Eurocom Electra 2 (W650SJ, GTX 850M) Review: Filling a gap around $800 price range gaming laptops

++ Main reason to consider:

GTX 850M + IPS display for $750-$850: combination not easily found for $800. Price with coupons should be around $750.

— Main reason to avoid:

No extra (backlit keyboard, good speakers and touchpad) and not the fastest, if you don’t need an IPS display.

Availability

Eurocom – $825, I5XoticPC – $940, I7

Pro:

+ Good gaming performance for $800 (though not the fastest)
+ 1080p IPS display (currently not available, wait few weeks)
+ Not getting too hot even under load.
+ Keyboard keys are rather comfortable.
+ Simple cleaner design (though not sophisticated like in premium laptops)
+ Additional mSata port
+ Easier to fix or upgrade then other laptops (CPU can be changed)

Con:

– Not as fast as others for $100-$200 more (Y510p SLI, Eurocom M4)
– No backlit keyboard
– Touchpad surroundings are sensitive, cursor jumps while typing
– Not that great battery performance under light use
– Speakers! Low quality and low volume
– A bit bulky
– Unknown future might bring soon other good options.

 

Introduction

ComponentDescription
Price$750-$850
CPUI5-4200M and up. My configuration: I5-4200M
GPUGTX 850M DDR3 (Maxwell)
RAMMicron 1x8GB DDR3@800MHZ
HDDHGST HTS725050A7E630 500GB 7200RPM HDD
LCD PanelIn review: AUO B156HTN03.1
Usually: 1080p IPS display for the same price (shortages)
Weight / Dimensions2.4kg / 5.28lbs, 14.96-26.8mm (h) x 374 (w) x 252 (d)
Keyboardstandard (non-backlit)
Connection Portsright side: 1xUSB 2.0, 1xUSB 3.0, microphone/headphones, kensington lock
left side: 1xUSB 3.0, 1xUSB 2.0, e-Sata, Ethernet, HDMI 1.4a, VGA
Front: card reader
Camera1080p; 30fps
WiFiWiFi: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8723AE Wireless LAN 802.11n PCI-E NIC
Ethernet: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC
Speakers2.0
Battery6 cell, 60Wh
The Eurocom Electra 2 review is actually a Clevo W650SJ review as it is based on the W650SJ barebone, same as the Sager NP6658 and others too. The point of the W650SJ is a good gaming performance along an IPS display – it’s like Clevo gaming ultrabook offering, only it’s not really an ultrabook. They made it a little slimmer compared to their other laptops. Let me start (sort of) by noting to some problem – currently, there seem to be a shortage of the IPS displays and it is not available for the W650SJ, so everybody selling it with a default 1080p TN panel display. That’s not the idea of the W650SJ, but I guess it will be fixed soon. If not, then it’s funny and makes the W650SJ lot less interesting.

Anyway, the Electra 2.0 itself is selling for $825 without an OS and before a $25 shipping to the US, that’s $850 to US – a good price if you are ok with arranging for your own OS. It won’t be the fastest as the Y510p SLI still holds that crown for around $850, but the IPS display (which, again, currently not available) makes it an interesting combination for many, along the usual from Clevo – an additional mSata bay and relatively easy maintenance. It’s biggest rivals are the Y510p and other Clevos scurrently, after the Lenovo Y50 have revealed itself as too pricey and lacking featuresץ

 

In the box

Drivers disc for Windows 8 (good for Windows 7 mostly), the W650SJ and a rather big PSU.

Build quality, Case, design and looks

The Electra 2.0 / W650SJ is mostly rigid enough. It won’t easily yield and you won’t feel it flexing under usual hands pressure. It’s not totally rigid as if you press it hard the plastic will flex around the hand wrests and the bottom. The outer lid is like the common outer lids, but also firm enough to hold against low pressure or hits.

The power button is a bit hard to press and sometimes you’ll have to press it twice to kick the laptop to life. The hinges covering plastic is firm, but pressing the hinges makes them sank in a little like they are not fastened to the laptop’s base firmly enough. I don’t know if it means a bad thing or it is some more dynamic mechanism to handle pressure, but I doubt it is. The W650SJ accessible components are the mSata and WiFi card, HDD bay, two DDR3 memory slots, CPU and GPU and main fan which is the only fan. The GPU is soldered but the CPU can be replaced.

Connection ports

3 USB ports with only two USB 3.0 is not perfect, but it’s ok for most. In the worst case, you can get some hub. HDMI and VGA provide for the video out stuff quite well. The default card reader and headphones/microphone ports are also apparent.

