It Was a Monster Mash....

When Alienware announced the Ivy Bridge refresh for its gaming notebook lineup, one model was conspicuously absent. Word filtered out that the smallest member of the range, the 11.6” M11x, would not be refreshed and that Dell was preparing to discontinue the line. For ultramobile gamers, the loss of the M11x is a huge blow, because it was one of the more unique notebooks out there—a near ultraportable with legitimate gaming aspirations, backed up by gaming performance that lit the class standards on fire. It was a truly standout notebook, and it will be sorely missed.

But now, a spiritual successor emerges in the form of Clevo’s W110ER. We have this unit courtesy of Eurocom, who are calling it the Monster 1.0, but other boutiques selling the W110ER include AVADirect, OriginPC, Sager, and XoticPC amongst others. We typically see this with larger notebooks from Clevo and Compal, but it hasn’t been as prominent with smaller notebooks until now, with the exception of some ASUS models from years past.

The W110ER spec sheet actually reads like a pipe dream, something that you would come up with if things like thermal limits didn’t exist. The performance-class GPU is present and accounted for—Clevo ships every W110ER whitebook with a Kepler-based GT 650M (2GB DDR3, 384 CUDA cores, Optimus). But the most impressive thing here is that the W110ER has support for Intel’s new IVB 45W quad-core CPUs. Yeah seriously, a quad-core 11.6” notebook. Just to refresh your memory, the M11x made use of Intel’s low voltage dual-core parts, so this is a significant step up in CPU performance. It’s a ridiculous amount of performance stuffed into a tiny notebook.

The two closest competitors are probably the M11x R3 and the Sony VAIO SA (along with the forthcoming Ivy Bridge updated SA). The M11x is pretty soundly outgunned—the low voltage dual-core SNB vs. the IVB quad-core is not much of a comparison, and the update to Kepler on the GPU side is also a significant upgrade. The SA is an interesting point of comparison, because it’s not marketed as a gaming system, but it’s a 3.6lb 13.3”er that runs the normal-voltage SNB chips alongside an AMD HD6630M. Potent, yes, but both the Sony and the Alienware are relatively outdated at this point. IVB has power and thermal characteristics that make it possible to do ridiculous things like putting a quad-core in an 11.6” notebook, and the new 28nm GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA are generational leaps from their predecessors. It’ll be more relevant to reevaluate the segment after the Ivy Bridge update round completes; until then, the W110ER stands alone.

Let’s take a look at the Eurocom Monster unit that we received for evaluation. Eurocom shipped this unit with a Core i7-3720QM, the midlevel Ivy Bridge quad, along with 8GB memory, the glossy display (unfortunately the matte AU Optronics B116XW display was unavailable at the time our review unit was shipped), and a 750GB hybrid hard drive. I chose the hybrid hard drive purely out of curiosity—I hadn’t had one in a notebook before, and I was curious to see how it compared to the SSD experience. More on that later on.

Eurocom Monster 1.0 (Clevo W110ER) Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3720QM
(4 x 2.6GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.6GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM76
Memory 2x4GB DDR3-1866
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 2GB DDR3
(384 CUDA cores, 835/1800MHz core/memory clocks, 128-bit memory bus)

Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1.2GHz)
Display 11.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p
Infovision Optoelectronics 0489
Hard Drive(s) 750GB Seagate Momentus XT SSHD (8GB NAND cache)
Optical Drive None
Networking Killer Wireless-N 1103 802.11a/b/g/n
Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Audio VIA High Definition Audio
Stereo speakers
Battery 6-Cell, 62.16Wh (removable)
Front Side SD/MMC card reader
Right Side Kensington lock
AC Adapter
1 x USB 2.0
Left Side Exhaust vent
2 x USB 3.0
Ethernet jack
Headphone jack
Microphone/Line In
Back Side Battery
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 11.48" x 8.28" x 0.51-1.48" (WxDxH)
287mm x 207mm x 12.7-37.1mm
Weight 3.95 lbs
Extras 1.3MP Webcam
Warranty 1-year limited
Pricing Starts at $825, as configured: $1389

Our particular review unit retails for $1389 based on Eurocom’s online configurator, but you can get a system with an IVB quad for as low as $921 (or $825 with an i5 SNB dual-core). Granted, that’s with 4GB RAM, a 500GB 7200RPM hard drive, and no Windows install, but that’s not too bad. Eurocom’s RAM upgrades are questionably priced ($128 to get bumped to 2x4GB DDR3-1600 from the base 4GB DDR3-1333; you can get a 2x4GB PC12800 kit from Newegg for a hair over $40), but the hard drive options are more reasonable.

