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Novatech X70 CA Pro - 15.6in Core i7 Gaming Laptop - Novatech X70 CA Pro
As you'd expect given the relatively affordable price-tag, the X70 CA Pro sports the entry-level CPU of the three-strong Core i7 Mobile range, the 720QM. Don't let its low base clock speed of 1.6GHz deceive you, though. Thanks to the turbo mode and the ability to disable cores, the 720QM can turn off unused cores and divert that power to a single-core, overclocking (or turbo clocking) it to as high as 2.8GHz without any change in total power use. This ultimately means its performance isn't a far cry from a desktop Core i5, a CPU that normally runs at 2.66GHz but can turbo clock up to 3.2GHz.
That the lowest-end mobile Core i7 processor can nearly match its desktop equivalent is undoubtedly impressive, but even more so is the lead this lowly part maintains in our PCMark Vantage results over the previous Intel champion: the Core 2 Extreme (as found in Rock's 840SLI-X9100) running at a constant 3.06GHz. Just imagine the performance advantage with the Extreme i7-920XM Mobile (a mere £540 upgrade!), which has a core clock speed of 2.0GHz and can overclock to 3.2GHz.
Novatech has backed the 720QM CPU with 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM, which is pretty much par for the course and should be enough for most games to be reasonably happy. An option to upgrade to 8GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM is there, but commands a princely £263.35. Networking options are well catered for, too, with 802.11n Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth V2.1 plus EDR all present.
Hard drive storage is fairly impressive to begin with: a spacious 500GB 2.5in drive running at a speedy 7,200rpm, which we reckon provides the ideal balance between price, capacity and performance. You can downgrade to a lower capacity, but the small price difference really isn't worth it. On the other hand you could go all-out with a 250GB OCZ Vertex for an extra £501! Unfortunately, though, the chassis is too small to allow for dual drive configurations, so you can't get an SSD for booting and a standard HDD for data storage.
As ever, though, regardless of the new Intel CPU or other goodies, a gamer's main concern is going to be the graphics card. Again Novatech has provided the most up to date chip available in the form of an nVidia GeForce GTX280M with 1GB of RAM. Unfortunately, while it's the best available, the GTX280M is a far cry from its desktop namesake. In fact it's based on same core as the rather long in the tooth 8800-series desktop card and is a simple speed bump from the 9800M, albeit produced on a smaller 55nm process.
This is reflected in Crysis, where the X70 CA Pro managed a relatively paltry 20 frames per second (fps) in our intensive test at the screen's native resolution using the 'High Detail' setting and DirectX10. Notching the resolution down to 1,600 x 900 did return a perfectly playable 26fps average, though, and switching to Medium detail or the DX9 code path would produce playable frame rates and retain plenty of eye candy. Also, as Crysis is several times more demanding than other games, most other titles aren't such a challenge. Call of Duty 4, for example, played at a silky smooth 66fps at 1,920 x 1,080 and maximum detail.