by Kevin O’Brien
The AVA Direct supplied Clevo M860TU notebook is a no-holds-barred gaming machine. This notebook offers options such as an NVIDIA 9800M-GT graphics card with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, a stunning WUXGA LCD, an IntelQX9300 quad core processor, DDR3 system memory, and all the other bells and whistles you would want from a portable gaming system. The main question everyone is asking about this system is how well does it perform under stress, and we can easily say that it blows away any other notebook we have had in our office to date.
Our AVADirect Clevo M860TU has the following configuration:
- Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz T9600
- Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
- 15.4-inch WUXGA matte display
- Intel PM45 + ICH9M chipset
- 2GB DDR3-1066 RAM
- 2GB Intel Turbo Memory
- Nvidia GeForce 9800M-GT w/ 512MB GDDR3 video memory
- 320GB 5400RPM Western Digital WD3200BEVT hard drive
- Dual-layer 8X DVD burner
- 7-in-1 memory card reader
- Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5300 + Bluetooth wireless
- 8-cell 14.4v 4400mAh Li-ion battery
Build and Design
The design of the Clevo M860TU is very laid back and modest for a gaming notebook. The trim is made up of black brushed metal sheets, which includes the top screen lid, palmrest, and area around the keyboard. The material feels very solid, although some areas do flex depending on the underlying structure. The brushed metal look helps keep fingerprints to a minimum, and even after a heavy week of use the notebook still looks very clean. If glossy notebooks drive you crazy, you would really love this finish.
Build quality is above average throughout most of the notebook, but there are a few areas that could be improved. The palmrest flexes somewhat on the right side above the optical drive, and the display cover flexes enough to let ripples appear on the LCD under moderate pressure. Fit and finish is very nice, with all panels coming together with even gaps and no distorted plastic bezels. Paint quality on the trim pieces is above average, with crisp lines and no uneven textures. The plastics used throughout the body and trim feel very solid and should hold up quite well over the life of the notebook.
The 15.4” WUXGA panel on the Clevo M860TU notebook is beautiful. Colors are crisp and vibrant, contrast is wonderful, and black levels are very clean. Viewing angles are top notch, with a broad sweet spot spanning the entire distance horizontally. Vertical viewing angles are still great, keeping the colors true and undistorted until roughly 30 degrees down or 89 degrees up.
Backlight intensity is bright enough to be perfectly readable in an office environment. Sunlight readability should be fine as long as you are in a spot of shade, where you don’t have the glare shining directly on the screen.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the M860TU is spacious and easy to type on for extended periods of time. Key action is smooth with a decent throw, and no noticeable wobble of the key surface. The broad palmrest is very comfortable for your wrists during extended type-a-thons and it stays fairly cool even during stressful activities. The layout seems almost small on a notebook of this size, where you would sometimes expect to see a full-size keyboard with keypad.
The Clevo M860TU is equipped with a Synaptics touchpad that has a matte finish. The surface allows your finger to easily move across it even if your fingers are sweating a bit. Sensitivity is excellent, with a broad adjustment range just in case you are the type of person who enjoys a heavy touch or a super soft touch. The touchpad buttons are part of the same touchpad surface, and give a soft click with shallow feedback.
Performance with the Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 processor and NVIDIA 9800M-GT graphics card was amazing. Day to day applications opened almost as soon as you clicked on the icon, boot and shutdown times were extremely fast, and above all else this machine can game like it’s going out of style. We saw some of the highest synthetic benchmarks scores out of any notebook we have tested inside our office. This notebook could handle nearly everything we, including Crysis. With settings maxed, resolution at a full 1920×1200, Half-Life 2: Lost Coast ran at an impressive 60FPS. This notebook is just about as close as you can get to desktop performance without the 30lb case sitting next to you. For example, the PCMark Vantage 64-bit synthetic benchmark produced a score of 3,747 … desktop performance.
Driver updates were also much needed for this system, and nearly doubled the graphics performance. Under the stock drivers that shipped with the system, 3dMark06 scored a head scratching 4670. For a system with such an impressive configuration we knew something must have been broken or badly configured. After a bit of tinkering we decided to update the drivers to the latest found on Laptop2Go, and the results were astonishing. 3dMark06 more than doubled up to 10,335, and game performance frame rates also nearly doubled. I am guessing stock drivers severely under-clocked the graphics card for a driver update to cause that much of a difference.
