Sager NP5793 Review

by Reads (55,403)

by Charles P. Jefferies

The Sager NP5793 is a sleek 17-inch gaming machine designed for extreme performance. It can be configured with the most powerful and bleeding-edge components available on the notebook market, including the Nvidia GeForce 8800M-GTX and Intel Core 2 Extreme processor.

Before we start the review, I would like to give a special thanks to Donald Stratton at PowerNotebooks.com, who arranged for this unit to be sent to us.

Our test unit is configured as follows:

  • Screen: 17-inch WUXGA (1920×1200) glossy widescreen
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme X9000 (2.8GHz/6MB L2 cache/800MHz FSB) – 45nm Penryn
  • Video card: Nvidia GeForce 8800M-GTX 512MB
  • RAM: 4GB DDR2-667
  • Hard Drive: 160GB 7200RPM Seagate Momentus 7200.2 SATA
  • Optical Drive: 8X DVD Burner
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
  • Wireless: Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4956AGN and Internal Bluetooth
  • Battery: 8-cell Li-ion

Reasons to Buy

The Sager NP5793 is aimed squarely at gamers. It has the performance desired to play the latest games at high settings and sleek looks to match its performance. The NP5793 is one of the more reasonably-priced gaming notebooks on the market – a balanced configuration can be easily had for less than $2,500. The NP5793’s main competitors at the time of writing this review are the Toshiba Satellite X205 series, Dell XPS M1730, and the Alienware Area-51 m15x. Both the X205 and M1730 are dual video card capable machines. However, even dual 8700M-GT cards in SLI cannot match the single 8800M-GTX in our test unit as I will prove in this review. The Alienware is available with the same components as the Sager but at a significantly higher price.


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Build & Design

The Sager NP5793 does not follow the glossy plastic trend of the mainstream notebook market. Instead, it has a more understated look, encased in smooth matte black plastic. Around the base of the unit is a thin border of orange, giving the NP5793 a sophisticated look. The keyboard and touchpad area are surrounded by a carbon fiber-like border, which appears to blend in from a distance but up close is quite detailed. The back of the NP5793’s lid is covered almost entirely in black brushed aluminum, which adds a degree of protection and durability. At the very top of the lid is a thin strip of glossy plastic, yet another design detail. A thin border surrounding the screen is of the same material.

The NP5793 has a squared-off shape unlike the soft corners that have become prominent in the mainstream notebook market. It gives the machine an aggressive, bold stance. The base of the notebook is chiseled inward, making the NP5793 look and feel slimmer than it really is.


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The quality of the materials used in the construction is top-notch. The matte black plastics used on the base of the notebook are thick and inflexible. They are smooth but not slick to the touch. The hinges are rock-solid and hold the large 17-inch widescreen display in place with authority. The display is resistant to twisting and flexing; the NP5793 has one of the least-flexible displays I have seen on a 17-inch notebook. The back of the screen is well-protected as I mentioned earlier; I was unable to get ripples to show on the screen by applying pressure on the back. The base of the unit uses thinner, granular plastic but it is still of good quality and does not undermine the strength of the unit. The base of the machine is extremely rigid.

The Sager NP5793 is one of the best-built notebooks on the market without a doubt – it matches up and even surpasses many high-end business notebooks in the build quality aspect. Thanks to its understated looks and durability, the NP5793 is at home at a LAN parties and offices alike.


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Processor and Performance

The NP5793 is of course intended as notebook that will outperform your average mainstream notebook. To see a full set of benchmarks and gaming experience for the NP5793 we’ve broken the results out into a separate page that can be found here:

Sager NP5793 Benchmarks and Gaming Performance

Screen

There are two screens available on the NP5793, a matte WSXGA+ (1680×1050) model and a glossy WUXGA (1920×1200) model; our test unit has the latter. If I did not say this is one of the best-looking displays I have seen on a 17-inch notebook, I would be lying. Contrast is excellent – blacks are deep and whites are stark – and the brightness level is high as well, noticeably more so than my HP w2207 desktop monitor. There is no noticeable light leakage, even against a black screen. There is also no graniness. Side-to-side viewing angles are excellent, as there is very little color distortion. While gaming, I noticed no ghosting. Vertical viewing angles do leave room for improvement though, as colors get too dark from below and too washed out from above. This is common among LCD displays though. Overall, the 17-inch WUXGA display is gorgeous and fitting for a high-end notebook like the NP5793.

Speakers

There are two stereo speakers on the NP5793. 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 neither impressed nor disappointed with them. The sound is detailed (I could hear picks hitting guitar strings 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 music although I highly recommend a good pair of external speakers or headphones to make for the best sound experience. These speakers are much better for games than music.


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Heat & Noise

The NP5793 has a revised cooling system to handle the Core 2 Extreme processor and Nvidia 8800M-GTX graphics card. There are two powerful fans in the base of the notebook: one cools the processor and the other the video card. The vents on the back of the notebook are large and reach more than one-third of the way across. The copper heatsinks are clearly visible inside. Much of the bottom of the notebook, especially the area on the right toward the front, is perforated with holes to let air in.


