- Review Price: £1599.00
Gaming notebooks are a great idea. If you’re constricted for space, then there’s no need to decide between a notebook for work or a desktop for games. Just buy a gaming notebook and be done with it.
It took notebooks some time to catch up with their desktop brethren but they are pretty much there. They can now offer fast CPUs, enough memory, a decent sized hard disk, and high resolution screens. In fact the displays attached to most notebooks are a lot higher than that of most average desktop flat panel monitors.
(I’ve long wondered why this was the case and only recently was given an even slightly satisfying answer. Apparently there are regulations on how small icons can be on a desktop monitor in the work environment, which isn’t a problem on a laptop screens as you tend to sit much closer. Trust some boring pan-European regulations to spoil our high resolution heaven.)
The last area for notebooks to really take on desktops has been graphics but now fans of the portable unit are spoilt for choice. Dell’s Inspiron XPS Gen 2 set a standard with a mobile version of the GeForce 6800 Ultra, and more recently we’ve seen a host of machines based on nVidia’s GeForce Go 7800 GTX part. You can also get the same system from Rock with a ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 XT. It doesn’t stop there though – you can even get SLI in a notebook, such as this machine from AJP. Like I said, gamers are spoilt for choice.
This is the first notebook we’ve looked at though to feature a 7900 series chip in a notebook in the guise of a GeForce Go 7900 GTX. No doubt nVidia felt it was time to introduce this chip as the ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 XT had put in a very impressive showing when we popped one into the Clevo chassis.
If you’ve seen any of those reviews, the chassis will be a familiar sight and everything that Spode wrote about there applies here. It’s the same old Clevo that been doing the rounds for some time now but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s a large affair and at 3.8Kg is firmly in the desktop replacement arena. It’s not the best looking notebook in the world but it’s well built and clearly has the scope to adapt as we’ve seen faster graphics modules and now dual-core processors added to the chassis.
The size means that the keyboard is spread out over a good area with a separate number keypad as you’d find on a regular keyboard. The arrow keys are also set slightly lower than the rest of the main keyboard. The trackpad has markings for the scroll area on the right and the mouse buttons and centre directional control sit below this. Most distinctive is the line of buttons with an LED clock set in between them at the bottom.
Four USB ports are present along with a 4-pin Firewire port and a single PC Card slot. You get line out and microphone socket, perfect for VOiP or headset gaming and integrated Wi-Fi. You can use Gigabit Ethernet for a wired connection or even, heaven forfend, a modem.
You can hook up to a larger monitor via DVI, which is great to see included, or to a TV via the S-Video out.
Specs wise, this is pretty no compromise machine. The CPU is a dual-core T2500, running at 2GHz, with 2MB of Level 2 cache. One GB of RAM is already supplied, which is a decent amount.
Notebook hard disks do tend to be smaller and slower than their desktop counterparts, but the 100GB drive included here spins at 7,200rpm so it shouldn’t be too much of a performance bottleneck. Portable storage is catered for by a Sony DVD-Rewriter, which can burn discs at up to 8-speed.
This Evesham Voyager C720DC notebook will give you as much resolution as you have any right to expect from a machine like this with a WUXGA display, or 1,920 x 1,200. This is a fantastic resolution to work with enabling you to have two A4 documents side by side at 100 per cent zoom and plenty of Windows on display at the same time. It’s the same resolution as Dell’s 24in screen but in a smaller 17in diagonal size that might be too much for those with less than perfect eyesight. If you wish you can drop down to a 1,680 x 1,050 resolution screen and save about £100 in the process. It’s easy to miss but there’s even a camera built into the chassis at the top, so you can video conference easily without cables.
Let’s look at the performance. Firstly with a dual-core T2500 processor you essentially have two 2GHz processors for the price of one. Dual-core aware applications are going to becoming the norm pretty soon and there are a fair few games that gain a performance boost right now. Even unoptimised, Windows is noticeably more responsive with dual-core.
The SYSmark 2002 score is pretty much what we’d expect for the specification, if not slightly higher, and is one of the highest we’ve seen – great new for both work and play.
In games we see the mobile 7900 GTX giving a small but worthwhile boost in games over the Go 7800 GTX. Wherever possible you’re going to want to run games at the native resolution with FSAA and AF enabled.
In Quake 4 the 7900 GTX means this almost hits the sweet spot of 60fps, up from 52.8 fps for the 7800 GTX. The more demanding Call of Duty 2 you’ll still struggle to play at native res, with 1,280 x 720 being a more likely resolution.
Again at the native resolution, the Source engine seems more demanding on the hardware but the 40.5 fps is that bit more playable than the 34.4 fps the previous top-end mobile nVidia part achieved.
The fact is that in fact, with a screen of this resolution mobile SLI would be welcome here. Ironically the SLI notebook we did see, from AJP, only had a screen resolution of 1,680 x 1,050. In truth this resolution might be the better option to go for with a single mobile GPU in terms of achieving consistently high frame rates and it will save you 100 quid at the same time. However, you’ll lose out if the laptop display will be your main screen for working on.
If you’ve bought one of these with a Go 7800 GTX or even a Mobility Radeon X1800 XT there’s no need to cry into your milk as the performance increase isn’t enormous but the increase is there and it’s consist.
Another bonus of this system is that Windows Media Center 2005 is supplied which is great. You have to specify a PC Card TV Tuner and remote as extras but if you have a use for it, it’s a must.
All in all the Voyager C720DC is another solid notebook from Evesham. It’s not the best looking machine in the world, but the ergonomics are good, the specification is impressive and the performance is there. It’s certainly a better value machine that the one we looked at from Evesham in January that used the same chassis. Amazing what a few months in the IT world can give you.
Score in detail
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