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Gaming laptops have always been a compromise. Not only are even the best of them far less powerful than their desktop counterparts, but you pay an arm and a leg for the privilege and as a rule you can forget about them being portable or offering good battery life. However, in the office today we have something special: the Novatech X70 CA Pro.
This comparatively compact (for a gaming laptop) 15.6in machine offers a Full HD screen and is fitted with Intel's latest CPU tech: an Intel Core i7 Mobile processor. This is wedded to other expensive premium features, like the nVidia GeForce GTX 280 GPU, Blu-ray player and 7,200rpm, 500GB hard drive, making the X70 CA Pro a very well endowed contender. Best of all this goodness will set you back a very reasonable £1,550 excluding an operating system (£1635.09 with the provided Windows 7 Home Premium), which isn't anything like as arduous a price-tag as many before it have proffered.
Like many gaming laptops, the X70 CA Pro's chassis is a product of ODM Clevo and this is their W860CU model. At first glance it looks dreadfully similar to the Clevo disaster that housed the Rock Xtreme 840SLI-X9100. However, while this laptop's frame and exterior have still been designed by the Taiwanese company, it's vastly superior in terms of practicality.
Its smooth, matte black plastic lid might not be as eye-catching as the glossy finishes found on most laptops, but unlike those it won't be marred by countless fingerprints. The 'frameless' display has also been done away with, replaced with a standard plastic bezel. Again it doesn't look as good, but it isn't quite as reflective, even if the glossy black plastic and reflective display cause their own issues.
Vitally, though, Clevo has replaced the shiny wrist-rest and touchpad of its previous effort with the same smooth black finish as found on the lid - a massive improvement in terms of practicality and usability. Overall, while these large third-party chassis are rarely the most attractive we come across, the X70 CA Pro is a broadly inoffensive, functional effort that foregoes the all too common 'bling' lighting effects, save for a trio of tastefully backlit touch controls.
These subdued looks are enhanced by the presence of an isolation-style keyboard. Most of this keyboard is quite good. Though not backlit, the shallow keys offer decent feedback and the layout is pretty much as it should be. There's also a full number pad, though the one thing we really miss was the excellent innovation of the previous Clevo with its macro-programmable gaming keys.
Unfortunately, a trait this model does carry over from its predecessor is the lousy spacebar. Its mushy feedback near the centre is bad enough when typing, but for gaming this combines with the occasional lack of registration to make an external peripheral such as the Logitech G13 Advanced Gameboard pretty much essential. Once could have been a fluke, but finding it in two successive models indicates a worrying trend in Clevo's quality control. This malaise is continued in the touchpad, which though well proportioned and positioned, suffers from similarly stiff, imprecise and unreliable buttons. We've had laptops lacking in this department before, but unfortunately for Novatech the X70 CA Pro takes the biscuit here.