Sager 9750 with AMD Athlon 64 X2 Review (pics, specs)

by Albsterama Reads (51,892)

by Albsterama, California USA

The notebook under review here is the Sager 9750. Established in 1985, Sager specializes in portable computers. They are based in City of Industry, California and sell through their own online website or resellers such as PCTorque.com.

The Sager 9750 is the world’s first dual core notebook with a desktop AMD X2 CPU (or the new FX-60 dual core) under the hood and was released in mid December 2005.  The 9750 is based on the Clevo D900K, Clevo is the original design manufacturer (ODM).  The 9750 can be considered a true Desktop Top Replacement (DTR) notebook for its weight/size and is aimed primarily at the gaming market.


Sager 9750 (view medium image) (view large image)

 

AMD Athlon 64 badge (view medium image) (view large image)

Specifications of the Sager 9750-V being reviewed:

  • 17″ WUXGA LCD (Glossy 1920 x 1200)                         
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 4800+ (Toledo, Socket 939)
  • nVIDIA GeForce Go 7800 GTX w/ 256MB GDDR3
  • 2GB 400Mhz Dual Channel PC3200 DDR SDRAM
  • Primary 100Gb 7200RPM PATA
  • Secondary 100Gb 5400RPM PATA
  • Pioneer 8x Combo with DVD+R DL
  • Windows XP Professional SP2
  • Lithium Ion 12Cell battery
  • Internal 802.11g Wireless Network Adapter
  • Integrated 1.3M High-Resolution Digital Video Camera
  • External floppy drive
  • Internal 7-in-1 Card Reader
  • 1 Year Sager Warranty
  • 3 Year (US Only) Extended Onsite Warranty by PCTorque.com
  • 4 Year (US Only) Accidental Coverage by PCTorque.com

Reasons for Buying

On June 2005 I started looking for a replacement notebook for my aging Dell Inspiron 8200. At that time Dell XPS Gen 2 was released with the 6800 Ultra GPU and the 7200RPM 100Gb hard drive. I ordered it with the 35% coupon but the order fell through after an 8 week wait as the order slept in the “In Production” phase. Then news of an AMD notebook began to filter on the internet, initially with a September release but it was not until mid December that the news became a reality with the release of the Sager 9750 that had an AMD X2, glossy WUXGA screen and the blisteringly fast nVidia 7800GTX GPU — it became a no brainer, this was the notebook to replace my Dell Inspiron 8200!

Where and How Purchased

My Sager 9750 was ordered through PCTorque.com and delivered on January 9 2006. It was ordered through the online configuration site from PCTorque.com. Total price paid including the extended on-site warranty and the accidental damage protection was $4,437.00, which is the credit card price. There is a “cash” price that is about $100 cheaper but the order process may take longer for the check clearance.

The original order was for the primary 7200RPM 100Gb SATA and the secondary 5400RPM 100Gb SATA hard drives. However, Sager experienced a shortage in the availability of the SATA drives and the PATA drives were offered in its place. Essentially the 9750 can support dual PATA or dual SATA 2.5″ hard drives by just switching the hard drive interface cable.

The key difference between the SATA and the PATA configuration is that SATA would work with Raid 0 or 1. I did not need the Raid 0 or 1 so switching to PATA was an easy decision instead of waiting for new supplies to come in at an unspecified time (after the 8 weeks “In Production” with the Dell order I was not going to go through such a thing again!)
PCTorque.com did communicate this to me via email and through their affiliated forum website: www.NotebookForums.com. To change the order, I simply called PCTorque.com and it was quick and easy.

Packaging


Packaging (view medium image) (view large image)
 
The Sager 9750 came in a surprisingly small and compact package that is double boxed for protection. The computer itself was well wrapped and suspended within 2 foam ends. The power supply and the bundled CD software and drivers were neatly packed within the black business style travel case.

It was nice to see the whole 9750 layered with a protective covering from the back of the LCD to the actual LCD and the trimmings around the notebook. The layers came off easily to reveal a very nice looking notebook, far better than the 9750 computer images on the website.

Build & Design

First impression was WOW – the dual tone polish aluminum LCD cover and silver edgings contrast perfectly with the rest of dark gray casing and the glossy black trimming.  Handling the 9750 showed that it was a solid machine. There was nothing flimsy or flexing on this unit.


