Sager NP9260 Full Review

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Sager NP9260 Review

By: Charles P. Jefferies


Sager NP9260 (view large image)

The Sager NP9260 is an extraordinarily large desktop replacement notebook aimed primarily at the gaming crowd. It features desktop-class Core 2 Duo processors, an expansive 17” widescreen display, and up to two Nvidia GeForce Go7950GTX video cards for the best possible gaming performance.

Before we begin this review, I would like to give a special thanks to Donald Stratton of PowerNotebooks.com for sending us this evaluation unit.

Our review machine is configured as follows:

  • Windows XP Professional SP2
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (2.66GHz, 4MB L2 Cache, 1066FSB)
  • 2GB of DDR2-800 RAM (2x 1GB)
  • 2x 80GB 7200RPM SATA hard drives in RAID 0 (data striping) array
  • 17" WSXGA+ (1680×1050) Super Clear Glare Type screen
  • 2x Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX video cards with 512MB DDR3 each
  • 8X DVD+/-RW burner drive
  • Intel 4965AGN 802.11n wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth module

The quoted price for this configuration is $3,634.

Reasons for Buying


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The Sager NP9260’s main audience is gamers. It is better to think of this machine as a “portable desktop” rather than a notebook. The NP9260 packs more power than any other notebook on the market and will give even high-end gaming desktops a run for their money.

The NP9260 is a great LAN party machine – unlike a desktop, it is an all-in-one device and even though it is huge, is far easier to transport than a desktop. No messy wires and no multiple trips to the car to pick up components – you only need one bag with this machine.

Another great use for the NP9260 is as a replacement for a desktop. This machine has a much smaller footprint than that of a desktop and also uses less power. It is not uncommon for a gaming desktop to have a 500 watt and up power supply; this machine at most takes 280W.

It is quite obvious that the NP9260 is not a machine for everyone, but it certainly has many practical uses for its target audience.

Build & Design

From a design standpoint there is nothing astonishing about the NP9260 except for its size. The NP9260 is one of the largest notebooks currently available. The dimensions are as follows:

  • 15.5” width x 11.75” diameter x 2.35” height

The machine weighs 11.55 pounds with the 12-cell battery pack installed. I actually recorded the weight of the NP9260 to be 12 pounds, 2 ounces; I suspect the extra weight is due to the addition of the extra video card and the second hard drive. A typical 17” notebook for comparison weighs around 8 – 9 pounds, but this is no ordinary notebook is it?


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The above picture illustrates the height of the NP9260 compared to a soda can.

The NP9260 is constructed of sturdy plastic. The plastic used is much thicker than that used in standard notebooks because this notebook needs to have a lot of structural strength. The weight and sheer size of this machine require it to have a rugged construction. Obviously there is no need to make this machine lighter – portability is not the point of the NP9260. All of the materials on the exterior of the machine have a high-quality feel to them. I was not able to detect any flex, even on the mini football field-sized palmrests. The entire chassis feels solid as a rock. Such quality should be expected of a machine carrying the price tag this one does.

The shape of the NP9260 can be described as one big rectangle. The corners are rounded slightly but that is about it for curvature – everything else is a straight line. I believe this was a good decision by the designers because using an ordinary shape keeps the look as neutral as possible.

The LCD screen on the NP9260 measures 17” diagonally. There is some flex when the display is twisted from side-to-side but this is understandable considering the size of the display. The amount of flex in the display is average – it is not the most rigid display nor is it the most loose. Pushing on the back of the screen yields no rippling, thankfully.

Almost all of the surfaces with the exception of the bottom, the top of the lid, and the area directly below the LCD screen on the chassis are glossy and extremely smooth to the touch. The glossiness looks visually appealing and gives the NP9260 a bit of style which it otherwise lacks. It sparkles slightly like metallic paint. The surfaces surrounding the keyboard and the palmrests are a dark slate gray while all of the other surfaces are a deep black. The strip below the display is a dark matte black. The back of the LCD is actually a sheet of brushed aluminum which gives extra durability in perhaps the most important area. While I am a fan of the NP9260’s color scheme, the glossy plastic is problematic in that it attracts dust and hair very easily, and anywhere this notebook is touched a fingerprint is bound to show up. I highly recommend keeping a microfiber cloth with this notebook. Using a paper towel or anything even remotely coarse or rough in nature is a bad idea, as it will most likely leave surface scratches.


