by Charles P. Jefferies
Today we will look at the Sager NP9262, “the world’s most powerful notebook computer.” This 17-inch monster features desktop processors, dual graphics cards, and the biggest power adapter you will ever see. At 12 pounds it is not light, and starting at more than $2,200 no drop in the bucket. However, for those seeking the ultimate in portable power the NP9262 is the answer.
Before we start the review, I would like to give a special thanks to Donald Stratton at PowerNotebooks.com, who arranged for this unit to be sent to us.
Our test Sager NP9262 is configured as follows:
- Display: 17-inch WUXGA (1920×1200) Glossy Widescreen
- DUAL NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTX in SLi Mode w/1,024MB
- Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0GHz Processorw/6M L2 Cache – 1,333MHz FSB
- Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
- 4GB (2 SODIMMS) DDR2/800 Dual Channel Memory
- 640GB RAID 0 ( Dual 320GB SATA II 3GB/s 5,400 RPM Hard Drives(8MB Cache Buffer) )
- Combo 8x8x6x4x Dual Layer DVD +/-R/RW 5x DVD-RAM 24x CD-R/RW Drive w/Softwares
- Built-in Intel PRO/Wireless 4965 802.11a/g/n
- Built-in Bluetooth Wireless
- Smart Li-ion Battery (12 Cell)
- Windows XP Professional AND VISTA Ultimate 32bit on two sets of hard drives
As of writing, the Sager NP9262 starts at $2,262 on PowerNotebooks.com; the above configuration tops out at a shade under $3,900. Note that Sager sent us the NP9262 with two operating systems for testing purposes only; Sager cannot sell a system with two operating systems. However, users are free to install a second operating system on their own.
Reasons to Buy
Why on earth would anyone want a notebook like this? That is a good question. The Sager NP9262’s target market is small and specialized. This machine is designed to provide the ultimate power in a mobile package and there are two main groups of customers that possess that want/need – gamers and mobile graphics professionals. For serious gamers, this is the king of LAN party machines: all the power of a high-end desktop in a relatively easy-to-transport package. It is far easier to travel with this machine than a full-fledged desktop – close the lid and go. For graphics professionals the NP9262 is appealing because it offers powerful Nvidia QuadroFX graphics cards, which excel in rendering applications and CAD.
Build & Design
Think of the Sager NP9262 as the Apple MacBook Air . . on opposite day. The NP9262 stresses the very definition of the term notebook and intimidates with its sheer size. This animal has the following dimensions and weight:
- 15.5 in. wide x 11.75 in. deep x 2.35 in. thick
- 11.55 lb including battery
- 2.5 lb 280W power adapter
I had a great time showing this notebook to friends, as the first sight never failed to produce either an expletive or gaping mouth. I was usually able to bring out a second expletive by handing them its epic power adapter. This is not a power brick – this is a power cinder block. Yes, it is that big.
The NP9262 looks powerful. Its external appearance is blocky but civilized, and by civilized I mean has no sharp corners or rough edges – all corners on this machine are nicely rounded off. The bottom half of the base is smaller than the top half, giving the impression this machine is smaller than it really is. All viewable areas of the NP9262 with the exception of the keyboard and lid are beautifully finished with a clear glossy lacquer. There are two colors used on the NP9262: dark slate gray and black. The palmrest area and border around back of the lid have the dark slate gray paint job. It discreetly displays its small metallic flakes in the light, which shows attention to detail. Glossy black covers the remainder viewable surfaces, including the sides and inside of the lid. The black is deep and offers good contrast to the gray areas. The back of the lid is largely one solid sheet of brushed aluminum and looks of high quality.
The build quality of the NP9262 is fantastic. Unusually thick plastic is used for most of the construction; obviously weight was not a concern in the design of this notebook.There is positively no flex to be found on any surface … two-by-fours might as well be lining the insides of this beast. The glossy lacquer finish is blemish-free and feels silky smooth to the touch; it surprisingly feels durable and hides fingerprints well. The back of the display is amply reinforced by a sheet of aluminum, which adds protection in addition to style. The entire display of the NP9262 is resistant to flexing; no ripples appear in the display while pushing on the back of it. The entire display is anchored to the chassis by two strong hinges, which do not allow it to wobble.
The NP9262 has many subtle design features which give it a sophisticated appearance. In the center of the lid is the SAGER logo set on top of a matte black square; both the logo and the trim around the square have a mirror finish. The touchpad also has a thin mirror finish border surrounding it and lighter-colored brushed aluminum buttons. The touchpad is inlaid with a secondary black glossy plastic border as well, giving it an elegant appearance. The multi-purpose buttons to the left of and above the keyboard are solid pieces of aluminum, which yield a solid feeling when pushed. The power button is large and surrounded by a neon blue lighted ring that is lit just right.