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I found that the NP5793’s cooling system functioned exceptionally well. Even after hours of playing Crysis at full settings, the machine barely felt warm. The entire chassis was either room temperature or lukewarm to the touch. Needless to say I am more than impressed. Sager thoughtfully released an update for the NP5793 that allows for the fans to be user-controlled. Pressing Function + 1 puts the fans at full speed and Function + 3 at mid-speed (the fans will speed up if needed, then go back down to medium). I found that the mid-speed worked best because that way the fans were not constantly spinning up and down every minute. That brings me to the complaints I have about the cooling system. While I said it functioned well – which it does, the notebook has no problems keeping cool – it has a lot of room for improvement in the acoustics area. The cooling system can be described with one word – loud. The NP5793 has one of the loudest cooling systems I have heard on a notebook. At low speed/idle, the noise level is audible but acceptable. However, once an application is started that uses the processor and/or graphics card, the noise level increases substantially, and the machine can be heard across a decent-sized room. Our test unit had a defect with the cooling system, which we determined was a bad bearing on the CPU fan. It made a grinding noise, like the fan was hitting something. The noise was most annoying but fortunately this is the only case I have heard of this happening. None of the other NP5792/NP5793 owners have reported such problems in our Sager forum.

Overall, while the cooling system does an excellent job of keeping the NP5793’s heat under control, there is no free lunch here – this notebook is loud.

Keyboard

The Sager NP5793 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 and 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.


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With many notebook 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. However, I have two qualms with this particular keyboard. For starters, there are no dedicated home, page up, page down, nor 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. A normal number pad has four columns. Fortunately this number pad still has the same 17 keys a normal number pad has. The layout simply takes time to adjust to.


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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.


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Left side:

  1. Speaker
  2. Kensington lock slot
  3. Optical drive


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Right side:

  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


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Front:

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


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Back:

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

Wireless

The NP5793 accepts a mini-PCI express wireless card; ours came with the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN supporting 802.11a, b, g, and n wireless formats. I had no trouble connecting and maintaining connections to various secured wireless connections. It picked up many wireless connections that my old Sager NP5320 did not see at all.

Internal Bluetooth wireless also came with our test unit. I did not test it but I expect it would function as expected.

Battery

With the 8-cell battery, Windows presented me with the 10% left warning after surfing the Internet for 2 hours. I had the brightness on level 3 out of 7 (7 being the highest) and wireless on the entire time. Although 2 hours does not seem like a lot, for a notebook able to outperform many high performance desktops the results are more than acceptable. Remember that this particular NP5793 is equipped with the power-hungry Core 2 Extreme processor and Nvidia 8800M-GTX 512MB video card. The relatively long battery time is an unexpected bonus with this machine. For comparison, a previous Sager NP5791 I tested with the same battery but a more battery-friendly Core 2 Duo T7500 2.2GHz processor and 8700M-GT 512MB graphics card managed 2 hours and 40 minutes of life. With a non-Extreme processor, I imagine the battery life of the NP5793 will be improved but by how much I cannot say.

Operating System & Software

Our Sager NP5793 came pre-installed with Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit. It is available with all versions of Vista save for Home Basic (which would be out of place on such a high-end machine anyway), and Windows XP. By default, Sager does not include an operating system. I did not have any issues with Vista on this machine, but on battery the machine felt sluggish – it was like the machine did not want to do what I was doing. I eventually isolated the issue to the graphics card – there must be some power saving setting that underclocks the graphics card too much. Even scrolling through web pages and minimizing/maximizing applications were sluggish. I believe this is not a problem with Vista nor the notebook itself, but rather an Nvidia driver issue. Hopefully with updated drivers, this will no longer be a problem.

Sager, unlike many mainstream brands, does not install a single bit of bloatware on their machines, so there is still hope. The only pre-installed software consists of Nero 7 OEM, Bison Cam web camera application, and the fingerprint reader software.

Customer Support

During my time with the NP5793 I did not have to contact customer support. However, I currently own a Sager notebook and I have experience with support – one time I sent 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

The Sager NP5793 is tough to beat as a single-GPU 17-inch notebook. It has superb gaming performance, a gorgeous widescreen display, rock solid quality, and top-notch input devices. Decent battery life is icing on the cake. The NP5793’s main downside is the loud cooling system, and without a doubt it will affect buying decisions. Starting at a shade over $2,000 with the 8800M-GTX as of writing, the pricing is more than reasonable for such performance. Sager continues to set the gold standard for gaming notebooks and this notebook is well worth a look for those in the market.

Pros:

  • Desktop performance in a portable package
  • Runs cool
  • Gorgeous widescreen display
  • Top notch build quality
  • Sleek looks
  • Available with Windows XP
  • Reasonable battery life

Cons:

  • Very loud cooling system
  • Odd keyboard/number pad layout
  • Feels sluggish on battery (Nvidia issue)
  • Competing notebooks offer two internal hard drives


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