that you’ll have to remove nine lengthy screws that hold the two halves of the chassis together before you can remove the entire bottom panel to access the internal hardware.
Once inside, you’ll find that swapping the RAM or removing the battery is pretty straightforward, but accessing the 2.5-inch hard drive or the M.2 SSD takes more work than most 17-inch notebooks. The inconvenient access to the internal components is frustrating because most of the time one of the main advantages to having a customizable 17-inch desktop replacement notebook is the convenience of making upgrades; and that’s not the case here. Nevertheless, experienced DIYers will be happy to find a socketed desktop processor, MXM 3.0 type B graphics card, and two DDR4 RAM slots in addition to the storage drives and wireless card.
Ports and Connectivity
The P870DM-G’s port selection delivers just about every connectivity option a PC gamer will ever want. A special feature on the left side of the notebook is a set of two Ethernet ports for the Killer DoubleShot Pro network card which uses either two Ethernet connections or a combination of Ethernet and Wi-Fi to split your network activities between two simultaneous connections; giving all high priority traffic (online gaming or streaming video content) exclusive access to the fastest and most reliable interface and sending standard traffic (web browsing, background Windows updates, etc.) over the other interface.
The rest of the ports are fairly standard; you’ll find three USB 3.0 ports, one headphone jack, one microphone jack, one audio line-in jack, and one S/PDIF output jack on the left side next to the previously mentioned Ethernet ports. Most of the space on the rear of the notebook is taken up by the heat vents, but you’ll still find one USB 3.0 port, a full-size HDMI port, and the AC power jack. The right side of the P870DM-G features a full-size SD card reader, a single USB 3.0 port, a single Thunderbolt/USB-C 3.1 Gen3 combo port, two mini DisplayPort 1.2 ports, and a Kensington lock slot.
Display and Speakers
The 17.3-inch 1080p IPS display has a very nice anti-glare matte finish that is ideal for gaming or watching video content for extended periods of time. While the FHD resolution might not sound too impressive in the era of Ultra HD and 4K displays, this screen is equipped with Nvidia’s G-SYNC technology to improve the rendering of the latest and most demanding games.
As with most IPS display panels, the viewing angles are quite good. You shouldn’t have any problems with color shift or varying contrast even if you’re viewing angle is far off center. We did notice some minor color shift in the screen in our review sample when we viewed the display from below, but we doubt this will be much of an issue since most users aren’t going to be looking up at their notebook screen from the floor.
The P870DM-G features two stereo speakers and a Subwoofer from Foster, all powered by Sound Blaster’s X-FI MB5. The X-Fi Crystalizer software adds a more dynamic tone to gaming effects like gunshots and explosions while also providing a more realistic surround sound experience even if you’re using a gaming headset; explosions on the right side of the screen sound like they are coming from the right speaker more than the left speaker. The overall audio quality is quite good and we didn’t notice any obvious distortions in the sound until we pushed the volume level close to maximum.
The P870DM-G’s full-size keyboard is clearly meant for gamers with highlights around the W, A, S, and D keys that typically serve as the primary movement keys in PC games. You’ll find a dedicated numeric pad to the right of the keyboard and all of the keys feel quite good with positive feedback. The keyboard’s LED backlighting has multiple brightness settings plus an “off” setting controlled by the Fn + several number pad keys.
We only have two minor complaints about the keyboard layout. First, the arrow keys feel cramped between the smaller-than-normal right Shift key and the number pad; most of our typos came from this area. Second, there are no dedicated macro keys (an odd choice for a gaming notebook). Although there aren’t dedicated macro keys, you can use the included software to programmable macros for other keys or set macros to be triggered if you double-tap a specific key. Whether this option is better or worse than dedicated macro keys is a matter of personal preference.
The large touchpad features integrated scrolling and multi-gesture support. The dedicated left and right touchpad buttons are split by a dedicated swipe-style fingerprint reader … which is our only quibble with the touchpad. Honestly, most PC gamers will use an external gaming mouse instead of relying on the touchpad, but the placement of the fingerprint reader can be problematic during intense game play; we died several times because we hit the fingerprint reader instead of the left or right button. Other than that, cursor movement is quick and accurate and we didn’t have any problems with gesture recognition.