Sager NP9262 User Review

by Reads (41,504)

The Sager NP9262 is amongst the most powerful of desktop replacement notebooks. It is built on the D901C chassis by Clevo. It sports a 17" widescreen LCD available in two versions, WSXGA+ 1680×1050 resolution in the matte finish or the WUXGA 1920×1200 resolution in the glossy "glare" type finish.

If you are looking for the fastest laptop in the world, then read on …


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What makes the NP9262 so special? There are a few key aspects that separate this laptop from the rest:

  • It does not use a mobile CPU. It uses full-fledged desktop processors, making it quad-core capable.
  • It can support two video cards for use in an SLI configuration. This includes the newest mobile GPU, the NVidia GeForce 8800M GTX.
  • It has three hard drive bays for amazing storage capacity on a laptop. You can also configure it in RAID 0, 1 or 5 using the on-board RAID controller.
  • Two fully programmable macro keys on the left-hand side of the keyboard. Anyone who has used a Logitech G15 keyboard knows that a few macro keys can be extremely useful inside and outside of games.


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Of course, it has all the bells and whistles that you would expect in a high-end laptop, including Bluetooth, built-in camera and microphone, etc. More on that later.

My system configuration:

  • 17-inch WUXGA (1920×1200) Glossy Screen
  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 – 2.4 GHz 8MB L2 Cache – 1066 FSB Processor
  • NVidia GeForce 8800M GTX 512MB – DirectX 10 – PCI-Express Video Card
  • 4,096MB (4GB) DDR2 800 Dual Channel Memory
  • 2x 200GB 7200rpm SATA-150 HDD – RAID 0 – Striping
  • 1x 200GB 7200rpm SATA-150 HDD – Not part of RAID
  • Combo 8x8x6x4x Dual Layer DVD/CD Writer
  • Windows XP Professional 32-Bit
  • Windows Vista Business 64-Bit

I opted for the Q6600 instead of the faster Q6700 due to the price difference, about $300. Aside from that, and possibly a Blu-Ray optical drive, these specs are just about maxed out.

You can also get the E6850 Dual Core, there are tons of arguments back and forth about quad core and dual core.

At the time of this review, the SLI version with the new 8800M GTX has not been released yet, scheduled to be released at the end of February, something I am looking forward to.


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Build Quality

I have been a Dell user for many years, with the occasional HP laptop and also some work on Macintosh laptops.

The build quality of this laptop, in my opinion, surpasses everything that I have ever laid my hands on. Picking it up feels solid, you don’t feel any kind of flex in the chassis. There is negligible keyboard flex, in other words, you can only flex it if you are really trying to.

The touchpad is pretty standard. I have had no problems using it, it looks good and feels good. The buttons are a very attractive brushed aluminum, not cheesy plastic buttons so you won’t see any color fading in the future.


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This laptop is heavy: 11 pounds 12.5 ounces to be exact. This is the weight of the laptop with three HDD’s and one video card, so your exact weight may vary if you choose fewer HDD’s or dual video cards.

The power supply weighs in at 2 pounds 11 ounces, including all cords. This is the biggest power supply I have ever seen for a laptop. Check it out next to the Wii Zelda DVD case. I recommend getting a backpack, unless you are perfectly accustomed to carrying 15 pound weights back and forth as you travel. It gets heavy quickly.


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Screen

The screen itself is beautiful. My version being the glossy one, I don’t think I can ever use a matte screen again. The colors are extremely vivid. Everything is incredibly clear. The brightness is quite addicting. I am typing this review on my laptop instead of my desktop which has a 20" matte screen.

I received it with no dead pixels. The laptop comes in custom Sager box with perfectly cut foam packaging materials, you do not have to worry about damage in shipping.

I haven’t noticed any uneven lighting anywhere.

The hinge on the LCD is very rigid. It takes a fair amount of force to get it to open and close. This is very good, I feel like the hinges will last for many years. There are two spring-loaded latches that hold the LCD when it is closed and it will take both hands at once to open it.


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Inputs and Outputs

  • VGA and DVI outputs for external displays
  • S-Video output for TV
  • TV-Input for optional TV-Tuner card.
  • IEEE-1394 Firewire Port
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 Express Card 54/34 Slot


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Speakers – Sound quality

There are four built-in speakers, two on the front edge and two on the top on the outsides of the keyboard. They are decent sounding speakers. You can only get so much out of speakers on a laptop. I don’t think they have enough bass, although I cannot talk of a laptop that does.

They are definitely loud enough in a normal environment but if you are at an occasion with a bunch of people, you will probably have trouble trying to show people a video.

I would recommend, as with any other laptop, a good pair of headphones.

The audio ports are on the front, in between the two speakers.


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As with any desktop replacement, the NP9262 must get really hot and really noisy, right?

Not quite. Even during gaming with the fans on full blast it is not that loud. It is extremely quiet during normal use. I would feel comfortable taking this laptop anywhere I went without the worry of it bothering anyone with noise.

