PC gamers searching for a way to take their rigs on the road should check out the $1,326 AVADirect Clevo W110ER. Equipped with a quad-core Ivy Bridge processor, 16GB of RAM and switchable Nvidia 650M graphics, the 11.6-inch notebook can compete with gaming systems more than twice its size. But a gaming notebook has to be more than the sum of all its parts. Does the W110ER add up?
Click to EnlargeWe had an instant sense of deja vu when we first saw the W110ER, as its chassis is nearly identical to the Eurocom Monster. That said, we're are still big fans of the subdued, rubberized lid with its faint gridlines. The smooth bisected strip is also present, but the Clevo W110ER doesn't feature a chrome logo in the center like the Monster. AVADirect also offers custom paint jobs for an additional $350 for people who like a more unique look.
Opening the notebook reveals a rubberized palm rest and the touchpad. The top of the deck also features the rubberized grid with green status lights for Caps Lock, Num Lock and Wi-Fi on the left, and a large power button on the right. The middle of the deck is slightly recessed and has a soft-touch rubberized panel.
Although the Clevo W110ER and the 4-pound, Eurocom Monster share the same 11.5 x 8.3 x 1.5-inch chassis, the W110ER is a tad lighter at 3.8 pounds.
Click to EnlargeThe W110ER's 11.6-inch LED glossy display delivered clear, sharp text as we read CNN.com and Joystiq.com. At 186 lux, the 1366 x 768p display is slightly brighter than the Monster's 173 lux display, but it wasn't enough to match the 228 lux category average. As we watched the 1080p YouTube trailer of "The Amazing Spider-Man," we noticed lovely reds and beautiful blues. However, we noticed severe pixelation during the night scenes as Spider-Man vaulted over the police. Viewing angles were limited to a shallow 45 degrees, instantly washing out if we weren't directly in front of the display.
Still we had a pretty good time cleaning up the mean streets of Gotham and kicking some tail in "Batman: Arkham City" and "Street Fighter X Tekken." The set pieces in "Arkham City" looked appropriately dark and foreboding and we got our fill of neon cartoony backdrops in the latest iteration of "Street Fighter."
Although the W110ER delivered fairly clear sound, it barely filled a small room. We received a small boost when we enabled THX TruStudio Pro. When we listened to Wale's "Lotus Flower Bomb," there was a noticeable amount of hollowness as the organ played. As we played "Batman: Arkham City," the audio was slightly more robust, delivering crisp clear dialogue against swelling music. As we engaged the streets of Arkham City, we heard a thrilling rush of air as we dive-bombed into a group of unsuspecting enemies couple with satisfying thuds and cracks and moans as we quickly dispatched them.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Click to EnlargeWhile we realize that the majority of PC gamers rely on a mouse and a few trusted hotkeys to fight the legions of evil, we still found the W110ER's island-style keyboard keys were too small. The direction keys, Right Shift and Right Ctrl were especially undersized. However, the keys were generously spaced and delivered good firm feedback.
The textured 3.4 x 1.7-inch Synaptics touchpad delivered swift responsive multitouch action. Gestures such as pinch-to-zoom, two-finger rotation and three-finger press and flick were nice and accurate with no signs of latency. The discrete mouse buttons offered solid feedback with an audible, satisfying click.
We found that the AvaDirect Clevo W110ER runs rather hot. After 15 minutes of streaming a full-screen Hulu video, the touchpad measured 97 degrees Fahrenheit. That's two degrees higher than our 95-degree threshold for comfort. The bottom of the notebook registered 96 degrees while the right side vent, the hottest spot on the laptop, measured 100 degrees. The space between the G and H keys measured a cool 87 degrees.
After playing "Batman: Arkham City" for 15 minutes, those same areas measured, 106, 94.5 and 104 degrees respectively. The right side vent was a scorching 115 degrees. Using the notebook in our laps for more than an hour playing games left us uncomfortably warm.
Click to EnlargeA USB 2.0 with charging capability sits on the right side of the laptop with a secure lock and the power jack. You can find two USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, a headphone and a microphone jack on the left. A 9-in-1 card reader resides along the front lip of the notebook.
Click to EnlargeWe were disappointed by the level of graininess from the W110ER's 1.3-megapixel camera. Although we tried it in both natural and fluorescent light, the camera continued to deliver a high level of pixelation along with pale, washed-out color.
