Introducing the Fermi-in-Your-Backpack

The shell of the Clevo W880CU we're reviewing today probably looks very familiar from Jarred's review of its predecessor, the W870CU, back in September 2009. Sure the red trim has been replaced by a tasteful chrome, and one of the ports is USB 3.0 now, but it's the same Clevo you've all known and... sort of loved.

The basic format hasn't changed at all, although this time the test system came with a 1080p display instead of the HD+ model. (More images of the W880CU are avaialble in our preview.) The LCD is the same high contrast HannStar HSD173PUW1 as the panel in the ASUS G73Jh, so you can read our comments on the panel in that review. The complaints with the W870CU still exist as well—i.e. the crappy keyboard layout on the number pad, and the unwieldy door on the rear of the unit hiding the ports.

What's going to be staggeringly unfamiliar is the new meat sitting inside the W880CU: NVIDIA's new top-end mobile GPU, the GeForce GTX 480M. While we can knock the chassis around again, Clevo is far more interested in being first to market with GTX 480M, and the W880CU does just that. Here are the details of the review system we received from AVADirect, which will make for an interesting comparison against the GTX 285M/HD 5870 notebooks from AVADirect that we reviewed last month.

AVADirect Clevo W880CU Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-820QM
(4x1.73GHz, 45nm, 8MB L3, Turbo to 3GHz, 45W)
Chipset Intel PM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480M 2GB GDDR5
(352 CUDA Cores, 425MHz/800MHz/2.4GHz Core/Shader/RAM clocks)
Display 17.3" LED Glossy 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
Hard Drive(s) Seagate Momentus XT 500GB 7200 RPM Hybrid Drive
(additional empty bay with RAID 0/1 capability)
Optical Drive Blu-ray Writer
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 (a/b/g/n)
Clevo Bluetooth
V.92 56K Modem
Audio Realtek ALC888/1200 HD Audio
4.1 speakers with line-in, mic, optical, and headphone jacks
Capable of 5.1
Battery 3-Cell, 12V, 48Wh battery
Front Side N/A
Left Side Modem
Antenna In
MMC/SD/MS Reader
4-pin FireWire
1x USB 2.0
Optical Drive
Right Side Headphones, Mic, Line-In, Optical
1 x USB 3.0
ExpressCard/54 Slot
Kensington Lock
Back Side HDMI
AC Jack
2 x USB 2.0
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 16.25" x 11" x 1.69"~2.25” (WxDxH)
Weight 8.35 lbs (with 3-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
103-Key keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD)
USB 3.0
Dual drive bays with RAID 0/1
Warranty 1-year basic warranty
Pricing $2936.80 as configured from AVADirect

The Clevo W880CU demands only the briefest of rundowns; the shell is identical (coloring notwithstanding) to the W870CU, and the guts are mostly the same as the W860CU we reviewed recently, though the chassis is slightly larger. Our review unit comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-820QM quad core processor, 4GB of DDR3 (two DIMMs in two slots), and one of those new-fangled Seagate Momentus XT hybrid hard disks.

Oh, and the GeForce GTX 480M. That's what you came here for, right?

The Fastest Mobile GPU in the World: NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 480M
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  • james.jwb - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Forgot that I use magnification for this site. It's definitely the main cause of the huge performance hit, ouch! (dual-core, pretty fast machine really).

    I think it would be a lot easier if the space now used for the carousel became something static along the lines of Engadget's chunk for "top stories". It's nice to have something there to point out important reviews/news -- I wouldn't want to see the idea completely gone, it's just a carousel is so December 2009 :-)
  • Spoelie - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    While it seems generally true that power keeps increasing from generation to generation (3870, 4870, 5870), wasn't the big drop from the HD2900 series conveniently left out to make that statement stick?

    It's not really that power always increases, there's a ceiling which was reached a few generations ago and the only thing you can say is that the latest generations are generally closer to that ceiling than most of the ones before it. What the desktop GTX480 pulls is about the most what we will ever see in a desktop barring some serious cooling/housing/power redesigns.
  • bennyg - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    2900 was the P4 of the gfx card world regardings power/performance. It was only released because ATi had to have something, anything, in the marketplace. If ATi had as much cash in the bank as did Intel, they would have cancelled the 2900 like Intel did Larrabee.