Maintenance

There is one service panel at the bottom which brings you down to the W650SJ internals, including the HDD bay and mSata, two DDR3 slots, WiFi card and CPU and GPU. It is not hard to open, but it’s a bit tricky to close. Electra 2 (W650SJ, GTX 850M) Review: inner components The GPU is soldered but the CPU can be replaced quite easily, unscrewing four integrated screws. You’ll need a torx screwdriver if you’d like to replace the CPU.

The W650SJ uses the same fan for both the GPU and CPU so temperatures of both are coupled. We’ll see later on how the W650SJ cooling system handles the heat produced.

 

Keyboard and trackpad

Keyboard feels OK, though not great. Keys respond quickly and they are rather quiet, but the response/feedback is not lacking and you could find yourselves pressing harder than you’d expect from a premium keyboard (which it is not). Other than that, the keys are well spaced and I didn’t have a problem of hitting two different keys at once. The touchpad is rather comfortable to touch and not too small. The surface is feels ok and not totally smooth. But it’s not perfect and there is some resistance when fingering the touchpad making it hard to work rapidly. The two keys are well separated, but clicking is not comfortable and you have to push hard with little feedback coming back to assure you.

Overall, it’s ok but no more than that. Another problem is while typing, your hands might touch the surroundings of the touchpad, making the cursor move to some other place. It happens to me quite a lot with the W650SJ. It was not that great typing with this machine, not because the keys are bad, but because the cursor simply jumped from place to place if you are not cautious.

 

Sound & Speakers

Well, the usual Clevo mumble jumble – you’ll barely hear any bass and generally, it sounds like someone in the other room plays music. It’s more suitable for games / talking, but enjoying music might be difficult. Nothing really to add.

 

General subjective performance experience

I used Windows 7 to inject life into my W650SJ. The 7200RPM HDD delivers ok performance and I barely felt any real halts or problems. Games were loading rather fast (except BF4). I would however, suggest telling the seller you want to remove it and get some discount (usually $40-$50) and use it for some nice 1TB SSHD or an SSD. Alternatively and maybe simpler, get an mSata driver for like $100-$130 and install your OS on it. Should be snappy + give some good storage space. One issue is the clocks of the CPU – for some reason, sometimes the CPU was set on 2.7GHZ under heavy load and sometimes on the maximal 3GHZ.

 

Gaming Performance

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. I had no real problems and stuff. Generally everything run as expected.

I’ve removed numbers that are a result of some non-3D factors, like lags, parts of map loading suddenly (results in lower FPSs) and so on. However, sometimes I might get some one few low values in some games, so the minimal FPSs look lower than they are usually. Therefore, I stated in those cases what I usually got. For example, in Titalfall, I usually got around 30-40FPS, but in one game I suddenly got like ~24FPS for a second. I added it nonetheless.

 

Test Methods & Drivers

Using Nvidia 337.5 drivers, Windows 7 Ultimate fully updated as I write these lines. HWInfo was 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.

 

Synthetic 3D benchmarks

W650SJ Electra 2 3DMark 2013

Summarized gaming performance

Electra 2.0 (W650SJ, GTX 850M) Review : Gaming performance, highest settings, 1080p

I really like colors! Anyway, you can see that generally the GTX 850M + I5-4200M combination performs quite well even under highest settings in modern games.Electra 2 W650SJ Review : 765M vs 850m Gaming performance, highest settings

 

You can see that more or less, the GTX 850M is on the same level as the GTX 765M. We do know however, that it produces considerably less heat.

Starcraft II

Highest settings, 1080p with four players and a lot of units, you’ll get around 45 FPS at least.

 

World of Tanks (WoT)

Highest settings, FXAA on, 1080p resolution, you’ll get an minimum of 24-25FPS, depends on the scene, but usually around 30 FPS. I’d suggest settings the graphics level to ‘High’ with FXAA on – this will get you a very smooth gameplay in a game like WoT while maintaining good graphics.

World of Tanks, 1080p
Settings FPS (Min) Feel
Highest 23-25 quite smooth
High 30-35 Smooth

 

LoL (League of Legends)

highest settings, 1080p resolution, a lot of units fighting and 5-6 players at a scene – not lower than 40-50 FPS. Smooth and responsive.

