by Rob Sieczkiewicz
The Sager NP6630 straddles the line between mainstream and thin & light notebooks. Its sturdy build, sleek appearance and light weight make it a notebook worth considering for anyone but the serious gamer.
Specs as Reviewed:
- Processor: Intel Core Duo T2400 (1.83GHz/2MB Cache/667MHz FSB)
- Screen: 15.4″ WXGA (1280×800) TFT “Super Clear Glossy” LCD Display
- RAM: 512MB DDR2/667 (1 x 512) – Expandable to 2,048MB Dual Channel Memory
- Hard Drive: 40GB 5,400 RPM SATA/150 Hard Drive
- Graphics: Intel Media Accelerator 950
- OS: Windows XP Home
- Optical Drive: Combo 8x DVD/24x10x24 CD-RW
- Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
- Intel High Definition 8 Channel 7.1 analog output and S/PDIF digital output
- Built in Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11A/B/G
- Built in 1.3 Megapixel Camera
- Dimensions: 14.2 inches x 10.5 inches x 1.3 inches
- Weight: 5.96 lbs.
- Warranty: 1 Year Parts & Labor, Lifetime free technical support
Why, Where and How Purchased
I don’t remember exactly when the laptop bug bit me. For years I was a happy desktop user. The only time I used a laptop was at my part-time teaching job, and that was a clunky Gateway that frustrated me to no end. But suddenly I started viewing new laptops with curiosity, asking their users questions, and regarding with new interest those Dell catalogs that regularly arrived in my mailbox. Since I have a good desktop, I decided to get a laptop as a second computer for browsing the web, running office applications, watching movies, and bringing to class once a week.
After looking at the Dell site and at brick and mortar stores, I figured I could get a decent machine for $700-800. I spent a lot of time on the forums at Gottadeal.com and SlickDeals.net, looking for bargains. Then I found NBR, and my perspective changed. Instead of trying to spend as little money as possible, I expanded my budget a little in order to get a high quality notebook.
A query posted in the What Notebook Should I Buy? forum garnered many helpful suggestions. Soon I had narrowed my search to three machines: the Sager NP6630, Lenovo 3000 N100 and HP dv5000t. Each of the these models had some very appealing strengths, and each had its weaknesses. HP and Lenovo offered a major advantage over Sager — after rebates, either one would be $100-200 less than the NP6630. The Sager’s price is comparable with that of such 15.4″ business models as the Latitude D820.
I chose the Sager primarily for its superior build quality, but also for its appearance. Further, I was impressed with the customer service at powernotebooks.com.
I didn’t do anything to configure the NP6630, simply ordering the base model. With my limited user needs (web surfing, office apps, watching movies), I expected that 512MB of RAM and a 40 gig hard drive would suffice. If not, I can easily upgrade either one.
Powernotebooks.com offers a 2.5% cash discount, but I instead opted to pay full price in order to get the extended warranty protection my Master Card offers. Final purchase price was $1087, including shipping. (Note that Sager now offers this model with the T2300 1.6 GHz processor, which lowers the base price to $1046.)
Build & Design
This is a great-looking machine. When shopping, I showed my wife (who has a much better aesthetic sense than I do) images of the three models I was considering. When she saw the NP6630, she immediately said, “Get that one.” I’m glad I listened to her. The notebook is slim and tapered. It’s quite light for its size, and I find it easy to carry. It also feels solidly built. I have to apply serious pressure to the lid to see ripples in the screen. The hinges are tight; I cannot open it with one hand, but need to hold the base down with one hand and push up on the lid with the other.
The 15.4 ” WXGA screen is very good. The colors are bold and beautiful at max brightness. I’ve been keeping the screen at 6/8 brightness, which is fine. I haven’t noticed any dead pixels or leaks. There is little glare indoors, unless you’re in direct sun. Outside the glare is pronounced, even in the shade.
The NP6630’s screen reflects outdoor lighting like a mirror (view large image)
Viewing angles are good, even from above. Colors are somewhat distorted at sharp angles, but text is readable.
The NP6630 screen from above (view large image)
With its high definition audio, the NP6630 sound is crisp and clear at medium volume. As you would expect, bass is almost nonexistent.
Processor and Performance
With a 1.83 GHz Core Duo processor and a mere 512 MB of RAM, this notebook moves briskly through whatever I’ve asked it to do. Boot time to the logon screen is under 45 seconds. Once I log on, I wait about 15 seconds before the hourglass disappears and my desktop is ready to go. This is with a dozen items in the system tray (ZoneAlarm firewall, AVG antivirus, audio manger, Intel wireless, etc.) OpenOffice takes a while to load, but I think that that issue has nothing to do with the NP6630. I haven’t played any games, nor do I plan to, although eventually I’ll find some time to play Sim City 3000.
The NP6630 is Merom-ready, although it will need a BIOS update if you want to upgrade to Core 2 Duo.
