Introducing the Clevo B5130M

We've had longstanding beef with laptop manufacturers over mediocre notebook graphics and downright shoddy screen quality. It's not bad enough that we typically have to deal with miserable TN panel screens with awful viewing angles; these screens are usually low resolution affairs (does anyone really think 1366x768 is useful for any kind of serious work?) with terrible contrast ratios and low color gamuts. The state of things is deplorable.

But wait, there's more! Over the past year the number of discrete graphics options available in notebooks has increased substantially, but there's been no clear favorite between AMD and NVIDIA. AMD's parts generally offered more performance compared to the competition, but NVIDIA leveraged Optimus for better battery life. The net result was often a compromise we still don't think the end user should really have to make. Now, however, NVIDIA looks to finally be entering with kit that can compete on both performance and power fronts with the GeForce 400M series.

AVADirect couldn't have sent us the Clevo B5130M at a better time, and they were kind enough to let us configure our review unit exactly how we wanted. That means we had the opportunity to not just test the B5130 as a notebook on its own and add the GeForce GT 425M to our charts, but we were also able to get it configured with Intel's fastest mobile dual-core chip to see how it compares to their entry level quad. We also went for a 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Black; I personally wanted to see how Western Digital's most recent mobile mechanical drive would fare in a world slowly being overrun with SSDs.

Clevo B5130M Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-640M
(2x2.8GHz + HTT, 32nm, 4MB L3, Turbo to 3.46GHz, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 425M 1GB DDR3 Optimus Technology
(96 Shaders, 560 MHz core clock, 1120 MHz shader clock, 1400 MHz effective memory clock)
Intel HD Graphics IGP
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
Hannstar HSD06A5 Panel
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200 RPM Western Digital Scorpio Black Hard Disk
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW Drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
Realtek RTL8191SE Wireless 802.11n (150Mb capable)
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio Via HD Audio
Stereo speakers, headphone, microphone, and line-in jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 5600mAh, 62Wh battery
Front Side 4-in-1 Flash reader
Left Side VGA
Ethernet jack
2x USB 2.0
Exhaust vent
USB 3.0
Card reader
Right Side Headphone, microphone, and line-in jacks
USB 2.0
Optical drive
Back Side AC adapter
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.72" x 9.8" x 0.98"-1.46" (WxDxH)
Weight 5.73 lbs
Extras 2MP Webcam
Keyboard with dedicated 10-key
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing Starting at $930
Priced as configured: $1210.91

Starting at the top, our Clevo B5130M shipped with Intel's fastest mobile dual-core processor, the Core i7-640M. That chip is built on a 32nm process, has the full 4MB of L3 cache (i3 and i5 only have 3MB), and runs at a nominal 2.8GHz clock speed. It can Turbo up to a staggering 3.2GHz on both cores, or even hit 3.46GHz on a single core—no mean feat for a mobile processor with a 35-watt TDP and certainly worth comparing against the i7-720QM and i7-740QM quads. Hanging off the processor's integrated memory controller is 4GB of DDR3-1066.

The other part to watch is the NVIDIA GeForce GT 425M. Jarred already got his paws on the GeForce GT 420M when he reviewed Dell's XPS 15, and found it to perform about between the old GeForce GT 330M and 335M parts. That's not too bad considering these are basically NVIDIA's new entry level mobile GPU. The 420M and 425M aren't terribly different though; both feature 96 shader processors—excuse me, "CUDA cores"—and a 128-bit memory bus connected to 1GB of DDR3. The 425M runs its core 60MHz higher at 560MHz, resulting in a shader clock of 1120MHz. On the flipside, the 420M in the XPS 15 had the full 1.6GHz on its memory; the 425M in the Clevo makes do with a lower 1.4GHz effective clock. And, of course, both parts leverage NVIDIA's Optimus technology to save power.

Going through the rest of the list is less exciting, as pretty much everything here is bog standard for a modern Arrandale-based notebook. The B5130M leverages the HM55 chipset and brings most modern connectivity with it, including a USB 3.0 port. As I mentioned earlier, though, we specifically custom ordered our review unit with the 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Black; most every review unit with a 7200RPM hard disk we've had came with Seagate's Momentus 7200.4, and we're curious to see how Western Digital's part stacks up.

If you don't like the configuration we selected, that's fine, because AVADirect as usual provides a ton of customization options. The CPU adds nearly $200 to the final price, for 266MHz more on the base clock relative to the i5-460M; the Turbo is quite a bit higher, but we're not convinced it will matter in all workloads. Ultimately, we're looking at a theoretical increase of 10.5% to the base clock and up to 24% higher single-threaded performance. If you're after a halfway house, the i5-560M bumps the price up $65 and gets you about 95% of the performance of the i7-640M. Then you could take the remaining $120 saved and really help overall performance by adding a decent SSD; unfortunately the B5130M only supports a single HDD/SSD, so if you want performance and capacity you're looking at ~$500 to get a C300 or SandForce 256GB/240GB SSD.