League of Legends, 1080p
Settings FPS (Min) Feel
Highest 48 Smooth

Crysis 3

TD = Texture Details, PP = Post Processing

Crysis 3, 1080p
Settings FPS (Min) Feel
Highest, SMAAx2 Min: 15, Avg: 18 Not smooth
High, SMAAx2 Min: 22 Avg: 26 Not smooth, but playable
Medium, SMAAx2 Min: 24, Avg: 28-30 rather smooth

The combination of GTX 850M + I5-4200M performs quite well in Crysis 3. Gaming at medium settings will give you a very smooth gameplay, from my epxerience and even playing on high graphics settings is an option.

 

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite, 1080p
Settings Min FPS Feel
Highest 26 Rather smooth
Very high 36 Very smooth

Bioshock can run well on very high settings. Even on highest settings the GTX 850M pulls it quite well and Minimal FPS is just above 24FPS – due to the nature of GPU-display communication it is not enough for real smooth gaming, but lowering the settings a bit gives you quite good FPSs. Built in benchmark too results (ultra):

Average FPS Min FPS Max FPS Scene Name
27.55 19.65 32.03 Welcome Center
27.89 18.70 30.02 Scene Change: Disregard Performance In This Section
28.40 13.27 32.50 Town Center
28.83 23.49 35.66 Raffle
37.98 26.61 40.95 Monument Island
40.65 37.23 41.77 Benchmark Finished: Disregard Performance In This Section
29.68 13.27 41.77 Overall

Skyrim

Skyrim, 1080p
Settings FPS (Min) Feel
Highest, 8xAA, AFx16, AO on Quality 20 not smooth
Highest, 4xAA, AFx16, no AO 30-35 quite smooth
High, 8xAA, AFx16, AO on quality, Viewing Distance on highest 26-35 quite smooth

AO = Ambient Occlusion. It is forced through the Nvidia control panel. At highest settings, without AO forced and 4-8xAA, you’ll get around 30-35 FPSs which in the case of Skyrim quite smooth gameplay. I would suggest to try setting the AO on quality or performance through Nvidia control center and in case you see a significant difference, try to lower the graphics settings a bit to get reasonable FPSs.

 

Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2, 1080p
Settings FPS Feel
Highest, Phsyx on high Min: 24, Avg: 32 quite smooth
Highest, Physx on medium Min: 26, Avg: 40 Rather smooth

With Physx on ‘high’ (which is the highest) and every other setting on the highest possible, you’ll get around 32FPS average, with 24FPS minimum which is really rare and will be the case in scenes with a lot of splash and stuff, like in the “Boom” brothers scene.

 

Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4, 1080p
Settings FPS (Min) Feel
Highest 24 OK, not totally smooth
Very high 35-40 Very smooth
Medium 64 Very smooth

Battlefield 4, even on ultra settings@1080p runs very well and smoothly. I would suggest running it on very high settings as the looks are very good but it will be smoother.

 

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2, 1080p
Settings FPS (Min) Feel
Highest 57 Very smooth

Everything on, TF2 will run smoothly on highest settings

 

Tomb Raider

I used the Tomb Raider built in benchmark

Tomb Raider, 1080p
Settings FPS Feel
Ultimate 16-31, AVG: 30 OK, but not totally smooth
Ultra 26-40, AVG: 32 Rather smooth

Tomb Raider is not a very 3D demanding game compared to current standards. You’ll be able to run it quite well on very high settings smoothly. If it’s not smooth enough for you, try lowering the Post Processing or Ambient Occlusion.

 

Dota 2

Highest settings, 1080p resolution.

Dota 2, 1080p
Settings FPS (Min) Feel
Highest 46 Very smooth

Smooth. You could run Dota 2 on highset settings easily.

 

Thief

1080p resolution. Thief built in benchmark.

Thief, 1080p
Settings FPS Feel
Highest Min: 9, Avg: 19 Not smooth
Highest, SSAA low Min: 14, Avg: 24 Not smooth, but playable
Highest, SSAA  off Min: 19, Avg: 34 as above
High, SSAA off, FXAA Min: 21, Avg: 35 as above
Normal Avg: 31 rather smooth

I would go for ‘High’ settings and try it out. If it’s too jumpy, go down to ‘normal’. You can also turn off SSAA and see how much it helps since it seems like it’s a major cause for the performance hit in Thief.

 

Total War: Rome II

1080p resolution.

