Hands-On Clevo M980NU Notebook

With a lot of hot…

At the same time nVidia launched the Geforce GTX 280M graphic cards, the barebone manufacturer Clevo introduces the M980NU notebook. Thereby this 18.4 inch desktop replacement notebook is able to host most up-to-date hardware, e.g., the mobile quad-core processors from Intel or up to two of the new GTX 280M graphic cards in SLI connection. We had the opportunity to take a closer look at a first pre-sample.

Clevo M980NU

Note: All of the following tests, measurements, and pictures are done for a pre-sample. So, it might well be that the finally released notebooks could differ in some aspects.

Case

It is apparent that a 18.4 inch screen needs an appropriate big case. In the case of the Clevo M980NU this results in a weight of 5.350 kilogramme (without power adapter) and a size of 280x438x64 millimeter. So, once you have unpacked it you better keep it on the desk.

The design of this notebook very much resembles some Clevo colleagues of the XXL-category, e.g, the D901C. Contrary to the popular M570TU barebone, the case of the M980NU does it without a colourful design. Only a silver molding on the base unit puts a small accent on the case.

However, after power on, the notebook is highlighted by a literal play of colours of numerous built-in LEDs. E.g., the hot keys, but also the openings for loudspeaker and fan at the front and at the back side, shine in various (configurable) colours. Also at the lid, the label 'Style Note' is highlighted by illumination and even the touchpad comes with a colored shiny frame.

LED Illumination on the Clevo M980NU
LED Illumination on the Clevo M980NU

Except of the showy lights the case looks rather simple and decent. That is beside of the size, but even this does not look bad. The wedge-shape of the base unit, which lets the parts appear thin, contributes to this impression. A similar concept was already successfully implemented in the M570 series.

Statements about workmanship might not be significant yet, because we reviewed a pre-production model.
If the surfaces at the palm rests and at the display lid are still glossy in the final model, you can say that they at least look good. However, they are also sensitive to dirt and fingerprints will quickly accumulate.

Connectivity

Because the front and also the back of the M980NU are occupied by the vent hole and the loudspeakers, only the flanks are available for interfaces. However, because of a total height of 6 centimeters these should, nevertheless, provide plenty of space.

In total 4 USB ports are offered, one of them is a combined eSATA/USB interface. In addition you'll find a DVI-port and an HDMI-out on the left side of the case. This side also houses a LAN-port, a FireWire port, the optical drive, and an ExpressCard slot.

The opposite side, the right one, provides an antenna port if the model is equipped with a TV-card, and the audio ports. Overall, the order of the ports is alright, because they are in the back parts of the sides. Only the audio ports could cause problems for righties, if they are in use all the time.

Front Side: No ports
Front Side: No ports
Left Side: DVI, 2xUSB, LAN, HDMI, card reader, Express card, FireWire, opt. drive
Left Side: DVI, 2xUSB, LAN, HDMI, card reader, Express card, FireWire, opt. drive
Back Side: power socket
Back Side:  power socket
Right Side: audio, antenna, USB/eSATA, Kensington
Right Side: audio, antenna, USB/eSATA, Kensington

Input Devices

The keyboard is a little bit off center in the huge base unit. This is, because of a column with hot keys left of it. However, in the pre-sample its look could not really convince.
The keyboard was, so to say, designed in a 'Sony-Style', that is, each key is separated from the others and individually embedded in the case.
Typing can be characterized by a rather short key travel. However, because the partly provisional connections in the pre-production sample, we cannot say much about this now.

The touchpad looks very attractive, because it is absolutely flush with the case and even has the same high-gloss surface. However, it is not really a convenient mouse replacement in case of need, because its surface is sticky and so uncomfortable in use. If this is not changed in the production-models, this would indeed be a point of critique. But, to be fair, it is note-worthy that the need for a touchpad is anyway rather limited, in a notebook with comparably low mobility.

The hot keys above the keyboard are realized by touch-sensitive areas, which are colurful illuminated by LEDs. However, they did not really response well to user actions in the pre-sample. The volume control, a touch-sensitive illuminated semicircle, does not look too good.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

The reviewed sample of the Clevo M980NU was equipped with a 18.4-inch display with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixel, that is full-HD. In our measurements this panel achieved a maximum brightness of 220 cd/m² in its center, a rather passable value.

