Oh, Clevo, Why Do You Pain Me So?

When I first caught a glimpse of the upcoming Clevo notebooks earlier this year, I erroneously thought that they might have finally figured out how to do a proper chassis, keyboard, and touchpad. Sadly, while they did add brushed aluminum plates on the cover and palm rest along with zoned backlighting for the keyboard, in most areas Clevo continues to prove that they have no desire to build a premium quality chassis. If I could reach out through the Internet and slap someone, I would, because while Clevo has clearly made some changes since their Sandy Bridge models they’re still not where they need to be. Let’s start with the photos.

I’ll forgive the plastic chassis somewhat, as anyone lugging around a 10+ pound notebook (including the nearly two-pound power brick) should be smart enough to handle it with some care. Even so, the brushed aluminum surfaces are like putting lipstick on a pig: you can dress up the cheap injection molded plastic all you want, but it’s still an injection molded plastic chassis. Other high-end laptops are using magnesium alloy frames to provide a rigid body with the shell composed of other materials (the Lenovo T and W series laptops are a prime example of this), while the truly high-end/expensive laptops are going with machined aluminum (e.g. MacBook Pro, Dell’s new XPS line, Razer's Blade). Clevo apparently doesn’t want to invest in such designs, likely because they don’t sell enough units to make it practical—we’d be looking at a starting price probably $500 higher were Clevo to make the jump to such a chassis—so instead Clevo goes for somewhat mediocre materials while providing higher performance hardware than the competition.

Ultimately, the P170EM is really a transportable notebook rather than something you’d want to take on business trips or the like, and it can also serve as a mobile workstation should you be so inclined. It won't blow you away with its looks, but the basic design works reasonably well. The cooling subsystem for instance is quite good at dealing with the heat the CPU and GPU can crank out under full load, with no throttling apparent even under sustained stress testing. Not surprisingly, the notebook does get moderately loud under such a load, as the large fans and chassis are good for airflow but not for quiet computing. For power users, however, that’s better than the rampant throttling we experienced with the Dell XPS 15 and to a lesser extent the Samsung Chronos 7.

While the overall design isn’t going to win any awards, my real complaints with the P170EM (and the P150EM, as it shares many of the same issues) continue to be with their keyboard and touchpad. These are very subjective elements, so take the following as my opinion if that helps. Certainly you can still use both, but I've handled many laptops over the years and I know what I like and what feels comfortable. If you're looking for a gaming notebook, you're probably more worried about the GPU (and you should be), but I still need to cover what it's like for me to use this notebook as a daily driver.

I’ll start with the touchpad for a change of pace, as I’ve harped on Clevo’s keyboards plenty of times in the past. Simply not, the touchpad is up to standards for 2012. It works, but the lack of a clearly defined edge is undesirable, as you’ll often move your finger past the touchpad boundary without realizing it. Both the touchpad and the palm rest have a brushed aluminum finish, with slightly more texture on the touchpad but not enough to be easily noticed, and the z-height of the touchpad is the same as the palm rest as well. It becomes very easy to move your finger(s) past the gap (which looks like a great place for grime to collect, incidentally) and not notice other than the mouse cursor stops moving.

The touchpad uses Synaptics hardware, which is usually the best in my experience, but there are a variety of material, thickness, electrical interface, and functionality options available even within the Synaptics family. One thing I noticed for example is that there is no “coasting” when using a scrolling gesture; that’s not necessarily bad, but it is different from most other touchpads I’ve used of late. The two-finger scroll also happens to be very fast by default, jumping over 1cm at a time on the display in Chrome even when set to the slowest scrolling. The net result is less than ideal, though in general I can use the touchpad without wanting to tear my hair out. The hardware incidentally is listed as v7.2, with 15.1.14 drivers; I’m not sure whether the hardware is current or not, but again I’ve had better touchpad experiences. It's not the end of the world for a gaming notebook, though, since everyone I know that plays games (on a notebook or desktop) still uses an external mouse.