In summary, the Sager NP9262 is without a doubt one of the best-built notebooks I have tested. From its flawless finish to brick-like solidness, it has no-compromise quality written all over it.
Processor & Performance
The Sager NP9262 is obviously bred for pure performance and it delivers. We have put the benchmark results in a separate page that can be found here.
The NP9262 has a 17-inch display available in two resolutions, WSXGA+ (1680×1050) and WUXGA (1920×1200); ours has the latter. The display quality is downright stunning. Bright and clear, it displays HD video and games especially well with great clarity and sharpness. Contrast is deep and provides vivid picture quality. Viewing angles are nearly flawless from above and to the sides, but like the vast majority of LCDs, picture quality darkens and distorts from below. Backlighting is generally even, with slight leakage at the bottom that is only noticeable when looking at a purely black screen. The resolution of this display is the highest offered in a notebook at 1920 by 1200 pixels – the tremendous amount of screen real estate is useful not only for gaming and HD video but general productivity as well. There is no doubt in my mind that the NP9262’s WUXGA display is one of the best I have seen.
The NP9262 has four speakers – two are located on top of the notebook to the right and left of the keyboard, and two below the palmrest area.The speakers sound loud and clear and are better than those found in most notebooks. Even at upper volume levels, there is little distortion. There is evidence of bass even though the NP9262 lacks a dedicated subwoofer. My testing revealed that the speakers sound better for gaming than music. I imagine most customers of this notebook will be connecting their own sound equipment for the best multimedia experience.
Heat and Noise
The Sager NP9262 has the beefiest cooling solution I have seen on a notebook. It has not one, not two, not three, but four large fans. The entire rear of the machine is essentially one giant vent. At idle, there is a considerable amount of hot air emanating from the rear. While undergoing benchmarks, the cooling system does its job and keeps the machine from overheating. The Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU’s idle temperature is around 60 degrees Celsius and tops out at 70 degrees under full load, several degrees less than Intel’s maximum rated 72.4 degrees core temperature for this processor. While the E8400 is not a particularly cool-running chip, the NP9262’s cooling system certainly keeps it below its maximum. The right side of the notebook where the CPU resides is barely warm.
The dual Nvidia 8800M-GTX GPUs are located on the left side of the notebook and produce a significant amount of heat. The cards idle around 70 degrees Celsius, and top out around 83 degrees Celsius while running Crysis. Nvidia rates the maximum temperature for the 8800M-GTX at 90 degrees, so these temperatures, like the CPU temperatures, are not cool but within specifications.
The amount of air coming out the entire backside of the NP9262, especially where the graphics cards are, is amazing – the fans actually create a small breeze that can be felt several feet away. The air jetting out of the GPU vents is downright scorching while playing games. Fortunately the fans do a good job keeping the heat outside the notebook rather than in it. The surface of the notebook on the left side does warm up more than the right but it is far from being uncomfortable. The only real hotspot on the NP9262 is the area directly below the display, which can get toasty.
One convenient feature of the NP9262’s cooling system is that it can be user controlled to a limited extent. The fans can be forced to run at full speed by pressing the function key and the number one. This is a useful feature for gaming sessions because it keeps the system cooler than if the fans are left on auto. Note it is not necessary to use this feature as the cooling system is definitely capable of keeping the system’s heat under control by itself.
The most surprising aspect of this cooling system is its quietness. The NP9262’s four fans are large in diameter and do not have to spin fast to keep the internal components cool. At idle, the fans are barely audible; even while gaming when the fans kick into higher speeds, the sound is produced can easily be dismissed as background noise and is difficult to hear unless listened for. I am thoroughly impressed with the noise level of this notebook. All things considered, the cooling system does what it is designed to do. I would like to see the CPU/GPU temperatures a few degrees lower but it is unnecessary since all components are kept under their maximum rated temperatures.
The Sager NP9262 features a full-size keyboard with a 10-key numeric keypad. The keyboard is easy to type on and produces pleasing tactile feedback. There is some flex in the center of the keyboard but it is unnoticeable unless using more-than-normal pressure. The keys feel and sound somewhat rubbery when depressed. Key travel is slightly longer than that of a typical notebook, which adds to the desktop-like experience this machine offers. I felt comfortable typing on this keyboard for extended periods.