Because the brightness falls towards the corners, it only attains an illumination of about 74.4%. However, in terms of contrast this screen scores points. With a minimum brightness (black value) of 0.37 cd/m² it achieves a very good maximum contrast of 595:1.

163.7
cd/m²
181.9
cd/m²
164.1
cd/m²
181.4
cd/m²
220
cd/m²
177.4
cd/m²
174.4
cd/m²
183.6
cd/m²
175.2
cd/m²
Information
Maximum: 220 cd/m²
Average: 180.2 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 74 %
Black: 0.37 cd/m²
Contrast: 595:1
Distribution of brightness

Also in regards of color representation we looked closer at the display of the M980NU. The results of our measurements done by means of the Spyder 3 tool from Datacolor were throughout positive.
E.g., the representable color space of the built-in full-HD panel is clearly bigger than the standard of contemporary notebook displays. Only special RGB-LED panels, like the one of the Dell Studio XPS 16, are still better than this panel.

M980NU vs. RGB color space
M980NU vs. RGB color space
Adobe RGB vs. M980NU
Adobe RGB vs. M980NU
M980NU vs. MSI GT627 (standard TFT)
M980NU vs. MSI GT627 (standard TFT)
M980NU vs. SXPS 16 (RGB-LED)
M980NU vs. SXPS 16 (RGB-LED)

Also in terms of viewing angles the used full-HD display convinced. In horizontal plane they are throughout wide. Also with a viewpoint aslant above the screen, the picture stays surprisingly stable. Only from below, disturbing distortions arise quicker.

Performance

The Clevo M980NU clearly focuses on built-in hardware. You could nearly come to the conclusion that the case was designed around the planned hardware equipment afterwards. That is no surprise as the case should be able to house contemporary and coming high-performance processors and also up to two graphic cards and believe it or not up to three hard drives.

The reviewed model was equipped with a X9100 Extreme CPU from Intel with a clock rate of 3.06 GHz. However, you can assume that the M980NU can also be populated and ordered with quad-core CPUs.

Nevertheless, the highlight of this notebook is without doubt nVidia's new flag ship in the segment of mobile graphic cards, the Geforce GTX 280M. Technically speaking this is about a Quadro FX 3700M, but, built in 55 nanometer technology with higher clock rate, or a desktop 9800 GTX with lower clock rate. It is clear that nVidia claims for the top of current mobile graphic cards. Detailed information to the Geforce GTX 280M, especially in comparison to its biggest competitor from ATI, the Mobility Radeon 4870, are available in this special article.

The reviewed pre-sample of the Clevo M980NU could score points by very good results in the run tests. In the PCMark 2005 it achieved with 7203 points a respectable result. However, the values of the graphical-focused benchmarks and the game tests of current games were even much more impressive.
With 11767 points in the 3D Mark 2006 benchmark test the Geforce GTX 280M inside our test sample is able to reach a respectable result here too.

3D Mark 2006
3D Mark 2006
PC Mark 2005
PC Mark 2005

The reviewed pre-sample only came with 2 gigabyte RAM. But, fast DDR2 memory modules (PC3-8500F) were used. Up to now, there is no information available about the maximum supported RAM capacity. Because the Geforce 9400m chip set is used you can assume that the limit is 8GB.

If you want to replace or upgrade RAM, you have to remove the keyboard, because the memory slots are there, so to say, at the back side of the mainboard. However, this is easily done once some screws are removed.

RAM replacement in the Clevo M980NU
RAM replacement in the Clevo M980NU
RAM replacement in the Clevo M980NU
RAM replacement in the Clevo M980NU
RAM replacement in the Clevo M980NU
RAM Replacement in the Clevo M980NU

With a total of three slots, which can be populated with 2.5" inch hard drives, the M980NU leaves nothing to be desired. If you, e.g., select mass storage devices with 500 GB capacity, you can easily exceed the magic limit of one terrabyte.
However, it is also possible to use the new solid state drives (SSD), which are better than standard hard drives in terms of performance, or combine both technologies.

