Table of Contents (in short):
- In the box
- Build quality, Case and design and looks
- Keyboard and Trackpad
- Sound and Speakers
- General subjective performance experience
- Gaming & Synthetic 3D Performance
- Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling
- Undervolting the I7-4700MQ
- Screen / Screen quality
- Overclocking the GTX 765M
- Competiting gaming laptops / alternatives
++ Main reason to consider:
Best gaming performance for a sub-14.0″ compact gaming laptop accompanied by a excellent IPS 1080p screen.
– Main reason to avoid:
If you don’t really need a 13.3″ gaming laptop, you have higher performers, though non with an IPS screen.
+ Gaming performance is excellent with an I7 and GTX 765M. Fastest for an ultraportable gaming laptop under 14.0″, even at higher prices.
+ Excellent IPS 1080p screen with excellent viewing angles, very good colors, near perfect viewing angles for a backlit screen
+ 13.3″ form factor.
+ Backlit keyboar (white).
+ Solid design.
+ Good enough thermals.
+ Throttling, if exists, is minor.
+ Two mSata connection ports, besides the 2.5″ one.
– CPU temperatures can get very high.
– Speakers are ok, but lack bass.
– HDD temperatures are high.
– Battery performance is only ok (but it might be fixed soon enough with new drivers).
|Price||1084$ when bought. You can save some paying cash|
|GPU||GTX 765M 2GB GDDR5@1000MHZ|
|RAM||Kingston 2x4GB 1600MHZ DDR3|
|HDD||Seagate ST9750420AS 750GB 7200RPM|
|LCD Panel||1080p matte IPS. Model: Chi Mei Innolux N133HSE-EA1 (CMN1343).|
|Weight / Dimensions||2.09kg / 4.6lbs, 33cm (w) x 22.7cm (d) x 3.2cm (h)|
|Keyboard||Backlit (white), 3 levels|
|Connection Ports||right side: 3xUSB 3.0, one powered, 1xHDMI, 1x VGA, 1xLAN, Power connection|
left side: 1xUSB 2.0, mic and headphones connection ports
front: card reader
|More||9-in-1 Card Reader; MMC/RSMMC; SD/MiniSD/SDHC/SDXC; MS/MS Pro/MS Duo|
|Camera||2.0 Megapixels; FHD 1920x1080; 30fps|
|WiFi||Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 BGN 2x2 HMC WiFi/Bluetooth Adapter + Bluetooth 4.0|
|Battery||6 cell, 62Wh|
Welcome to the the Clevo W230ST review. The Clevo W230ST (or the popular Sager NP7330 fro XoticPC) is the new 13.3″ ultraportable gaming laptop from Clevo. The previous model was the 11.6″ W110ER which lacks much of the W230ST qualities. The W230ST is priced around $1000-$1100 and comes with the Chi Mei 1080p IPS screen which is an excellent upgrade over all other TN panels, GTX 765M which is fine for such a price. These are the highlights of this model as far as raw specs go.
I’d also like to mention the HTWingNut’s review in the notebookreview forums which is a very good one and you should read it.
OK, lets start with the Clevo W230ST review
The HIDEvolution package is the basic one. You get the W230ST itself, two drivers discs (one is labeled as “Windows 8 drivers), some universal power adapter so you’ll be able to easily connect the W230ST to the power source (nice touch). The funny thing is you get driver discs you can really use, since the W230ST does not have a DVD drive – Clevo / HIDEvolution could be more thoughtful.
Generally, the Clevo W230ST is sturdy both in the upper part and the bottom. The keyboard panel is more flexible, probably due to the fact that it is can be easily pulled out. The screen lid is as in other laptops – it will bent under some pressure and I’d suggest using a good bag and generally watch that the screen is not pressed by anything.
The looks are a typical Clevo style. You get the solid looks and black/grey colors. The frame is not fully rectangular though, in this case, you get some angles and the edges are more elegantly curved. You won’t find any shiny leds or logos. I like it that way, although other designs could be nice too ofcourse.
