If you’re looking for a god-like gaming laptop, you’re probably also looking at systems with Nvidia’s GTX 880M, the company’s latest top-tier mobile graphics chip. The 880M has proven to be both energy efficient and powerful, traits that make it very appealing. However, the systems that it ships in are sometimes extremely expensive.
AVADirect, however, has an option for gamers who are on a relatively tight budget; the Clevo P157SM. Uninspired name aside, this laptop offers a lot for gamers on the go. The system combines a 15.6-inch 1080p display with an Intel Core i7-4810MQ quad-core CPU clocked at 2.8GHz, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M graphics card, and multiple internal hard drives which, in our review unit, amounted to over 1TB of storage.
Our review unit also arrived sporting a $2,571 MSRP, but only because of said hard drives. A more modest system with a GTX 880M but only a single solid state drive can be had for less than $2,000, which is an amazing value on paper. Let’s see if this system truly offers the best bang for your buck.
Hands on video
The AVADirect Clevo P157SM, like the Origin EON17-S we reviewed last month, is an astoundingly bulky laptop. This is unsurprising, as the two systems are related. Origin, AVADirect, and other smaller brands buy their systems from builders like Clevo, and then customize them to their liking. While the 15.6-inch display on the P1567SM makes it smaller than the Origin EON17-S, the AVADirect is only a quarter inch short of being two inches thick. Still, picking on this system is hardly fair, as MSI’s 15.6-inch GT60 Dominator Pro is no thinner.
The AVADirect Clevo P157SM, like the Origin EON17-S we reviewed last month, is an astoundingly bulky laptop.
The AVADirect Clevo P157SM, like the Origin EON17-S we reviewed last month, is an astoundingly bulky laptop.
Connectivity is robust, though not entirely in the ways we’d like to see. There are three USB ports, two of which are 3.0, along with eSATA and FireWire. Video-out is available via HDMI display port. The options are rounded out by 5.1 audio, and a memory card reader.
This is a strong roster but, as was the case with the Origin EON17-S, we’re not sure they correspond with what users need. We’d prefer to see more USB 3.0 ports in place of eSATA and FireWire, for example. Our review unit also lacked a Blu-Ray Drive, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, though the former is available as an option.
Using the P157SM’s keyboard is a bit awkward for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that it’s raised far above whatever surface the laptop is used on. This can result in strained wrists, due to the awkward angle. Another problem is the numpad – or rather, the fact that one is included. There’s barely enough room and some keys, like right-side Shift and Ctrl, are truncated as a result. We think ditching the numpad, or replacing it with a smaller set of macro keys, would be preferable.
Still, the keyboard at least offers reasonable travel, and a spacious layout for the alphanumeric keys as well. Typing is not a bad experience if you place a wrist pad in front of the system.
The keyboard is back-lit, and supports a variety of colors in four different zones via bundled software. There are also three levels of brightness that provide a wide range of luminance. Light leak isn’t a problem, thanks to the system’s broad key caps.
We measured the touchpad at about four inches wide and two inches tall, which is large enough, but not spacious overall for a system of this size. A cool symbol, whose origins we’re unsure of, shines through the surface of the keyboard when the backlight is turned on. Separate, discrete left/right buttons are provided, but offer little tactile feel.
Our review unit arrived with a 1080p, matte finish, non-touch display. There’s no other option, which is fine if you tend to game in a brightly lit room, but disappointing if you enjoy playing in the dark (where glossy displays tend to look better).
If raw power is your main concern, the P157SM may the right choice.
Our impressions were backed up by objective testing, which found that the panel can render only 83 percent of sRGB, and 63 percent of AdobeRGB. These results don’t compare well with most other systems. The Origin EON 17-S, MSI GT60, Dell XPS 15, and other gaming-capable laptops generally achieve 90 percent of the RGB gamut, or better.
We did measure a contrast ratio of 560:1 at maximum brightness, which is respectable, but the contrast comes from the backlight’s high output of 348 lux, rather than deep, inky blacks.
The P1567SM also repeats the color accuracy issues we experienced with Origin’s EON 17-S. We measured an average deltaE of 8.7, and a maximum error of 13.59 for Cyan. These results are better than the Origin, which suffered a maximum color error of 17.43 (again in Cyan), but AVADirect has no room to brag. These are very poor results.
Audio quality is a bit disappointing, too. Maximum volume is never more than adequate, and bass is barely available. Yes, the P1567SM is better than an average Ultrabook, but the margin of victory is smaller than it should be.
The P1567SM we received came with an Intel Core i7-4810MQ 2.8GHz quad-core processor, and 16GB of RAM. These specifications led to predictably outstanding processor performance, as you can see below.
If these results look uninspired, it’s only because the Origin EON17-S and MSI GT60 Dominator Pro, both of which are more expensive and have similar equipment, are included in the comparison. The P1567SM’s score of 111.53 GOPS is well ahead of the average, and is more than twice the typical score of a dual-core Ultrabook.
7-Zip mirrored these results by turning in a score of 18,557. This is less than the Origin EON17-S, which scored 21,857, but the Origin we reviewed had an Extreme Edition processor. The MSI GT60 Dominator Pro is just a hair quicker than the AVADirect with its score of 18,695.
We tested storage performance using PCMark 8, which spat out a score of 4,892. This is slightly behind the competition, as the Origin EON17-S and MSI GT60 Dominator Pro manage respective scores of 4,993 and 4,952. With that said, it’d be wrong to pretend that a difference of about 100 points (or less) is going to be noticeable in day-to-day use. The AVADirect P1567SM felt snappy and responsive during our time with it.