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In the center on the back of the display is the large SAGER logo. It sits on a matte black square surrounded by shiny chrome trim. The touchpad is designed in a similar way – the touchpad itself and the buttons are surrounded by glossy black plastic first and then a strip of shiny silver around it. Very nice.

Display and Camera


The 17” display when viewed head-on (view large image)

The Sager NP9260 is equipped with a 17” glossy display, available in two resolutions – WSXGA+ (1680×1050) and WUXGA (1920×1200). Our test unit has the former. Compared to most notebook displays this one has above average brightness and good contrast. Blacks are black (not gray-ish at all) and whites are white. There is minimal light leakage along the bottom of the panel – it is only noticeable when looking at a pure black screen. All other areas of the screen are evenly lit.

While playing games, I noticed no ghosting. Both the WSXGA+ and WUXGA resolution screens are great for gamers – for those getting the dual Go7950GTX SLI cards, it is worth it to go for the highest resolution WUXGA screen so you can enjoy the full power of the two video cards. I did feel a bit limited gaming-wise by the WSXGA+ resolution since this laptop has dual video cards, but I was able to compensate by adding anti-aliasing in games.


Top viewing angles (view large image)


Bottom viewing angles (view large image)


Side viewing angles (view large image)

The viewing angles on the 17” display were quite good, I was able to see the screen good from all angles – the sides, top, and bottom.

The built-in 1.3M digital video camera did a good job of capturing images in normal light conditions. The camera’s picture quality in low light is poor so it is essential to have good light. I have no complaints about the image quality in normal light conditions.

Speakers and Sound Quality

The NP9260 has four built-in stereo speakers. They are loud and clear. There is little distortion, even at 85 – 90% volume levels. While gaming they do give a nice surround sound effect – I found it easy to tell whether sounds were coming from the left or the right.

Processor and Performance

Our test NP9260 has one of the most powerful configurations available – a top-of-the-line Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of fast DDR2-800 RAM, dual 80GB 7200RPM hard drives in RAID 0, and of course the dual Nvidia Go7950GTX video cards. This is a machine suited to replacing any gaming desktop and I will prove that with the following benchmarks.

Prior to testing, I fully tuned up the machine, defragmented the hard drive, and disabled all unnecessary services. I did a Windows Update and downloaded all critical updates available. All Internet connections were disabled (except for online games). I did not overclock any component. All games were updated with the latest patches. This machine was optimized for dual-core – please see the Windows XP Multi-core Configuration Thread in the forums for further details. This ensures that Windows is properly handling the dual-core processor.

Overall System Performance

PCMark05

PCMark05 score

With a score of 6,871 marks, the Sager NP9260 as equipped is the most powerful laptop we have ever tested here at NotebookReview.com.

PCMark05 Comparison Results

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Sager NP9260 (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2x Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX video cards with 512MB DDR3) 6,871 PCMarks
Alienware m5790 (1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1800 256MB) 4,411 PCMarks
Fujtisu Siemens Amilo Xi1554 Review (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1900, Windows XP) 5,066 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600) 4,621 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7600) 4,739 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks

 

CPU Performance

The following benchmarks will test the CPU to measure its performance.

CPU-Z Processor Details


CPU-Z screenshot shows processor details

Sandra Arithmetic


Sandra Processor Arithmetic Results (view large image)

 

Sandra Multimedia


Sandra Processor Multimedia Results (view large image)

 

As is plainly evident from the results, the desktop Core 2 Duo E6700 processor easily outpaces standard notebook processors.

Rendering performance using Cinebench 9.5

Cinebench is a rendering benchmark tool based on the powerful 3D software, CINEMA 4D. Its rendering tasks can stress up to sixteen multiprocessors on the same computer. It is a free benchmarking tool, and can be found here: http://www.cinebench.com/

I ran only the CPU test and used a 1680×1050 resolution.

CPU Benchmark

Rendering (1 CPU): 440 CB-CPU

Rendering (x CPU): 818 CB-CPU

Multiprocessor Speedup: 1.86 x

Graphics Benchmark

C4D Shading: 528 CB-GFX

OpenGL SW-L: 1975CB-GFX

OpenGL HW-L: 3393 CB-GFX

OpenGL Speedup: 6.43 x

Rendering on a multi-core CPU is much faster than a single core; the Core 2 Duo E6700 is an extremely quick processor for such tasks. For comparison, a Core 2 Duo T7600 (2.33GHz/4MB L2/667MHz FSB) gets 383 CB-CPU for the single CPU test and 702 CB-CPU in the multiprocessor test. Serious renderers should keep in mind that the Sager NP9260 is also available with the Core 2 Duo X6800 Extreme processor, which has a 2.93GHz clock vs. our E6700’s 2.67Ghz.

