At CES 2016, Razer introduced what they touted as the long-awaited solution for laptop users that wanted desktop power gaming: the Razer Blade Stealth and the Razer Core. Razer promised UltraBook lightweight portability combined with PNP conversion to desktop GPU performance; however, like many products at CES, only part of the solution was ready. The UltraBook and external GPU enclosure combination was demonstrated at that CES and, to Razer’s credit, PNP worked … mostly.
While on the show floor, we were permitted to disconnect and reconnect the Core from the Stealth multiple times to watch the PNP in action. During the process, the engineers that we worked with explained the many difficulties involved with making real-time driver switching across Thunderbolt 3 (brand new, at that point) work. Asking a Microsoft OS to disconnect and reconnect display drivers from 3 different vendors (AMD, Intel, nVidia) was challenging. So, as we watched Windows change the display drivers in real time through Device Manager, we were impressed to see it working even if it wasn’t the fully polished end product. Soon after the show, Razer began delivering Stealths with 6th generation Core i7 CPUs, 2560x1440 QHD or 4K touch screens, 8GB of DDR3 DRAM, and up to 512GB PCIe based SSDs. The only slightly disappointing specification was the 45 WHr battery which provided around 9 hours of use.
Following suit with our CES coverage, which is sure to remain incessant throughout the next few days, we have Acer’s prize announcements. Acer pulled the curtain back on several products, but the showcase is undoubtedly the expansion of the Predator product family. Both highly sought (and priced), the Predator series is the zenith of Acer’s gaming offerings.
Below we have a few SKUs to overview. The Predator line up will see the inclusion of three new displays: the flagship Z301CT, the XB252Q, and XB272. Also announced were two gaming notebooks, the Predator 21X and 17X.
NVidia has added to our pile of pre-CES hardware news with the announcement of GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti-equipped laptops. 30+ models from various OEMs will be arriving in Q1 2017, including several using Intel’s new Kaby Lake CPUs this week at CES. Confirmed manufacturers include Acer, Alienware/Dell, ASUS, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
As mentioned in our laptop 1060/1070/1080 benchmark, improvements to power management mean that nVidia’s 10-series notebook GPUs are the real deal, rather than the neutered “-M” versions that laptops have gotten in the past. The specs listed for the notebook GPUs confirm this, with the only major difference being higher core clock speeds in the notebook 1050 and 1050 Ti. This doesn’t indicate a change in the physical hardware, it mostly seems that nVidia has increased the clock-rate given the high thermal headroom (room to increase heat) as a result of the efficient 1050/Ti GPUs. Like other 10-series laptops, OEMs will probably be allowed an additional +/-10% for overclocking their GPUs.
We recently prolonged the life of GN Andrew’s Lenovo laptop, a task accomplished by tearing the thing down and cleaning out the dust, then re-applying thermal compound. This brought temperatures down well below 80C on the silicon components, where the unit was previously reaching 100C (or TjMax values and thereby throttling). The laptop has lived to work many more long render sessions since that time, and has been in good shape since.
That’s gotten us a bit of a reputation, it seems, as we just recently spent a few hours fixing a Dell Studio XPS 1640 and its noise issues.
The 1640 had a few problems at its core: The first, loud noise during idle (desktop); the second, slowing boot times with age; and the third, less-than-snappy responsiveness upon launching applications.
The GPU news is probably the most interesting. AMD looks to be positioning an "RX 470D," also called "RX 465" and "RX 470 SE," to compete more directly with the GTX 1050 Ti. Our GTX 1050 & 1050 Ti review noted that the 1050 gives the RX 460 a tough fight, but that the RX 470 handily outpaces the 1050 Ti in all tested scenarios. The only problem, as always, is the price gap -- it's a $30 jump from entry-level GTX 1050 Ti cards to the entry-level RX 470 cards. That's where the 470D is supposed to land, and should fight the 1050 Ti directly.
Video below for the news discussion, or find the script below that:
The GTX 980's placement in notebooks heralded the now-present era of desktop GPUs in laptops, but was still sort of a trial of the tech. NVidia and AMD have both introduced their Pascal and Polaris architectures in full, uncut versions to notebooks this generation, with performance generally within about 10% of an equivalent desktop build. Despite the desktop-level power, battery life should also be improved resultant of an overall reduction in power consumption by the GPU and the CPU alike. And almost every other component, for that matter – like DDR4, which requires lower voltage and draws less power than DDR3.
