Sager NP5791 Review

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Sager NP5791 Review

by Charles P. Jefferies

Index:
Design and Build
Display
Speakers
Benchmarks and Gaming
Heat and Noise
Keyboard
Touchpad
Input and Output Ports
Wireless
Battery
OS and Software
Customer Support
Conclusion
 

The Sager NP5791 is a top-of-the-line 17-inch high performance notebook based on the latest Intel Santa Rosa platform. It is designed for gaming and features the latest high-end Nvidia graphics cards.

Before I start the review I would like to give a special thanks to Donald Stratton of PowerNotebooks.com for giving us the opportunity to test this machine.


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Our system has the following specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 (2.2GHz/4MB L2/800MHz FSB)
  • 17-inch WUXGA (1920×1200) glossy display
  • Nvidia GeForce 8700M-GT with 512MB GDDR3 memory
  • 2GB DDR2-667 RAM
  • 80GB 7200RPM SATA HDD
  • 8X DVD+/-RW DL burner
  • Intel 4965AGN wireless
  • Integrated Bluetooth 2.0
  • Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
  • 8-cell battery

Pricing for this configuration is about $2,000. Other configurations can be had starting from $1,800.

Build & Design

It is obvious from the photos that the Sager NP5791 is no ordinary notebook. It is a clear departure from the industry trend of glossy plastic and bright colors. The NP5791 is a mostly matte-surfaced black notebook with orange trim strips. The back of the lid is a sheet of brushed aluminum and the very top of the lid is a strip of black glossy plastic.


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The plastic on this notebook is without a doubt thicker than what is found on mainstream notebooks. There are no cheap noises made when the chassis is tapped and no vibrations can be felt – while tapping on the left palmrest I could not feel vibrations on the right. The notebook’s chassis is so solid it feels like the inside of the chassis is a solid block of hardwood. It is essentially impossible to twist the chassis. Flex is nonexistent – the only way I could get any of the places on top of the chassis to budge was by putting abnormal pressure on it.


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There are several variants of plastic used in the construction. A matte black plastic covers most of the top of the chassis; it feels smooth and durable. The orange trim bordering the notebook is made of the same plastic, and so are the touchpad buttons. The area surrounding the outside of the lid around the display is also made of the same material except it has a small bit of texture. There is a very thin strip of glossy black plastic bordering the lid, giving it an elegant look. It matches the glossiness of the display and makes the display look bigger than it actually is. Around the keyboard and touchpad is a carbon-fiber textured plastic that adds flare and detail. I like the way it looks when light hits it – the checkered pattern really stands out. Finally, the plastic used on the bottom and sides of the NP5791 is also textured like the area around the lid and thinner yet it still feels well made.

The display is reinforced by the aluminum backing and it adds a degree of insurance against damage. Pushing on the back of the display yields no ripples in the picture. The display can be twisted a small amount but flex is both normal and expected on a 17 inch screen; this screen does not flex as much as a mainstream 17 inch notebook due to its extra strength. The hinges holding the display in place are strong and secure. I like how there are many small rubber pads around the screen so it does not come in contact with the keyboard or chassis area. There are two latches on the top of the display – the one on the left is a lock and the right one is a traditional spring latch. Both work as expected; when shut, the lid has little freedom to move which shows attention to detail.

The gaps between parts of the notebook are minimal and equidistant. It is obvious a great deal of time was spent perfecting the build quality of the NP5791. There is no area of the chassis that showed symptoms of budget-cutting. I am impressed by the solidness and sheer quality of this machine. The NP5791 is certainly one of the best built machines I have come across, counting even the business class machines. The NP5791 feels like it was built to last. The only downside to the fantastic build quality is the added weight from the beefier materials, but extra weight is a small price to pay for that peace of mind.

