The Highest-End Notebooks, 2009by Jarred Walton on October 14, 2009 3:10 AM EST
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
|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
|Networking||Realtek Gigabit Ethernet (RTL8168/8111 PCI-E)
Intel Wifi Link 5300 AGN WiFi
|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
1 x Mini FireWire
Optional TV Tuner Input
1 x eSATA
|Right Side||4 x USB 2.0
|Back Side||4 x Heat Exhaust
|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)|
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.