AVADirect Menace (Clevo P770ZM) Review

by Reads (11,957)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 8
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 10
    • Usability
    • 8
    • Design
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Features
    • 8
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 8.14
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Outstanding performance
    • Good cooling system
    • Great keyboard with highly customizable lighting
    • Plenty of ports and user expandability
    • Good value
  • Cons

    • TN display (no IPS option available)
    • Relatively short battery life

The Menace is a barebones Clevo P770ZM chassis which is customized and sold by AVADirect. This notebook is predominantly designed for 3D gaming, but can also be equipped with workstation-class Nvidia Quadro cards for professional applications. The full power Intel desktop processors are likely the key selling points for this device. We ended up awarding the Menace our highest recommendation for providing great quality, outstanding performance, solid input devices, a helpful array of ports, good speakers, and a highly customizable LED backlit keyboard. Our only complaints surrounded its bright though average quality display.

If the simple lines and massive size aren't menacing enough, the hardware inside will be.

If the simple lines and massive size aren’t menacing enough, the hardware inside will be.

Build and Design

Despite its name the Menace is visually quite ordinary looking, its massive size being the most obvious attribute. The Menace is heavier than the average gaming notebook at 8.6 pounds and measures 1.5 inches thick all around. Needless to say it’s bulky to transport; we recommend investing in a backpack. The chassis isn’t entirely rectangular with the front edge and lid pointing outward slightly. The large cooling exhaust vents on the back edge of the chassis have an aggressive look and as we’ll see later, do a good job keeping this behemoth cool. AVADirect’s logo is prominently situated in the back of the lid.

Most of the visual surfaces including the palm rest and lid are covered in an anti-glare rubberized finish which adds a high-quality feel and does a good job hiding dust or fingerprints. The construction is all plastic but it’s thick and solid. The chassis has notable strength and rigidity, exhibiting little to no flex especially in the palm rest and surrounding areas.

Ava Direct Menace backThe lid flexes without much effort but we weren’t able to easily get ripples to appear in the display, an indicator the lid offers adequate protection to the display panel against the occasional bump. The display hinges are firm but don’t require two hands to open the display. All parts of this notebook are well fitted together with minimal and consistent spacing.

Upgradeability is one of the Menace’s strong points. Nearly every major component of this notebook is removable and therefore upgradeable and it also has a traditional user-removable battery.

bottom2

Not the most attractive bottom panel, but plenty of access for upgrades.

The largest access panel on the bottom of the chassis is secured by four screws and provides access to the socketed desktop processor, MXM 3.0 type B graphics card, and two RAM slots. The small access panel is secured by two screws and provides access to the M.2 wireless card and both 2.5-inch, 9.5mm height storage drive bays. The other two RAM slots along with two M.2 storage drive slots are located under the keyboard which can be removed after unscrewing two screws labeled “KB” and gently pushing aside the plastic clips that hold the keyboard in place.

Input and Output Ports

The Menace has all the ports expected in a true desktop replacement. It includes everything from five USB 3.0 ports to eSATA, HDMI 1.4a, and two full-size DisplayPort 1.2 ports. All picture descriptions are left to right.

Ava Direct Menace ports left
Left: Ethernet, 3x USB 3.0, 6-in-1 media card reader, eSATA/USB 3.0 combo

Ava Direct Menace ports right
Right: USB 3.0, S/PDIF out, headphone, microphone, line-in, lock slot

Ava Direct Menace ports back
Rear: cooling exhaust vent, HDMI 1.4a, DisplayPort 1.2, AC power jack, DisplayPort 1.2, cooling exhaust vent

Screen and Speakers

The 17.3-inch display on our review unit is the only one offered on the Menace. It has a full HD (1920×1080) resolution and an anti-glare/matte surface. We found it offered plenty of brightness but lacked good viewing angles, which is an inherent characteristic of a TN panel like this one; the picture progressively washes out as the display is tilted further out of its optimal head-on viewing range. IPS displays by comparison offer nearly unlimited viewing angles.

Ava Direct Menace screen frontAva Direct Menace screen side
Ava Direct Menace screen forwardAva Direct Menace screen back

The color saturation seems adequate to our eyes but has a noticeably cool hue which would most likely be correctable via a display calibrator. Contrast is also good with reasonable black levels. Nonetheless on a notebook this expensive, we’d like to see an IPS panel offered as an option. TN panels may be preferable to gamers as their response times are better than those of IPS displays, generally speaking.

Ava Direct Menace speakersThe Menace includes twin 2W Onkyo branded speakers and a small dedicated subwoofer on the underside of the chassis. (It’s interesting to note that Clevo, the builder of this notebook’s chassis has recently started including more creature comforts such as branded speakers). The speakers are located behind the raised grille in between the display hinges. This audio setup has pleasantly full sound and noticeable bass with ample volume. It’s certainly usable for a couple of people watching a video or gaming in a quiet room. We’d rate this setup slightly behind the branded speaker solutions found on similarly-sized mainstream notebooks but it’s nonetheless a step forward for Clevo and a successful one at that.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Ava Direct Menace keyboardThe Menace features a full-size backlit keyboard with a separate numeric keypad. The keys are traditionally shaped and spaced i.e. non-Chiclet. All of the standard keys are full-sized including those on the number pad; the latter is a nice surprise considering the number pads on past Clevo notebooks used two-thirds size keys. This keyboard has an appreciably standard layout akin to a desktop’s and all of the expected keys are present including dedicated home, end, pgup, pgdn, and printscreen.

The keyboard keys have excellent tactile feedback overall with sufficient key travel and precise action. It’s exceptionally easy to type fast on this keyboard. The keyboard deck is rock solid and the keypresses make little noise. We like the slightly rubberized key surfaces which should wear well over time. Gamers might notice the W, A, S, and D keys are emphasized with a visible borders around them.

You can easily customize the keyboard backlights.

You can easily customize the keyboard backlights.

The keyboard backlighting system is of special note. It has three levels of brightness and can be disabled completely by pressing the [Fn] and the [*] key on the number pad simultaneously. A dedicated software application allows you to set up to three sets of keyboard backlight settings. The keyboard is separated into three zones each of which can have its own color. Virtually any color is available; you can specify the R, G, and B values individually via a color wheel. Different lighting patterns are also available such as a pulsing “breathe” mode, flashing, tempo-based, and wave. This application also controls the small light bar on the front of the chassis. This is the best customizable lighting setup we’ve seen outside of Alienware’s AlienFX systems.

The large touchpad is aligned with the main keyboard and not centered in the palm rest; this arrangement prevents palms from hitting the touchpad while typing. The touchpad’s smooth anti-glare surface is intuitive to track on and provides good accuracy. The two dedicated touchpad buttons have ample feedback and best of all are quiet to press. The biometric fingerprint reader sits between the two buttons. Overall the Menace includes a remarkably good set of input devices that we’d be happy to use anytime.


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