AVADirect Clevo D900F Specifications

Unlike some companies, AVADirect doesn't try to hide the fact that they are using "whitebook" notebook/laptop designs -- the name of the ODM is visible in each of their laptops. We appreciate the fact that they are willing to disclose what sort of chassis they use, and in pricing systems from various vendors that also sell these designs, AVADirect is certainly competitive. They also offer an extensive range of component customizations, to the point where users that are less knowledgeable may feel overwhelmed. Here are the specifications and options for the AVADirect D900F. Also worthy of note is that AVADirect is already shipping Windows 7, and we can see absolutely no reason to hold off upgrading to the new OS. It's Windows Vista version 2.0, and it's better in every way. Not that Vista is bad, mind you, but Windows 7 shouldn't be plagued by missing drivers and it improves performance relative to Vista.

AVADirect Clevo D900F Specifications
Processor Core i7 920 (4x2.66GHz+HTT, 45nm, 4.8GT/s QPI, 130W)
Core i7 940 (4x2.93GHz+HTT, 45nm, 4.8GT/s QPI, 130W)
Core i7 950 (4x3.06GHz+HTT, 45nm, 4.8GT/s QPI, 130W)
Core i7 975 (4x3.33GHz+HTT, 45nm, 6.4GT/s QPI, 130W)
Xeon L5506, L5520, E5540, X5550, X5560, or W5580
Chipset Intel X58+ICH10R
Memory From 2x1GB DDR3-1066 to 3x4096MB DDR3-1066
2x2GB DDR3-1333 supported
3x2048MB DDR3-1066 CL7 as configured
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M 1GB GDDR3
Display 17.1" CCFL Glossy WUXGA (1920x1200)
Hard Drive(s) Up to three HDDs/SSDs with optional RAID 0/1/5
Optical Drive 8x DVDR SuperMulti
Blu-ray Reader/DVDRW Combo
Blu-ray Recorder/DVDRW
Networking Realtek Gigabit Ethernet (RTL8168/8111 PCI-E)
Intel Wifi Link 5300 AGN WiFi
Bluetooth v2.1+EDR
56K Modem
Audio 6-Channel Realtek ALC662-GR HD Audio
(4 stereo speakers with four audio jacks+digital out)
Battery/Adapter 12-Cell 95.04Whr, 14.4V, 6600mAh
220W Power Brick
Front Side 4 x Audio/Microphone jacks
Left Side MS/MS Pro/SD/MMC reader
BDROM/DVDR Combo Drive
ExpressCard/54
1 x Mini FireWire
Gigabit Ethernet
56K Modem
Optional TV Tuner Input
1 x eSATA
HDMI
Right Side 4 x USB 2.0
Kensington Lock
Back Side 4 x Heat Exhaust
Dual-Link DVI
Power Adapter
Operating System Windows Vista, Windows 7, Redhat Linux, or Ubuntu
Dimensions 15.63" x 11.73" x 2.01-2.50" (WxDxH)
Weight 11.88 lbs (with 12-cell battery)
Extras 2.0MP Webcam
99-Key Keyboard with 10-Key
5 customizable/programmable buttons
Warranty 1-year standard Warranty
3-year extended warranty available
Price Starting at ~$2500 online.
Tested configuration priced at $3894.

Starting with the CPU, users can choose between four different Core i7 models, along with the option to use one of six different Xeon chips. The primary benefit of the Xeon chips is that they have lower TDP ratings, but they also offer lower performance in most cases and they cost more. The fastest Xeon W5580 is clocked slightly lower than the Core i7-975 (3.2 GHz compared to 3.33 GHz), but you'll pay an extra $700 at AVADirect -- or almost $1500 more than the Core i7-920. We were only able to test with a single CPU (the i7-975), so we can't really say whether users might experience other benefits from using one of the Xeon CPUs. In general, we would recommend sticking with the regular Core i7 CPUs.

Along with a high-power CPU, the D900F uses a desktop X58 chipset -- another power-hungry component. The result is that the system requires a very large battery in order to obtain even one hour of battery life. Idle power draw is still very high, so even in our best-case scenario (sitting at the Windows desktop with no applications running) we only get 66 minutes of battery life. Yeah: ouch!

AVADirect also provides a large selection of memory options, ranging from a minimum 2x1GB setup all the way up to 3x4GB. Naturally, you will need to install three SO-DIMMs if you want to take advantage of the triple-channel memory design of X58/Bloomfield. Most of the memory configurations run at DDR3-1066, the official spec for Bloomfield, but there's also an option to run 2x2GB at DDR3-1333. Overall, 3x2GB will be the best balance of price and memory capacity for the vast majority of users -- at least until 4GB DDR3 SO-DIMMs become mainstream.

