AVADirect D900F Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (30,687)
  • Pros

    • Intel Core i7 in a notebook
    • Smoking fast
    • Very speedy SSD RAID 0
  • Cons

    • Chassis could use a face-lift
    • Loud cooling fans

by Kevin O’Brien

One of the main factors between notebook and desktop hardware has always been that desktops get the faster processors. Those processors put out more heat, consume more power, and are larger in size, which usually prevents installation into notebooks. The AVADirect D900F aims to change that, offering configurations that include the new Intel Core i7 975 Extreme Edition processor. Pair that with an NVIDIA 280M GTX graphics card, 6GB of DDR3 memory, and a 17″ WUXGA display, and you get an extremely fast mobile workstation or gaming rig.

AVADirect D900F Specifications:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1, 64-bit)
  • Intel Core i7 975 Extreme Edition Processor (3.33GHz, 8MB L2, 1066MHz FSB)
  • Intel X58 + ICH10R chipset
  • 17.1″ WUXGA Ultra Bright Glossy LCD display at 1920×1200
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M 1GB GDDR3 memory
  • Intel 5300AGN Wireless
  • 6GB DDR3-1333 SDRAM (2GB x 3)
  • 30GB x 2 OCZ Vertex in RAID 0, 500GB Seagate 7400.4
  • DVD SuperMulti /BD-ROM
  • webcam, stereo speakers
  • 220W (20V x 11A) 100-240V AC Adapter
  • 12-cell 95Wh 14.4v 6600mAh Lithium Ion battery
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 15.62″ x 11.42″ x 2″ – 2.36″
  • Weight: 12lbs 0.1oz, 14lbs 15.6oz with AC adapter
  • 1-Year Standard Limited Warranty
  • Price as configured: $3,900

Build and Design
The AVADirect Clevo D900F appears at first glance to be a bit lacking compared to most notebooks on the market, with function being more important than form in the design phase. The look and feel seems dated compared to other notebooks on the market and the quality of the plastics seem underwelming for a notebook with such a high starting price. If this were any other notebook we might say there is no excuse for it, but then you realize it was designed to handle a desktop-class processor, high-end graphics card, and all of the cooling for that equipment.

avadirect clevo d900f

The build quality of notebook is in the same category as the design; more emphasis was placed on performance than build quality and the end result is flexible plastic and a not-so-durable feeling chassis. The screen lid has some give to it, and the palmrest and keyboard could probably use some additional support. While the outside could use a face-lift the inside looks amazing. After you remove two access panels and the battery you have direct access to multiple heatsinks and cooling fans, the graphics card, processor, RAM slots, dual hard drive bay, and single additional drive bay. You can tell that most of the design went into cooling the notebook, most likely to prevent it from bursting into flames when the Intel Core i7 processor is under significant load.

avadirect clevo d900f

Screen and Speakers
For high-detail gaming the AVADirect Clevo D900F offers a 17.1″ WUXGA (1920×1200) LCD, which in our testing turned out to be quite nice. At full brightness it is easy to view even in a brightly lit office, although with the glossy surface it might not hold up well to outdoor viewing. Vertical viewing angles are average compared to other WUXGA panels we have seen, with about 25 degrees of play forward or back before colors start to distort. Horizontal viewing angles are much better, with colors staying true to roughly 75 degrees to each side. Beyond that angle, reflections overpower the picture displayed on the screen. While gaming we didn’t notice any sort of lag or streaking.

avadirect clevo d900f avadirect clevo d900f
avadirect clevo d900f avadirect clevo d900f

Speaker performance is weak compared to other large gaming notebooks, but this isn’t unheard of on some high-end gaming notebooks that are running cramped on space. The speakers have little bass or midrange, sounding very tinny at higher volume levels. While the speakers might work well for a small dorm room, headphone or external speakers would be the most preferred option.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the D900F is a full-size model with number pad. Spacing is average compared to most notebook keyboards, with some slightly condensed function keys on the left side of the keyboard. Gamers will enjoy the proper control key position, in the far lower left-hand corner, instead of an Fn key. Support underneath the keyboard could be better as there is some slight give under harder typing pressure. Individual key action is smooth with only a mild, almost-muted click given off when pressed. While you might get away with stealth typing on the D900F in a classroom, the fan noise will definitely give you away.

avadirect clevo d900f

The touchpad is an appropriately sized Synaptics model, with a nice, mildly textured matte surface. It is snappy and responsive, with no lag noticed while gaming. Sensitivity is excellent, even with the default settings. The touchpad buttons are the shallow feedback kind, needing a solid positive press to activate. When pressed they give off a soft click sound, not that loud compared to the fan noise of the notebook while gaming.

