Clevo N155RF / SAGER NP7258 Review (GTX 965M, I7)

++ Main reason to consider:

Powerful gaming laptop for $930 with very good gaming performance for price for the basic version – you add a bit of money and get a little bit of performance over GTX 960M equipped laptops

-- Main reason to avoid:

Currently, an aweful TN panel, but also hard positioning against the competition with GTX 970M laptops, plus the total price with Windows OS which makes it not that cost effective.

Availability

Current pricing is around $920-$950 for basic version without an OS

  • Amazon
  • Avadirect seems to have good prices
  • Many other Clevo stores – XoticPC, Eurocom, ProStar, Gentech. Use price match
Pro : + Very good gaming performance for price for the basic version
+ Relatively good thermals with good temps under gaming load like Crysis 3
+ Quite a good keyboard with good feedback, response, resistance, travel depth and spacing. Keys machanism is a little stiff maybe
+ Relatively lightweight considering it has a DVDRW
+ Doesn't throttle under gaming load (but does go down to base clocks)
+ HDMI, mDP and SIM slot
Con : - Currently an aweful TN panel (but it will probably be changed soon)
- May throttle under full load of Furmark + Prime95, but ThrottleStop or downvolting solves it. Doesn't happen under Crysis 3 load
- Battery performance isn't great at all for light load conditions
- Sound quality from speakers isn't good
- Screen's outer lid is quite 'soft' and will bendrather easily
- Noise levels are not low + a fans 'hiss' noise even under light load
- No Thunderbolt 3
- Clevo bios update record isn't the best
More Reviews :

    Introduction

    Clevo N155RF Review : showoff

    So, the new Clevo N155RF is Clevos’ latest midrange gaming laptop. It succeeds the N150SD/N155SD and replaces the GTX 960M with a GTX 965M which should give a little more 3D power to this machine. At this point, the N155RF from many resellers in the US comes with a non-IPS display (XoticPC, Avadirect, Prostar which I bought from). Eurocom sells it with an IPS display, but they also charge considerably more. I would recommend replacing the display yourself or wait for some resellers to have this option, in case you want this machine.

    Anyway, this model is currently selling for $930-$1000 with a GTX 965M, 8GB RAM and some basic storage device. It comes with a backlit keyboard and bunch of connection ports. For $1000, it has the same performance/price ratio as a $750-$800 gaming laptop with a GTX 960M, more or less, but without an OS included, so this one is not a clear winner in this area, but it is a good option under $1000 with something more powerful (in 3D terms) than a GTX 960M equipped laptop.

    N155RF in review, let’s see how well you do.

    ComponentDescription
    ModelClevo N155RF / SAGER NP7258
    PriceAs tested, $1050 (with price match from ProStar)
    CPUIntel Skylake I7-6700HQ, 4C/8T, 2.6-3.5GHZ, 6MB cache
    GPUNvidia Geforce GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 (GTX 965M Ti), GM206 (Maxwell II), 1024 shaders, core@935-1150MHZ, GDDR5@1253MHZ, 128-bit bus
    Motherboard / ChipsetNotebook N15_17RF / Intel HM170 (Skylake PCH-H)
    2xPCI Express x1, 1xPCI Express x16
    RAMKingston 2x8GB DDR3@1600MHZ 99U5428-018.A00LF
    StorageHDD : HGST 1TB HGST HTS721010A9E630
    SSD: M.2 SATA 256GB SSD SAMSUNG 850 EVO 5002538D40AB5446
    M.2 : M.2 SATA or PCIe/NVMe 2280 (one)
    Display PanelIn review: CMN N156HGE-EAB 1920x1080 TN panel (in this version)
    Weight / Dimensions2.5kg (~5.51 Lbs.) + ~0.4kg 120W PSU*
    385.1 x 265.43 x 28.45 mm
    15.16" x 10.55" x 1.12"
    (w x d x h)
    KeyboardWhite backlit (4 levels including off*)
    Connection PortsRight side: RJ-45, VGA, 1xUSB 3.0, SD Card Slot, SIM card slot
    Left: Kensington Lock, 2xUSB 3.0, audio out and microphone + S/PDIF output jack, DVDRW,*
    Rear: 1xUSB 3.0, HDMI, mDP, AC power
    Front: None
    Camera1080p
    WiFi / EthernetWiFi: Intel 3165ac WiFi
    Ethernet: None
    Speakers / Audio2.0 Onkyo Speakers
    Realtek chip
    Battery62Wh
    Bios / EC version (test unit)1.05.02 /
    Extra features

    Build quality, Case, design and looks

    The base unit is average in terms of build quality. It’s not the most firm base unit, but it won’t easily bend either. The screen outer lid, however, is pretty soft and will bend under pressure. The keyboard surfae is relatively ok – it will yield a bit under pressure, but really only a bit and the keys themselves were pretty firm. Hinges feel ok too and won’t easily yield, but as with other laptops – I don’t have a good way to test it.