Honestly, I’d get the base system with the cheapest IVB quad and the matte screen option ($138)—the AUO B116XW02 should be a significant upgrade over the standard glossy 11.6” panel made by Infovision Optoelectronics. From there, I’d probably add an 8GB DDR3-1333 SoDIMM into the empty RAM slot (for a total of 12GB memory) and drop in an SSD of some sort, probably an Intel 330. Sans Windows, that’s a system that goes for approximately $1250. Spec rundown: i7-3610QM (2.3GHz, Turbo up to 3.3), GT 650M 2GB, 12GB DDR3-1333, 120GB Intel SSD 330, and a matte 11.6” display. That’s a light-the-world-on-fire kind of performer for not that much coin.

Like I mentioned earlier, there are a number of companies offering variants of the W110ER for sale. The only differences between the retailers are pretty much just price/options and branding, along with custom paint options in certain cases. Eurocom appears to be one of the very few offering the upgraded screen option, and for that reason alone, I’d recommend buying it from them. As always, feel free to shop around—we discussed several other resellers in our Clevo W11ER pipeline.

Eurocom Monster - Hardware
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  • fic2 - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    Cue the lawsuit from Monster Cable in 3, 2, 1...
  • hsew - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    This needs an mSata port and a higher resolution display option and it would be worth buying. Thunderbolt would be nice but not critically necessary. Guess that's why they called it the 1.0.
  • Beenthere - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    ...and a 45w CPU for a 11.6" laptop sure don't make good sense.
  • RoninX - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    It would be interesting to see a comparison, in terms of design and hardware options, of all the different OEM varieties of this Clevo (Eurocom, Origin, Maingear, etc.). Of course, the performance will be similar, if not identical, but the look and feel, and the choices in terms of screens and SSDs, may be different...

    Also, is there any way to get a 9-cell battery for this?
  • slim142 - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    This laptop in 14" with Matte screen, 1680x1050 (or, if too much, then 1440x900) resolution. I would jump on it immediately.
  • maniac5999 - Friday, May 18, 2012 - link

    Actually, I have a 12" laptop (MSi Wind 230) and I think that 768p is the right resolution for this size.
  • yhselp - Saturday, May 19, 2012 - link

    It really boggles my mind when competent people, even professionals, make subjective claims about products. Did they get caught up in marketing to such an extent that they're no longer able to see a product for what it really is? When was the m11x anything but a shameless, uninnovative shirking of an already dated chassis? A thick notebook which weighs as much as a regular 13.3-incher, yet has a tiny screen and unimpressive components. I'm not saying it's a bad product per se, just an unimaginative one that doesn't push the envelope in any way. Not to mention a glossy screen on an 'ultraportable' machine, although that's a problem with so many products nowadays.

    What I'm trying to say here, as someone who knows a little about thermal design, is that very few notebooks on the market make optimal use of TDP, and as a result the public has an unrealistic opinion of what's possible. Many people would be surprised by what components you can actually stuff in a given chassis. I don't feel competent enough to say why that is, but I suspect it has something to do with companies being reluctant to develop (and well) new designs as often as they should - even Apple.

    W110ER is not a thermal miracle, it doesn't break the laws of physics - it just makes adequate use of thermal limits. However, it's fair to say that the inclusion of 45W CPUs is quite bold (not in a bad way). As for the product itself - it's pretty good (apart from the generic outer design), although I feel that it lacks focus. I'd much rather have either a truly portable 11.6-incher that weighs under 3 lbs and packs a ULV + 640m, or a more practical (and still portable) 13.3-incher at 4.5 lbs with a 35W quad-core + 660m.

    I really like it how you guys at AnandTech constantly preach about better displays. In your Vaio SE review you said that its IPS panel should be the bare minimum nowadays - I agree. And to that I'd also add proper thermal optimization. Perhaps Haswell will bring that.

    I hope I haven't been offensive, that was not my intent.
  • VivekGowri - Sunday, May 20, 2012 - link

    Set a 4.5lb weight limit, and how many decent gaming systems have there been over the last 3 years? The M11x, the VAIO SA, the first two generations of VAIO Z series (not the new Power Media Dock one), and how many others? The M11x was really the only one of those to be focused on gaming, and the GT 335M was pretty sweet at the $799 price point (in 2010). I wasn't really a huge fan of the M11x (in any of its 3 iterations, actually) primarily due to the size/weight vs screen size, but it was relatively unique in pushing the concept of portable gaming, and that's all the opening paragraph was trying to say.
  • ijozic - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link

    Well, there is the 13,3" LG P330 which has a much better design and materials (IMHO), though it's dual core + 555M (somewhat slower than the 650M). Unfortunately, it has a glossy screen, no backlighted keyboard and it's only available in Korea. Hopefully, they'll make an IB refresh and release it worldwide.
  • yhselp - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Yes, the LG P-series are (and have been) generally well optimized portables. Unfortunately, they've also never been widely available in the US or anywhere outside Korea for that matter. I wonder whether anyone remembers the excellent LG P300 - it used to be a direct competitor to the famous Dell M1330. Unlike the Dell, however, it had a 8600M GS (compared to the slower 8400 GS), better battery life and a somewhat sturdier design. It was quite the machine back then.

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