If the touchpad is less than stellar, the keyboard is a much worse contender. Let’s start with the good: it has backlighting, and if you go for multi-colored backlighting it offers that as well. Alienware’s AlienFX backlighting is still superior in my view as it has four zones with the 10-key as its own separate zone, where the Clevo backlighting consists of three zones (lights), but that's a minor point. The in-between areas fade between colors if you don’t use the same color for adjacent zones, which can be a somewhat cool effect (same as AlienFX), and you get the ability to select from seven different colors (as well as off). You can also turn the keyboard backlight intensity up/down using Fn-key combos with the number keypad. Clevo has also updated the 10-key so that is has a proper layout (no more moving the plus, minus, etc. keys to a non-standard location). That's about all the good I have to say concerning the keyboard, unfortunately.

The problem is that while the layout is generally fixed on the number keypad (the zero key is still slightly smaller and overlaps the right cursor arrow key), other layout issues remain, including some new ones. For example, despite having ample space, there are no dedicated Home/End keys—they overlap as Fn-key combos with the PgUp/PgDn keys—and yet we have dedicated Pause, Scroll Lock, Insert, and Print Screen keys. Who still uses Pause or Scroll Lock? Clevo also doesn’t provide a dedicated context key (Shift+F10 still works, naturally), but they provide you with two backslash keys; the extra backslash is just to the right of the space bar (where Alt should be). To the right of the second backslash is the Windows “flag” key; every other keyboard I’ve used in the past eight or so years has the Windows key in between the left Alt and the Fn key (or Ctrl key on some laptops), so relocating it to the right of the spacebar is definitely an irritation for me.

I've heard that they moved the Windows key is so gamers that use the left Control key don't accidentally hit it, but there are utilities to disable the Windows key. You can also remap some of the other keys (e.g. via a utility like SharpKeys), so you could make the bottom backslash into a context key. Unfortunately, that doesn't get around the labels, and there are still too few keys to the left of the spacebar to get Ctrl, Alt, Fn, and the Windows key (and as far as I can tell it’s not possible to remap the Fn key).

I could overlook the above issues if the typing experience was good, but it’s simply not. Typing on the new Clevo keyboards is not at all pleasant, with very shallow key travel (especially considering the size of the chassis) and keys that feel flat and unresponsive extremely loose and mushy. [Update: I guess loose and mushy isn't really correct; they just feel wrong to me when I type, but I think it's mostly the lack of key travel. The experience is similar to the first Ultrabooks and is very fatiguing to type on.] Anyone that reads my laptop reviews knows that I’m a bit of a keyboard snob—hey, I write for a living, okay?—but even so I have to call Clevo out on taking a clear step backwards in terms of keyboard feel. I’m sure some people somewhere will like it, but after typing just one page of this review on the P170EM I was forced to throw in the towel and move to something more comfortable/precise. Just about every other laptop has moved to chiclet keys, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that’s the best style of laptop keyboard right now, most are clearly better than Clevo’s new design.

I actually didn’t mind the tactile feel of the previous generation Clevo keyboards (e.g. P150/P151HM, P170/P171HM); it was the layout and in particular the 10-key that drew my ire. Instead of simply creating a backlit chiclet keyboard and fixing the layout to create something similar to what we’ve seen on so many other laptops, Clevo ended up making keys that have a small beveled area around the sides that look like a throwback to something I used to see four or five years ago (Dell's Studio XPS 16 and a few Gateway laptops had keys like this, for instance). Typing feels at least as bad as the old Acer floating island keys in my book; I’m not sure I could really say anything more damning than that. Overall, the keyboard is a big miss; it feels bad on a notebook that’s anything but. That Clevo also continues to use the same keyboard on their 15.6” and 17.3” designs is also annoying, since it means they don’t make full use of the expanded chassis size on the larger notebooks.