Systeminfo CPU
Systeminfo CPU
Systeminfo CPU
Systeminfo GPU
Systeminfo GPU
Systeminfo GPU
System Information Clevo M980NU
3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE40754 points
3DMark 0336865 points
3DMark 0518082 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
11767 points
3DMark Vantage5314 points
Help
3DMark Vantage in comparison
Lenovo Thinkpad X100e - 2876-27G (min)
 MV-40, Radeon HD 3200
98
   ...
Lenovo ThinkPad T430
 3520M, NVS 5400M
5205
Acer Aspire 7560G-83524G50Mnkk
 A8-3520M, Radeon HD 6740G2
5239
Samsung Serie 3 350V5C-S07DE
 3610QM, Radeon HD 7670M
5310
Clevo M980NU
 X9100, GeForce GTX 280M
5314
Toshiba Qosmio X500-121
 720QM, GeForce GTS 360M
5333
Nexoc B509II Ultra
 4702MQ, HD Graphics 4600
5334
Asus A95VM-YZ030V
 3610QM, GeForce GT 630M
5339
   ...
Schenker XMG U702 (max)
 3960X, GeForce GTX 680M SLI
36739
PC Mark
PCMark 057203 points
PCMark Vantage5008 points
Help
PCMark Vantage in comparison
Sony SV-S1311G4E (min)
 2350M, HD Graphics 3000
811
   ...
HP Envy 15
 720QM, Mobility Radeon HD 4830
4996
Deviltech Fragbook DTX (W881CU)
 720QM, GeForce GTX 480M
5002
HP G62-130EG
 330M, Mobility Radeon HD 5430
5005
Clevo M980NU
 X9100, GeForce GTX 280M
5008
Dell Studio 1747
 720QM, Mobility Radeon HD 4650
5030
Dell Vostro 3555
 A8-3500M, Radeon HD 6620G
5030
Sony Vaio VPC-CW2S1E/L
 330M, GeForce GT 330M
5034
   ...
One K56-3F (max)
 4700MQ, GeForce GT 750M
23558

Gaming Performance

Of course we only run most up-to-date games for checking the gaming performance of the Cleve M980NU with Geforce GTX 280M.

GTA IV

Hardly any other game was able to split the gaming community in a comparable way than the newest release of the classic Grand Theft Auto. While some enthuse about the gaming fun, the story, and the graphic, others are upset because of the performance demands of this game. First and foremost the later is true for notebook users, because it is not possible to play this game to some degree smoothly with middle-class notebooks.

Of course the demands on the Clevo M980NU are different. It is essential to reach a detail level as high as possible. With all settings on minimum and a resolution of 800x600 pixel the notebook achieved 48.05 frames in average in the integrated benchmark test. With a resolution of 1024x768 and medium details (visual range 21, detail 10, vehicles 50, shade 8) the laptop could still accomplish a very good result of 47.3 fps. Although the observed frame rates are mostly clearly lower when you run the game in practice, GTA IV was still smoothly playable with a good graphical quality with these settings.
The M980NU was brought to its knees, when we increased the visual range and the details to 50. This caused the frame rate to drop to 36.15 fps. Here we could observe a stuttering.

In connection with GTA IV it is also note-worthy that the CPU is very important too. Although the test sample was equipped with a powerful X9100 Extreme CPU, quad-core chips should improve the results of the benchmarks.

Crysis

The Clevo M980NU was capable to run the Crysis GPU benchmark test on high details. With an average of 44.7 fps this game should also run smoothly in practice.

In a special article about the new GTX 280M graphic card from Nvidia we also ran numerous other games. Detailled information are available in this special article.

Emissions

System Noise

Because we reviewed a pre-production model, whose fan was preconfigured to always run on maximum, it is difficult to say something about the emissions of this notebook. Because there are vent holes at the back part of the case, the warm air can be flow off rearwards. So, it does not disturb working right or left of the notebook.

Loudspeakers

If the sound system is also used in the final model, you can say, it is average. The loudspeakers located on the front edge, emit their sound very directly towards user. However, the subwoofer was hardly perceptible in the soundscape.

Battery Life

Although our test sample came with a 68.8W battery screwed(!) into it, it did not work. Be that as it may, you can assume that the battery life of the production model will not be impressive too. Potential buyers won't really mind, as they consider performance most important.

The power consumption of our rudimentarily equipped pre-sample was about 57W in idle mode (maximum brightness). In energy saving mode with minimum display brightness it could be reduced to a minimum of 49W. Under load, e.g., when playing GTA IV, the notebook reached a maximum of about 139W.