Display

The Sager NP5791 is available with two screens – a matte WSXGA+ (1680×1050 pixels) and a glossy WUXGA (1920×1200 pixels). Our evaluation unit has the latter. WUXGA is the highest available resolution on a notebook. The NP5791’s top-shelf display is nothing short of impressive – movies, games, pictures, and text look crisp, clear, and detailed. Colors pop off the screen and contrast is high. Even in high light conditions I found the brightness to be more than adequate – it is almost too bright in a dark room. Light leakage is minimal, with only a small amount coming from below. It is only noticeable when viewing a black screen. Side-to-side viewing angles are near perfect and the vertical is very good – the picture only washes out slightly. From below the display darkens and to a lesser degree than I expected. For a notebook panel the NP5791 is definitely one of the best I have seen.

Speakers

There are two stereo speakers on the NP5791. They are located at opposite ends of the rear of the chassis, on the sides and next to the display hinges. I found the odd placement made surround sound from two speakers more believable. The speakers are small and borderline tinny; I am not impressed nor disappointed with them. The sound is detailed (I could hear picks of a guitar and bullet casings hitting the ground) but volume is limited and bass response is nil. Treble (voices) is measurable but again, nothing special. The two speakers are adequate for general usage although I highly recommend a good pair of external speakers or headphones to make for the best sound experience.

Benchmarks and Gaming

The section everyone is here to see! There’s just so much to say and show in regards to benchmarks and gaming performance for the Sager NP791, so for the full benchmarks and gaming performance overview please jump to the Sager NP5791 Gaming and Benchmarks page.

 

Heat & Noise

The NP5791 is cooled by two fans located in the back right quadrant of the chassis; one is significantly larger than the other. The CPU and video card are both located in this area and the two fans ensure that they get ample cooling. I found that under normal, everyday use the NP5791 gets little more than lukewarm on the surface, which is extremely impressive for a notebook packing as much power as this one. Only the left side of the chassis from the touchpad area and over gets warmer than room temperature; the left side of the chassis stays almost room temperature. The warmest part of the notebook on the surface is the touchpad and the area immediately to the right of it. During gaming, I did not notice any increase in surface temperature. The bottom of the notebook gets warm in the same places as the top, except the temperatures are slightly higher.

Unfortunately the cooling fans are none too quiet. While both are quiet enough at idle, they ramp up to full speed every minute or so and then slow down, which gets irritating. The fans are loud enough to annoy someone in a quiet place at full speed, even if they are several yards away. Although I would take a loud notebook that stays cool over a quiet one that does not any day of the week, it would have been nice if the manufacturer found a quieter way to cool the machine. The NP5791 is loud enough that I would be hesitant to take it anywhere quiet like a library. In a meeting it might even be disruptive.

Overall, I am impressed with the NP5791’s ability to keep itself cool but I am disappointed with the noise level that was apparently necessary to achieve that.

Keyboard

The Sager NP5791 has a full size keyboard with a numeric keypad. This keyboard is fantastic because it excels in a number of ways. For starters, there is no flex, even at the corners or in the middle. The keyboard keys have a slightly rubbery feel and sound and provide resistance all the way down. The way this keyboard responds is pleasing and enjoyable. With many brands, I notice that the keyboard keys have been made out of thinner and thinner plastic over the years. I have yet to see this trend on a Sager notebook – the keys are made of thick plastic and feel high quality.


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However, I have two qualms with this particular keyboard. For starters, there are no dedicated home, page up, page down, or end keys. Instead, they are integrated as secondary functions into the arrow keys and the Function key must be pressed to utilize them. I find this setup awkward and annoying because I frequently use those keys. If the number lock is turned off, then the 1, 3, 7 and 9 keys become the end, page down, home and page up keys respectively. Regardless, it is still an odd setup. My second qualm with the keyboard is the three column number pad. Normally a number pad has four columns. Fortunately this number pad still has all the 17 keys a normal number pad has. The layout simply takes time to adjust to.

Touchpad

The NP5791’s touchpad is offset to the left as it is with most 17-inch notebooks so it aligns with the center of the keyboard. I usually do not have a lot to say about the touchpad but this one is most enjoyable to use. It has a textured feel but it is smooth at the same time; in other words, just the right amount of texture to provide feedback. A column on the right side is dedicated to scrolling. The touchpad buttons are pleasing to use; they are made out of the same matte black plastic as the palmrest and surrounding area and push down with a quiet and satisfying click. They feel solid. In between the two buttons is the fingerprint reader which can be used to log into Windows and remember passwords for various applications, including Internet webpages.