Outside of the keyboard and touchpad, things are better in most areas though still not perfect. The hinges look and feel less robust than I would like, as hinges are one of those areas that gets worn out even on laptops that are handled carefully if they’re not made well. I can't really say if they'll hold up for years or not, but I do prefer 17" notebooks to have beefy hinges (something like the ThinkPad hinges would be great). Time will tell whether they're better than they look or not. Another (generally minor) complaint is with the port layouts; I understand the need to put some ports on the back, but I want HDMI on the side as it’s the most likely to get used, and I know at least one person that managed to break their AC connection when the back of the laptop got pressed against something. Some people will undoubtedly disagree, so take this for what it's worth: my opinion.

Getting back to the materials, there’s glossy plastic on the LCD bezel, with some other glossy plastic accents just to cheapen the overall look. That’s a shame, because most whitebook vendors like AVADirect offer several different LCDs with the P170EM—we actually requested two different displays for testing, one glossy and one matte, both with 90% gamut ratings. (The matte 90% gamut is no longer showing up on the AVADirect configurator, and technically it didn't reach 90% gamut in testing; still, we hope it returns as it’s a great display overall.) The colors on the high-gamut displays are about as good as you can get from a TN panel, and our only complaint is that the maximum brightness is somewhat weak at only 270-285 nits. Finally, the speakers are decent if not exceptional, with a small subwoofer in the bottom to help improve bass response and THX TruStudio Pro software to help tweak how the audio sounds. I’ve heard better laptop speakers, but I’ve also heard far worse and I could at least be content with the P170EM solution.

One thing that is convenient with Clevo’s designs is that you can easily access and upgrade most components. There are three panels on the bottom of the P170EM chassis, two smaller ones for the 2.5” drive bays and optical drive bay, with a large panel providing access to the bottom SO-DIMM slots, CPU, and GPU. Clevo also tends to be one of the first to adopt new mobile GPUs, and if you’re willing to pay the price you can potentially upgrade from a previous generation GPU to a new model (e.g. next year’s HD 8970M and GTX 780M). Of course, you’d probably need a new BIOS to support such updates and that’s not something Clevo generally supplies, and I wouldn’t buy a notebook with a plan to upgrade to a new GPU unless the manufacturer specifically promises that capability, even though it should be possible (within the same TDP, naturally).

Wrapping up the subjective evaluation, let me clarify a few points. I've hammered on the keyboard simply because that's something that matters to me, and this particular keyboard really doesn't work for my typing style. It's not that I can't type reasonably fast on it, but rather that it becomes very uncomfortable after a relatively short amount of time. If all you want to do is play games on a notebook, it's far less of a concern, so keep your intended use in mind. The Clevo P170EM is a decent notebook, and it's arguably the fastest gaming notebook around (more or less tied with Alienware and MSI). If that's what you're after and you don't care for niceties like an improved design aesthetic, that's fine. What I struggle with is the fact that Clevo updated the design from their last generation but ended up providing things I could live without (multi-colored keyboard backlighting and aluminum palm rests) while failing to address other areas (the typing experience and the glossy LCD bezel). I want to be better, and so consider this subjective evaluation from that perspective as opposed to it being a complete dismissal of the P170EM.

When it comes to gaming notebooks, there really aren't that many viable options. Alienware, Clevo (and the various resellers), MSI, ASUS, and Samsung are about it, and ASUS and Samsung don't go for top-tier GPU performance. If you can live with a GTX 670M/675M, ASUS and Samsung are options, but if you want a GTX 680M (or HD 7970M) you only have Alienware, Clevo, and MSI. Of those three, I personally find Alienware to be the best blend of aesthetics and performance, and I would take their keyboard over the other two. MSI and Clevo are more of a toss up, with a better keyboard on MSI but more customization options on Clevo. I also know people that absolutely hate the look of the M17x (and others that hate Clevo and MSI just as much), so in the end you'll have to decide which is best for you.

Part I: AVADirect Clevo P170EM Gaming Notebook with Radeon HD 7970M Setting the Stage: Performance Expectations
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  • mrhumble1 - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - link

    Dood, you are a little too harsh on the design of the Sager/Clevo chassis.

    I own a NP9150 and will be the first to admit it's no looker. However, we (gamers) do not buy these things for their looks. We want to impress people by quoting specs, not be showing it off in a coffee shop.