Next, we dove into gaming performance with 3DMark, where we recorded a Cloud Gate test score of 18,731, and a Fire Strike test score of 5,523. These results hover right around the range of similarly equipped competitors.
Real-world gaming performance
To see if the slight difference in 3DMark scores translates to a real difference in games, we loaded our usual test suite, which consists of Total War: Rome II, Battlefield 4 and League of Legends. All of the games were benchmarked at the system’s native 1080p resolution.
Total War: Rome II
This demanding strategy title ran smoothly at Medium detail, generating an average of 62 frames per second, with a maximum of 81, and a minimum of 47. Kicking detail up to Extreme decreased the average to 48 FPS, with a maximum of 59, and a minimum of 37. Though that is less than the ideal 60 FPS, the experience is still smooth.
Origin’s EON17-S managed 56 FPS at Maximum, while the MSI GT60 Dominator Pro, which we tested at its native 3K resolution, squeaked out only 16 FPS. The P157SM is clearly better matched to its native resolution than MSI’s opus.
DICE’s epic shooter ran at an excellent average of 130 FPS with detail set to Medium. That beats the Origin EON17-S by four frames, and destroys the MSI’s average of 71 FPS.
Ultra detail came in at 52 FPS, which once again barely beats the Origin, and easily defeats the MSI, which is held back by its 3K display. While we’d of course like to see 60 FPS, the P157SM runs BF4 close enough to that gold standard to provide extremely smooth and responsive gameplay.
League of Legends
The world’s most popular PC game ran at an average of 164 FPS at Medium detail, with a maximum of 226, and a minimum of 124. Kicking detail up to Very High decreased the average to a still-excellent 115 FPS, with a maximum of 159, and a minimum of 76.
These results are about 10 percent lower than the Origin EON17-S, but much better than the MSI at its native resolution. League of Legends is extremely smooth on the P157SM no matter what settings you choose.
Jumbo jet setter
The AVADirect Clevo P157SM’s 15-inch display automatically puts it on the small side of gaming laptops, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to carry. The system weighed in just south of eight pounds. Combine that with its nearly two-inch thick frame, and you’ve got a significant burden to carry.
Light-load use might stretch life beyond five hours, if you’re lucky.
Our wattmeter showed the P157SM consuming up to 28 watts at idle, two watts more than the MSI GT60 Dominator Pro, and two watts less than the Origin EON17-S. At load, that figure rose to 157 watts, which is the lowest of the trio. The MSI hit 161 watts, and the Origin maxed out at 201 watts. Still, the Clevo’s maximum power draw is almost twice that of the Dell XPS 15 (with Nvidia GT 650M graphics), and seven times higher than the HP Spectre 13t.
Erratic, but effective, cooling
Most laptops have a system fan that maintains a constant speed when at idle, but not the P157SM. Instead, the fan’s speed varies constantly. At its best, it’s virtually silent. At its worst, it generates 42 decibels of noise.
Maximum load increases that figure to 48.6 dB. That’s noisy, but it’s slightly better than the Origin EON17-S, which creates 49.8 dB of sound, and much less than the MSI GT60 Dominator Pro, which puts out 59.1dB. No one will call the AVADirect quiet, but it seems peaceful when compared to other gaming rigs.
The system fan is effective, too. We measured a maximum external temperature of 88.4 degrees Fahrenheit at idle, and that number increased to only 98 degrees at load. Both the Origin and MSI run ten degrees warmer at load, though the MSI runs a few degrees cooler at idle.
AVADirect, like most small laptop builders, does not ship any bloatware with the P157SM. The system did arrive with Windows 7, however, which has its pros and cons. On the plus side, there’s no dreadful Metro interface to deal with, but scaling is the sacrifice. Older apps looks fuzzy, as they’re stretched to fill the 1080p display and icons. Even at the largest scaling preset, they are a bit too small.
You’re not stuck with Windows 7 though. Windows 8 is an option, as are Kubuntu, Debian and Fedora. Choices are good to have, as most manufacturers simply ship the most recent version of Windows with their rigs, and don’t offer alternatives. You’ll save $90 if you choose Linux, though that limits the selection of games you can play dramatically.
The P157SM is not an inspired laptop. Though plenty quick, in most other respects, it ranges from respectable to lackluster. Display quality, audio quality and portability are sore points that detract from the overall experience. Like Origin’s EON17-S, which also suffered from display problems, AVADirect’s Clevo P157SM doesn’t help games look their best.
Price runs in this notebook’s favor, however, and helps excuse some of the flaws here. Our review unit’s $2,571 MSRP is higher than the price of the MSI GT60 Dominator Pro we recently reviewed, but the inflated price is almost entirely due to the inclusion of dual SSDs. Remove that, and the system can be equipped with the GTX 880M for around $2,000. Only MSI’s GT70 Dominator Pro (a larger alternative to the GT60 which lacks its 3K display) is less expensive.
Still, bargain or not, we can’t give this system an unreserved recommendation. The flaws force its powerful graphics chip away from the spotlight, and can hamper your gaming experience. There’s no doubt that the bang-per-buck available here is astounding, and if raw power is your main concern, the P157SM may the right choice. This system may be fine for you if you plan to hook it up to a monitor. However, people who plan to use this laptop as a portable gaming device should look elsewhere.
- Strong variety of ports
- Fast quad-core processor
- Strong gaming performance
- Good hardware value
- Runs cool (for a gaming laptop)
- Keyboard can feel cramped
- Below average display
- Weak audio