WPrime 32M comparison results
WPrime is a benchmark similar to Super Pi in that it forces the processor to do intense mathematical calculations, but the difference is this application is multi-threaded and represents dual core processors better. Lower numbers indicate better performance.
|AVADirect Clevo M860TU (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600, Windows Vista 64)
|Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, Windows Vista)||30.359s|
|Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, Windows Vista)||31.108s|
|Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Windows Vista)||42.085s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7400@ 2.16GHz, Windows XP)||41.40s|
|HP dv6000z (AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.00GHz, Windows Vista)||38.913s|
|Sager 9260 (Intel Core 2 Duo CPU E6700@ 2.66GHz, Windows XP )||33.718s|
|Dell Precision M70 (Intel Pentium-M 780 @ 2.26GHz, Windows XP)||78.992s|
PCMark05 comparison results:
PCMark05 represents the overall system performance of a notebook. Higher numbers indicate better performance.
|AVADirect Clevo M860TU (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600, Nvidia 9800M-GT 512MB)||7,636 PCMarks|
|Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, NVIDIA Go 8800M GTS)||7,749 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT)||5,865 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT)||5,261 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT)||5,377 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||4,925 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||3,377 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||4,591 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||4,153 PCMarks|
|Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||3,987 PCMarks|
|Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)||4,189 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
3DMark06 comparison results:
3DMark06 represents the overall graphics performance of a notebook. Higher numbers indicate better performance.
|AVADirect Clevo M860TU (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600, Nvidia 9800M-GT 512MB) with updated drivers
|AVADirect Clevo M860TU (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600, Nvidia 9800M-GT 512MB) with default drivers
|Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, NVIDIA Go 8800M GTS)||8,801 3DMarks|
|Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT)||3,775 3DMarks|
|Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT)||2,934 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT)||2,930 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||1,329 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||532 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||1,408 3DMarks|
|Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB)||2,344 3DMarks|
|Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB||2,183 3DMarks|
|Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB)||2,144 3DMarks|
|Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,819 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||827 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||794 3DMarks|
Speaker performance was well under what you would expect for a high performance gaming notebook. Bass and midrange were completely lacking, and overall the volume of the speakers seemed much lower to what I have come accustomed to. While watching a movie or listening to music on this laptop would be fine, it would be in the same realm as listening to the radio on your alarm clock. For the most enjoyment I turned to my trusty cans (headphones) which gave rich bass, high volume levels, and above all else a private listening environment. There are some settings like a classroom where the melodies of slaughtering opponents in a video game isn’t fully appreciated by those around you.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the Clevo M860TU is very nice with four USB ports, one mini Firewire jack, SPDIF digital audio output, headphone/mic, one shared eSATA connection, DVI/HDMI output, as well as LAN and a modem. The notebook also includes a ExpressCard/54 slot for expansion cards such as an external sound card, as well as an onboard multi-card reader. Now the sides aren’t exactly bursting with ports, so there is quite a bit of free real estate going around the perimeter, but I would still consider the assortment to be more than adequate.
Front: Headphone/Mic, SPDIF digital audio out, Firewire
Back: DVI, HDMI, eSATA, two USB, AC Power, Kensington lock slot
Left: Optical drive
Right: Expresscard/54, Multi-card reader, two USB, LAN, Modem
Battery and External Power
Battery life was not the best, but for a gaming notebook we couldn’t really ask for more. With Vista set to the “Balanced” profile, screen at 60% brightness, and wireless enabled and active, the Clevo M860TU averaged 2 hours and 5 minutes before the system alarm went crazy and it shut down. While a bigger battery could enhance the off-the-grid performance, it would add more weight to an already bulky 15.4” notebook.
My big complaint with the power system during my review was the design of the power plug, and its tendency to pull out of the AC jack under the weight of anything more than the cord itself. Many benchmarks were abruptly ended when the power cord came unplugged and the notebook switched power profiles. Once when I was not careful the notebook shut itself down as it ran out of juice on battery. Any sudden movement of the notebook, such as playing a game with it on your lap, can potentially unplug the system. You can argue this is a “feature” to help prevent the AC jack from being damaged if someone pulls on the cord, but it is an occasional inconvenience. My only temporary solution was to angle the notebook in my lap so the weight pressed against the plug and kept it securely plugged in.
Heat and Noise
Thermal performance of this notebook was above average and very up to the task of keeping the system under cool under stress. When idling around typing or surfing the web the system fan operated at a near silent speed, as there was not much heat energy to expel from the system. Although under load, the system kicked the fan up a notch or two, into a mini shopvac range. Airflow was great, but noise levels were well above any other notebook we have tested. Just make sure you understand this when you purchase the notebook, as you can’t have a powerful system such as this without a few compromises.
Overall the AVADirect Clevo M860TU is a great gaming notebook with tons of raw power, good looks, and average build quality. The loose AC power jack was more than just a minor annoyance, continuously disconnecting while the laptop was on my lap. The loud cooling fan was also an annoyance, but that was expected and perfectly normal for such a powerful gaming system. To date this is the fastest machine we have tested in our office for gaming, and is no doubt one of the best mobile gaming rigs on the market right now. If you have the cash it would be hard not to give this notebook two thumbs up.
- Fastest gaming notebook we have ever tested
- Beautiful WUXGA screen
- More than two hours of battery life in a hardcore gaming rig
- Cool laid back design
- Loose AC power jack that likes to disconnect when light pressure is applied
- Loud cooling system under stress
Pricing and Availability
The AVADirect Clevo M860TU is available via the AVADirect website in multiple custom configurations starting at $1,773.20 at the time of this writing.