The W230ST keyboard is a chiclet style keyboard. It is quite comfortable and the keys are well spaced, but not as firm as I’d like it to be. Also, the keys response could be better and smoother – I find it harder to type rapidly compared to other keyboards I’ve used. The typing is not as pleasant as the top keyboards available. For example, the Asus N56DP and the Toshiba X70 keyboards were better. Another issue is ghosting reported in this user review (a good one, read it), but I still haven’t met these problems. Saying that, the keyboard quality is good and it should not bother you. I’ve used laptops keyboards that were like that, like the Dell Inspiron 15R SE keyboard which was like that also. Same for the Dell Vostro.
Additionally, the keyboard is a backlit keyboard with three lighting levels – 0%, 100% and probably something like 50% in between.
The trackpad, however, is comfortable to me for light use. It would not be good enough for FPS gaming, besides the fact that it is small. Anyway, it is responsive and it doesn’t loose the sensitivity in the edges of the pad, which is good.
The speakers branded as ‘Onkyo’ and are located in the laptop’s bottom left and right of the panel above the keyboard. Although these are obviously not one of the top speakers, the quality is acceptable even for music and I find them satisfying for a a laptop, unlike the speakers in the previous generation P150EM. The only real problem with the W230ST speakers is that there is no bass. These are practically two twitters with no sub-woofer.
Another issue with the speakers is the power output – it might not be sufficient for some as it won’t blow your your roof. Though, if they would, you’d probably get a lousy quality. In my opinion it isn’t really an issue and also this is common to many laptops.
Using the earphones output, you’ll get good quality and use could simply use some good speakers with the W230ST.
Bottom line is the sound quality is satisfactory and you can enjoy it.
The general feeling is very good and the laptop is quite responsive. For some reason, sometimes, several seconds after windows boots up, there is a short period of several seconds in which the laptop halts. It might be a Windows issue.
I would suggest getting some 120GB/128GB mSata drive and install the OS on it.
Otherwise, I’m quite content.
The test includes some synthetic benchmarks and a small amount of games and the point is to give a reference benchmarks compared to other machines. For more numbers are available over the web in sites like Notebookcheck.com.
Using Nvidia Driver 311.51, Windows 7 fully updated as I write these lines. HWInfo and MSI Kombustor/Afterburner were used to measure temperatures.
The settings I used in each game differ from one to another and the reason is that I tried to find the highest settings which still let you play smoothly. All games are tested with 1080p resolution. There are enough standard benchmarks over the web to compare performance of different GPUs. For each game, I also wrote how I felt playing, if it was smooth or not.
I also installed the latest 326.19 beta drivers for Nvidia, using a modded inf file (thanks lightning77 from the Geforce forums) afterwards. It seemed like there is a some performance increase in Bioshock Infinite, but it requires more testing. Didn’t see changes in other games.
NEW NEW NEW – GRAPHS!!!
Yea, I’m now a modern man with graphs (thanks openoffice):
Now, this is only a summary of the performance in these games using the highest settings available. I wouldn’t recommend using the highest settings available in every game, because you won’t see the difference probably at all and the game will jitter. Below are the results for each game with different settings.
Highest settings, FXAA on HQ, 1080p resolution, you’ll get an average of 38-45FPS, depends on the scene. Very smooth and responsive.
highest settings, 1080p resolution, a lot of units fighting and 5-6 players at a scene – not lower than ~60 FPS. Smooth and responsive. It seems to me like it is capped, though I set the FPS cap to ‘benchmark’, so it shouldn’t be.
TD = Texture Details, PP = Post Processing
|Highest, SMAAx4TX||13-15 (min)||Not smooth, but somewhat playable|
|Highest, SMAAx2TX||17-23||Not smooth, but in many cases very playable|
|Highest, no AA||18-23||same as above|
|High, SMAAx2TX||18-40, mostly 21-26||Not smooth, but playable|
|Highest, only PP on ‘normal’||14-20||Not smooth|
|High, no AA||22-30||Quite Smooth, very playable|
|High, PP on ‘medium’, SMAAx2TX||24-32||Very smooth, very playable|
|Medium, high TD, SMAAx4||19-26||Not smooth, but playable|
|Medium, high TD, SMAAx2||30-38||Smooth|
I’d suggest running Crysis 3 on ‘high’ settings (specs = high, TD = high) with the exception of Post Processing (under ‘Advanced graphics’) which will be set on ‘medium’. That way you’ll get a smooth or nearly smooth gameplay almost all the time and still have high settings.