Ports and Features
Considering the overall size of the D900F, we expected it to have a greater port selection. That being said, it rates about average compared to other gaming notebooks on the market. In total this notebook has four USB ports, one eSATA, HDMI, DVI, FireWire, TV, modem, LAN, and audio jacks. For expansion it offers an ExpressCard/54 slot and SDHC multi-card slot.

avadirect clevo d900f
Front: Line-in, digital audio out, microphone, headphones

avadirect clevo d900f
Rear: AC power, DVI

avadirect clevo d900f
Left: HDMI, eSATA, CATV, modem, LAN, FireWire 400, ExpressCard/54, SDHC multi-card, optical drive

avadirect clevo d900f
Right: Four USB, Kensington lock slot.

Performance and Benchmarks
It is almost difficult to describe how fast this notebook is in normal operation. With the Intel Core i7 975 processor, 6GB of RAM, and OCZ Vertex drives in RAID 0, the Clevo D900F blasts through any task you can think of. Installing software happens abnormally fast, boot and shutdown times are very quick, and game load times are phenomenal. Going back to my ThinkPad T60 to type this review felt like I was transitioning to my parents’ 10-year-old desktop. To give you an idea of how fast this processor is, the previous “fastest” notebook in our office was an ASUS W90, scoring 23.5 seconds in wPrime when overclocked to 3.3GHz. This system finishes wPrime in an amazing 7.2 seconds! PCMark05 also increased significantly, jumping nearly 6,000 points over the ASUS W90.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
AVADirect D900F (Core i7 975 @ 3.33GHz) 7.206 seconds
ASUS W90Vp-X1 (Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 3.29GHz) 23.494 seconds
ASUS N90SV-A2 (Core 2 Duo T9550 @ 2.66GHz) 28.485 seconds
Sony VAIO FW (Core 2 Duo T9400 @ 2.53GHz)
30.373 seconds
Dell Studio 17 (Core 2 Duo T9300 @ 2.50GHz) 31.574 seconds
Dell Studio XPS 16 (Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 31.827 seconds
ASUS F50SV-A2 (Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 31.857 seconds
Gateway P-7805u FX (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 34.287 seconds
HP Pavilion dv6z (AMD Athlon X2 QL-64 @ 2.10GHz)
38.519 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
AVADirect D900F (3.33GHz Core i7 975, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M 1GB) 14,971 PCMarks
ASUS W90Vp-X1 (3.29GHz Intel T9600, Dual ATI Radeon Mobility 4870 1GB) 9,056 PCMarks
Gateway P-7805u FX (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GTS 1GB) 6,637 PCMarks
ASUS N90SV-A2 (2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9550, NVIDIA GeForce GT 130M 1GB) 6,464 PCMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB) 6,303 PCMarks
ASUS F50SV-A2 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia GeForce GT 120M 1GB) 6,005 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470) 6,002 PCMarks
Dell Studio 17 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650) 5,982 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv6z (2.10GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 512MB) 4,119 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 graphics comparison against notebooks @ 1280 x 800 resolution (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
ASUS W90Vp-X1 (3.29GHz Intel T9600, Dual ATI Radeon Mobility 4870 1GB) 15,628 3DMarks
AVADirect D900F (3.33GHz Core i7 975, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M 1GB) 14,824 3DMarks
Gateway P-7805u FX (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GTS 1GB) 9,190 3DMarks
ASUS N90SV-A2 (2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9550, NVIDIA GeForce GT 130M 1GB) 5,778 3DMarks
ASUS F50SV-A2 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia GeForce GT 120M 1GB) 5,152 3DMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB)
4,855 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv6z (2.10GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 512MB) 3,254 3DMarks
Dell Studio 17 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650) 2,974 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470) 2,598 3DMarks

