by Sinan Karaca
The Sager NP5960 notebook features a massive 20" LCD display. It has a dual graphics card power in the form of 2 Nvidia 7950GX cards, and an AMD Turion X2 processor. While performance was actually a little dissapointing relative to what you would expect looking at the specs, the huge and beautiful screen makes this "laptop" quite a stunner.
Configuration of Sager NP5960 as reviewed:
- Processor: AMD Turion X2 1.8
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Hard Drives: 2x 200 GB SATA 4200 rpm Drives
- Screen: 20" LCD
- Graphics: 2x 512 MB NVIDIA 7950 GTX (SLI Mode for 1 GB Video Memory)
- Integrated RAID Controller (0,1)
- Sound: SRS WOW Capable Sound
- Optical Drive: DVD+-RW, DL Capable
- TV Tuner
- Price: $4,500
- Ordered At: www.sagernotebook.com
Reasons for Buying
Sager NP5960 20" screen notebook (view large image)
So why this notebook? Because it’s the biggest notebook on the planet – literally! You will not find one that is bigger. I don’t consider Dell’s 20" pseudo-notebook XPS M2010 to be a fair comparison, simply because it’s not really a notebook – it’s more of a modular unit that folds into a bag. Some people may find that more interesting or even practical, but I wanted a single unit – nothing less, nothing more. I also looked at Alienware’s 19" mALX model, with its exciting finish and paint job. The problem there was – it was going to take them a month to deliver the unit to me (according to their own online estimate), and it was overpriced. I don’t want to pay a premium just to have the priviledge of owning a particular brand. And it’s a system with an obsolete single core processor and graphics card at that (the 19" Alienware ships with an NVIDIA 7900 GTX and AMD Turion, the 20" Sager comes with NVIDIA 7950 GTX and Turion X2). When Sager let me know that I’d have my unit shipped as soon as payment cleared, the winner was clear. Indeed, I did have the computer the very next day.
17" screen Alienware perched on top of 20" Sager (view large image)
The biggest problem with Sager is that the "purchase high" seems to be low. Unlike other brands like Dell or Alienware, who provide expensive systems and attractive wrapping to come with it, Sager gives you a totally generic package. Sager notebooks are so generic that when you actually open the box, unlike Alienware’s internal "space" box, you get a totally generic box that literally says "Notebook Computer" on it. Yes, that’s probably how the manufacturer packaged it all the way back in China – a suitable generic branding for all possible resellers. Ultimately, you get what you pay for – and despite the initial disappointment, I doubt anybody would rather drop an extra $2,000 on a system just to have more attractive packaging. So hats off to Sager for providing the lowest prices, if albeit no frills. I knew the Sager wasn’t going to have Alien gills on it when I placed the order, but still it hurts when you first see the laptop in all its "industry gray" glory.
Packaging / Design / Build
Plain vanilla box the Sager notebook comes in (view large image)
Unpacking the box, there is the NP5960 notebook computer (of course) along with a large construction of cardboard-foam, which was surprisingly empty except for the power brick (the power brick is really massive and heavy – providing 200 watts of power to the laptop). Seeing nothing but the AC unit, I first panicked assuming that all the drivers, manuals, etc. had been forgotten during packing, but they were to be found elsewhere, inside the backpack. That’s right folks, this laptop ships with a backpack, nothing that looks nice for sure – just a standard run of the mill unit from China – but I guess the emphasis here is more on utility than looks. The backpack does have a special area to carry the laptop (which barely fits in it), but it does feel secure, even if it hurts your back after carrying it around for a while. This notebook is heavy and not for the faint of heart.
Another panic attack came when I pressed the power button, but nothing happened. I tried again, still nothing happened. I pressed it real hard, and it started booting this time. Phew! Most of the buttons on top of the keyboard seem to have a hard time acknowledging "clicks" – but at least they work.
The keyboard is fairly nice, and has a numeric keypad. This shouldn’t be taken for granted, I know the Dell 17" models lack it even though there is plenty of wasted space on the laptop case. The touchpad is OK too, though it would have been nice to have a disable button.
There are also some pre-defined buttons on top of the keyboard – the standard duo of web and email for starters, and then a bluetooth and camera button. One very odd button is the blue colored "3D" button, which according to the manual when lit indicates "hyper 3D performance" being enabled – an option not available when running from battery power. Seems like a pretty pointless button to me though, it’s not clear what it really does, and would have served better as a custom application launch key anyways.