Equipped with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM processor (Ivy Bridge) with 16GB of RAM, a 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive with a 8GB Hybrid SLC SSD and automatic switchable graphics via an Intel HD Graphics 4000 and a Nvidia GT 650M GPU (using Optimus), the AVADirect Clevo W110ER packs a serious punch. We fought a few fast-paced rounds of "Street Fighter X Tekken" with 13 open tabs in Google Chrome and 10 open tabs in Internet Explorer running in the background without any latency.
The W110ER also delivered excellent performance during our synthetic benchmarks, notching an impressive 3,362 on PCMark07. That's 886 points higher than the 2,476 ultraportable category average. However the Eurocom Monster, which has a slightly more powerful 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-3720QM CPU and 8GB of RAM, scored 4,299.
We booted the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional in 44 seconds thanks to the Clevo W110ER's 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive with a 8GB Hybrid SLC SSD, 7 seconds faster than the average. However the Monster's 120GB SSD booted in a lightning-quick 0:19.
The 8GB SSD cache made itself known during the LAPTOP File Transfer Test, as the W110ER duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 0:37 for a transfer rate of 137.5 MBps, beating both the 45 MBps category average and the Monster's 113.1 MBps. However, when we ran the test without the benefit of the cache, the drive took 1:55 to complete, a rate of 44 MBps.
It was also a fairly close race on the OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, with the Clevo W110ER taking 4 minutes and 25 seconds to match 20,000 names with their corresponding addresses. That's 5:01 faster than the ultraportable average, but the Monster finished in 4:04.
Graphics and Gaming
Click to EnlargeThe AVADirect Clevo W110ER continued its show of power during our graphics testing. Thanks to Nvidia's Optimus technology (Intel HD Graphics 4000 and a Nvidia GT 650M GPU), the notebook deftly switched GPUs to optimize our gaming performance. The W110ER did gangbusters on our synthetic benchmarks, posting 13,890 on the 3DMark06 benchmark. That's a whopping 10,473 points higher than the 3,417 ultraportable category average. However, the Monster, which has the same Nvidia GeForce GT 650M GPU, scored an even more impressive 14,443.
During our "World of Warcraft" testing, the W110ER notched a frame rate of 171 fps on Good at 1366 x 768p. That's more than five times the 32 fps category average. The Eurocom Monster pulled slightly ahead with 179 fps. When we cranked it up to maximum, the Clevo W110ER delivered 94 fps, far above the 16 fps average. The Monster maintained its lead with 96 fps.
When we pitted the W110ER against the demanding graphics of "Batman: Arkham City" with the graphics at their lowest setting, the notebook scored 38 fps, while the Eurocom Monster notched 41 fps. On the highest setting, the W110ER and the Monster scored 20 fps and 22 fps respectively,
Our playthrough of "Batman: Arkham City" on 1366 x 768p with antialiasing off yielded smooth animations and a blazing frame rate of 150 fps. Even we when we were trapped in Penguin's arena with 20+ thugs, the Dark Knight gracefully flipped between malefactors easily landing punches, roundhouse kicks and batarangs.
In "Street Fighter X Tekken," Psycho Crushers and Hadokens were flying across the screen between punches, kicks, counters and supers. With the settings on 1366 x 768 with antialiasing off, we saw a blistering framerate of 184 fps.
Aside from Windows 7 Professional and THX TrueStudio Pro, AVADirect keeps the Clevo WII0ER delightfully free of bloatware.
Our $1,326 review model features a 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM processor with 16GB of RAM, a 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive with an 8GB Hybrid SLC SSD and automatic switchable graphics via an Intel HD Graphics 4000 and a Nvidia GT 650M GPU (Optimus). The $1,055 base model is equipped with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M (Sandy Bridge) CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive with an Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU and an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M with 2GB of VRAM. On AVA Direct's website, you can customize the W110ER to your heart's content--there are more than 80 hard drive options available--and you can even specify the type of thermal paste the company uses.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test which consists of continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi, the Clevo W110ER lasted 3 hours and 34 minutes. That's 3:15 shorter than the 6:49 ultraportable average. The Eurocom Monster didn't fare much better, lasting only 3:28.
Click to EnlargeThe $1,326 AVADirect Clevo W110ER is proof that you don't need a monster 17-inch gaming rig to get your game on. The 11.6-inch mini rig packs all the specs of the big boys into a seriously portable frame. Our major concerns were the system's heat, as well as its dim screen; the latter can easily be remedied by hooking this notebook to a larger display, though. While pretty evenly matched, we'd give a slight edge to the Eurocom Monster, which provides even more power for $100 more. However, both companies offer a plethora of customization options, which should satisfy any gamer looking for a highly portable powerhouse.