Top view of Sager 9750 (view large image)

The 9750 is a heavy notebook weighing in at around 12 lbs and a power supply unit that is just a tad under 3 lbs. Taking it around town was not an issue for me since I always use a roller carrier.  The LCD hinge locks were a snap to release and the LCD opens firmly yet smoothly to reveal a nice full size keyboard with keypad.

Plug in the power supply cable, touch the power ON button to reveal a cool blue colored power and display lighting.

View 9750 Power Button and the programmable AP-Keys (view medium image) (view large image)

Screen

The 9750 comes with a choice of the WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050) or WUXGA (1920 x 1200) both in a glossy finish.  I chose the WUXGA because I felt the 17″ would benefit from this resolution. Colors on this WUXGA screen are gorgeous — the colors have a nice depth especially the rich dark blacks.  The glossy overcoat accentuates this and moving from a 4 year old Ultrasharp Dell 15″ monitor, the 9750 LCD is literally a sight for sore eyes for me.

Tests using the dead pixel program show zero dead pixels ! (Please note that most resellers will offer a zero dead pixel guarantee for an additional $200, but I felt this was unnecessary)
Tests for light leakage did not reveal any issues of such a thing.

The only possible issue is with the refresh rate of the LCD set to 61Hz. In some games such as Battlefield 2, the refresh rate is part of the profile. This profile had to be changed from 60Hz to 61Hz in order to allow the game to booth properly. 

Other than this, the WUXGA screen is absolutely superb.  As an extra, on top of the screen is an inbuilt 1.3MP camera. I have not yet used the camera.

Speakers

The speakers on the 9750 comprise of a “mini” subwoofer installed underneath and four speakers. Two of the speakers are placed on the left and right side of the keyboard and two speakers are placed on the front of the notebook on the left and right.

The 9750 features the SRS WOW. This is an audio enhancement suite from SRS Labs. I am a little puzzled at this, since the form of the notebook is not conducive to producing audiophile quality sounds — not with the super small speakers and a “mini” subwoofer that is smaller than the tweeter in a regular bookshelf speaker.

How does it sound? At normal volume, the rock music sounds fine with the limited bass produced by the mini subwoofer. Spatially the music sounds dispersed and wide as versus localized source. At maximum volume, there is no distortion and the sound is well controlled.
Personally, I would have liked the maximum volume pushing out more decibels. 

Alternatively, you can use head phones when it’s not practical to use the built in speakers. The head phone jack is located on the left side of the notebook. There have been reports of hissing from the headphone jack. On my unit and using an Etymotic Er6i ear buds, I can hear a low hissing present but it soon disappears when music is played at volume.  For some audiophiles, this hissing may be a big issue. For me, its not.

Processor and Performance

Released around mid 2005, the AMD X2 4800+ (codename Toledo) is manufactured with AMD’s 90nm process. This is a dual core processor, each core featuring a clock speed of 2.4Ghz and a 1024kb L2 cache. The X2 4800+ is packaged on the Socket 939.


(view large image)
 
The 9750 cold boots quickly thanks to the primary 7200RPM hard drive.  There are 2 power settings for the AMD X2 4800+ that can be configured through the Control Panel -> Power Options icon.  In the “Portable/Laptop” mode, the default frequency of the X2 is set at 1.00Ghz. The core frequency will rise as it is needed.  On the “Always On” mode, the dual core stays at the full speed of 2.4Ghz.  Each setting has an effect on the temperature, with the 1.00Ghz the CPU idles around 42C to 45C and at the 2.4Ghz, the CPU idles around 51C to 55C. Max load, the CPU temperature rises to no more than 61C (all readings based on the mob meter software utility).  This is pretty good considering my Dell Inspiron 8200 with a 4 yr old Intel Pentium 4 1.8Ghz Mobile CPU idles at 55C to 60C! When the 9750 is booted up on battery, the core speed is limited to 433Mhz to conserve power.

Benchmarks

Below are the benchmarks using the Forceware 83.90 drivers. The 7800 GTX was left at the stock setting of core clock frequency of 400MHz and memory clock frequency of 1.10Ghz. The AMD X2 4800+ is set on the “Always On” with each core at 2.4Ghz.