About the heat, the warmest part of the laptop is to the left of the touchpad. Although, it never gets hot enough to be uncomfortable. Even after holding your arm in that spot, with your hand on WASD for many hours, you won’t feel like it is getting too hot.

It does, however, blast tons of hot air out the back of the laptop. Someone standing on the other side of it would definitely start getting warm fast. I don’t think this is a big problem though, but I suppose it would be possible that if you are in a lecture hall taking notes and there is someone else in front of you that they might get uncomfortable.

I do recommend using a notebook cooler when you can. Here’s a shot of the Zalman NC-1000.


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Battery and Wireless

Battery life is as you suspect with a 17-inch notebook, not too long. In normal use, under 70% screen brightness, you will probably get between 1 hour and 1.5 hours.

Max performance gaming, on battery power, will drain you in approximately a half an hour.

No problems with the internal wireless card, it is fast and reliable.

I’ve used the Bluetooth to test wireless keyboards and mouses, as well as linking to my cell phone for picture transfers and internet access on the road. No problems here either.

I use the Logitech VX Nano as a USB mouse.


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Benchmarks and Performance

The intended purpose of this section is not only provide good FPS numbers for the most demanding games out there, but to also give insight on the battle between Windows XP and Windows Vista for gaming.

Drivers Tested:
167.43 / 167.44 (Vista version) – This is the stock driver off of the Sager CD.
168.21 – This version found at laptopvideo2go.
168.28 – One of the newest at laptopvideo2go.
171.16 – Also a new one at laptopvideo2go.

What is laptopvideo2go?

NVidia does not directly support video cards for laptops. It is up to the manufacturer to create drivers that are compatible. Laptopvideo2go.com does the necessary modifications to original NVidia drivers so that they are compatible with laptops. They also unlock certain features that are not always enabled with stock NVidia drivers. This sometimes includes tweaks for overclocking.

These drivers often offer a performance gain when compared to official drivers.

Test Scenarios

My tests include 3dMark06 Pro, Crysis, Call of Duty 4 and Unreal Tournament 3. Other games will follow if people are interested. Let me know.

Crysis is benchmarked using the benchmarking tool created by Crymod.
Crysis Benchmark Tool 1.05
This tool runs through the game in the development mode, essentially flying around the map at a very fast speed and reading the FPS, although it reads a lot of other stuff as well.

This is a good way to get a consistent benchmark. Using fraps and running around for a few minutes can sometimes be inaccurate since you do not experience the exact same run every time. Sometimes you will spend more time in areas with higher or lower fps.

I did not benchmark with BioShock for this reason, as least as a means to compare operating systems and drivers. Although, getting some examples of FPS are still helpful for general system performance.

These benchmarks dp not necessarily represent the exact FPS you will see in game (assuming similar system specs) but it should give you a good idea of the average FPS.

I ran the following tests with each driver.

1. 3DMark06
2. Crysis – Windows XP 32-bit
3. Crysis – Windows Vista 64-bit – DirectX 9
4. Crysis – Windows Vista 64-bit – DirectX 10

Then I tried these games using the stock drivers.

5. Unreal Tournament 3 – Windows XP 32-bit
6. Unreal Tournament 3 – Windows Vista 64-bit – DirectX 10
7. Call of Duty 4 – Windows XP 32-bit
8. Call of Duty 4 – Windows Vista 64-bit – DirectX 10

In each of the Crysis tests I used the following settings.

1. All Medium
2. All High
3. All Very High (Vista DX10 only)
4. Custom – a board favorite – All high except for medium shadows and medium shading.

I ran them all in three different resolutions.

1. 1900×1200
2. 1650×1080
3. 1400×960

All are widescreen resolutions for our LCDs. I am not sure why the Crysis tool reports it as 1900×1200, in-game it runs at 1920×1200

Preliminary Results

Very few drivers seem 100% compatible with our new 8800M GTX.

Anything earlier than 169.28 did not want to install on Windows XP, except for the drivers off of the CD of course. I tried 169.21, 169.09, 169.04.

The newest one, 171.16, installed fine but did not run at full speed, I could not adjust any settings to make it run higher than 275/300 (as opposed to 500 core clock speed and 800 memory speed) Other people seemed to have this same problem with different drivers on the Sager NP5792 as well.

The 64 bit version of 171.16 is not yet released.

169.21 performed identical to 169.28 on Windows Vista so I will omit that.

Benchmark Results


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Click here for actual screenshot of my 3DMark06 test results. You can also see the separate scores for CPU/etc.


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The Windows Experience Index reports that RAM is the weakest link here. I ran the update a few different times. Sometimes the RAM score is 5.6, most of the times 5.7.

The graphics score also goes between 5.8 and 5.9.

Keep in mind I am running RAID-0. I am not sure how much it affects the score.

These Crysis benchmarks were done on the first level, here is what it looks like.


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What good are benchmarks without pretty charts right?