Super Pi (Pi calculated to 2 million digits of accuracy)
Sager NP6630 (1.83GHz Core Duo)
Asus W3H760DD (2.0 GHz Pentium M)
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)
Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)
Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
Below are the HDTune benchmark results for the NP6630:
Heat and Noise
The hard drive and fans are whisper quiet; I can barely hear them humming along. The optical drive is much the same, whether I’m playing a CD or ripping music from one.
Heat is not an issue. The NP 6630 cools nicely, and the palm rests are no more than warm after hours of use. I’ve used it on my lap about half the time and found it perfectly comfortable — the bottom of the notebook gets warm, not hot.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is fine. It won’t make you forget the ThinkPad of your dreams, but you won’t be gnashing your teeth in frustration either. There is some flex, particularly in the top two rows (function and number keys), it’s less noticeable in the letter keys. I love the placement of the six programmable hotkey buttons on either side of the keyboard.
The NP6630 is 14.2 inches wide (view large image)
I love the touchpad. I hate the touchpad. Most of the latter is due to my inexperience with the species. This pad is 10 times easier to use than that of the old Gateway that comprises all of my previous laptop experience. Overall, it’s pretty accurate, and perhaps even oversensitive — at least to my big, clumsy, gorilla fingers. I still haven’t gotten completely comfortable with it. Every few minutes, it does something completely unexpected. I am, however, writing this review in the humid, swampy stickiness of a Philadelphia summer. The touchpad doesn’t like moist fingers. Despite these adjustments, in the three weeks I’ve had the machine, I’ve only used an external mouse once.
Input and Output Ports
The NP6630 comes standard with 3 USB 2.0 ports, a VGA monitor output, serial and Firewire ports, S-Video TV output, an Express Card 54 slot, and a 4-in-1 memory card reader.
Right side view of NP6630 (view large image)
Left side view of NP6630 (view large image)
Back side view of NP6630 (view large image)
Front side view of NP6630 (view large image)
I find the LED lights on the front of the notebook to be less than helpful. It’s impossible to see what each light represents without picking up the machine and looking underneath to see the tiny symbols. I know i’ll memorize them in time, but this could have been configured better.
View from below of LED indicators (view large image)
Underside view of NP6630 (view large image)
The NP6630 comes with Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11A/B/G. I have no problems connecting wirelessly, though at the time of this review I have yet to set up my home wireless network. There is also a Bluetooth option, which I didn’t purchase.
At first I was surprised that I only got about two hours of battery life while simply surfing and playing CDs, with wireless off. Then I changed to more battery friendly power settings and am now getting over 2.5 hours. This is still less than I expected, but I will continue to experiment with the settings. I do like to keep the screen brightness on high.
The closed case of the NP6630 from above (view large image)
Operating System and Software
There is no bloatware on the NP6630. It came with no more than the OS and four programs installed: Nero OEM, PowerDVD, InterActual, and BisonCam. The system ships with an XP recovery disk, as well as a separate disk with the drivers, and disks for Nero, PowerDVD and the Intel Wireless software.
A basic carrying case and CDs are included with the NP6630 (view large image)
My primary reason for ordering the Sager through powernotebooks.com was their reputation for excellent customer service. Thus far, I haven’t needed to make use of it. The NP6630 comes with free lifetime 24/7 telephone support and a 1-year limited warranty. You can purchase Sager’s 3-year extended warranty for $149. I opted against the extended warranty and instead bought the notebook with my Master Card, which offered a 1-year warranty extension. Rather than purchase an accidental damage plan, I bought separate coverage through State Farm insurance. (If you have renters or homeowners insurance, ask your insurer about a “personal articles” policy.)
There is a built-in 1.3 pixel camera above the screen.
The NP6630’s built-in camera is visible above (view large image)
Photo taken with the NP6630’s built-in camera (view large image)
The carrying case that comes standard with the NP6630 is unremarkable (see photo above). It has velcro straps for securing the notebook, and several pockets. Inclined toward clumsiness, i wanted a little more protection for my new purchase, however, so i ordered a Brain Cell hard case from Tom Bihn Bags. The NP6630 fits snugly in the Size 1 Brain Cell, although it’s a tight fit at the top, so you have to pull the velcro closure tight.
In his Sager Notebook Models Guide, NBR Lead Moderator Chaz remarked that the NP6630 is designed for “the consumer seeking something better than what the mainstream has to offer.” I couldn’t agree more. Although I could have purchased a lower quality computer for less money, I chose this notebook because my time is too valuable to spend on hold waiting for a customer support rep. For me, the extra cost was worth the confidence that comes with owning a well-built machine that will last for years.
- Sturdy build
- Outstanding design
- Very fast for ordinary applications, even with base model configuration
- No bloatware from Sager
- Very light for a 15.4″ notebook
- Some flex in keyboard
- Price: Can find similarly configured Core Duo for less from the big manufacturers
- Battery life is unimpressive