    Also, you complain about the HDMI port being on the back. So you think it would be better placed on the side?? Really?? I plug my laptop into my entertainment center via HDMI (like a console, but much better visuals) and I would find it very cumbersome if the port was on the side.

    Finally, the keyboard. I seriously think you got a bad one. I think the keyboard is just fine, and I am not alone.

    So you end up saying "it's really fast so if that's what you are looking for then it's a good option". Huh?? If it IS what one is looking for then it's a total winner.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - link

    HDMI port on the side would be preferable in my book, yes. Reaching behind the notebook to plug in a display is cumbersome, and if you close the display then the system goes into hibernate/sleep mode (unless you disable that, but then when you forget it's disabled and you close the lid and nothing happens you get irritated that you disabled the option).

    My conclusion is more correctly stated as: P170EM is really fast and it's less expensive than an Alienware and about the same price as an MSI. All three are still expensive, however, and if you can try them all out in person you may find you really like one more than the other. You also need to make sure you really want a top-end gaming notebook, as there are other notebooks that cost less and can still deliver a good gaming experience (though not with all settings cranked to 11).

    Personally, I would take the M17x R4, even though it costs more. I'd probably buy the cheapest model other than the GPU, and I'd upgrade the RAM and storage on my own since it would be less expensive that way. But if you prefer a matte LCD, I'd probably go for the MSI (better keyboard than the Clevo IMO, and better LCD than the glossy mirror on the M17x). And if you don't care about the keyboard the Clevo is fine.

    It's okay to buy a laptop that doesn't look awesome; the most important aspect is how you think the laptop feels. Buying to impress people with specs, on the other hand... well, people do it but I certainly don't condone e-penis contests! For me personally, the Clevo keyboard doesn't feel good. And for the record, I have two P170EM units as well as a P150EM undergoing testing. I guess the keys aren't necessarily loose... they're just flat with horrible key travel. It feels as bad to me as typing on the first generation Ultrabooks, which is unbelievable for a chassis that's nearly two inches thick.
  • mrhumble1 - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - link

    Yeah my point wasn't very well made regarding "impressing with specs." I meant it's a lot easier to forgive a laptop for being ugly when you note that it's much more powerful than any other laptop. Mentioning this is not bragging, but noting the point of owning this laptop is so it can play games with settings maxed out.

    The typing experience really boils down to personal preference. I am typing on the NP9150 and I actually prefer this keyboard to the one I have at work. I have always liked tight laptop keyboards though, so it's right up my alley. You might want to just state your opinion and note that "your mileage may vary". You might hate it, but it's certainly not BAD.

    Finally, you spend a lot of time comparing it to other laptops and not focusing on its own merits. The advantage of the Clevo chassis is that you basically get to build your own. 15", 17", hard drive vs optical vs empty bay, memory options, GPU options, etc. I just checked, and Dell doesn't even offer a 15" model. If you want the most options for a reasonable cost (yes it's expensive but you get a LOT) then Sager/Clevo is really the best way to get exactly what you want.
  • hulawafu77 - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - link

    So when you look for a gaming machine, you are more concerned about it being metal (heavy/hot) and looking pretty, and the keyboard than getting the most performance for your money and the best available choices on LCD? There is only one component that I look at 100% of the time when I'm using my laptop and that is the LCD. The keyboard is not a big deal since if I'm gaming, I'm plugged in to A/C, I can easily just attach an external keyboard is it's that big of a deal, but it isn't. For the majority of people buying a Clevo, they won't have problems with the keyboard.
  • TrantaLocked - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - link

    I personally do not buy a laptop to impress AT ALL (responding to both mrhumble and Jarred). Buying to impress is for self-centered, materialistic fools. I buy electronics for actual reasons. I bought the Sager NP9150 because it offered the best available hardware in a decent frame at a relatively good price. To get what I wanted in an Alienware would have costed me an extra $300-$400, while if I had gone with an MSI or Asus I would have sacrificed not being able to get the 7970m.
  • htwingnut - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - link

    First of all, good review. I know what it can take to write an extensive and exhaustive review of a product. But I do have a few nitpicks mainly as a long time Sager/Clevo user and owner of many Sager notebooks. Many of them nitpicks, but that's just how I am.