I did tests at every resolution with a few different drivers. This will show you my results on XP, Vista using Direct9 and Vista using DirectX10.


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Unreal benchmarks were done on the Sanctuary level. I thought this was a good choice because it had a mix of inside and outside environments.

These were done using the UT3 Benchmarking tool available at http://olrac.org/ut3bench
It creates a deathmatch between bots on your chosen map.

I set it to 24 bots and ran 5-10 runs of 200 seconds each for each resolution, then averaged the results.

All detail levels were set to maximum.

The resulting numbers were so high that I did not bother with benchmarking the lower detail levels.


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Results were fantastic, max out your settings when you frag your friends.

Call of Duty 4 was benchmarked in the Overgrown map. Outside environments seem to be more reliable for benchmarks since they are more graphic intensive, generally.

I recorded a demo of myself running around the map, for 5 minutes, going into different inside rooms, outside, looking at surroundings, smoke, plants etc. 5 minutes of benchmark time seemed like a good amount of time. I have recorded the average FPS as well as the minimum FPS.

This is without enemies and explosions, so take results with a grain of salt. If there are tons of rocket and grenade launchers, you will see mixed results.

All tests were done with settings maxed out. Texture settings set to extra.

As a note, Call of Duty has an option in the settings menu for Dual Video Cards. However, it does not look like SLI is needed for this game since this laptop is already a beast.

One test was done using 4x anti-aliasing, an option not available in a lot of games right now for some reason. What is anti-aliasing? In short, it smooths out sharp edges, but slows your frame rate. I test it here just as a way to show how demanding the game can be. At higher resolutions, anti-aliasing is not that necessary.


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Test results – Summary

  • In Crysis, Windows XP 32-bit was faster than Vista in every situation by up to 20%.
  • Windows Vista 64-bit in DirectX 9 was about 5-10% faster than DirectX 10.
  • The 169.28 driver from laptopvideo2go was about the same speed as the stock driver. Using the stock drivers will be fine for now until better drivers for the 8800M GTX come out. Using Vista, the stock driver came out ahead most of the times.
  • Keep in mind that at these FPS rates, even 2-3 FPS can make a big difference. I would recommend Windows XP 32-bit for anyone looking to maximize their system on Crysis. We will see if this changes when SLI becomes available.
  • Unreal Tournament 3 ran the same on both Windows XP and Vista. At maxed details and max resolution, the FPS still hit 60. Very solid.
  • Call of Duty 4 ran almost as fast as UT3. I maxed all details and max resolution and got an average of 57 FPS. Enabling 4x anti-aliasing dropped this to 39 FPS. Whether or not you need anti-aliasing is always up in the air, personally I don’t use it.
  • Call of Duty 4 in Windows XP ran 5-8% faster than Windows Vista.

What’s in the box?

Included with every purchase is a carrying case. It’s a pretty basic case that fits the laptop perfectly, with the power supply going into the front pocket. I would recommend a backpack due to the weight.

  • Nero 7 Essentials
  • Cyberlink PowerDVD 7
  • User’s manual
  • Sager Device Drivers and Utilities CD
  • One-Year Warranty card from Sager. (XoticPC gave me a 3-year warranty.)
  • Video adapter cable for HDTV Component output / Svideo output.


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Conclusion

Pros

  • Extremely fast, the power of a desktop in a convenient notebook package.
  • SLI graphics capability.
  • Tons of HDD storage space.
  • Build quality is top-notch.
  • World’s fastest laptop.
  • Games, other than Crysis, run extremely well.
  • Very quiet and does not get that hot.
  • Programmable macro keys.
  • Beautiful LCD.
  • Did I mention it is crazy fast?

Cons

  • USB ports can be in an awkward position if you do not have much desk space and use a large mouse. Any dongles will stick out and possibly hit your hand during use. The VX Nano solves this problem, although users may prefer a full-sized mouse.
  • Short battery life. This is to be expected for a desktop replacement notebook of this caliber.
  • Crysis on very high still demands too much, although this is also true even for the strongest of desktops.

Ending Notes

I hope this information is useful for many people. There have been a lot of different questions about what OS to use, etc.

In the pictures you will see the Zalman NC-1000 Notebook Cooler. I highly recommend this cooler. I bought two, one for work, one for home. Not only will it keep your laptop healthier for longer, it elevates it to a good position for typing and is another way to get around the USB port location issue, since the USB ports will be higher up they won’t bother you.

I use the Logitech VX Nano which I think is a great mouse. The USB receiver is amazingly small too. This is a great mouse for everyday use but most likely during hardcore gaming you will want a full sized mouse.

All in all, this is a beautiful machine and I am totally in love with it. It is solidly built. Keyboard feels good. It is quiet. The screen is amazing.

As a final note I want to give a huge thank you to XoticPC. They have provided excellent customer support before and after the transaction. Their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and they also have their owner posting on the forums here at NotebookReview. Two thumbs up for XoticPC.

Check them out at http://www.xoticpc.com


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