    Looks

    Simple plastic looks for the N155RF.

     

    Maintenance and inner parts

    Maintenance is rather easy. The battery can be replaced without opening the chassis, but you need to remove two screws. The backplate is easily removed by removing 10-15 screws. In this version, there is a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD M.2 SATA + 1TB HDD installed, 2x8GB DDR3L RAM. There is a free slot for 3G/LTE.

    Clevo N155RF Review : motherboard and cooling system

    Both CPU and GPU are soldered. Two fans cool the system, one fan for each, connected by two heatpipes. I think one more additional heatpipe that connects them both would have been great. The ventilation fins are pretty small, I think.

    Keyboard and touchpad

    Keyboard. The keyboard is actually pretty nice to use. The keys are well spaced, resistance and feedback are good too. I do think they are too stiff, but that’s something you are getting used to and I’m sure if it’s just me (coming from a Dell Latitude E7440). Keys’ mechanism is also pretty responsive, throwing the keys back quickly after the clicking.

    Touchpad. The touchpad could be a little smoother, as with many laptops, but it works well and has two dedicated separated buttons. Nothing too special, but it works well.

    Sound & Speakers

    Well.. Just don’t except much and you won’t be disappointed. This is more or less the usual Clevo midrange speakers quality. No bass and quite a plasticy sound from these 2.0 Onkyo speakers. The N155RF comes with a SPDI/F connection port which I didn’t test, but the headphones port sound has some background noises which are quite noticeable and annoying.

    General subjective performance experience

    Everyday performance is very good as could be expected from an I7 + 250GB Samasung 850 EVO SSD

    Added CPU-Z and GPU-Z screenshots.

     

    Gaming Performance

    Test Methods & Drivers

    OS : Windows 10, fully updated

    Drivers: Nvidia Geforce 364.72

    Synthetic 3D benchmarks

    3DMark performance – link to source:

    Clevo N155RF Review 3DMark benchmark

    Summarized gaming performance

    Let’s look at the numbers and a comparison between the GTX 965M and GTX 960M:

    Clevo N155RFVW Review : GTX 965M I7-6700HQ 1080p gaming benchmarks

    GTX 965M vs GTX 960M 1080p Very High Graphics Settings

    The average advantage of the GTX 965M system over GTX 960M system is around 27%. The number for the GTX 960M are taken from NBC (link) and my tests. That makes such a system a more cost effective laptop than a GTX 960M equipped laptop for $800-$900. like the Asus FZ50VW or the Dell 7559 (but the 7559 sometimes goes for less).

    Crysis 3

    Clevo N155RF Review : Crysis 3 GTX 965M 1080p benchmarksClevo N155RF Review : I7-6700HQ and GTX 965M clocks under stress

    Thief

    Thief sees some advantage using Mantle API over the DX11. Heavily Vulkan/DX12 optimized games/game engines should see much higher improvements.

    Clevo N155RF Review : Thief GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Bioshock Infinite

    Clevo N155RF Review : Bioshock Infinite GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Total War : Attila

    The new iteration of Total War : Rome II, Attila is a much more demanding game and FPSs are much lower.

    Clevo N155RF Review : Total War Attila GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Metro : Last Light

    No matter what I’ve tried, performance in Metro Last Light remained problematic, it’s like the GPU stopped working even now and then

    Clevo N155RF Review : Metro Last Light GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Battlefield 4 Campaign

    BF4 campaign benchmark

    Clevo N155RF Review : Battlefield 4 GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    World of Tanks

    Clevo N155RF Review : World of Tanks GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Shadow Of Mordor

    Clevo N155RF Review : Shadow Of Mordor GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Dragon Age : Inquisition

    Clevo N155RF Review : Dragon Age Inquisition GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Ashes Of Singularity

    Ashes of Singularity is out from BETA stage, so now we’ll keep benchmarking it

    Clevo N155RF Review : Ashes of Singularity GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Star Citizen

    Clevo N155RF Review : Star Citizen GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Anno 2205

    Clevo N155RF Review : Anno 2205 GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Fallout 4

    The new Fallout 4 is rather demanding, but the benefits of the high graphics presets are not clear to me.