You Know It's a Clevo
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  • Hrel - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    You said if you want to up performance AND have storage capacity you'd have to spend 500+ on an SSD. But Clevo offers the Seagate Momentus XT all the way up to 500GB. Based on your review I gather that hard drive is plenty fast AND much better bang/buck. SSD's are still WAY too expensive for most people. Personally I simply refuse to spend more than 100 bucks on any single hard drive, no matter what the speed is.

    I've said it before, when something good like the sandforce controller is paired with 128GB ish of storage capacity for less than 100 bucks, that's when I'll take the SSD plunge.

    P.S. Personally, I like the look of the glossy around the screen. I'm not sure why you hate it so much, I guess I just don't open laptops in a way that my fingerprints end up there. I'm just glad the palm rest isn't glossy.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Done: Well I'm sold. Dell forces you to upgrade the CPU, even if you don't want to, if you upgrade the GPU. That pisses me off AND it's stupid in no small part because they claim it's a "compatibility issue". I'm impressed with the performance numbers here, and the screen. I like the thermal headroom and would probably overclock the GPU a little. I do wish the speakers were better, like in the Dell. In the end I think this offers a better Bang for Buck ratio.

    I asked several times for you guys to review the Clevo unit sells, I asked them to let you review it too. My friend ended up buying it, the screen looks a lot better than my 1.5 year old Dell Stuido screen, 1080p. Has the HD5650 in it, a Core i5 560M. The thing lasts 4 hours while he's playing Civ 5 on it. It's CRAZY hot though. All in all I think this Clevo unit is the new best bang for buck laptop out there. I like that the GPU is Nvidia instead of AMD cause my video rendering is sped up my Nvidia, but Cyberlink doesn't support AMD. And Optimus is always good. I do really wish you guys could get one of those in house though from Cyberpower. The design of that one is glossy and worse than this one; not a deal breaker though. I kinda like the minimalist design of this laptop.
    Finally, I like that avadirect offers the Momentus XT out the gate. Cyberpower doesn't so we had to buy one and swap hard drives then re-install everything. Anyway, I've carried on too long now, Great review!
  • Hrel - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    I meant compal from cyberpower, not Clevo.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    I've sent in another request... with SB coming so soon, we may or may not get a chance to look at the Compal, but we shall see.
  • coldfoot - Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - link

    Jarred, why not the Asus N53Jf-XE1? It's just over $1k at Amazon, and has the same screen and GPU as this laptop.
  • Hrel - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    I agree, that laptop is 999 on newegg and it looks pretty amazing. Includes blu ray for under 1K? Wow. Jarred, you know if you guys ever need any help reviewing stuff I'm available, haha, but seriously.
  • Diosjenin - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Since I'm writing this from my B5130M (Sager-branded as an NP5135), I suppose I'll throw in a few thoughts re: comparison to the XPS 15.

    * Yes, the numpad sucks. But this is in comparison to the XPS 15, which doesn't HAVE a numpad. If having one is a must for anyone, regardless of the specifics of its implementation, then the Clevo wins, period.

    * Port placement along the Clevo is unquestionably better. The ports on the XPS 15 are spread out all over the place, whereas all but the DC port (rear) and a single USB 2.0 port (right) are along the left side - a godsend to any right-handed users who connect any external drives/monitors/etc. and don't want wires getting in their way while they're using the mouse next to the right side of the laptop.

    * If memory serves, the Clevo is about half a pound lighter, as well as a quarter to half an inch smaller in both width and depth.

    * The screen is beautiful, but could definitely stand a matte plastic border (as you well noted).

    * I'm not sure where you got your price figures from, but I have to say that I got mine far cheaper. I only have an i5-460M, but with a 1080p screen and 500GB hard drive, mine only cost ~$844 (before shipping, which was an extra $28). Considering that was an extra ~$75 less than an equivalently specced XPS 15 (which was itself discounted about 9%), the choice for me was quite simple. I'm rather curious to know if your $930 base price figure comes from Clevo or somewhere else...?
  • Diosjenin - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    "Edit": Re-read the article a bit more closely; I assume the price comes from AVADirect (though do correct me if I'm wrong). So I went back to my vendor (XoticPC): base price of $769.00, price as yours is configured of $1044.00.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Their price also probably included an OS, which I always take out so I can do it myself.
  • Diosjenin - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Yeah, first thing I do to a new PC is wipe it, too. :P

    Even if I *do* include 64-bit Home Premium with the XoticPC configuration, though, it *still* holds a ~$75 lead over the equivalent AVADirect...

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