    First of all I feel like a little bit of bias towards Alienware in general. As far as cost, if you price our a system with GTX 680m, i7-3720QM, 256GB SSD, blu-ray, 16GB RAM, the cost difference is around $700. Fairly significant. While base prices aren't too far off, AW tends to gig the customer with any add-ons. There is a little added value in an AW over a Clevo, but imho not close to $700 worth. Plus you don't have the options for decent screens or more configurability like you do with a Sager.

    You mentioned about "GPU being held back by CPU". Just note that the i7-3610QM is way more than adequate to fuel any mobile GPU, 680m SLI included. I recorded CPU useage during gaming and benchmarks using a Sager NP9370 with 680m in SLI and average CPU use was typically 30-50%, with peak use less than 80%. Just something for users to be aware of that a faster CPU isn't needed for gaming.

    Now RAM. You likely received XMP RAM, not RAM with JEDEC timings for 1600MHz. Sure the Clevo BIOS has its limitations, but it can also be circumvented using Intel's XTU software. Secondly, RAM speed is irrelevant when gaming. I've done numerous benchmarking using different CAS timings, speeds, and even single sticks and it made zero difference in most case. Most of the speed sensitivity is with the GPU.

    Your complaint about the warranty is unfounded. ASUS and MSI offer 2 year warranties, and Alienware only 1. But adding any additional time on it is very expensive compared with +$79 for 2 yr and +$149 for 3 yr with the sager. I don't find issue with this at all. One thing that is beneficial with Sager/Clevo notebooks is the configurability. You only spend what you want, configured how you want, not forced into something you don't want or need. Plus Sager's warranty work turnaround time is quick.

    I agree the keyboard isn't the best, but it isn't that bad. I can still easily crank out 80+WPM error-free when needed. It does have occasional missed keys, but many keyboards I've used do that. The backlighting isn't intended to be a trans siberian orchestra light show, it's there to see the keys. I guess if you want lots of configurations or control over it AW is the only way to go, but not worth the $700 up charge as noted earlier.

    The touchpad isn't the best, but it's more than sufficient. This kind of laptop most users use a mouse with it. It's not the most portable machine so users aren't likely going to use the touchpad much so why invest in something that is low priority for users.

    Your comment "as long as the components hold up" is also unfounded. You rarely ever hear of a Clevo machine "falling apart" because of the materials chosen. Again, it gets back to the purpose and intent of Clevo, it's performance over form, and they make form perfectly robust to last 3-4 years at least. There is nothing wrong with the materials or construction.

    Comment that you want "HDMI on side instead of back" is purely personal preference. I prefer my video connections on back so they aren't in the way of my other cables. It is unfortunate though that there is no dual link DVI.

    Regarding the BIOS and comment "BIOS isn't something Clevo generally supplies" is not true. While they don't post them on their site, just a quick email to support they will provide you with the latest. They update frequently and fix issues and add support for other hardware and add features. I guess it's their way of preventing too many bricks. Why not email AVADirect or Clevo for an updated BIOS and I bet you get a response with an updated file in 24 hours (business days of course).

    A couple other nit picks, you note battery is 77WHr, it's actually 89WHr unless AVA Direct skimped on the battery . And the note about a $75 blu-ray add-on is superfluous considering it's a $100 add-on through Alienware. Again, users have the option to even remove the optical drive completely. Something AW doesn't let you do.

    Ok, sounds like a lot of negative, but the review is good. Look forward to 680m benchmarks. I do hope AMD fixes the Enduro issues because I hate to keep having to fork over an exorbitant sum of cash for top end nVidia hardware with my next laptop.
  • hulawafu77 - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - link

    Well done. And I've created a thread asking feedback about the approach AnandTech took regarding this notebook. I'd like to note another reviewer of AnandTech cannot praise the Razer Blade enough even though the special CPU Razer claimed was customized for them is 50% slower in some benches and the 660M is slower in nearly every single game, sometimes 15 less than a 11" Clevo with a 650M. If you have to gimp and throttle so much because the cooling can't handle it, that's not a gaming machine. It's a pretty decoration. Also note the reviewer is a MacBook owner. Yeah true hardcore notebook gamer. Razer wants to say that is the only true gaming laptop? Yeah I disagree, I'd call that a shameless MacBook clone.