    Clevo N155RF Review : Fallout 4 GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    The Talos Principle

    Clevo N155RF Review : The Talos Principle GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Rise of the Tomb Raider

    Clevo N155RF Review : Rise of The Tomb Raider GTX 965M 1080p benchmarks

    Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling

    As described before, the CPU and GPU have 2two dedicated heatpipes and one dedicated fan. Cool air is sucked from below and thrown out of the rear in disgust.

    Four tests:

    1. Idle, power saver mode

    2. Gaming : Crysis 3 gameplay. “very high” settings with SMAAx2 For Crysis 3, “High performance” power mode.

    3. Prime95 torture test. “High performance” power mode.

    4. Prime95 + Furmark on 1366×768 test, AAx2. “High performance” power mode.

    Clevo N155RF Review : CPU & GPU temperatures

    The N155RF actually does well, but by going down to 2.6GHZ base core clocks in Furmark + Prime95. Check the throttling part

    Heat

    The N155RF chassis temperatures remain relatively reasonable even under highest load. I didn’t notice any inconvenience using the keyboard under high load and barely noticed high temps. It does get warmer ofcourse, but nothing too bad.

    I’d say that in this department, the N155RF could be described as satisfying, especially for such a hardware.

    Throttling

    Under Prime95 + Furmark, the N155RF can keep 2.6GHZ base clocks with relatively ok temperatures, but from time to time, the CPU deeps to the lowest clocks. I didn’t notice it while gaming + ThrottleStop/downvolting solves it. I couldn’t really get a lot more than 2.6-2.7GHZ under high load, which is annoying. I guess that a PremaMod modded bios could fix it.

     

    Here is a table that shows the temperatures and the throttling state:

    ThrottleCPU average stableCPU MAXGPU
    3447Idle
    No (2.6GHZ)8788Prime95
    Yes869281Prime95 + Furmark
    No (2.6GHZ)848484Prime95 + Furmark CPU Voltage@-100mV
    Yes868884Prime95 + Furmark CPU@2.6GHZ
    No (2.6GHZ)606279Crysis 3

    Noise

    1. Under high load, the fans are audible. Not extremely, but not low. Won’t interfere with high sound level from the speakers too much, but it will be a bit annoying. The noise is not high pitched to my ears.
    2. Under light/moderate, the N155RF fans sometimes kick in and spin faster, which is annoying, but it’s not that often. You could hear some “hiss”, though.
    3. There was always some fans noise, even when doing nothing. It’s more noticeable at night/when it’s quite.

    Screen & Screen quality

    The default panel is the TN panel found in the Asus FZ50VW and the first iterations of the Lenovo Y50 – the N156HGE-EAB. Bad viewing angles, colors are lacking, contrast is low because of very high black levels (which aren’t really black). Not really a $900-$1000 gaming laptop display. I guess they’ll use an IPS instead soon.

     

    My camera tests show that it uses a PWM brightness control mechanism, at least in lower brightness levels, but frequency is probably quite high. I’m not sure about it.

    I’m adding the xRite i1Profiler contrast and brightness readings:

    ContrastWhite LuminenceBlack LuminenceScreen Brightness
    2551870.734100.00%
    258950.36850.00%
    273380.13920.00%
    ContrastBrightnessBlack levelssRGBadobeRGBNTSC
    2551870.73634845

    Battery Performance

    In my tests, the N155RF weak point is under very light load conditions – for some reason it requires the same power as in ‘balanced’ load, even when running some 1080p youtube video. That’s kind of strange and should probably be fixed with some bios update.

     

    Clevo N155RF Review : battery performance

    Issues

    Competing gaming laptops / Alternatives

      • GTX 960M equipped laptops, check the $1000 gaming laptops recommendations
      • New/Refurbished laptops with GTX 965M or even GTX 970M – sometimes selling for $1050-$1100 with an OS and an IPS display, so the competition is hard on the N155RF.

    Conclusion

    Well, the N155RF does have the performance. GTX 965M plus an I7-6700HQ. Yes, there is some level of throttling under very very heavy use, but generally, for games it won’t happen too much and with the help of ThrottleStop, the bad effects can be negated.

    The TN panel is a minus and even though it is easily replaceable, you could expect an IPS for such a price. I believe that well see an IPS display as a default soon for this model. Keyboard is also pretty good – not great, but good. Better than the Dell 7559’s keyboard, for example. Otherwise, the speakers are average at best, and build quality is average too. No Thunderbolt 3 port.