Crysis 3 does cause the W230ST to throttle a bit. I didn’t notice major throttling, only a rather small downclock of the CPU from its ~3200MHZ to around 2800-2900MHZ mostly.
Highest settings in all tests, Ambient Occlusion, Texture details and texture filtering on ‘Ultra’, Post processing on ‘alternate’.
|Highest, Ambient Occlusion on ultra||17-29, average of 22-23||Mostly Smooth|
|Highest, Ambient Occlusion on normal||~23- 40, average of 28-31||Smooth|
|Highest, Texture Details on ‘high’, Ambient Occlusion on normal||~23- 40, average of 30-33 and mostly in the area of 28-35||Smooth|
There is no problem running Bioshock Infinite on the highest settings on 1080p with the GTX 770M. I tested it for a long time.
Edit: I’ve added the Bioshock Infinite benchmark tool results:
|Average FPS||Min FPS||Max FPS||Scene Name|
|28.10||10.79||34.05||Scene Change: Disregard Performance In This Section|
|43.41||39.45||44.68||Benchmark Finished: Disregard Performance In This Section|
Compared to the notebookcheck results of the GTX 765M using the same settings and benchmark (1080p, 2nd option with DDOF), the W230ST performs better by a bit, even compared to the Asus G750JW.
|Highest, 8xAA, TF on quality, AO on quality, AFx16||21-30, usually around 26-30||Very smooth|
|Highest, 4xAA, TF on quality, AO on quality, AFx16||24-35. usually around 28-30||very smooth|
|Highest, 2xAA, TF on quality, AO on quality, AFx16||24-26 to 40||very smooth|
Skyrim runs smoothly with every feature enabled including Ambient Occlusion, AAx8 and AFx16 on 1080p resolution. I can’t test higher resolution currently but I guess that some higher resolution can be handled well with a some lower yet still high settings
|Highest, 8xAF, FXAA, all on including Ambient Occlusion||Mostly around 30-40. Can get as low as 22 for a split second in very demadning scenes||Very smooth|
|Highest, 8xAF, FXAA, all on including Ambient Occlusion OFF||22–60, but mostly around 30-40. Can get as low as 22 for a split second in very demadning scenes. The maximal FPSs are higher.||Very smooth|
1. wPrime: 1024MB test
2. Kombustor ‘GPU burn-in’ test with the following settings: 1080p, AAx8, DX11, Post-FX.
3. Bioshock and Crysis 3 on some very high settings.
Thermals are pretty good for such a compact gaming laptop with a GTX 765M and an I7-4700MQ. Just remember to keep the ventilation hole open. Looking at the numbers, we can see that the most taxing activity is wPrime + Kombustor.
We can also see that the GTX 765M is being kept on relatively low temperatures constantly. The CPU can get really hot, though it didn’t get that hot when playing usually, with Crysis 3 being an exception – I guess that more games that I haven’t tested also have the same impact.
The temperature while idling weren’t so low and I think a partial explanation for it is what I’ll describe in the battery performance section – the GTX 765M was constantly on its full clocks, instead of underclocking and undervolting even while it was not in use at all. The Intel HD4600 also did not underclocked to its minimal clocks, even when doing nothing. I’m pretty sure that these facts have a significant impact.
Clevo W230ST CPU and GPU temperatures:
The laptops itself does warm quite a bit but doesn’t get too hot to a point you can’t put it on your laps (with pens, otherwise your legs hair might be caught in the fan) nor you won’t feel too uncomfortable using the keyboard. But it does get hot. The hottest part is the right part of the W230ST around the place where the HDD and the I7-4700MQ CPU. The left part temperatures are ok.
Another thing is the HDD – it isn’t being cooled and its temperature was around 50-60C which I think is too high.