Input & Output ports

All descriptions are from left to right.

Left Side:


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  1. Speaker
  2. Kensington security lock slot
  3. optical drive

Right Side:


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  1. ExpressCard/54 slot
  2. Memory card reader
  3. 2x USB 2.0
  4. IEEE 1394 mini-Firewire
  5. 56k modem jack
  6. Ethernet
  7. Coaxial connection (enabled with TV tuner)
  8. Speaker

Front:


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  1. SPDIF
  2. Headphone jack
  3. Microphone jack
  4. Line In
  5. Status lights

Back:


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  1. Vents
  2. S-video out
  3. DVI-D
  4. 2x USB 2.0
  5. Power connection
  6. Serial port

I am impressed with the wide variety of ports offered on the NP5791. What is especially nice is the DVI-D port, which is rare and valuable. The most common uses for a DVI-D port are connecting to high resolution external displays and high definition TVs.

Wireless

The NP5791 accepts a mini-PCI express wireless card; ours came with the Intel 4965AGN supporting 802.11a, b, g, and n wireless formats. I had no trouble connecting and maintaining connections to various secured and unsecured (no, not my neighbor’s) wireless connections. It picked up many wireless connections that my older laptop did not see at all.

Internal Bluetooth wireless also came with our test unit. It functioned as expected.

Battery

With the 8-cell battery, I was pleased to get 2 hours and 40 minutes of battery life. I surfed the Internet and edited text files the entire time with the brightness on level 3 out of 7 (7 being the highest). Needless to say I am impressed with the result because let us not forget this unit is housing a 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 17-inch screen, 512MB video card, and 7200RPM hard drive. The relatively long battery time is an unexpected bonus with this machine.

Operating System & Software

The NP5791 can be ordered with Windows XP, Vista, or no operating system. Ours came with Vista Ultimate 32-bit which has its ups and downs. On the plus side Windows Vista has DirectX 10 and Windows XP does not. Unfortunately Vista proved to be an unstable operating system on this machine as I had trouble installing programs, running them, and seemingly random freezing issues, especially when hibernating. I attribute these problems to Vista alone and not the machine itself because I have had similar issues with every Vista machine I have used.

Besides the operating system, the only other pre-installed software consists of DVD burning software (Nero), BisonCam webcam software, and the fingerprint reader software. No bloatware is to be found.

Customer Support

During my time with the NP5791 I did not have to contact customer support. However, I currently own a Sager notebook – one time I did send an email asking for a BIOS update for it and they got back to me within an hour. The email was answered by a real person and not a machine.

All Sager computers are backed with lifetime technical support. Sager’s support website has a variety of tech support options. Drivers can be downloaded from there as well for both past and present notebooks.

Through PowerNotebooks.com, customers are provided with domestic 24/7 tech support. I contacted PowerNotebooks’ technical support once with my Sager and I was very pleased with the support – my call was answered immediately by a real person, no prompts. My question was answered in short order.

Conclusion

For those looking for a 17-inch gaming notebook in the $1,800 – $2,500 range, the Sager NP5791 warrants serious consideration. In this reviewer’s opinion the NP5791 is an extremely solid, well designed, and polished gaming notebook. To top everything off, its price tag is reasonable and could be considered a bargain when compared to more expensive brands. This is the first notebook I have tested in some time that I will sorely miss. With sleek looks, a beautiful display, and an arsenal of powerful components, the NP5791 is the premier single-GPU 17-inch gaming notebook on the market.

Pros:

  • Top notch build quality
  • Powerful performance
  • Gorgeous display
  • Unique looks
  • Reasonable price tag
  • Available with Windows XP
  • Measurable battery life
  • Runs cool

Cons:

  • Loud fans
  • Only one internal hard drive
  • Odd keyboard/number pad layout


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