SuperPi

SuperPi is an older benchmark that uses only one of the processor’s cores to calculate digits of Pi.

SuperPi Comparison Results

Notebook Time
Sager NP9260 (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700) 46s
MSI M677 (1.8 GHz Turion X2) 1m 53s
Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s
LG S1 (2.16 GHz Core Duo) 1m 11s
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 16s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 1m 29s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s

wPrime

wPrime is a multi-threaded CPU test – it is similar to SuperPi but has a few more features. It is a much more accurate benchmark for dual-core CPUs. Please see our big comparison thread here.

Hard drive performance using HDTune 2.10


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The dual 80GB 7200RPM SATA hard drives in a RAID 0 array are quite fast. A RAID 0 array uses both disks and “stripes” the data across each of them. For general usage there is not a significant performance improvement. The problem with a RAID 0 array is that the risk of data loss is doubled since the user is depending on two drives. If one drive fails in a RAID 0 array then all of the data is gone.

Gaming Performance

For many, this will be the most important part of this review. The NP9260’s target audience is gamers and let’s see what this machine can bring them. I benchmarked using FRAPS.

First, some synthetic benchmarks.

3DMark05


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3DMark06


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3DMark06 Results and Comparison:

Notebook 3D Mark 06 Results
Sager NP9260 (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2x Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX video cards with 512MB DDR3) 9,097
Alienware m5790 (1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1800 256MB) 2,625
WidowPC Sting D517D (Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz, Nvidia 7900GTX 512MB) 4,833
Apple MacBook Pro (2.00GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 128MB) 1,528
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB) 2,183
ASUS A8Ja (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 512MB) 1,973
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX 512MB) 4,744
Toshiba Satellite P100-222 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GS 512MB) 3,534

These scores are the highest of any machine we have reviewed to date. With dual Go7950GTX cards running in SLI, the scores are nothing short of mind-blowing.

Call of Duty 2 Multiplayer Benchmarking

Settings: 1680×1050 resolution, Antistrophic Filtering, 4X Anti-Aliasing, ALL settings set to their highest values.

Level: Carentin, France

Average FPS: 72

 

Level: Tounaje, Tunisia

Average FPS: 70

 

Level: Brecourt, France

Average FPS: 66

The game was extraordinarily smooth throughout – it seemed that no matter how many players were on screen shooting, the machine never faltered. Very, very impressive. For comparison, my Sager with a Pentium M, overclocked 256MB X700, and 2GB of RAM can barely achieve 35FPS at an 800×600 resolution with all details set to medium-low in DirectX 9 mode.

Star Wars: Battlefront II Multiplayer Benchmarking

Settings: 1680×1050 resolution, 4X Anti-Aliasing, Light Bloom ON, ALL settings set to their highest values.

It is important to note that this game is capped at 80 FPS.

Level: Kamino

Average FPS: 79

 

Level: Jabba’s Palace

Average FPS: 80

 

Level: Death Star

Average FPS: 80

This benchmark wasn’t even worth running on this machine – the game is capped at 80 FPS and the NP9260 averaged about that in every benchmark.

Counter-Strike: Source Video Stress Test

Settings: 1680×1050 resolution, 4X Multisampling Anti-Aliasing, 16X Antistrophic filtering, Color Correction disabled, ALL settings set to their highest values

I believe this game is capped at 300FPS because I had that many FPS for a long time in many spots throughout the benchmark.

Average FPS: 219.57

‘Nuff said!

Half-Life 2: Lost Coast HDR Stress Test

Settings: 1680×1050 resolution, 6X Multisampling Anti-Aliasing, 16X Antistrophic Filtering, Color Correction disabled, HDR ON, ALL settings set to their highest values

Average FPS: 147.54 FPS

Even with HDR (High Dynamic Range) enabled, Half-Life 2 failed to stress the NP9260.

FEAR Combat Multiplayer Benchmarking

Settings: 1680×1050 resolution, 4X Anti-Aliasing, 16X Antistrophic Filtering, no Soft Shadows (not available with AA enabled), Physics set to maximum, all graphics settings set to maximum.