Throttling. Throttling of the I7-4700MQ has clearly taking place, but to a small degree. The clocks went down from around 3190MHZ per core to around 2900MHZ, in the wPrime + Kombustor test and in Cyrsis 3. Note that it is very important to keep the ventilation holes way open to suck air and throw out the warm air. Is such a throttling a problem? not really as you’ll get very good and nearly maximized performance. You might not get the full potential of the CPU all the time though.
One optional possible solution is a cooling pad. I haven’t tested temperatures with a cooling pad, but if it can keep the temperatures several degrees down, it just might suffice.
Another option, which I’ll describe in the next section, is undervolting the I7-4700MQ, which I strongly recommend. Read ahead to see the results, but generally – you’ll keep the CPU significantly cooler.
Noise. The Clevo W230ST fan has something like 3 levels of operations – very quite, low noise and full blow for hairy situations. Usually, light use will result in a very quiet fan operation. The fan will be the noisiest while running 3D heavy applications. Running wPrime didn’t resulted in high noise for example. Moreover, even when no full speed, the fan’s noise isn’t that bad – it is not an annoying high tone shriek sound like some of the fans doing (a.k.a. the Nazgul shriek).
It seems like the fan sometimes goes berserk without a good reason. Maybe some bios update from Clevo will fix it.
So, I’ve tested what will happen if we’ll undervolt the I7-4700MQ as there is no harm in it and we would like very much to decrease the temperatures and power consumption a bit. I used Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel XTU) to play with the volts. I didn’t change the multipliers, although you can limit them too.
The I7-4700MQ was undervolted by 121mV. These are the results:
|State||Idle||wPrime||WPrime + Kombustor||OCCT GPU||Bioshock||CPU Package W (wPrime)|
The picture is quite clear – the undervolting works as far as lower temperatures and power consumption are considered. But what about the 3D performance?
|Skyrim||3DMark ICESTORM||3DMark CLOUDGATE||3DMark FIRESTRIKE|
|Stock||21-22||79217 (G = 103764, P = 43337)||13113 (G = 18250, P = 6606)||2354 (G = 2511, P = 9046)|
|Undervolt (-120mV)||22-24 (newer drivers)||77514 (G = 100371, P = 43135)||12978 (G = 18218, P = 6468)||2511 (G = 8964, P = 919)|
It is quite obvious that the undervolting didn’t result in a performance hit. Yes, there is a difference in one 3DMark test, but ituns) doesn’t mean anything, since 3DMark results vary (I didn’t do multiple runs) and anyway, the difference is around 2% tops, so.
True, I didn’t test all the possible games and I’m sure some will get some small performance hit, but generally I think that in most cases the undervolting is worth it. Remember also that in many cases the CPU gets throttled, like in Crysis 3 and sometimes in Bioshock and I’m pretty sure it will throttle in other games too. So, you actually prevent much of the throttle, if not all of it, get lower temperatures an lower power consumption ‘for free’, no risk included, and you can always set the cpu values to their defaults, if you need it.
Model Chi Mei Innolux N133HSE-EA1 (CMN1343). Resolution 1080p Matte Yes IPS Yes color coverage (stated) 72% NTSC Brightness (stated) 350cd/m^2 Contrast (stated) 700cd/m^2 Viewing Angles (stated) 89 degrees in any direction
ICM calibration file (color profile) from the Spyder4Express. You can use it to calibrate your screen.
The screen can be described as a beauty with a ‘but’ and lets start with the but. The only issue I’ve encountered is that if you look at a the screen blackened (showing black image), you’ll see some white light leaks mainly from the bottom of the screen. The good news about it, is that these leaks are really only visible when showing black screen and they are als minor leaks. I didn’t notice them at all while using the screen regularly.
OK, to the good part. We are talking about the 13.3″ IPS-Panel Anti-Glare Chi Mei CMN1343 (specific model: N133HSE-EA1) which is used also in the Asus UX32VD (see notebookcheck screen test). According to my measurements (Datacolor Spyder4Express), the sRGB color coverage is around 93%, adobeRGB on 72% and NTSC on 66%. This is lower than the stated 72% NTSC, but the Spyder4Express might be wrong as it’s not the best measurement tool. Anyway, 93% sRGB color coverage is excellent for consumers. Some professional might find the 72% adobeRGB color gamut good enough for them too, depending on what they’re doing. Many people doing great stuff with less than this (like web/poster designers).