The screen is gorgeous. I have a 20" stand-alone LCD at home and this laptop screen actually looks better than that. Really! It’s the brightest and crispest display I have ever seen on a laptop. Since the screen size was a primary – if not the entire – reason for me buying this laptop, I cannot say how satisfied I was with the purchase decision, after the initial shock of having a non-decorated system faded away. This is a beautiful display, people. It is pretty and it’s great on your eyes and the resolution is just right so you don’t go blind when trying to read text on the screen.
Performance and Benchmarks
I ran the standard suite of benchmarks. As seen, the graphics performance is pretty good – as expected, since we’ve got dual SLI graphics cards here under the hood, with a total of 1 GB video memory (that’s half my system memory – I do wish there was a way to use that the graphics memory as regu memory when not gaming). The hard drives are the most spacious you will ever have in a laptop – for now, at least. 400 GB – yep, four hundred gigabytes of storage – awesome! The only drawback is the spindle speed, which actually could not have been worse at 4200 RPM. The fact that the unit ships with a RAID controller does help alleviate the speed issues, so I guess my overall feeling with this laptop is that it performs on par with a machine that has, say, a 5400 RPM single 400 GB drive. Of course, when Hitachi releases their 7200 rpm 200 GB later this year, those will be a sure-buy and a great way to boost the performance of this system (and any laptop, with or without RAID). The processor benchmarks were also pretty standard, we all know the Turion X2 is not as top a performer as the new Core 2 Duo’s. Intel has finally woken up from their "NetBurst" architecture blunder, and now that they are doing their homework again, AMD does seem to be on the "budget" side of the spectrum once again (meaning, they make cheap and poor processors). Still, it’s a dual core performer, fairly snappy for most uses.
3DMark06 tests the overall graphics performance of a PC, the Sager NP5960 scored well here, as expected:
|Notebook||3DMark 06 Results|
|Sager NP5960 (AMD Turion X2 1.8GHz, 2x 512 MB NVIDIA 7950 GTX)||6,234 3DMarks|
|Asus G1 (Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz, NVIDIA GeForceGo 7700)||2,389 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)||4,744 3DMarks|
|Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB||1,528 3DMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||794 3DMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX)||4,085 3DMarks|
|Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,819 3DMarks|
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Sager NP5960 (AMD Turion X2 1.8GHz)||1m 57s|
|Asus G1 (Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz)||1m 02s|
|HP Compaq nw9440 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 2.0 GHz)||1m 03s|
|Dell Latitude D620 (Intel Core Duo T2400 1.83 GHz)||1m 21s|
|Dell Latitude D610 (Intel Pentium M 750 1.83GHz)||1m 41s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Asus A8JP (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz)||1m 02s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
HDTune Hard Drive Results
Everest is a tool that scans for the system hardware and produces a report, following is a link to a report generated by Everest:
Then came the ultimate test of all times, which failed, miserably. That’s right. The test failed miserably. I installed Flight Simulator X on the machine, maxed out the settings, and started the game. It was a slide-show. Extremely disappointing, needless to say, after a near 5 grand investment, dual SLI video cards, and this beautiful 20" screen. My only consolation is that – to date – there is no machine on the surface of the planet capable of running Flight Simulator X, out-of-the-box, with reasonable performance. Perhaps when the dual core patch is released things will look better. Or perhaps if this laptop had a Core 2 Duo processor, things might have been better too. Right now the performance on this laptop with its all-so-mighty SLI video cards is actually slower than my Alienware Core 2 Duo 2.33 with its humble ATI x1800 video card, offering only 256 MB memory. I believe this highlights how this system is truly under-powered by its Turion X2 processor, running at 1.8 GHz. In a way, bad design choice, and in fact, what a waste of GPU power. Perhaps it was the NVIDIA chipset that prohibited the usage of Core 2 Duo on this platform, but I’m pretty sure if the newest Core 2 Duo 2.33 with overclockability to 2.5 was on this machine, results would have been a lot better.