Super Pi results

Notebook Time
Sager 9750 (AMD X2 4800+)  1m 26s
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 15s
 Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 18s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)  1m 36s
 Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)  1m 48s
 Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  1m 52s
 Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 10s
 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
 HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)  1m 53s
 Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s


(view large image)

Below are the results gained from running 3DMark05 on the 9750:

 Notebook  3DMark 05 Results
 Sager 9750 (AMD 64 X2, nVidia GeForce GTX 7800 256MB)  7044 3DMarks / 5373 CPUMarks
 Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB  2092 3D Marks / 4462 CPUMarks
ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)  727 3DMarks / 3414 CPUMarks
 Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)  2530 3D Marks / 3749 CPU Marks
 Quanta KN1 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600 128mb)  2,486 3DMarks / 4106 CPUMarks
 HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)  2536 3D Marks / 3557 CPU Marks
 Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)  4157 3DMarks / 4812 CPU Marks

Below are the results gained from running PCMark04 on the 9750:

 Futuremark PCMark04 Scores
  Sager 9750 (AMD 64 X2, nVidia GeForce GTX 7800 256MB) Lenovo T60 (2.0 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression 6.7 MB/s 6.83 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption 74.131 MB/s 55.83 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression 59.47 MB/s 52.5 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing 29.23 MPixels/s 23.24 MPixels/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning 5091.12 MB/s 4450.72 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check 6.08 KB/s 4.88 KB/s
 File Decryption 74.29 MB/s 59.64 MB/s
 Audio Conversion 3184.69 KB/s 3062.34 KB/s
 Web Page Rendering 5.71 Pages/s 6.35 Pages/s
 DivX Video Compression 87.55 FPS 74.82 FPS
 Physics Calculation and 3D 214.91 FPS 212.51 FPS
 Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 1778.1 FPS 1514.98 FPS
Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores
3DMark Score 7044 3DMarks 2092 3D Marks
CPU Score 5373CPUMarks 4462 CPUMarks
Gaming Tests
GT1 – Return To Proxycon 30.8 FPS 9.7 FPS
GT2 – Firefly Forest 20.9 FPS 5.7 FPS
GT3 – Canyon Flight 34.8 FPS 10.6 FPS
CPU Tests
CPU Test 1 2.6 FPS 2.5 FPS
CPU Test 2 5.0 FPS 3.5 FPS

Below are graphs generated from running HDTune on the two Sager 9750 hard drives:


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(view large image

Heat and Fans

Being a large DTR notebook and using a desktop CPU, the most obvious question is “how hot does it get and how loud are the fans?”

For cooling, there are 4 intake fans located at the bottom. All the internal hot air is then released through the large 5″ vent located on the back right of the notebook or the smaller GPU vent located on the front left side of the notebook.

My 9750 is on practically 24 x 7 and I always use the 9750 keyboard and touchpad.  With the power mode on “Always On” the CPU averages 51C to 55C, all the fans are quiet and is hard to tell whether the fans are ON or OFF. The only noticeable fan noise comes from the GPU fan when it vents the hot air from the 7800GTX card.  Even then the noise it produces is a soft whirl.

Sager has provided a “hot key” to turn on all the fans at max speed for quick cooling. This is generally used for playing games, especially for an extended period of time. At max speed, the noise from all the fans sounds like little jets and using a sound pressure meter, it introduces about 6 dB of additional fan noise.

Does this distract from the sounds of the game ? No, the speakers even at mid volume override the fan noise.  On the hot days in the office, the left and right palm areas can get slightly warm, no more than say 5C above room temperature. All other days, the warmth from the palm areas is not perceivable.

It is not recommended to work with the 9750 on the lap since you risk blocking one or more fans underneath.  However, it is recommended to have a laptop cooler such as the Spire Pacific Breeze to raise the back end of the notebook, improve air flow and keep things nice and cool underneath. Elevating the back end has the added benefit of making typing easier.


View of the Spire Pacific Breeze laptop cooler and the rear of the 9750 (view medium image) (view large image)

Gaming

The AMD X2 4800+ and the nVidia GeForce 7800 GTX is an awesome combination when it comes to gaming performance. Games such as Battlefield 2, BF2 Special Forces and Doom 3 can be played at the highest possible settings without any flinching from the CPU/GPU and the action is buttery smooth.