The issue I have with this keyboard is that it lacks several important keys – the home, end, page up, and page down keys are integrated into the arrow keys as secondary functions.Those keys can exist as dedicated keys if number lock is disabled, but one way or another I found the setup to be inconvenient.
While I enjoy the keyboard on the whole, I think the layout needs to be revised to incorporate all of the keys a standard desktop keyboard has as standalone keys.
The touchpad on the NP9262 is large and enjoyable to use. Outlined by a thin mirror finish trim followed by a thicker glossy black one, it is elegantly embedded in the palmrest. The touchpad surface itself is best described as laminated extremely fine-grit (1500-2000) sandpaper – it feels smooth but gives plenty of feedback. The touchpad buttons are actually part of one solid piece of aluminum not quite cut all the way down the middle. The buttons feel solid and are easy to push down; hardly any noise is made when depressed.
Input & Output Ports
All descriptions are from left to right.
VGA port, S-Video Out, Cable (CATV) antenna jack (enabled with optional mini-PCI TV tuner only), RJ-11 modem, RJ-45 gigabit LAN, mini-IEEE 1394, ExpressCard 34/54 slot, optical drive, 7-in-1 media card reader (MMC/SD/MS/MS Pro/MS Duo (requires PC adapter)/Mini SD (requires PC adapter)/ RS MMC (requires PC adapter)
4x USB 2.0 ports, security lock slot
Vents, DC-in (power), DVI-out, S-Video-in jack (enabled with optional mini-PCI TV tuner only)
There is certainly no shortage of ports on the NP9262; it has all its bases covered. One port I would like to see that it does not have is HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) for connecting to external HDTVs. The DVI-out port can be used for HD video on an external screen, but the advantage with HDMI is that it does both video and audio in the same cable.
The Sager NP9262 comes standard with the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN supporting the 802.11a, b, and g channels as well as the new pre-N wireless band. The machine also comes standard with internal Bluetooth 2.0. I had no problems connecting to a variety of wireless networks under Vista and XP.
Believe it or not, the NP9262 actually has measurable battery life and does not simply shut off when unplugged like a desktop. While surfing the Internet with 3/7 screen brightness, the NP9262 ate through its large 12-cell battery in a shade over an hour. Short battery life should be expected given the hardware specifications of our test unit; with a single hard drive and video card, I imagine it would fare slightly better. It is best to think of the battery in this notebook a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) more than anything.
Operating System and Software
Sager sells the NP9262 by default with no operating system. Our test unit came with both Windows Vista Ultimate and XP Professional. Unlike mainstream computer makers, Sager does not pre-install any bloatware. Upon booting up for the first time, I was greeted by a clean desktop and fast performance. Nero 7 and PowerDVD 7 are the only notable included applications.
While testing 3D performance, I noticed my NP9262 was getting lower-than-expected performance and decided to call tech support. I phoned PowerNotebooks 24/7 toll-free customer support line and within seconds, a domestic technician picked up the phone. A few short minutes later, my problem was solved. I was extremely impressed with the level of service I received and consider the service to be a large selling point for Sager notebooks.
All Sager notebooks are backed by lifetime technical support. Through PowerNotebooks.com, customers are provided with toll-free domestic 24/7 tech support.
The Sager NP9262 is not small, is not cheap, and is not for everyone. This notebook battleship means business with its intimidating design, rock solid quality, and arsenal of high-powered components. The NP9262 is in a class of its own and proved itself during our testing. There is truly nothing else like this on the market. I enjoyed every minute of my time with the NP9262 and will miss it dearly. Without hesitation I recommend the Sager NP9262 to those seeking the ultimate performance in a mobile package.
- Phenomenal performance courtesy of desktop processors, dual graphics cards, and up to three hard drives in RAID
- Beautiful display
- Rock solid quality
- Reliable cooling system
- Quiet operation
- Good keyboard/touchpad
- Excellent service and support
- Wide variety of input/output ports
- Battery life (it actually gets one hour)
- Keyboard layout could be improved
- No HDMI port
I did not label weight or size as a con for this system, as those buying it should be aware of its weight. It is difficult to call this notebook heavy since it has no real competition. I also did not label battery life as a con because buyers should again be aware of that before they buy.
Although the RAID 0 setup produced impressive benchmark numbers, I personally recommend going with a RAID 1 “Data Security” setup, which mirrors data on two hard drives. If one hard drive fails, all is not lost because the other drive has exactly the same data and the machine can keep running. A RAID 1 array is a great way to protect data and saves you from having to start allover again in the event of a hard drive failure..
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