AVADirect X7200 gaming laptop

When I first picked up the AVADirect X7200, I almost dropped it. It’s heavy — 12 pounds, 10 ounces, without the 300W power brick, which weighs more than 3.5 pounds by itself–and it’s also not well balanced, so the unit nearly tipped out of my hands. This hulking unit is specifically designed to replicate a high-end desktop gaming system in a somewhat mobile package.

It’s also rather unattractive, sitting higher on a desk than do most laptops–even those with larger (18-inch) screens. It’s all sharp corners and angles, and is mostly a somber black, giving it a vaguely coffinlike appearance. The fan noise is considerable: Though not too bad at idle, when you crank up a game the fans spin up to levels high enough to almost drown out the built-in speakers.

In fact, inside the laptoplike chassis lurks the heart of a desktop system: an Intel Core i7 990X desktop processor and 12GB of DDR3 memory in a triple-channel configuration. The system uses a desktop chipset, as well–Intel’s X58 to be precise, complete with the required LGA 1366 socket. As a nod to its quasi-mobile nature, the system uses an Nvidia GTX 580M mobile GPU instead of the desktop version. The mobile GPUs don’t perform to the same level as similarly named desktop GPUs, but you can certainly get a robust gaming experience from this machine. You’ll still need to dial back some detail levels on cutting-edge games like Battlefield 3 and Metro 2033, but most games should run quite well with at reasonably high resolution. CPU performance is top-notch of course, with the system scoring an excellent 163 on our WorldBench 6 test suite–among the highest score we’ve seen by a system in the desktop replacement laptops category. You pay a severe price for that raw performance in on-the-road usability, though: Battery life is a scant 56 minutes.

As befits a desktop system, the AVADirect X7200 comes with plenty of connectors, including five USB ports (six, if you include the combo e-SATA/USB port): two USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports on the left side, and three USB 2.0 ports sit on the right side. Audio connectors, including a digital optical output, are on the right as well. The left side also houses two digital video connectors–one HDMI, and one DVI–but regrettably there’s no VGA connector. A gigabit ethernet jack, an SD Card slot, and an antenna connector (for an optional TV tuner card) complete the offerings on the right side.

The ethernet jack is handy for wired connections, and AVADirect also included Bigfoot Network’s N1102 Wi-Fi controller, which minimizes network latency during gaming. Though it seemed to work well, I couldn’t tell how much it actually affected the online gaming experience.

The LED backlit LCD display is stunning, offering the widest viewing angles I’ve seen on a mobile PC. High-definition video playback looked very good, though upscaled DVD content was a bit on the soft side–a characteristic I’ve noticed in other systems configured with Nvidia GPUs. Games looked terrific as well, with relatively little detectable motion smearing. Color accuracy for photo editing seemed fairly close. Audio, on the other hand, sounded very thin on both music and movie content, and lacked any bass whatsoever. You’ll have to use good headphones for the best audio experience.

This system comes configured with a 128GB Crucial solid-state drive and a Seagate 500GB hybrid hard drive, yielding a good blend of performance and economy. I recommend manually configuring some of the Windows data folders to live on the secondary drive, in order to maximize the available room for applications. This approach will optimize the space on the SSD for best OS and app load times. Also included is a Blu-ray burner, for watching high-def movies and for creating your own.

All this system horsepower contributes to a daunting price: nearly $3800. Since the machine is build-to-order, you can cut back on some components to save money–or you can go in the opposite direction and make the AVADirect X7200 even more of a performance beast by adding memory or doubling up on GPU horsepower. Despite the big price, if you want the raw performance of a desktop system, but need to schlep the PC around frequently, the X7200 may just fit the bill.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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