Fast Hardware in a Candy Shell?

Around here it's fair to say we've been...unkind...towards Clevo's notebook builds. There's good reason for that: Clevo notebooks may support some of the fastest mobile hardware available, but they haven't traditionally housed it in the nicest chassis. When Jarred reviewed the Clevo X7200, he found that had changed somewhat, and the P170HM seems to be another moderate step forward.

Superficially the P170HM is very clearly a Clevo design, and as a result is utterly devoid of color. Black is always going to be in fashion so there's no real argument here: the lid is black aluminum with a glossy black plastic trim that feels like the kind of accent glossy plastic was always best suited for. That understated use of glossy plastic continues when we open the notebook.

Except on the screen bezel. I am utterly mystified as to why the screen bezel has become the last outpost for glossy plastic on modern notebooks when it's one of the worst places for the material. The reflective nature of it is distracting and liable to only further irritate users who have largely grown weary of screens with glossy finishes. Mercifully the gloss only materializes in one other place: a tasteful trim around the aluminum palm rest beneath the keyboard. The rest of the interior surfaces of the P170HM (excluding the white-LED infused indicator bar) are a black matte plastic that seems sturdy enough if a little chintzy.

The keyboard, of course, remains the bane of Jarred's existence. That's understandable: as far as chiclet keyboards go, Clevo's remain among the worst we've seen. The keys are loose, extremely clicky, and you can hear the entire keyboard rattle if you're a key abuser like I am. Worse still, the layout is utterly moronic and Clevo seems steadfast in their refusal to change it. There's a massive amount of wasted space on either side of the keyboard on this chassis (and indeed, even on the 15.6" models), and the non-standard layout of the 10-key makes it next to useless. The whole point of a 10-key is to be able to use it by touch in a hurry, not to be constantly perplexed as to why the enter key is where the decimal point is supposed to be. This is a completely thoughtless design, but on the bright side Clevo did make one update to their keyboard: they painted red arrows on the W-A-S-D cluster. Because that was what was poorly engineered and unintuitive.

Fortunately the rest of the build is still a step up and feels less brutally cheap than old Clevo notebooks. There's still a way to go; a notebook this pricey (and it costs this much just about everywhere, so you can't fault AVADirect) should have a classier, sturdier chassis, especially given the expensive and powerful components it was designed to house. Hopefully if we keep harping about this eventually someone at Clevo will get the memo, but until then you should feel at least reasonably confident that the P170HM has a better build than its predecessors did.

Introducing the Clevo P170HM and NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 485M Sandy Bridge: Breaking Hearts and Records
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  • Hrel - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 - link

    There a few notebooks I'd REALLY love to see reviewed.

    Clevo: P151HM1, W150HN. Both with 1080p screen. The first has the GTX460M and the second has the GT540M. I already have a solid idea of performance with the given parts, but I'm very interested in speaker quality, chassis quality, keyboard quality. Things Jarred, you tend to hit on well. Unfortunately these still aren't available in actual stores so the only way I can find this stuff out is a really good review; or buy it and take that risk.

    Compal: I don't know the model number cause I can't find it anywhere anymore but a 15.6" 1080p Compal with the GT540M and Sandy Bridge.

    What are the chances of getting these in house for a review? And what kind of time frame would we be looking at? Thanks!
    Reply
  • Hrel - Friday, March 4, 2011 - link

    Jarred! Why have you ignored my comment? Reply
  • SimKill - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 - link

    "Begging the question" in your first paragraph isn't what you think it means.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

    Otherwise, a great article!
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 - link

    Interesting. I've never heard this before, and honestly it strikes me as one of those areas where the language has changed and the "modernized" usage has become accepted. The thing is, to beg (ask earnestly; entreat) for a question hardly seems to be a clear translation of "petitio principii" (petitioning for a principle point). Honestly, I'm not going to change my usage on this one, simply because I have never heard it used before as "assuming the initial point" -- certainly not by anyone I know! I suppose maybe if I were a lawyer it would have come up before. Reply
  • jcompagner - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 - link

    I am waiting and waiting for the real high end, ok there is one already there the 17" of apple but i rather have a "normal" windows laptop but then as apple does in a high end 16:10 configuration (1920x1200) Reply
  • alephxero - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 - link

    It seems kind of disingenuous to list the starting price but not the configured price. Looking at AVADirect's site the price for the reviewed model is in the $2600 range, a far cry from the 1600 base price. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 - link

    You're correct, and we usually list the configured pricing. I'll update the table. Reply
  • bennyg - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Powafulest GPU feasible for multimedia performance... check.
    CPU good enough to run it with room to spare... check.
    Enough of a thermal solution to keep them both from burning up... check.
    Great quality LCD panel...

    Even if all Clevo focus on is incremental improvement in their products, like remedying the tiny battery of the w8x0cu designs, why would they settle for a mid-range screen on a top-of-the-range laptop...

    -1 buyer of this laptop as a result.

    Also, just give me manual graphics switching already! I don't care about Optimus and it's performance tradeoffs - to have the same hardware present and capable that cheaper/smaller laptops use to run >5hrs on battery - but no interface to use it - is just silly. I would get great benefit out of this feature, I don't use my laptop just for multimedia.
    Reply

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