 

HDTune had trouble reporting the full speed of the two OCZ SSDs in RAID 0, so we are also including ATTO to better show what these drives are capable of:

Gaming performance was excellent, even without SLI or CrossFire graphics. For our review we ran Call of Duty 5, Left 4 Dead, BioShock, and Crysis: Warhead. We ran each game with high detail settings (Warhead on gamer mode), in both 1280×800 and 1920×1200 resolutions. Call of Duty 5 played between 85 frames per second (FPS) and 90FPS depending on the amount of action on the screen at 1280×800 resolution, and slowed to 45-55FPS at 1920×1200. Left 4 Dead had much higher framerates, which had greater variance depending on the amount of action on screen. At 1280×800 resolution framerates varied between 200FPS and 240FPS. Switching to 1920×1200 resulted in varied speeds between 130FPS and 180FPS. Bioshock at 1280×800 showed speeds between 120FPS and 130FPS, and at 1920×1200 slowed to 66FPS to 72FPS. While those three games were fairly easy for the AVADirect D900F to handle, Crysis: Warhead proved to be more of a challenge for the D900F, running at slightly lower speeds than the ASUS W90 with CrossFire graphics. With Crysis: Warhead set to “Gamer” detail mode at 1280×800 resolution speeds ranged between 30FPS and 35FPS. At 1920×1200 framerates dropped to 17-22FPs, still kind of playable, but some tweaking would be needed for longterm gameplay. Overall while speeds would be better with two graphics cards, the D900F still proved to be more than capable for all of the games we tested on it with a single GTX 280M.


Left 4 Dead @ 1280×800

Left 4 Dead @ 1920×1200

Crysis: Warhead @ 1280×800

Crysis: Warhead @ 1920×1200

Call of Duty 5 @ 1280×800

Call of Duty 5 @ 1920×1200

Bioshock @ 1280×800

Bioshock @ 1920×1200

Heat and Noise
Fan noise was above almost all the other notebooks we have reviewed, having four high speed fans to cool the various internal components. The processor has two fans to itself, one for the system memory, and the forth for the graphics card. Under light use most of the fans are off or spinning very slowly. Under stressful activity such as running benchmarks or gaming the fans kick on loud enough to be heard in a decent sized room. Gaming in a classroom would be possible, if only because the battery wouldn’t last long enough to annoy those around you.

Heat output is substantial while gaming, but the constant flow of air from the four cooling fans keeps the chassis temperature within reasonable levels. The pictures below show the temperature readings off various spots on the chassis after stressing the system for 15 minutes. The palmrest and keyboard are kepy fairly cool, with most of the hotter parts along the back edge near the processor and GPU. After gaming with this notebook on my lap for one night I can say I wasn’t burnt, but the weight on my legs was just as bad.

avadirect clevo d900f avadirect clevo d900f

Battery
I do have to admit that the first time we saw the specifications for this notebook, we bet it would probably get between 15-20 minutes when unplugged. For a notebook that consumes 75 watts at idle, the battery is more like a battery backup. With Vista set to the Balanced mode, screen brightness at 70%, and wireless active the AVADirect D900F stayed on for 1 hour and 8 minutes before abruptly turning off. Very impressive given the Core i7 975 desktop processor inside this notebook.

Conclusion
Overall the AVADirect D900F 17″ gaming notebook proved to be very capable of handling modern games, even without dual graphics cards. Compared to the ASUS W90 it has slightly less graphics performance, but clearly leads in raw processing power. For encoding video or working with CAD applications the Intel Core i7 975 Extreme Edition would give you workstation level performance, without the bulk of a 30lb desktop case. While the $3,900 price seems steep, most of it comes from the processor and SSDs in our review unit. Going with a more reasonable Core i7 920 would save you nearly $800 by itself. Bottom line, if you want the most processing power out of a notebook, there is really nothing else that is faster than this with an Intel Core i7 975 Extreme Edition packed inside.

Pros:

  • Intel Core i7 975 Extreme Edition inside a 17″ notebook
  • Smoking fast
  • Very speedy SSD RAID 0
  • Over and hour of battery life with a Core i7 inside

Cons:

  • Chassis could use a face-lift
  • Loud cooling fans


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