Using the Forceware drivers, it is easy to over clock the 7800 GTX but I found that this is not really necessary. For all the games that I have, there has been no sluggishness to warrant it.   Of course, over clocking may give bragging rights for the best 3DMark05 or 3DMark06 scores on the various Internet forums, but do it at your own risk.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard configuration took a little while to get used to especially with the key pad area on the right hand side and the QWERTY keys and touchpad left biased.  The keys were great to use, firm short stroke and fast return with no sloppiness in the action at all. You know when you have typed and the finger nails do not strike the other keys on the way down or up, unlike other notebook keyboards that I have used.


Keyboard view (view medium image) (view large image)
 
Note the speakers to the left of the keyboard and right of the number pad.  Although the Sager features a number key pad, I have not used it at all.  

The touch pad took more time for familiarization. I liked the feel of the touch pad, it had a metallic feel as versus a plastic one. The feedback was accurate.


Touchpad view (view large image)
 
The only annoying issue with the touch pad is that the scroll section encroaches (past the gray line) onto the pointer navigation section. It is possible to put the mouse pointer into the “scroll mode” simply by touching the near about inch left of the scroll section. This can be annoying when you move the mouse pointer to the right and suddenly it goes into scroll mode.  I was unable to find a software solution to adjust this sensitivity.

Input and Output Ports:

  • Integrated 10/100/1000Mbps LAN & V.90 56K Fax/Modem
  • 1 Type II PCMCIA Slot
  • 7-in-1 Card Reader
  • InfraRed Wireless Fast IR Interface
  • Speakers out
  • Mic in ports
  • 2 IEEE-1394 Port
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 Line out
  • 1 S/PDIF out
  • 1 DVI out port
  • 1 PS2 port
  • 1 RJ-45 port
  • 1 RJ-11 port
  • 1 S-Video-In jack
  • 1 S-Video-Out jack
  • 1 Serial port
  • 1 TV-in Port (with optional TV tuner)


Nice touch with the rubber inserts to cover the 7-in-1 Reader section and the TV Out/S-Video-In jack section.(view medium image) (view large image)


Front view of the 9750 (view medium image) (view large image)
 
Ont the front: On left and right side are the front speakers.  Audio “DJ” Player Controls in the middle including volume control. The volume can be controlled through 2 sets of buttons. One way is to use the Fn-F5 or Fn-F6 function key combinations on the keyboard or through the “-” or “+” media buttons on the front of the notebook.


Back view of the 9750 (view medium image) (view large image)
 
On the back: The 5″ exit vents on the left, DC-In jack, serial port, parallel port, DVI-Out port, PS2 port, RJ-11 Phone jack, RJ-45 LAN jack, CATV jack and S-Video-In jack.


Left  view of the 9750 (view medium image) (view large image)
 
On the left side: S-Video-Out jack, 4 x USB2.0 ports, 2 x Mini-IEEE 1394a port, Line In jack, S/PDIF-Out jack, Microphone-In jack, Headphone-Out jack, 7-in-1 Card reader, PC Card slot and Infrared Transceiver.


Right view of the 9750 (view medium image) (view large image)
 
On the right side: Optical device drive. Up to two optical drive devices can be installed on the 9750 in a piggy back configuration. To access and remove the drive, you have to go through the hard drive compartment from underneath and will require a screwdriver.


Bottom view (view large image)

Wireless

Included with the order is the Internal 802.11g wireless with the 9750. There is an internal wireless card with Bluetooth available at an additional cost.

Battery

Generally, the battery in a DTR notebook with any desktop CPU is considered as nothing more than a glorified UPS. Before this test I was expecting that at most, the battery would last between 45 mins and 1 hour.

Sager has equipped the 9750 with a 12 cell Li-Ion 14.8V 6600MaH battery. This appears to be the standard battery across their entire Sager 9xxx series. To access the battery, you have to use a coin or a straight tip screwdriver to release the three screws.

Once the battery was charged to 100%, the 9750 was cold booted. Boot time was similar to the A/C power.  However, the 9750 booted up with a 433Mhz clock speed and the CPU temperature was around 41C. The LCD remained on the max setting and the 7800GTX remained untouched.

