Posted: 11 Feb 2013 10:38 AM PST
We’ve reviewed quite a few Clevo notebooks over the years from a variety of vendors: AVADirect, Eurocom, Mythlogic, Origin, and Sager, to name a few. While there are certainly reasons to go with a branded Clevo notebook, it’s always good to have other options, and one of the most noteworthy is MSI’s G-series. CyberPowerPC has offered MSI-derived designs for a few years now, along with Clevo and Compal offerings. They’ve recently updated their MSI models to include support for the latest and greatest CPUs and GPU.
The new models now carry the FangBook X7 brand (also spelled FANGBOOK, FANGbook, and Fangbook depending on which email or web page you’re reading), with support for quad-core Ivy Bridge processors including the i7-3940XM and GPUs up to the GTX 680M. The combination makes for a potent gaming notebook, albeit with most of the usual caveats: large size, potentially loud fans, and less than ideal battery life (the X7 measures 16.85”x11.34”x2.17” and weighs “under 8lbs.”) The only other GPU option currently available is NVIDIA’s GTX 675MX, which is the Kepler-based replacement for the GTX 675M (a rebranded Fermi GTX 580M). We have yet to test the 675MX, so we’ll try to see about getting a review sample from CyberPowerPC.
MSI’s chassis also offers a few interesting perks that are worth mentioning. Dual 2.5” hard drive bays on 17.3” notebooks are nothing new, and even mSATA is quite common, but this is the first I’ve heard of a dual-mSATA notebook with dual 2.5” bays. That means you can configure an mSATA “Ultra RAID” RAID 0 drive for the OS and apps (up to 2x240GB in size)—interestingly, CyberPowerPC doesn’t even offer non-RAID mSATA options right now. Dual mSATA drives will provide potentially higher performance (up to 900MB/s read speeds), though the Intel 525 drives they’re using cost quite a bit more than some of the other options (e.g. Crucial m4 256GB mSATA can be had for $190 each compared to $722 for 2x240GB Intel 525). The FangBook also supports four SO-DIMM modules, so configurations up to 32GB (4x8GB) are still reasonably priced ($229 extra for DDR3-1333 or $317 for DDR3-1600). A matte 17.3” 1080p LCD comes standard, as does Windows 8 64-bit (though you can select Windows 7 if you prefer).
In terms of pricing, that’s one area where the FangBook X7 tends to make the most of the MSI platform. Even with the custom FangBook cover, the base model X7-100 includes an i7-3630QM, 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 memory, a GTX 675MX 4GB GPU, and a 750GB 7200RPM hard drive. All of that will set you back $1299, and while that’s quite a bit of money, a similar configuration using a Clevo P170EM chassis tends to start at $1500 (or more). $1499 gets you the base X7-200, which doubles the RAM to 4x4GB and adds a 64GB SanDisk SSD; the $1799 bumps the GPU up to the 680M and adds a Blu-ray combo drive. All of the models are configurable, of course, so you can mix and match components as you see fit.
The new FangBook X7 notebooks are available for order, with a current estimated ship date of 2/25/2013. If you’re not in a hurry, there’s a 5% discount available via the “NORUSH” coupon, which brings the starting price down to $1234. Also worthy of mention is that since the FangBooks all use NVIDIA GTX GPUs, the latest $150 in F2P game currency promotion applies.
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 09:35 AM PST
Last week AMD announced their Never Settle Reloaded gaming bundle, with several high-profile games available with the purchase of AMD GPUs. This week, NVIDIA follows suit with their own announcement...except this is a "gaming bundle" that's quite different from what we've seen in the past.
We've seen the transition from traditional gaming models to Free 2 Play (F2P) over the past few years, with many MMOs reporting increased revenue from the "free" model compared to monthly subscriptions. F2P has been so successful that quite a few high-end games have skipped the traditional model completely and launched as F2P. NVIDIA's latest bundle targets three of these titles: World of Tanks, Hawken, and Planetside 2.
Part of the reasoning behind the latest bundle is to convince gamers with lower end hardware to upgrade. Based on figures from Valve's latest Steam hardware surveys and NVIDIA's recommended settings for the above games, 36 million gamers don't meet the required hardware specifications for the above three titles. NVIDIA provided some numbers showing performance with their newer GPUs compared to an old 8800 GT as a reference:
In order to open up access to these and other games on NVIDIA hardware (note that Hawken and Planetside 2 both support PhysX while World of Tanks is a 3D Vision title), NVIDIA is offering up to $150 of in-game value with the purchase of a new GTX series GPU.
For GTX 650 and GTX 650 Ti purchases, buyers will receive a $25 credit for each of the games. Purchase a GTX 660 or above and the amount of in-game currency bumps up to $50 per title. While all of the games are technically free, the $25 or $50 credit is enough to get you jump started, and clearly the game manufacturers are hoping that after the initial taste gamers will be interested in forking over additional funds.
Putting things in a different light, the least expensive GTX 650 currently goes for $100 (with a $10 mail-in rebate available right now), so if you're actually interested in playing the above games that's potentially $25 towards the hardware and the rest towards the games. The GTX 650 Ti starts at $140 (with a $20 MIR available), and it offers twice as many CUDA cores with increased memory bandwidth for a fairly sizeable increase in performance. The base GTX 660 starts at $220 right now ($10 MIR), so that would be $70 towards the hardware and $150 towards the games. It increases the number of CUDA cores yet again and also comes with a 192-bit memory interface, effectively more than doubling the performance of the GTX 550 for a comensurate increase in price. (Note that it appears the above promotion also applies to new laptops with GTX 650M or higher GPUs.)
Keep in mind that both the AMD and NVIDIA bundles are delivering new games with hardware that is now several months old at best--in fact, AMD's bundle with the 7800 and 7900 uses hardware that's roughly a year old, and the GTX 680 is from the same era. This is one more way to try and entice users to upgrade, and there's the potential for new hardware to come out in the next few months that will make the current offerings look just a little less shiny. But that's always the case. If you've been sitting on the fence for a few months, this might be enough to push you over and get you to upgrade; at least, that's the hope. The full set of slides are included below for reference.
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