Total War: Rome II, 1080p
Settings FPS Feel
Extreme Min: 7, Avg: 14 Not smooth
Ultra Min: 19, Avg: 28 It’s ok
High Min: 25, Avg: 32 Rather smooth

From my experience, even on ultra settings, it’s quite playable. My suggestion would be playing with the graphics settings between High and Ultra settings.

 

Titanfall

1080p resolution, Multiplayer.

Titanfall multiplayer, 1080p
Settings FPS Feel
Highest, MSAAx4 Min: 24-28, usually around 30-40 Quite smooth
MSAAx2 Around 33-40, rarely falls as low as 26-28 Very smooth
MSAAx2, lighting on ‘low’ 28-50 Very smooth

The gameplay was very smooth. At one map at some point I got like 24FPS with MSAAx4, but that was not the rule. Generally, I’d say go for MSAAx2 as it is hard to notice the differences.

 

Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling

Tests settings:

1. Prime95: Torture test, In-Place large FFTs

2. Prime95 + FurMark 1280×720 burn-in test

3. No cooling pad, but ventilation hole unblocked.

4. Windows power mode on “high performance”

 

Electra 2.0 CPU and GPU temperatures:

Electra 2.0 (W650SJ, GTX 850M) Review - CPU and GPU temperatures

 

 

 

You can see that thermals are rather good. Even under the heaviest load it doesn’t get too hot. The case itself does not get hot either. We’ll see later on that with an I7 the temperatures are much higher. You won’t have problems with overheating and stuff, just make sure the ventilation holes are not blocks.

 

Noise.

Under load the fan will kick in and although the noise itself is not very annoying, it is loud and it will interfere with the games’ audio, not to mention music (which sounds bad with these speakers anyway). Under light use / watching movies it is quite quiet with fan spinning on lowest speed.

Throttling.

No real throttling occurred. As I mentioned before, the CPU sometimes will go down to 2.7GHZ when the GPU us loaded too, but this happened rarely and I couldn’t find out what is the cause – probably some combination of software running + bios algorithm issues. Anyway, it is rare.

 

Screen & Screen quality

I’m actually not going to much about the Electra 2.0 display, since as I mentioned earlier, this is not the display that should come with the hW650SJ. You should get a high quality IPS display as a default for the current price.

There are some shortages, I’ve been told by Eurocom, so I got some low quality 1080p display. Estimated time to impact with the IPS displays is around two weeks as of writing these lines (start of May, 2014). Anyway, when you’re buying a W650SJ, make sure it has the IPS display and don’t let the seller unload some old stuff on your back.

Here are the viewing angles and colors

Contrast and sharpness are not that good and I find myself trying harder to read, even compared to the Dell 3540 1080p TN panel. Viewing angles are not good and maximal brightness is not that high. This is the only reason I’d suggest waiting with this purchase. Wait for the high quality display that should come with the W650SJ.

 

Battery Performance

I tested in two configurations:

1. Power saver power mode, 80% brightness, running youtube and doing stuff I need.

2. High Performance power mode, 80% brightness, running Team Fortress 2 with Geforce battery boost enabled on 30FPS

3. High Performance power mode, 80% brightness, running Team Fortress 2 with Geforce battery boost disabled

Electra 2.0 (W650SJ, GTX 850M) Review : battery performance

The battery boost works indeed, keeping FPSs on 30FPS and saving some battery juice. I guess that in more demanding games, there might be high gains, but even for TF2 there is some nice extra minutes.

Under light workload, the Electra 2.0 holds around 3.5 hours according to my test. Expectthat with lower brightness and with WiFi off, you could get even higher results.

 

Competing gaming laptops / Alternatives

Lets start by saying, again, that I would recommend waiting for the IPS displays to be restocked. Now, given that you the W650SJ is offered with an IPS display, then for around $800-$850 w/o coupon it’s a good option for those who seek a good gaming laptop with a high quality display.

With coupons, which are sometimes available, you can get the W650SJ / Electra 2.0 for like $750 in the US, with an IPS display, GTX 850M and an I5-4200M and w/o OS. So if you are ok with installing your own OS, it’s a serious deal as it has no competitors in terms of gaming performance and display quality for the price. However, there are some competitors:

1. Lenovo Y510p SLI I5 – $800-$900, with the 1080p display (not an IPS), GT 755M SLI and I5-4200M. It has something like 25%-40% higher gaming performance, much much much better speakers, Windows OS included in price but lower quality display (compared to the IPS, I mean) and it heats more and has SLI problems, but generally, it is a better offer for gamers who look higher gaming performance and especially if you don’t want to install an OS.