I don’t have black and white levels measurements, but black colors looks quite black and the white looks quite white. Contrast should be very high (also according to NBR tests, see link above). I also never used the highest brightness levels, even in a (non-direct) sunlight. Notebookcheck tests show 1:1000 contrast ratio and around 350cd/m^2 brightness levels. This should be about the base standard quality of laptops screen, but unfortunately, manufacturers avoid using high quality panel almost constantly.
I had no problem at all using this screen for gaming or for writing/reading for a week. However the small form factor of the screen and the high resolution I had no eyes ache, unlike when I used other 1080p screen – like the high quality TN-Panel 95% gamut AUO B156HW1 V.4 screen in the Eurocom Racer 2 or the one of the Asus N56DP, both matte 1080p screens.
The screen is a matte screen and although there are some reflections, I didn’t feel it bothers me.
Spyder4Express tests results:
Viewing angles. Simply excellent (for a backlit screen). No other words. You’ll get around 89 degrees for both horizontal and vertical angles of view with excellent colors and brightness. Yes, maybe in 89 degrees you see some colors change a bit, but otherwise the viewing angles are very good. Again, this should be the base quality standard. Such viewing angles are also very good for people who do video and especially photo editing – the colors will look the same from different angles.
Bottom line – excellent screen. You can find it for around 80$ over the web, so I really wonder why we don’t see more stuff like this. The answer is clear, ofcourse – manufacturers want to make some more money by differentiating their products, but I don’t think that things like screen should be in this formula.
If you are looking for a good screen, this is one of te W230ST strong points.
Ah. The happy/sad part. Sad first! The Clevo W230ST holds around 3-3.5 hours on semi-light use of heavy flashed webpage that refreshed every 10 seconds, Wi-Fi on, 30% screen brightness. The funny thing is that you won’t sqeeze a lot more by doing nothing and settings th, if at all. I did some checking and discovered that the GTX 765M actually won’t downvolt/downclock while not in use -it stays on core@800MHZ. The integrated HD4600 behaves the same with clocks held on 600MHZ (400MHZ min, 800 max). There is no good reason for this. Removing the GPU drivers and reinstalling them didn’t help. I was able to change the GPU state with the Nvidia Inspector, but this is no solution and besides – it helped only a little to the battery performance.
Even installing the 326.19 beta (needed an .inf file mod) didn’t make things better.
The good part is it is obvious that there is some kind of power management problem. I guess it is a combination of GPU drivers and the Clevo bios and we’ll see some update in the following months, if not from Clevo, then WHQL drivers from Nvidia and perhaps Intel for their HD4600. If Clevo won’t fix us some new bios, you be sure that a new modded bios will come soon from nice Prema or maybe someone else. I’ll update.
Using MSI Afterburner. Core@935MHZ, Mem@1200MHZ (4800MHZ effective). The Nvidia Turbo boost will do 900MHZ anyway, but that way it’s permanent for the period of the game. Here are the results from Bioshock Inifinite:
The settings are: Highest, Texture Details on ‘high’, Ambient Occlusion on normal. Not all games will benefit from such an overclocking of the GTX 765M, but BI gains around 15%-16% in average FPS and 12% in minimum FPS. This is around the same difference between 935MHZ and 800MHZ of the core and lower than the difference in memory clocks. There was more room for overclocking of the Memory and the CPU.
Kombustor shows a ~16% increase in performance too which fits the difference in core clocks. Do not be bothered by the “GPU:135MHZ” – I guess the MSI Kombustor takes measure before it starts.
The Clevo W230ST has several competitors, though non of which sits exactly in the same chair, currently, either because of pricing or because differences in performance or total value.
I’ll first list the known gaming laptops that might enter the ultraportable section. Then I’ll overview the options for larger gaming laptops in the same price range.