    I'd also like to stress to anyone reading, yes the Clevo is made of plastic, but I see no issues with it. I've owned Asus, Thinkpads, Dell, Compaq, Acer, AST, Packard Bell, HP notebooks in the past, and I have more confidence in this Clevo lasting 5+ years more than any other laptop I've owned. Also FYI to others, a plastic casing doesn't get as hot as a metal case, and it's a lot lighter. Ever touched a MacBook under stress? I have, I thought I burnt my hand.

    As for CPU, I also saw a thread in which a desktop owner with a GTX 680 decided to upgraded to Ivey 3770K from his first gen i7 870. On average his improvement in FPS was .5-1 FPS. That shows how much CPU matters for games these days. Any quad core Intel i7 is not likely to be bottleneck, and we're talking about a beast GTX 680 here.

    I agree with the ram. My G73JH has 1333 CL11 ram, and the P150EM I got CL9 1600 ram. Just for fun I put in 2x4GB 1600 CL9 in the G73JH. There was ZERO FPS improvements. Although it's fun to say I have the fastest ram allowed in my machine, it wouldn't make any difference, luckily ram is so cheap. A lot cheaper FYI than buying from Razer or Alienware, Alienware charges $250 for the ram upgrade I did for $68.

    I agree about the touchpad. I'd say even on the go, a lot of Clevo owners have posted they just buy on the go wireless mouse, and prefer them like the Razer Orochi. I personally love my Logitech Performance MX which can be used on any surface wherever I am. Touchpad is more than adaquate if I need to use it. Double tap, zoom in, zoom out, two finger scroll, no issues.

    I'd also like to add, AnanTech is constantly complaining about IPS display. This is not necessary. The TN 95% gamut matte display in the P150EM outperforms some IPS displays, as found by some Lenovo owners, to their surprise, after calibration of course. Sure it doesn't have as good viewing angles, but you have to be looking at extreme angle to see a problem. But for color accuracy, brightness, contrast, it can beat many IPS displays, even desktop ones. So I think AnandTech should just stick to asking OEM's to provide more options on high quality panels, doesn't have to be IPS. Actually the best panels are not IPS. Samsung and AOU both have panel tech (currently not available for laptop), that are much better than LG's IPS displays, using different, newer, better tech.

    Like I said before, I think the perspective of this article is different from that of those who bought a Clevo. And I hope it stays that way. I do not want to pay extra just because Clevo decided to emulate Alienware or become another Apple clone, that would be awful.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 4, 2012 - link

    You guys are taking this as though I've crucified Clevo and made them out to be the worst thing ever. I don't feel I did that, and it certainly wasn't my intention; I've merely pointed out what I perceive as flaws or shortcomings. I've modified the language a bit on the keyboard just to make it clear where I'm coming from, but there's no way you can convince me it's more comfortable than other options when my hands and carpals are yelling at me.

    Obviously, some of this is entirely subjective: what I think about the keyboard is entirely based on my opinion as someone typing on said keyboard. I don't have any meaningful way of benchmarking keyboards because it's entirely personal, but you can read my other reviews and see what I like/dislike and go from there. It's not even about typing speed; with practice I can type fast on just about any keyboard, but I find certain keyboards are fatiguing to use and cause me physical pain after a while. Actually, all keyboards cause me pain after enough typing, but some bring on discomfort far earlier than others -- the Clevo keyboard is among them.