Level: Dead Wood

Average FPS: 63

 

Level: Docks

Average FPS: 87

 

Level: Heliport

Average FPS: 110

FEAR Combat ran beautifully on the SLI setup; FEAR is a game known to bring most systems to their knees. It failed to do that to the NP9260 however. I never had a situation in my testing where I had choppiness.

Overall, the NP9260 is the ultimate gaming machine. Even in FEAR, one of the most demanding games, the NP9260 had no trouble achieving an insane amount of frames per second.

Heat & Noise


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It is assumed that the Sager NP9260 runs hot and loud by many. However, this is simply not the truth. Even with two of the most powerful video cards available for notebooks, a desktop processor, and four large-diameter fans, the NP9260 runs surprisingly cool and quiet. The only audible sounds are the soft rushes of air flowing out of the back of the notebook (which is essentially all vents). There is no real fan motor noise. The air coming out of the back is definitely warm but not flaming hot as might be expected. Even at full tilt, while the fans spin faster the noise level is not significantly increased. Those four fans push a lot of air – while standing behind the notebook I could feel a warm breeze, even 5 feet away. The NP9260 will be a nice companion in the wintertime.


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The surface of the notebook is lukewarm at most. The touchpad area and the left side/keyboard area where the dual video cards are located gets warmer than the rest of the notebook’s surface, but it is not close to hot. I observed that the surface heat level remained constant – it did not increase while gaming. The engineers of this machine should be commended for creating a cooling system that works this well.

Keyboard & Touchpad


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  1. Game Hot Keys (allows macros to be configured for common keystrokes used in applications)
  2. Status lights
  3. Activate default e-mail browser
  4. Activate default Internet browser
  5. Activate user-specified application
  6. Power button

The NP9260 has a full-size keyboard with a separate number pad. There is no flex generally speaking; if one pushes down hard the keyboard will give way slightly. The pressure I had to use to get it to flex was far more than would be used for typing.

The feel of the keyboard is good – it feels pleasant to type on and the tactile feedback is consistent. The key travel on the NP9260’s keyboard is longer than that of a typical notebook’s, and it adds to the desktop-like feel of this machine. The keys feel sort of rubbery when pushed down and it sounds that way too. I normally use a desktop keyboard and I was able to use this one just as easily.

I have several qualms about the keyboard however. For starters, the number pad’s layout is disorienting. It has only three columns – all of the numbers are in their expected positions but the period, plus, minus, forward slash, numlock, and asterisk key are all in the wrong spots at the top of the keyboard. It took me some time to get used to this. My second qualm about the keyboard is that there are no dedicated home/end/pageup/pagedown keys. How can a 17” notebook not have such important keys as secondary functions in the arrow keys? To use them, one must use the Function key + one of the arrow keys. There is also no dedicated delete key – this is also a secondary function on the number pad. It shares a key with the period key – to use it one must press Shift + period.

If the number pad is disabled, there are dedicated keys of sorts for home/end/pageup/pagedown and delete but it is annoying to keep enabling/disabling the number pad.

The NP9260 has six buttons on it excluding the touchpad buttons. There are four below the display and two to the left of the keyboard. All are made of metal and have a circle pattern in them, which both looks and feels nice. Unfortunately there are no dedicated volume control buttons; it is possible to use the Function key + F5/F6 to lower /raise volume, but that is a two-step process. The status lights are located on the display itself below the LCD and also on the chassis below the display.

Overall, while the keyboard has good feedback and is pleasant to use, the decisions made in creating this keyboard’s layout were not the best.


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The NP9260’s touchpad looks quite pretty embedded in the palmrest area. It is surrounded by silver trim on the outside, followed on the inside by a thicker, shiny plastic trim. The touchpad buttons are aluminum and the touchpad’s surface is granular, almost like laminated fine-grain sandpaper. The touchpad area itself is quite large and the very right side is dedicated to the scroll function. How often one will use the touchpad on a notebook like this (which is likely to be plugged in with an external mouse) is doubtful but if one does have to resort to using it, they will certainly not be disappointed.

Input & Output Ports

The Sager NP9260 has a large assortment of input/output ports like a desktop replacement should. The best way to illustrate this is by using pictures – have a look.