- Alienware m14x-r3 14.0″ (review). with GTX 765M and a good 1080p screen will cost you around at least $1350-$1400, before shipping and taxes and including current coupons. Very good 1080p IPS screen, good performance, good build quality, relatively high noise, thermals are ok, but not better than the W230ST, according to my tests. 3-3.5 hours on one charge
- Acer V7-482PG-9884 14.0″, the GT 750M + 1080p IPS screen model. Haven’t seen good reviews yet, but people say it has around 5-6 hours of light use. The GT 750M is considerably slower than the 765M and the price is probably around $1200-$1300. Not really available in the US, but you can get it from Taiwan for around $1300-$1400.
- Gigabyte P34G 14.0″. Not available currently. 1080p IPS screen, GTX 760M.
- MSI GE40 14.0″. GTX 760M, I7, 900p screen. Quite slim for a gaming laptop and slimmer than the W230ST. Here is a review and another one and another one. Battery running times are around 8-9 hours for light use which is great and I think the W230ST has that potential too with a modded bios, so I hope. The thermals are not that good and temps are higher than the W230ST ones, at least for the GPU, according to the Anandtech tests. The 900p screen is lower quality than all the rest in this list. Price is around $1150-$1200 for the basic model, including Windows OS, so it’s generally at the same price range of the W230ST. The W230ST screen makes it my favorite, plus the higher performance of the GTX 765M. But the MSI GE40 is a very good gaming laptop. 2 year warranty is also included.
Now, other options in this price range include 15.6″ and 17.3″ gaming laptops with higher performance, like the very cost effective Lenovo Y510p which is equipped with GT 750M SLI, I7, matte 1080p screen and 1TB HDD for only $1000. The bad battery performance of the Y500 is not partially solved since you can pull out the second GPU (as before) and make some tweaking to activate the integrated HD4600 and get a nice 5-6 hours of light use. Read in the link.
Other GTX 765M and 770M are also available from Sager, Toshiba (Toshiba Qosmio X70) and more. But they are all larger and heavier and not necessarily better.
In short, the Clevo W230ST / Sager NP7330 is a highly recommendable compact gaming laptop. Not only it is of high quality and has a good basic feature set of good IPS screen and good performance, but it’s also beats its competitor in almost every parameter, currently. I’ll start by naming the flaws, to make way for the reasons I recommend it.
The W230ST has one main flaw in my opinion is the battery performance. I guess some bios update will come soon wither from Clevo or from some of the nice modders out there which could use some donation to make their hearts warm and joyful (again, I’ll update when such a bios comes out). We also know that newer Nvidia drivers should also come soon. I hope these things will make the battery performance and thermals better.
Besides that, the W230ST delivers the best gaming performance for a sub-14.0″ gaming laptop under $1200 and even as low as $1050-$1100 if you don’t need a Windows OS. Add to this the beautiful 1080p IPS screen and you get an excellent choice. If you really can’t live with its 3-3.5 hours of use, then you’ll have to wait and see what will change in the following months or go with some other laptop.
Compared to other gaming laptop, the closest competition is the MSI GE40 which has a much lousier screen (brightness, viewing angles, colors), lower gaming performance and gets at least as hot. The GE40 advantages are its slim figure and excellent battery performance. You also might want a 14.0″ rather than a 13.3″. But, I would recommend the W230ST over the MSI GE40 because of the mentioned reasons.
The new Alienware m14x is a good competitor too, but it costs significantly more, suffers from throttling of the GPU and deactivated CPU Turbo, according to Notebookcheck review and it’s also noisy under load. So, really, why?
The other more ultra-portable options are discussed above. If you want a larger screen, you have other options, as mentioned, like the Lenovo Y510p for $1000 which should be faster for gaming and Sager NP7352 for around the same price, with a GTX 765M. But these are all larger gaming laptops.
So, the bottom line is that the W230ST is a first class ultraportable gaming laptop among the sub-14.0″ gaming laptops of today. I would strongly recommend it if you are looking for a compact gaming laptop. The screen is excellent, the performance is excellent and fastest for a sub-14.0″ ultraportable, though not the highest for the price range (the 15.6″ Y510p has a better performance/price ratio with the GT 750M SLI), the thermals are ok, it’s not noisy when not gaming and the future might bring with it a mch better battery life too. The Clevo W230ST is a good competitor up to $1300 even compared to many 15.6″ and 17.3″ laptops which are not cooler and have around the same performance or a bit higher.