Power consumption

Idle 49 / 57 / Watt
Load / 139 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         

Verdict

Clevo M980NU
Clevo M980NU

With the M980NU Clevo presents a completely new platform in the high-performance desktop-replacement range. Being equipped with a 18.4 inch display they follow the trend to displays with 16:9 aspect ratio. In total, the case appears to be very huge and the production models will likely weigh about 5.5 kilogramme. The design of the notebook tries to conceal the size of this laptop and balances simple design and gaming outfit. This is especially done by LED illuminations.

The connectivity includes virtually all important ports, e.g, DVI, HDMI, and USB/eSATA. Regarding communication modules we cannot say much now, however, you can assume that the M980NU will be equipped with Gigabit LAN and wireless LAN standard-n. The same is true for integrated Bluetooth.

The offered keyboard looks attractive. Also in use it appears to be more comfortable than e.g., the one of the D901C barebone, because the decent wedge-shape of the M980 allows a comfortable hand posture. The provided touchpad does not only look like being non-existent, because of its high-gloss and rather sticky surface users might happily do it without this mouse substitute.

The built-in 18.4 inch display in full-HD format (1920x1080 pixel) achieved a rather good brightness of up to 220 cd/m² in our test. Furthermore, it scored points by a very good maximum contrast of 595:1. 

If also the production models are equipped with this screen, you can enjoy a much bigger color space than standard notebook displays offer. However, RGB-LED panels, like the one in the Dell Sudio XPS 16, are still better than this.

The Clevo M980NU is especially interesting, because this is the first notebook, which utilizes the new graphic card generation from nVidia. The Geforce GTX 280M takes the top compared to other currently available video cards in the run benchmarks. Combined with very powerful Extreme dual- or quad-core processors from Intel, which are used in the M980NU, you can count for first-class performance in virtually all fields of application.

It's exiting how Clevo and the resellers will adapt the fan control. In case you simple browse the internet or run simple office tasks, it would be desirable to have a to some degree quieter idle mode.

To summarize, the Clevo M980NU left a good impression, not least because of the fascinating new graphic hardware from nVidia. Similar to the M570 barebone you'll get the new 18.4 inch base in numerous configurations from different manufacturers, e.g., from Nexoc, Schenker, or Deviltech in Germany. Considering the key data of the built-in hardware you can assume that the price will start at about 1700.- euro. Fully equipped (2nd video card, quad-core CPU, three hard drives, ...) the price might quickly reach several thousand Euros. You can be curios.

Clevo M980NU
Clevo M980NU
Clevo M980NU
Clevo M980NU
Clevo M980NU
Clevo M980NU
In Review: Clevo M980NU
Clevo M980NU

Specifications

Clevo M980NU

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Nvidia MCP79MX (9400M G)
:: Memory
2048 MB, DDR3 PC3-8500F, 2x1024MB, max. 8GB
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M - 1024 MB, Core: 583 MHz, Memory: 950 MHz, GDDR3 VRAM, 7.15.11.7936
:: Display
18.4 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, Full HD TFT, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
320 GB - 5400 rpm, 320 GB 5400 rpm WDC WD32 00BEVT-22ZCT
:: Soundcard
HD Audio
:: Connections
1 Express Card 54mm, 4 USB 2.0, 1 Firewire, 1 DVI, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata,
:: Networking
NVIDIA nForce 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet (10/100/1000MBit)
:: Optical drive
TSSTcorp CDDVDW TS-L633A
:: Weight
5.35 kg
:: Battery
68.82 Wh Lithium-Ion, 14.8V 4650mAh

 