    Thankfully the 2900 went on from its prematurity to underpin radeons 3, 4 and 5. Whereas Prescott was just brute force attempting to beat thermodynamics. Ask Tejas what won :)
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    That's why I said "generally trending up". When the HD 2900 came out, I'm pretty sure most people had never even considered such a thing as a 1200W PSU. My system from that era has a very large for its time 700W PSU for example. The point of the paragraph is that while desktops have a lot of room for power expansion, there's a pretty set wall on notebooks right now. Not that I really want a 350W power brick.... :)
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Thank you for the article as many of us (from an interest standpoint and not necessarily from a buyer's standpoint) were waiting for the 480M in the wild.

    My major complaint with the article is that this is essentially a GPU review. Sure it's in a laptop since this is a notebook, but the only thing discussed here was the difference between GPU's.

    With that being the case why is there no POWER CONSUMPTION numbers when gaming? It's been stated for almost every AVA laptop that these are glorified portable desktop computers with batteries that are essentially used only for moving from one outlet to the next.

    I think the biggest potential pitfall for the new 480M is to see with performance only marginally better than the 5870 (disgusts me to even write that name due to the neutered design) is to see how much more power it is drawing from the wall during these gaming scenarios.

    Going along with power usage would be fan noise, of which I see nothing mentioned in the review. Having that much more juice needed under load should surely make the fan noise increased compared to the 5870....right?

    These are two very quick measurements that could be done to beef up the substance of an otherwise good review.
  • 7Enigma - Friday, July 9, 2010 - link

    Really no one else agrees? Guess it's just me then.....
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 9, 2010 - link

    We're working to get Dustin a power meter. Noise testing requires a bit more hardware so probably not going to have that for the time being unfortunately. I brought this up with Anand, though, and when he gets his meter Dustin can respond (and/or update the article text).
  • 7Enigma - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    Thanks Jarred!

    For all the other laptop types I don't think it matters but for these glorified UPS-systems it would be an important factor when purchasing.

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond.
  • therealnickdanger - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    "Presently the 480M isn't supported in CS5; in fact the only NVIDIA hardware supported by the Mercury Playback Engine are the GeForce GTX 285 and several of NVIDIA's expensive workstation-class cards."

    I did the following with my 1GB 9800GT and it's an incredible boost. Multiple HD streams with effects without pausing.

    I figured out how to activate CUDA acceleration without a GTX 285 or Quadro... I'm pretty sure it should work with other 200 GPUs. Note that i'm using 2 monitors and there's a extra tweak to play with CUDA seamlessly with 2 monitors.
    Here are the steps:
    Step 1. Go to the Premiere CS5 installation folder.
    Step 2. Find the file "GPUSniffer.exe" and run it in a command prompt (cmd.exe). You should see something like that:
    Device: 00000000001D4208 has video RAM(MB): 896
    Device: 00000000001D4208 has video RAM(MB): 896
    Vendor string: NVIDIA Corporation
    Renderer string: GeForce GTX 295/PCI/SSE2
    Version string: 3.0.0
    OpenGL version as determined by Extensionator...
    OpenGL Version 2.0
    Supports shaders!
    Supports BGRA -> BGRA Shader
    Supports VUYA Shader -> BGRA
    Supports UYVY/YUYV ->BGRA Shader
    Supports YUV 4:2:0 -> BGRA Shader
    Testing for CUDA support...
    Found 2 devices supporting CUDA.
    CUDA Device # 0 properties -
    CUDA device details:
    Name: GeForce GTX 295 Compute capability: 1.3
    Total Video Memory: 877MB
    CUDA Device # 1 properties -
    CUDA device details:
    Name: GeForce GTX 295 Compute capability: 1.3
    Total Video Memory: 877MB
    CUDA Device # 0 not choosen because it did not match the named list of cards
    Completed shader test!
    Internal return value: 7
    If you look at the last line it says the CUDA device is not chosen because it's not in the named list of card. That's fine. Let's add it.

    Step 3. Find the file: "cuda_supported_cards.txt" and edit it and add your card (take the name from the line: CUDA device details: Name: GeForce GTX 295 Compute capability: 1.3
    So in my case the name to add is: GeForce GTX 295

    Step 4. Save that file and we're almost ready.

    Step 5. Go to your Nvidia Drivercontrol panel (im using the latest 197.45) under "Manage 3D Settings", Click "Add" and browse to your Premiere CS5 install directory and select the executable file: "Adobe Premiere Pro.exe"

    Step 6. In the field "multi-display/mixed-GPU acceleration" switch from "multiple display performance mode" to "compatibilty performance mode"

    Step 7. That's it. Boot Premiere and go to your project setting / general and activate CUDA
  • therealnickdanger - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Sorry, I should have said for ANY CUDA card with 786MB RAM or more. It's quite remarkable.

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