2. Clevos own 13.3″ W230SS and W350SS, both with a GTX 860M for around $950-$1000, no OS. The W230SS comes with an IPS display.

3. Y410p (GT 755M) and in the near future Y40 (Radeon M270) – both do not have the same gaming performance as the GTX 850M and the Y410p has a lower quality display too.

So, generally, the W650SJ / Electra 2.0 sits well around $750-$800 (including coupons).

 

Conclusion

One. Wait for the IPS display to come black. Should be soon (meaning, the end of May 2014). Secondly, wait for a discount.

Given those two, you’ll get a very cost effective gaming machine with a GTX 850M / GTX 765M performance level, IPS display and two storage bays (one mSata), for like $750-$800 and that’s the best you’ll get with an IPS display. What you won’t get is a good typing experience as the touchpad stands in the way and its surroundings are too sensitive. You’ll also won’t get a backlit keyboard and the speakers are probably something that Clevo found in the speakers cemetery.

Not a lot more to say. If you are looking for a sub $800 gaming laptop, catch a coupon or call Eurocom / XoticPC / others and get the W650SJ with an IPS display and GTX 850M for like $750. This might be changed if new models come up, especially the successor of the  Acer V7-482PG which has yet to be announced (I hope it will). So keep yourself informed and check the lists for gaming laptops under 800 and under 1000 dollars.

  • Sunil

    Hi.
    Found this topic very interesting and informative too through various posts.
    Indeed everyone is looking for best Gaming Laptops with affordable price tag. And fortunately various good brands are available in market.
    In fact, not under $800, even good Gaming laptops are avaliable under $600 too. Please checkout those from link http://www.laptopsamurai.org/gaming-laptops-under-600.html

  • Patrick Ortega

    You do know there’s a turbo fan function? It’s FN+’1′

    • I think all the Clevos have. Do you use Windows 8 or 7?

      • Patrick Ortega

        Windows 7. Currently my idle temps and heavy net browsing temps are between 35-40C, mostly 35. Under gaming, even Metro Last Light and Battlefield 4, I get about 60C both GPU and CPU. I re-added thermal paste, MX4.

        • 60C only? with or without the turbo fan function? that’s really low..

          • Patrick Ortega

            With the turbo fan off it can reach up to 70 but I applied my own bought thermal paste and keep turbo fan on for games. I also force the cpu to run at its highest stock speeds through core unparking and OC the GPU and run games at their highest settings. Yet my GPU and CPU readings are between 60-65 at best. It doesnt matter what resolution the game is running at since the GPU is still being utilised to the peak of its performance. Metro Last Light is supposedly a very demanding game for its high use of GPU and CPU power yet my readings are between 60-65, very rarely 70 with turbo fan. My fps is a whopping 50-60 when on High and tesselation on normal

            • thanks!
              But the resolution in use has impact on CPU usage

              Thanks for the info!

              • Patrick Ortega

                Not when taking into account the settings you run a game at and the utilisation of the CPU with the game. I happen to use a lot of CPU power in game but at the very least, cold temps to a relative degree.

  • Patrick Ortega

    Got my hands on one just recently. Got mine under an i5 4210M configuration and 500GB Seagate Hybrid. It sports 6GB of DDR3 RAM (Courtesy of my previous laptop) and a 1366×768 screen. Viewing angles are pretty good, performance is great and partially snappy due to the SSHD :3 Gonna be testing in more games!

  • Andy

    How do we apply the 10% student discount? Sorry not familiar with Eurocom’s order page.

    • they have a message box down in the order page (after you clock “continue” I think) or you can call them
      You can also use it for the Shark 3.0 which is very cost effective

      • Andy

        I see, thank you!
        I was wondering if having a 1600×900 resolution on a 15.6″ screen would have any downsides? Curious about that since choosing it brings the cost of the shark 3 to nearly the same as the electra 2.

        • 1. Yes, you would be able to connect anything that the GPU and connector (HDMI, DP) support (more than 1080p)

          2. The 1600×900 display is of low quailty.

          3. The Shark 3.0 should be cheaper with an I5, actually, and you can add 10% off for students

  • Patrick Ortega

    I find it disheartening when I saw the UK prices. It’s more expensive than the PC Specialist variant :/ Hmm.

    • indeed, you have the pcspecialist deals, you don’t need Eurocom..

  • Nathan A

    the link above is to the SHARK 2.0 not the ELECTRA 2.0 just wanted to report that issue