...the M980NU can house further two hard drives and therewith easily exceed one Terrabyte total mass storage capacity.
...the M980NU can house further two hard drives and therewith easily exceed one Terrabyte total mass storage capacity.
In order to ensure an appropriate cooling of the powerful components there is a cooler for the graphic card ...
In order to ensure an appropriate cooling of the powerful components there is a cooler for the graphic card ...
...and a separate one for the CPU.
...and a separate one for the CPU.
It's still open, how this system handles temperature emissions.
It's still open, how this system handles temperature emissions.
In order to also score points by soundscape, Clevo equips the M980NU with a subwoofer.
In order to also score points by soundscape, Clevo equips the M980NU with a subwoofer.
Called M980NU or M98NU Clevo offers a new 18.4 inch notebook.
Called M980NU or M98NU Clevo offers a new 18.4 inch notebook.
The 5.5 kilo giant looks decent, but resembles predecessor models like the D901C.
The 5.5 kilo giant looks decent, but resembles predecessor models like the D901C.
Upon activating the notebook it gets interesting as it uses various colorful LEDs.
Upon activating the notebook it gets interesting as it uses various colorful LEDs.
Because of the pre-sample state of our test sample we cannot say much about the workmanship yet.
Because of the pre-sample state of our test sample we cannot say much about the workmanship yet.
If they are kept, the high-gloss surfaces are optically and haptic striking.
If they are kept, the high-gloss surfaces are optically and haptic striking.
However, one can assume that many parts will still be changed and improved.
However, one can assume that many parts will still be changed and improved.
Regarding connectivity the M980NU offers everything a reasonable DTR notebook requires: 4 USB ports, DVI, HDMI, and eSATA.
Regarding connectivity the M980NU offers everything a reasonable DTR notebook requires: 4 USB ports, DVI, HDMI, and eSATA.
Although only the flanks can be used for interfaces, their order is rather good.
Although only the flanks can be used for interfaces, their order is rather good.
Even for the keyboard Clevo apparently let people with "creative mind" tackle the task.
Even for the keyboard Clevo apparently let people with "creative mind" tackle the task.
These went for a single-key layout in 'Sony-style', which looks good in the huge 18.4 inch case.
These went for a single-key layout in 'Sony-style', which looks good in the huge 18.4 inch case.
Optically the touchpad was completely integrated in the palm rest areas. However, this did not have a positive impact on the use.
Optically the touchpad was completely integrated in the palm rest areas. However, this did not have a positive impact on the use.
The hot keys left of the keyboard could also not really convince.
The hot keys left of the keyboard could also not really convince.
Clevo used a 18.4 inch full-HD panel with 16:9 aspect ratio as screen.
Clevo used a 18.4 inch full-HD panel with 16:9 aspect ratio as screen.
The brightness of the pre-sample is throughout good and reaches a maximum of 220 cd/m².
The brightness of the pre-sample is throughout good and reaches a maximum of 220 cd/m².
Through a maintenance cover on the bottom side you can access the built-in core components.
Through a maintenance cover on the bottom side you can access the built-in core components.
Although the test sample looks rather empty inside, the most important components were already there:
Although the test sample looks rather empty inside, the most important components were already there:
First of all this is the CPU, in our test sample a Intel Core 2 Extreme with 3.06 GHz,...
First of all this is the CPU, in our test sample a Intel Core 2 Extreme with 3.06 GHz,...
...and a brand-new chip from nVidia, a Geforce GTX 280M.
...and a brand-new chip from nVidia, a Geforce GTX 280M.
Technologically speaking a successor of the FX3700, nVidia intends to take the top of current mobile graphic chips.
Technologically speaking a successor of the FX3700, nVidia intends to take the top of current mobile graphic chips.
It is based on the Geforce 9400 chip set, also from nVidia.
It is based on the Geforce 9400 chip set, also from nVidia.
In addition to a single hard drive, as in our test sample,...
In addition to a single hard drive, as in our test sample,...

Similar Notebooks

Notebooks with the same GPU

» Review mySN XMG7.c Notebook
Core i7 720QM, 17.3", 3.95 kg
» Review Intel Core i7 Processors in Notebooks
Core i7 (Desktop) 975, 17", 4.5 kg
» Review Intel Core i7 Processors in Notebooks
Core i7 (Desktop) 950, 17", 4.5 kg
» Review Intel Core i7 Processors in Notebooks
Core i7 (Desktop) 920, 17.0", 4.5 kg

Laptops with Same Screen Size and/or Weight

» Review Alienware 18 Notebook
GeForce GTX 780M SLI, Core i7 4930MX
» Review Alienware M18x R2 Notebook
Radeon HD 7970M Crossfire, Core i7 3920XM
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Hands-On Clevo M980NU Notebook
Author: J. Simon Leitner, 2009-03- 3 (Update: 2012-05-26)