Front Side


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  1. Display latches
  2. Line-In
  3. S/PDIF-Out
  4. Microphone-In
  5. Headphone-Out
  6. Speakers

Back Side


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  1. Vents
  2. Power
  3. DVI-D
  4. S-Video-In (only enabled if optional TV tuner is ordered)

Left Side


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  1. VGA
  2. S-Video-Out
  3. CATV Antenna jack (only enabled if optional TV tuner is ordered)
  4. RJ-11 56k modem
  5. RJ-45 Ethernet
  6. Mini Firewire
  7. ExpressCard slot
  8. Optical drive
  9. 7-in-1 card reader (MMC/SD/MS/MS Pro/MS Duo/Mini SD/RS MMC; the former three require PC adapter)

Right Side


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  1. USB 2.0 ports (4)
  2. Security lock slot

Wireless

The NP9260 houses Intel’s latest mini-PCI express wireless card, the PRO/Wireless 4965AGN, which supports the draft-N wireless. N wireless boasts higher speed and wider range. An N wireless router is necessary to take advantage of this band; I used the NP9260 in conjunction with my G router and I had no issues connecting or maintaining a connection.

The NP9260 also comes with internal Bluetooth wireless. I was able to pair my Bluetooth-enabled cell phone with no issues.

BatteryLife

The NP9260 has a behemoth 12-cell Lithium-Ion battery and a 280W power adapter that is heavier than many small laptops. For comparison, most laptops use a 65 – 90W adapter and have 6-cell batteries.

Let us take a look at the power adapter – it deserves special recognition.


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The above picture illustrates the vast size of the NP9260’s 280W power adapter compared to a soda can and a standard 90W notebook power adapter. It is massive.


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The power adapter is about one-third the height of the soda can. I weighed the power adapter, and it weighed a shocking 2 pounds, 7 ounces.

Battery life is not the forte of this machine – even with such a large battery, I mustered only one hour, one minute of battery life with the screen at half brightness while surfing the Internet. I imagine that without the RAID 0 array (which actively reads and writes to both disks) and the dual video cards, I would be able to get more life out of this machine.

The bottom line here is that buyers of this notebook should not have battery life as a big concern. The battery in the NP9260 serves as more of an UPS than anything.

Operating System & Software

We had our NP9260 evaluation unit pre-loaded with Windows XP Professional because at the time of ordering, using an SLI dual video card setup in Windows Vista was not possible. Pre-loaded software consists of the Intel PROSet Wireless utility, BlueSoleil software for Bluetooth connections, Nero Home Essentials SE, CyberLink PowerDVD 7, and a Microsoft Office 2007 Trial.

What’s in the Box?

In addition to the power adapter and power cord, Sager also includes a handy bag to fit the NP9260.


The included bag (view large image)

This is a nice touch, considering that there are very few bags that will fit a machine this size. The bag is of reasonable quality although not the best; it fits the NP9260 well. There are two pouches – the main compartment for the notebook and a secondary compartment for accessories.

The other items included with the NP9260 are as follows; all items are labeled.


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  1. Basic User’s Guide
  2. Windows XP Professional User’s Guide
  3. Windows XP Professional Recovery CD-ROM
  4. Device Drivers & Utilities + User’s Manual for Windows Vista
  5. Device Drivers & Utilities + User’s Manual for Windows XP
  6. Nero 7 Essentials
  7. CyberLink PowerDVD v7 OEM
  8. CATV cable
  9. 56k modem cable
  10. Pack of four small screws

Customer Support

During my time with the NP9260 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

The Sager NP9260 answers the call for those looking for the best possible performance in a luggable package. There is no more powerful notebook than the NP9260. With desktop Core 2 Duo processors, up to three hard drives, and dual Nvidia GeForce video cards, this machine is virtually a portable desktop. The NP9260 has its audience – those who are interested, you know who you are.  The price is quite reasonable in my opinion for the kind of power inside this machine.

After thoroughly testing the NP9260 I cannot give it high enough praise for its capabilities. With gobs of power, an excellent cooling system, a quiet operation, and a nice-looking design, the Sager NP9260 serves its audience well.

Pros:

  • Phenomenal power
  • Excellent cooling – unit stays cool and quiet
  • Nice keyboard/touchpad feel
  • Beautiful 17” display
  • Good-looking design
  • Lifetime tech support

Cons:

  • Keyboard missing certain dedicated keys (see keyboard section of review)
  • No SLI under Vista yet
  • No dedicated external volume control buttons


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