    In terms of performance/price, it has some advantage over $800 laptops equipped with a GTX 960M. You’ll get, on average, higher gaming performance for your money, if you get the basic model for $920-$930 (w/o an OS), unless you can get a laptop like 7559 for $700 or so (which you can, but refurbished). With an OS, the N155RF gaming performance/price vanishes, practically.

    Price-wrise, for around $930-$950 you’ll get this machine without an OS and with a standard SSD and a TN panel, but with an I7, GTX 965M, HDMI and eDP port. For the same price, you can get refurbished laptops with GTX 970M or an Alienware 15 R2 with a GTX 965M, better thermals, better sound, Thunderbolt 3 and “Alienware Amplifier” port for eGPUs. Below it there are laptops like the 7559 (review) and Asus FZ50VW (review) are selling for around $750-$800 usually with an SSD or SSD + HDD, GTX 960M and an I5, with an OS. Above it, there are usually prices like $1200-$1300 for laptops with GTX 970M, SSD, IPS and stuff like that and have a much better value/price and performance/price ratios.

    So, bottom line, the competition is not easy and the N155RF isn’t a clear choice, in my opinion. For those who don’t need the OS and want to spend no more than around $900-$930, the N155RF is a good option for gaming, but I’ll wait for the IPS update, because the TN panel is aweful. Also, there may be some discounts in the future. As always, define clearly what you are looking for in a laptop and that will probably solve the problem (and you can consult in the forums!)

    .

    • Lean

      Very nice review! I just saw your website and I think it’s great! Hope you have more readers soon.

      I’m currently looking for a laptop right now and your reviews are really helpful. Are you going to be reviewing a Sager with 970M in the near future? I’m very interested about Sager laptops because of their bang-for-the-buck; but I’m hearing bad stuff about the Battery Life (2+ hours only). And I’m a bit hesitant about the brand itself (how their build quality is, etc.). I have owned Asus and Acer laptops and those were pretty sturdy and good, it lasted me 5 years at least (still using the Acer one).

      In general, I’m currently trying to find a laptop with 970M graphics and Good battery life (4 to 5 hours with light use), but the only match I found so far is the Razer Blade 14 (which is too expensive for me). I’m not sure about 960M laptops, because performance wise, they seem to be a lot behind the 970M, and I would like something that is future proof.

      Hope to see more reviews from you!

    • William Welsh

      I ordered one of these a few days ago. One additional detail to note is that It is the cheapest Sager (with a dedicated gaming graphics card) that supports pci express x4 (nvme) SSDs, like the Samsung Pro 950.

      I didn’t realize that the shell was plastic, as opposed to all of the other, slightly more expensive offerings from Sager which were aluminum. The rendered images on all of the Sager resellers’ ecommerce sites made that detail hard to observe before ordering. I’m kinda bummed about that.

      Do you know if it’s particularly difficult for a DIY’er to replace the display panel once an upsell model is offered? Like – difficult as in removing glue / replacing glue like one would have to do on a Lenovo?

      • Hi William!

        It’s not hard to replace the screen at all – just did it yesterday. You just have to remove to rubber covers on the hinges at the base of the screen part, and remove the screws there. Afterwards, you can just use something thin enough (I used an unused credit card) to remove the bezel. Then you can unscrew the panel and connect a different one

        They are selling the B156HAN01.2 for $60 which is nice: http://www.laptopscreen.com/English/screen-part-number/B156HAN01.2/

        • William Welsh

          I got the new notebook yesterday. Would replacing the screen with the one that you listed improve the brightness at all? The factory display is very dim at its maximum brightness.

          • The B156HAN01.2 should be a lot brighter and also have a lot better contrast, so you’ll see stuff more clearly even at lower brightness levels. I think the brightness is also controlled by the motherboard/bios, so we can’t be sure, but I doubt they have limited it that much really. The default screen is quite low quality compared to such displays

            How do you like it otherwise?

            • William Welsh

              I like it a lot. Very fast. Decent build quality. Keyboard feels solid.

              Fan is a little louder than average.

              One minor issue. When I rest my finger on the track pad, it will intermittently make the pointer on the screen drift to the left as if I were still moving. Happened with stock win 10 drivers. Also happened after installing synaptics drivers from CD. Tinkered with settings to see if sensitivity was too high by bumping it down a click. Also made sure momentum was off. Seems like a hardware issue.

              • It happened to me with other laptops as well, so I’m not sure. Could be the stupid software as well.. tried latest Synaptics drivers?