    For the other items with build quality, let's just take the plastic construction aspect. I would rather have a mag-alloy frame under the exterior on a high-end notebook. You can use plastic on the outside if you want, but I feel a sturdier frame is desirable. Injection molded plastic is what you find on everything from $200 netbooks to $1000 consumer notebooks, all built with the goal of keeping costs down. Granted, some use thicker plastic than others (Clevo certainly does), but it's basically a cost saving measure done instead of going for higher quality. That doesn't mean build quality is horrific, but it's not really above average either. I'd rate Clevo's chassis as being roughly at the same level as the ASUS G-series, the MSI G-series, and certain Toshiba notebooks.

    I do note that the customization options are good with Clevo whitebook vendors, and that's one of the major reasons to go with them over an Alienware or other OEM build. In fact, that's the major reason to go with them I'd say, though you can find companies that offer similar configurability on MSI and ASUS chassis.

    Regarding warranties (this is for htwingnut, who it sounds like works for Sager?), I know that other big OEMs offer 1-year standard warranties. I'm saying I want the boutiques to do better than the big guys. Be nimble and put your support behind a product. If my motherboard goes out after 13 months for some reason, it should be replaced. The same goes for fans, hard drives, LCDs, etc. If I drop a notebook, that's a different matter, but in general use I would like some guarantee that a high-end notebook should be trouble free for three years. Is that asking too much?

    Also, the battery: http://images.anandtech.com/galleries/2353/P170EM%...
    I'm not sure why some people seem to think that I just guess at some of this stuff and don't do any research.

    It's the BIOS stuff as well; I know there are ways to get BIOS updates, and I disagree strongly with Clevo in how those should be provided. I want the manufacturer to provide every single user with a BIOS and manufacturer explanation on how to flash. I want them to update the BIOS for the public when there are problems. I don't want to have to send an email to the vendor asking for a BIOS update, or go to a forum for Sager/Clevo users where I can find official but not officially supported BIOS versions.

    I asked AVADirect about this and got the response, "Clevo does offer updated BIOS versions, but on a very limited basis. They're not very open to provide BIOS updates to the public. Even as a Clevo reseller, we have to request specific notebook BIOs versions to obtain access." Either AVADirect is lying/exaggerating, or Clevo is unwilling to do what every single other notebook manufacturer I can think of does: provide public BIOS updates on their web site. Yes, it's a problem, and if you're okay with this sort of "awesome" support I guess that's your decision. If you have an ASUS, Samsung, Dell, HP, Acer, etc. laptop and you need a new BIOS, you go to the site and get it (granted, assuming there is one). Again, in my opinion, Clevo as basically a boutique notebook supplier should again be doing better here than the large OEMs.
  • ckevin1 - Thursday, October 4, 2012 - link

    I own the last generation of this Clevo series, a sager 151 with the 460m. I think Jared is on the mark with the criticisms of this line, and the tradeoffs you make. The point is that it can still be a good buy (even a very good one) but everyone should go into the purchase fully aware of the tradeoffs.

    In my experience, the weight, performance, and screen were all absolutely top notch -- that was what sold me. And I've been very happy with it, despite its faults. I still prefer it for gaming over my MBP, thanks to Apple's idiotic crusade against the right mouse button and crappy BootCamp drivers that make right click dragging impossible.

    The negatives definitely include the keyboard -- mushy, causing me to miss keystrokes until I adapted to the greater pressure required. I was disappointed at first, but it became a non-issue over time. On the other hand, the lack of home and end keys in the new model is so mind-numbingly stupid that it probably would have been a deal breaker for me.

    The plastic is another negative. My laptop is about a year and a half old, and generally stays on a desk at home, but somehow it still got a crack in an internal standoff in the back right corner. The result is that the tabs on a small 3/4" x 1/4" corner piece next to the hinge will no longer stay in place, and it keeps falling off. I'm going to have the chassis apart and epoxy the standoff, probably, to get rid of the flex that allows the tabs to keep popping out.

    It sounds like improvement has been made on the touchpad at least; aluminum has to be better than the rough plastic texture from last generation, which started showing wear almost immediately.
  • mrhumble1 - Thursday, October 4, 2012 - link

    I can also verify the battery I have in my new NP9150 is 76.96Wh (5200mAh). I would LOVE to get an upgraded battery. I only get a few hours out of it.

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