AVADirect Clevo M980NU Review

by Reads (15,972)

Overview

  • Pros

    • Beautiful 18.4" LCD
    • Excellent performance
    • Good looking design
  • Cons

    • Battery is only a power backup
    • Loud cooling system

The Clevo M980NU is an 18.4-inch gaming notebook packed with an Intel quad-core processor and dual NVIDIA GTX 280M graphics cards. Currently starting for under $2,100, this rig can be configured with up to three hard drives, supporting internal RAID, to offer fast boot drives and high capacity additional storage. In this in-depth review of the M980NU from AVADirect, we find out how well this notebook performs in a variety of games, and how it compares to other gaming systems.

AVADirect Clevo M980NU Specifications:

  • Windows Vista Ultimate (SP2, 64-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9300 (2.53GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 12MB Cache)
  • 18.4″ WUXGA HD LCD display at 1920×1080
  • Two NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M 1GB GDDR3 memory
  • Intel 5300AGN Wireless
  • 4GB PC3-8500 DDR3 (2GB x 2)
  • Two 128GB Corsair MLC SSDs, One 500GB 7200.4 Seagate
  • DVD SuperMulti
  • 220W (20V x 11A) 100-240V AC Adapter
  • 12-cell 69Wh 14.8v 4650mAh Lithium Ion battery
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 17.25″ (w) x 11.75″ (d) x 1.7″ (h)
  • Weight: 12.5lbs
  • 1-Year Warranty
  • Price as configured: $4,466

Build and Design
The Clevo M980NU has a stunning mirror finish covering the back of the display and area surrounding the keyboard. The surfaces are completely flat, with a scratch resistant sheet of plastic covering the tinted layer. The screen cover is metallic grey with a centered backlit tribal logo and black trim on the top edge. The logo lights up blue by default, but can be changed by pressing the backlight color switch on the touch-sensitive multimedia panel. Inside the mirror finish has a black base color, playing in with the multimedia buttons and touchpad. Compared to other gaming systems we have seen, the Clevo M980NU really stands out with its elegant design.

Build quality is excellent, and a huge step up from the AVADirect D900F we reviewed earlier this year. The plastic chassis feels rigid, barely flexing at all when you carry the behemoth around. The mirror-like finishes are scratch resistant, keeping the notebook looking very clean over time. The screen hinges holding the 18.4-inch display feel strong and durable, keeping wiggling to a minimum. When closed the hinges help to keep the lid shut under spring tension, with only a hint of lift when the notebook is carried in the vertical position. Some minor flex was noted around the palmrest and keyboard, but on larger notebooks this isn’t uncommon.

Inside the notebook all user-upgradable parts are easily accessible through three panels. The largest panel on the back of the notebook uncovers the processor and two graphics cards, with an open mini-PCIe slot. The two smaller panels uncover the battery, storage drive, and boot drives. No “warranty void if removed” stickers were found anywhere inside this notebook.

Screen and Speakers
The M980NU uses an all-glass style display, which given the overall design of the notebook actually works pretty well. While some additional reflection was noted, the screen at higher brightness levels was able to drown out most of the reflections. One thing also worth mentioning is there was no dust present underneath the screen cover on our review unit, which the same can’t be said out of a lot of all-glass displays. The panel offered on this gaming notebook is a WUXGA 16:9 1920×1080 model, which offers excellent color saturation and above average viewing angles. Colors looked very bright and vibrant, a requirement for any gaming system. The screen appeared to have a quick refresh rate, as no tearing or smearing was noticed while we were testing games on this system. Vertical viewing angles were fairly good, offering a 20-25 degree viewing sweet spot before colors started to wash out or invert. Horizontal viewing angles were good out past 70 degrees, where reflections started to overpower what you could see on the display.

Speaker performance seemed lacking, and even though notebook offered an onboard subwoofer, it didn’t produce much bass or midrange audio. Peak volume levels were fine for a small dorm room if you were watching streaming video or listening to music. External speakers or headphones would probably be the best option for this gaming system, and the notebook comes packed with outputs for most audio systems. For easy home theater hookup, you can use analog line-out, coaxial digital out, or even HDMI for both digital video and audio.

Keyboard and Touchpad
Taking advantage of the wide footprint of M980NU, Clevo managed to fit in a full-size keyboard with enough room left over to still fit programmable macro keys next to the keyboard. The keyboard keys are roughly textured matte-black, and designed similar to Chiclet-style keyboards. I found the keyboard to be very comfortable while typing, and but with average support. We did find some flex towards the center of the keyboard, but only under very strong pressure. Individual key action was smooth, with a very soft click when pressed.

The M980NU included a large Synaptics touchpad, but in one of the most interesting designs we have seen to date. It is flush mount with the mirror-finish palmrest, so it is like sliding your fingers around on a sheet of glass. Out of the box when the surface completely clean your finger had a tendency to stick in place and not slide as easily, but once it got a small layer of oil from your hands, it worked great. The borderless design does take a while to get used to, as there is no “bump” to warn you that you are about to slide off the surface. Overall once I got use to the look and feel I found it to be pretty nice. The touchpad buttons are on a cutout seesaw style button under the touchpad, with a fingerprint scanner located in the center. They didn’t offer much in terms of a good throw distance, but the feedback was still very good. When pressed the buttons had a soft, but precise click that tells you when the button is activated, but doesn’t announce it to everyone in the room.

Ports and Features
Port selection is excellent with three USB ports, an eSATA/USB combo port, Firewire, LAN, CATV, four audio jacks, DVI-out and HDMI-out. Expansion slots include a SDHC-card reader and ExpressCard/54 slot.


Front: Indicator lights


Rear: AC Power


Left: DVI, two USB, LAN, HDMI, SDHC-reader, Optical drive, Firewire-400, ExpressCard/54


Right: Audio jacks, CATV, USB, eSATA/USB combo, Kensington lock slot


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