The other options are all straightforward, but perhaps the most confusing aspect for some users is going to be deciding on the hard drive configuration. AVADirect/Clevo support up to three hard drives/solid state drives with RAID 0/1/5.our particular model was shipped with two 30GB OCZ Vertex SSDs in RAID 0 with a 500GB HDD providing mass storage. Unfortunately, 60GB isn't enough space to install even a small subset of our gaming benchmarks, so we used the hard drive for most of our gaming tests. If you really want to go the SSD route, we would recommend picking up at least a 120GB model, or grab two and configure them as a RAID 0 set. At $400 per 120GB OCZ Vertex SSD, such configurations quickly become extremely expensive, but they're very fast if your bottleneck happens to be HDD speed. In short, AVADirect offers practically any hard drive/SSD you might want, including 160GB Intel G2 SSDs priced at $690 apiece.

The bottom line is that the Clevo D900F is a big, bad desktop replacement/mobile workstation that is able to power through even the most intense CPU workloads. Unfortunately, it doesn't do as well in the graphics arena, as it's limited to a single GPU. With the fastest mobile GPU currently being NVIDIA's GTX 280M (or perhaps the Mobile HD 4870, though we'd stick with NVIDIA for the mobile reference drivers if nothing else) -- approximately the same performance as a desktop 9800 GTX -- games are definitely going to be GPU limited. If you're after a mobile workstation sporting a quad-core processor with Hyper-Threading, however, this is currently the fastest notebook around.

Some might scoff at the high price -- our test system as configured costs close to $4000 -- but there are professional applications that can cost several times as much per installation. We've heard of companies that benefit greatly by being able to take a mobile workstation out to a worksite and avoid the need of commuting/traveling back to the office to do their work. After all, even a top-end configuration costing $5000 is a drop in the bucket compared to a $50,000 application. If you want to keep costs down a bit, dropping to a Core i7-920 CPU and sticking with conventional hard drives can easily bring the price under $3000.

Index AVADirect Clevo D900F Design
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 15, 2009 - link

    I think LAN party goers is a far smaller market than CAD/CAM companies that need a mobile workstation, personally. I'd also say military gamers that are deployed would be more than LAN attendees (though that might be close). I've also heard of professional athletes getting something like this, but they're a VERY small niche. LOL Reply
  • kagey - Monday, October 19, 2009 - link

    I appreciate the review and like to see these plus other laptop ODMs rather than just Sony, Dell, HP, etc.
    You have hit it right on the head, it's a niche market. They are DTR machines, that are portable but not without a plug-in sooner than later (within 45-60 mins).
    Having a Sager NP9850 and the 3000 price tag that goes with it, I can say it has its pro's and con's but for what it's used for it was worth it. It could of been cheaper (always)!!! Buying a desktop or mATX was not an option for the portability that's necessary. Who'd lug around an LCD, not I. Build quality compared to other laptops I've owned is hands down better. Swaping CPUs (which I've done cause I had a better one), GPUs or HDD, ram, without taking the who machine apart is a 1000 times easier. All MFRs are getting better but some are there already.
    As far as the LCD (glossy), yes there's glare at times and it can be a pain. I do like the LCD more than any other laptop I've owned to date plus the 18.4 inch screen is huge. I haven't owned an LED LCD yet though, maybe next. This laptop does fit into a Targus backpack XL617 as well plus you do get a workout carrying (i.e. lugging) it around.. lol. Yes it's about 15 lbs all said and done carrying it.
    I don't regret the purchase as it's serving the purpose. .02 cents
    Reply
  • FXi - Thursday, October 15, 2009 - link

    Very, very pleased that you included a mainstream desktop machine in the tests. It really is important that people get a sense of perspective before they spend this kind of money. You have to "need" or "want" portability badly for the cash to performance outlay.

    That said Intel really kind of did Clarksdale a bit backwards.
    The quads should have come next spring and been 32nm and the dual's should have been 45nm and introduced first. I'll never understand why they reversed that.
    They really needed to hit basic clock parity with the QX9300. Yes the 920 is faster, but it doesn't set enough distance between itself and it's older cousin. That leads to comparisons like this article and a lot of soul searching between "new" vs "old" design purchase decisions.
    It is also almost unfathomable why they didn't include USB 3.0 in the PM55 spec. Intel is a founding member of the coalition the developed the spec. USB changes come around every 5-10 years, so getting 10x the speed of USB 2.0, lower CPU utilization in the process, makes this a kind of must have item. In desktops it doesn't matter as much because you can just throw in a pci-e card and get USB 3.0 whenever you feel like it. But for a laptop, USB is THE way it does most of it's communicating with the outside world. How fast and efficient (and how numerous) those USB ports are is a really big deal on notebooks. To have introduced a "high end" Quad core system and to have foregone this basic 10x increase in outside world communication is like delivering a Ferrari with 70 series tires on it. Great engine, great looks but missing a key component of how it talks to the road. It really is a feature that should not have been left out, no matter what delay it took to get it included.

