Review Price free/subscription
Novatech X70 CA Pro - 15.6in Core i7 Gaming Laptop - Novatech X70 CA Pro
So you'll want to be using external peripherals; just as well, then, that connectivity is very generous. On the left you'll find a modem port, followed by USB, mini-FireWire, a memory card slot and the tray-loading 2x Blu-ray drive. It's a shame you can't downgrade to a DVD drive to save money, but you can upgrade to a Blu-ray writer for £227.
Moving to the right we find DVI and a dedicated eSATA port (i.e. it won't take USB like the ones on most laptops), a 54mm ExpressCard slot and no less than four 3.5mm audio jacks for analogue surround sound, one of which doubles as a digital output. Finally, at the rear are a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USBs and an HDMI video output.
Another highlight is the 15.6in screen, whose Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution ensures not only a large amount of desktop real-estate, but an ideal aspect for HD films. Better still, this is a very bright and colourful display that suffers no visible backlight bleed, produces smooth gradients and plenty of subtle, dark detail. Viewing angles - traditionally a weakness on most laptop displays - are also good, showing that this is a better than average panel.
It's not a perfect one, though, as its smooth gradients and good dark detail come at the expense of slight compression at the brightest end of the spectrum - rather like an overexposed photograph. It's a fairly logical sacrifice for a gaming and entertainment system, where it's usually more important to see things lurking in the shadows than in bright light, but does mean colour critical work might suffer.
Unfortunately the speakers don't quite match up. This isn't to say they're as bad as most laptop's efforts, mind you, just that they're a bit of a mixed bag. Treble is produced without distortion at very reasonable volume levels, so dialogue comes across rich and distinctive. Bass, however, sounds like a cricket in a tin cup at the best of times, so all those rumbles and explosions in your favourite games and films will lose most of their impact.
In all fairness, though, we're not going to judge the X70 CA Pro by its speakers, it's really the hardware we're interested in: specifically the Core i7 Mobile processor. While the Core i7 architecture has been around on the desktop since last year and is even into its second iteration, up to now mobile users had to be content with the good old Core 2 architecture.
Obviously these quad-core processors (codenamed Clarksfield) are different from their desktop counterparts, with the most significant difference for the user on the move being that they have a relatively frugal thermal design power (TDP) rating of 45W, compared to 130W for the Nehalem Core i7 and 95W for the revised Lynnfield. However, they don't suffer too much in the performance stakes, coming with 6MB or 8MB of L2 Cache, support for DDR3 RAM up to 1,333MHz, Turbo Boost Technology (which dynamically adjusts clock speeds according to load) and full virtualisation for up to eight hyper-threaded virtual cores. They can also disable three of their four cores when the system doesn't require much processing power, a feature they share with desktop i7s and which will be particularly beneficial for mobile use.