Today, we're looking at the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro laptop with GTX 1060 & i7-6700HQ, priced at $1600. The benchmarks follow our previous notebook 1070 vs. 1080 tests, but with proper depth and hands-on. Note also that we already wrote about the GE62VR's bloatware problem.
In this review of the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro ($1600), we'll be testing FPS on the GTX 1060, temperatures, noise levels, and build quality.
Naming schemes are occasionally interesting topics – normally because a company has decided to stop naming its products after Greek gods, or because of its complexity. MSI's laptop lineup has grown enough in diversity to demand three primary lines (“Apache,” “Titan,” and “Stealth”), each of which is then assigned two significant numbers.
While visiting MSI at its office last week, we finally had a chance to demystify a naming scheme which the product managers acknowledge can be somewhat confusing. The laptops we looked at are all of the new 10-series nVidia options, previewed here, including the GT83, GT73, GE63, GS63, and GS73. Each character means something:
MSI and system integrator CyberPower are selling the new GT83VR Titan SLI notebook, which sells with K-SKU Intel CPUs and dual GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 GPUs. The move away from M-suffixed cards means that these GPUs are effectively identical to their desktop counterparts, with the exception of the GTX 1070's core increase and clock reduction.
That difference, just to quickly clear it away, results in 2048 CUDA cores on the notebook 1070 (vs. 1920 on the desktop) and a baseline clock-rate of 1645MHz on the notebook (1683MHz on the desktop). Despite talk about the 1060, 1070, and 1080 model notebooks, we haven't yet gotten into the SLI models for this generation.
Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook equivalent has moved to the new Intel Kaby Lake architecture. For the past few generations, Intel's small gains in IPC and processing performance have been largely overshadowed by the focus on power efficiency increases. NVIDIA and AMD are also on-board with this focus, and all three silicon manufacturers are pushing to use clock-gating, non-planar process, and algorithmic advancements to lower watt draw.
Reductions in TDP and moves by Intel to improve power efficiency (including idle improvements & S0iX) lengthen battery life, a move with which Dell has synergized by increasing battery capacity to 60Wh. The two together should grant a specified 22 hours of battery life on the XPS 13 notebooks; we are not sure the specifics of the methodology used to make that measurement.
Dell's XPS 13 units ship with Intel i3, i7, and i5 Kaby Lake CPUs (Gen 7). Bottom-up, the laptops will host Intel i3-7100U, i5-7200U, or i7-7500U CPUs and will start at $800 with Ubuntu (unclear on Windows price). Display, CPU, and memory choices dictate price scaling, with the displays alone specified at 1080p (minimally) to 3200x1800. This latter resolution is also used by Razer in the new Blade, which we hope to look at within the next month or two.
Dell also noted the following specifications in its press release:
When we received the new 10-series laptops for review, we immediately noticed sluggishness in the OS just preparing the environment for testing. Even with an SSD, opening Windows Explorer took at least one full second – eternity, by today's standards. It was anything but instant, as a new computer should be, and would prompt outrage from any real-world consumer.
Looking further into the issue, we realized that the system tray accommodated 13 icons of pre-installed software that opened on launch. This included an incessant warranty registration pop-up/reminder, Norton Anti-Virus (the biggest offender on spurious CPU utilization), about three different control panels – because we need multiple paths to one location – and a few other programs.
This, traditionally, is what's known as “bloatware;” it's software pre-installed by the manufacturer that the user didn't necessarily request, and bloats the system's processes to a crawl. Today, we're showing just how profoundly a new system's framerate is dragged down by bloat. Using an MSI GE62VR Apache Pro laptop (~$1600) with a GTX 1060 and an i7-6700HQ CPU (boosts to 3.5GHz), 16GB DDR4, and an M.2 SSD, we're clearly not running Windows on slow hardware. And that's the thing, too – even Windows is slow at the desktop level. Just using the desktop, we'd occasionally spike to ~30% load for no good reason, and frequently hit 100% load during file transfers (thanks, Norton).
For validation purposes, we also ran the same tests on an MSI GE62 Apache Pro with a GTX 970M and i7 CPU. That's one last-gen model and one current model, both clean Windows installs with all the factory-preset software included.