A number of tasks were then performed that included internet surfing, emailing and working with spreadsheets.  The 9750 achieved a life of 1 hr and 25 mins until it reached the 5% battery capacity. A pleasant surprise and it may have broke through the 1 hr 30 mins barrier had I dropped the LCD brightness.

Operating System and Software

The default order from PCTorque does not include the operating system. You can elect to add the Windows XP Pro SP2 (32 bit) or the Windows XP Home SP2 as an additional cost. There is no XP 64 offered at this time but Sager, on their website, does provide the drivers necessary for XP 64 to run on their 9xxx series notebooks.

The chosen operating system was Microsoft XP Pro. The 9750 arrived pre-configured with the o/s and appears clean with all the latest updates and no adware present. Also installed is the OEM Nero Suite and Inter Video WinDVD 5.

Worried about a crash ? No problem, Sager provides the XP recovery CD, utility drivers and the OEM Nero and Inter Video CDs as well.   All the bases are covered. Nice !

Upgradeability

Unlike the desktop counter parts, components in a notebook are not generally upgradeable. This usually means that once you purchased the CPU and GPU, you are stuck with it for the life of the notebook. However, the Sager 9750 is based on the Clevo D900 chassis (Sager 9860, 9880 and 9890) and in the past, Sager has been able to offer upgrades on the GPUs beginning with the nVidia 6800 DDR to 6800 DDR3, Ati X800, 6800 Ultra and the latest nVidia 7800 GTX.

The cost of the upgrades are not cheap – ranging from $600 to $900 depending on the changes involved which has, in the past, included a mother board revision and a new power supply. It is hoped that this tradition will continue with the next couple of GPU releases from nVidia or ATI, fingers crossed.

Customer Support

All Sager notebooks come with a 1 year return to manufacturer warranty, this means that if you have an issue you have to either mail the damaged part back to Sager (located in City of Industry, California) or ship the entire notebook to them with you paying for the shipping costs to Sager and they will pay for the return cost back to your home. Sager does not offer any on-site warranty.   This was the most uncomfortable part of the purchasing process since I am used to the Dell on-site Complete Care protection.

As things turned out, I did experience an initial issue with the optical drive that always opened each time the 9750 cold booted. A simple email correspondence with Sager Tech Support and an RMA was arranged. Turn around time for this entire issue was about 6 business days from the first initial email.

I also purchased two warranties from PCTorque.com. The first one is a three year extended on-site warranty. The second warranty is for the Accidental Damage Protection warranty. Both warranties cost an additional $500 to the bottom line.

Complaints

  • Sager should offer an on-site warranty service. If a smaller reseller like PCTorque.com can arrange contracts to provide on-site service, it’s hard to understand why a bigger OEM like Sager cannot provide this service. Also, this service is offered by Dell and Sager should be competitive and offer the same.
  • Odd refresh frequency on the WUXGA LCD screen — 61Hz as versus the standard 60Hz. This has caused issues with games like Battlefield 2 that it will not boot when the refresh rate is not set to 61Hz in the profile.
  • The USB2.0 ports are mounted upside down. Not a big issue but unusual. Also, it would have been nice to have 2 more USB2.0 ports on the right side of the notebook for convenience.

Praises

  • Awesome game performance. Max resolution on Battlefield 2 and Doom 3 and it does not flinch.
  • Gorgeous WUXGA screen.
  • Dual PATA or SATA (with Raid 0 or 1) Hard Drives.
  • Availability of dual optical drives.
  • Availability of ports now considered as “legacy” by other manufacturers such as PS2 and Serial.
  • Nice to see the CF as part of the 7-in-1 Card Reader.
  • Better than “average” battery life for a DTR notebook.

Conclusion

Having owned three Dell Inspiron notebooks in the past, it was a leap of faith to jump on the Sager brand. So far, I am extremely pleased with the build and quality of the 9750 and AMAZED by the performance of the AMD X2 4800+ and the nVidia 7800 GTX. 
With the availability of the AMD FX-60 dual core CPU and the 7800 GTX GPU for the 9750, it is a lethal combination for a gaming rig in a notebook format.

 


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