Gaming On the Go? Not Quite

This is where you end up paying for the upgrade to the quad-core CPU when compared to the M11x. The Monster comes with a 62Wh battery, and ends up delivering battery life slightly better than the Alienware M14x but well short of the M11x. The ULV Sandy Bridge chips were phenomenal under idle conditions, so the M11x R3 had awesome idle battery life, but in our real world use case scenarios, the M11x R3 had battery life about 20% better than the Monster. The two previous generations of M11x were similarly more power efficient than the Monster, but it’s a sacrifice worth making for the vastly more powerful CPU.

Battery Life - Idle

Battery Life - Internet

Battery Life - H.264 Playback

Battery Life Normalized - Internet

Clevo and Eurocom claim 410 minutes of runtime, and the Monster gets very close to that in our idle battery test, which is the absolute maximum you can expect from the system in an ideal case. Our internet battery test is a much more relevant real world use case scenario, and gives a more realistic estimate of day-to-day battery life, and it slots in at just above 5.5 hours of usable life. I’ve used the Monster as my primary portable for the last ten days or so (including a trip to China) and it’s definitely acquitted itself better than I could have expected.

In terms of gaming battery life (looping 3DMark06), I saw 75 minutes of battery runtime, which is actually pretty decent because we were running the GT 650 in the "prefer maximum performance" setting. For comparison, the ASUS N56VM that served as our IVB test platform ran out of juice at 77 minutes using the HD 4000. But generally, if you're gaming, expect runtime to suffer accordingly. 

From a heat standpoint, the numbers aren’t necessarily happy. At idle, temperatures hover in the 60 C range, but load the CPU and GPU and the temperatures climb to the low 90s. I started Furmark and wPrime 1024M (in a loop) and kept it going for a while. After about 10 minutes, temperatures leveled out around 90C for the CPU and motherboard, and 83C for the GPU. That’s….a lot, even higher than the Razer Blade that we tested previously. Do anything more strenuous than surfing and it gets simply too hot to have on your lap. And even under near idle situations like browsing or word processing, the system gets pretty warm to the touch and the fan noticeably kicks in at regular intervals, though unfortunately I don’t have an infrared thermometer to measure the case temps, nor a setup for testing fan noise.

What is very clear though is that the hardware packed into this system is definitely pushing the thermal envelope of the design. There just isn’t enough space to properly ventilate and cool the system via conventional methods. The mechanical engineer in me can think of a few ways that could probably aid in the heat transfer mechanism, but they’re unconventional at best. Quite simply, there needs to either be more surface area to dissipate heat or more airflow to allow for a greater amount of convective heat transfer. Assuming they’re close to constrained for the footprint (which they are, or at least close to it—there’s not too much room to fiddle with the x and y dimensions unless they change the screen size), they just really need to push air through the case. It’s not enough to have a fan for the CPU and GPU, there need to be legitimate case fans, along with a lot more venting. One vent on the left side and a handful of smaller vents on the bottom are clearly not cutting it. Taking certain cooling concepts from desktop cases wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Eurocom Monster - Gaming Eurocom Monster - Display
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  • ijozic - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    Thanks for a review of this little thing; was waiting for something like this to replace my portable Acer 1810TZ, although I'd need a better matte display and a backlighted keyboard.

    But, just had to note that I don't really see why all the cries after the M11x. Personally, it looked like a very thick laptop designed around a 14" 4:3 screen with a 11,6" screen fitted instead. While I like the Clevo's effort, I wish it was made with a nicer design, better materials and a higher quality screen (though admittedly, there aren't seem to be any available in this size apart from the matte option used on some variants).
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    Don't get rid of that 1810TZ. It's a goddamn gem.
  • Darkstone - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I digged up the specification sheet of the M11x R3 display you tested: it features an advertised contrast ratio of 500:1. In fact, i have never seen a datasheet with an contrast ratio below that.

    Saying that the matte display is better than the standard glossy display based on a number in a datasheet, is just not right. Those numbers are never accurate for budget LCD's anyway.
  • Menty - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    True, but saying the matt screen will be better than the glossy one is basically 99.99% true. Glossy screens are almost entirely terrible if you don't live in a dark cave, regardless of the numbers on the spec sheets.
  • plewis00 - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    This isn't necessarily true. Glossy screens are not terrible depending on the other specifications, I'd go as far to say contrast ratio and colour gamut are more important factors - the Dell XPS 15 1080p B+RGLED is a stunner however you look at it and I can compare that to my work Dell Latitude E6400 with a matte screen and I can't stand it, it looks dull and washed out.

    That said the Alienware M11x R3 was everything I wanted and expected from a computer like that with the exception of the screen - I loved the low idle power consumption meaning you could watch videos and browse the web in bed or on the sofa without heat being an issue.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    We're trying to get a version of the laptop with a matte LCD in for testing. It almost certainly can't be worse than the glossy display, but is it better? As you point out, datasheets often "lie".

    I've seen LCDs advertised as 500:1, and what I found in testing is that if I measured white at max brightness and black at min brightness, I would get around 550:1. The problem is that the LCD didn't even support dynamic contrast, which would at least make such a claim partially true. So the LCD in question was something like 250 nits white/1.25 nits black at 100%, and 80 nits white/0.47 nits black at 0%.

    I've got another laptop actually in house where the max brightness is 430 nits, but black levels at 100% are 1.66 nits. Drop to 25% brightness and you get 108 nits/.42 nits. Using the same "dynamic" range, the manufacturer might claim 1000:1 contrast, when the real contrast is closer to 250:1.
  • prdola0 - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I wonder if Asus comes with something similar/better. I would give my fist-born for a 11" 2core Ivy Bridge/GT640M Zenbook-style machine with Optimus, an Intel SSD 120GB inside and a matte screen with something like 1280x720 or so. Thunderbolt would be a great addition as well.

    Since this 11" Clevo is possible (although at the limit of thermals), my setup with smaller/slower CPU & GPU should certainly be possible too. Drop the D-Sub and Ethernet ports, leave just mini HDMI and Thunderbold and some USB 3.0, add backlit keyboard, and it is a bestseller.
  • htwingnut - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I own the Sager brand of this and have to say it is one sexy mini beast. A couple things to note is that if you just prop this laptop up at the back, temps can drop as much as 10C at load. The screen is a bit miserable, and should have been matte by default. It's impossible to use outside or with any kind of lights on in the background.

    Otherwise it runs like a charm. 60-80FPS in BF3 on high. Can even crank out games at 1080p without much issue.
  • bennyg - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I had a G51J that spent a LOT of its life with its GPU nearly boiling water. Sure it's not great, but the fact it survived 22 months without skipping a beat means high temps are somewhat tolerable. I made damn sure it sat on a cooler and the fan grilles and vents were cleaned every few months though. Ironically, it died when I ran over it... the base was resurrected minus a couple of ports and lives on as a ~50W HTPC now :)

    Every laptop with intake vents on the bottom benefit from being propped up or a cooler.
  • Meaker10 - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    I think they could have taken the current M14X and slimmed it down into an edge 14" machine (tiny bezel).

    The 650M (which had GDDR5 btw instead of DDR3) at a native 1600x900 would be awesome.

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