I was able to overclock the machine using software, which is always a nice thing. I despise hardware manufacturers who lock processor speeds artificially – if people want the freedom to burn their systems, what’s wrong with that? Thankfully, Sager is not one of those. So my first attempt was to overclock the system to 2.0 GHz, which promptly failed with an immediate blue screen that seemed to come direct from the AMD or NVidia chipset driver. Then my second attempt was to overclock the system to 1.9 GHz, which was a massive success – as in the system ran very well for an extended amount of time until normal shutdown. I also overclocked the PCI Express bus to about 110 MHz. No problems there either. For those adventurous souls out there, just download ClockGen at www.cpuid.com/clockgen.php, and begin barbecuing your system.
Input and Output Ports
Left view of Sager NP5960 (view large image)
Right view of Sager NP5960 (view large image)
Back view of Sager NP5960 (view large image)
Front view Sager NP5960 (view large image)
Though it doesn’t make up for performance issues, there’s plenty of connectivity on this machine, starting with 5 USB ports. Because I have a printer, a scanner, a keyboard vacuum (yes!), a phone, mouse, keyboard, external DVD, external floppy, and a few more accessories on top of that, 5 ports are not sufficient for my needs anyway (I need two USB microhubs) – but 5 is still a good number, more than the 4 you typically end up with these days. Also built-in is a combo memory card reader, 1394 port (FireWire), PC Card slot, TV antenna, standard and digital monitor outputs, TV output, network/modem/camera inputs, and 4 sound jacks (digital out, line in, headphone, microphone) round up the ports on the machine. There’s also an IR receiver for the TV remote. The placement of the ports is pretty decent and everything remains generally accessible.
OS and Software
The first time booting this machine was fast. As in, very fast. Part of this is of course the clean machine syndrome, meaning how Windows manages to work very fast when first installed. And by implication, Windows exponentially slows down as you install and remove software. But part of this is due to the fact that, unlike some companies (which I shall gracelessly name here – Toshiba), Sager does not seem to be on a crusade to stretch the system tray all the way to the Start button. The system is not loaded with any junk – or software pretending to be useful but really slowing down your system. This machine is actually usable out-of-the-box without any reformatting or need to reinstall the OS, hats off to Sager for keeping it clean. Let’s see…Dell, Alienware, Toshiba, HP – all these guys load lots of "productivity enhancement products" coming from their wealthy OEM software partners, which really benefits them – and not you, so this is a good thing.
Custom Sager Applications
Two custom applications ship with the drivers that accompany the system, one is a wireless application, the other is an automatic "email checker" which notifies you when you have received new mails. Unfortunately, both of these applications are rather confusing and poorly designed at best – as evidenced by their screenshots. The wireless utility is the diametric opposite of Toshiba’s custom wireless tool, which portrays in 3D signal sources in close proximity and certainly looks a lot more attractive and interesting than the native Windows tool. In our case however, I have no idea why anybody would want to use the custom application, since it is certainly harder to use and more confusing than the Windows tool (and provides no benefit – visual or otherwise). The mail checking tool is similary confusing and difficult to use, with error message boxes randomly popping up.
Automail checker application (view large image)
Wireless application utility included with Sager NP5960 (view large image)
Heat and Noise
When gaming this notebook is loud and hot! But not uncomfortably so – provided you are wearing gloves and the music is turned up real loud. Kidding aside, be prepared for a noisy and warm notebook.
There are 5 speakers on the laptop along with an SRS-WOW concoction, environment settings are surprisingly missing in the audio drivers however. The sound from the speakers is OK – I won’t lie about how great the subwoofer works, but there is one if you care about those things.
Do you really care about this with such a notebook? I think on average it loses 1% of its charge every minute (or less), so expect to run dry in 60 to 90 minutes. Hey – it is a 20" machine. Let’s just say it’s got a built-in UPS power supply and leave it at that.
The power adapter is a bit of a brick in terms of size (view large image)
Ultimately, I might have wanted to wait a couple more months. If I had more patience, I might have ended up with a 20" Core 2 Duo portable, and one with a graphics cards that supports DirectX 10 natively. Alas, patience has never been one of my virtues. For now I am really enjoying the spacious hard drives and the glorious display. I think especially for people on the move who need to have lots of screen real estate, this laptop is well worth the cost. I would recommend getting something near the minimum configuration since the processor is already obsolete and the graphics cards are about to become obsolete. The great thing about this machine is its size – both in terms of screen space and hard drive space – performance wise, sadly, it falls flat on its face.
- Gorgeous and large screen
- Massive amount of storage at 400GB
- Good selection of ports
- Good graphics performance
- Poor processor
- No native support for DirectX 10
- Very pricey