    Faster 32nm Clarkdale, at least 2.53 base speed on all 4 core operation.
    USB 3.0 IN the Intel chipset, not as an add in chip.
    SLI designs and hybrid Intel IGP or low end integrated GPU for power savings when simply surfinng.
    M6400 designs, not M17x garrishness or Clevo "chicklet" keyboards we got rid of in the 80's.

    These are a few of the things that "should" have been in systems aimed at the audience that can afford these things. What we got isn't the above. And lack of sales will be blamed on the economy rather than the real issue, "a failure to successfully innovate".

    $.02
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    It's like four times cheaper to build a mATX box and throw it in your car with a nice 22" LCD monitor whenever you gotta go somewhere. Same "mobility" as these behemothbooks, but with better hardware, and less money wasted.

    I mean if you're rich these are totally normal ones, why not waste a few grand here and there, but for practical not rich middle class people who look for price/performance/mobility balance these are poor choices.

    I wasted almost $2k on an Alienware M17 and probably will never do it again. It's working great and everything, games are flying light speed and all, but every time I think I could get much better hardware for $1k I feel uneasy... with the same mobility as this box, that needs power outlet anyway... nah, these gamebooks are a mixed bag, I'll probably go for cheapo 17" Dell next time + my own mATX box, that's for me is as portable and "mobile" as all these Alienwares, Clevos and similar fat bricks
    Reply
  • InternetGeek - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    These are DTR machines. You buy them because you don't want to have the big clunky box and what not anymore.

    I for one gave up desktops after buying my DTR. At work I have the work provided workstation and they allowed me to use my own keyboard (ergonomic) and trackball. At home I use my DTR and I'm quite happy with it. When on the move I just use my WinMo and OneNote. That's it. No need to keep hauling stuff around when you realize there's a lot of free services that will let you keep all your PCs synchronized.

    I for one use "My Phone" for backing up my info, and the let live have my calendar and emails. Same goes for contacts.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    mATX slim cases are pretty far from being "big clunky", they are somewhat bigger than 12 pound DTR we're talking about, but when you stuff 'em in a bag with 22 incher and K/M there's not a huge difference in weight/size compared to DTR + its humongous power brick + mouse + carrying bag for all that, trust me. Reply
  • InternetGeek - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Well, just the pic of someone hauling their entire pc around along a 22incher makes me lol. So, if you think that's practical for you go ahead and knock yourself out :).

    I agree those Clevo machines are huge to the point of missing the point of a laptop. 3 Harddrives, SLI, 18inches. Crazy. You can still get good performance without going all that way in adding crazy hardware like that.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    What's the difference between hauling around huge 12 pound Clevo with its 6 pound power brick versus very small mATX slim desktop case, 22" LCD and K/M? Answer: none or very little. Got my point now? Reply
  • InternetGeek - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Bluntly put, a DTR is designed to be carried around. The entire set up is made so it can be carried around in a bag. Laptop bags can also play the role of your backpack so you can put books, magazines or whatever you want in them.

    Carrying around a Desktop PC is done for LAN parties. And even then you try to minimize what you haul. Again, I do think seeing someone carrying around their PC because they can get the Desktop performance/Experience wherever they are funny. I'd love to see that during a Tech event. Pic of the year for sure.

    In any case, DTRs have their purpose which I think they cover quite well. Until I got mine I built every single system I had (I built my first PC when I was 12), and to be honest, I think it's an awesome path to try. I would only ask for upgradable GPUs.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Technically, the power brick weighs in at two pounds. I'd say that's a pretty big difference between DTR laptop (15 pounds including a backpack and mouse) and LCD + mATX + backpack + keyboard + mouse. A 22" LCD will weigh about that much on its own, and you need a good backpack for carrying such a display... I don't even know where you'd find one.

    This is not to say that people should go but DTRs, but if you know the limitations and are okay with that they fulfill a need. I don't think anyone would actually want the task of carrying around a complete mATX system with peripherals if they could avoid it. The only reason to go that route is for performance at the cost of mobility.
    Reply

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