I ordered my system from XoticPC on July 22 for $2,257 with the following options:
1920x1200 glossy screen
E8500 dual core CPU
9800M GT single GPU
2GB single stick PC-6400 RAM
250GB 5400 rpm HDD with no additional drives
Bare with no OS
All other options were standard.
UPS ground shipping was $37.00 and shipped on August 4. Delivery was on August 8. Shipping was delayed slightly due to temporary supply problems from Sager with the 9262. There were conflicted reports about what exactly caused the delay including reports of delayed shipments of the 9800M parts from Nvidia and a shortage of 9262 chassis from Clevo. I suspect, however, the recent price drop by Intel on the E8500 CPU had something to do with it.
XoticPC was very good at keeping it's customers informed of the delays and the transaction with them was flawless. At the time they offered an exclusive extended warranty of three years labor over and above the one year full warranty offered by Sager. XoticPC accepts American Express credit cards which was critical in my selection of them for my purchase. While I'm sure this eats into their profits it makes things much easier for me and is appreciated.
The system was well packed in a 22lb shipping box. The cheesy little included carrying case made good packing material for the power brick but you will need a proper carrying case for this machine. The 9262 is obviously very large. The power brick is the size of an actual construction brick and almost as heavy. I'm considering a wheeled carrying case to replace my current Targus shoulder strap case for those times I need to lug it through an airport since there's no way I'll send this through checked baggage. Includes a video dongle for S-video and Component HD. It also includes a telephone wire for the modem, like I don’t already have a drawer full of these. Also includes extra thermal paste which seems odd considering using it would void your warranty. It came with three disks: Sager manual, drivers, and utilities disk. Nero 7 essentials. Cyberlink’s power DVD software.
The top of the lid is a dark gray brushed metal finish and the rest of the case is glossy black plastic with glossy gray plastic wrist rests. The underside is textured black plastic. There is a large and prominent Sager logo on the center of the lid. My opinion is the design is attractive and business like without looking over the top. The drawback is that fingerprints show up quickly so you may find yourself constantly wiping them away.
The lid movement is tight and requires you hold the system down with one hand while opening it with the other hand. You need to use both hands to release the plastic latches at the front of the case and they seem fragile. I anticipate they will break easily so be careful.
The installed BIOS is Phoenix and shows as version 6.00 dated July 9, 2008. I had to rearrange the default boot order to give the Optical drive priority to allow the Windows XP install disk to run. The SATA mode is set to IDE which allows Windows installation without loading additional drivers. I didn’t enable AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) mode on the SATA 250GB 5400rpm drive mainly because it significantly increases the boot time as it loads in BIOS and offers negligible, if any, performance gain. If you plan to run a RAID configuration or you want to enable NCQ (Native Command Queuing) on your SATA drive you will need to enable this feature and deal with the extra time when booting or recovering from hibernation. You will also need to install the correct SATA drivers from the CD during Windows installation if you ordered the system bare without an OS installed as I did. I'm not sure how the drive will be configured if you order the system with an OS installed on a single drive so you may want to ask. Other BIOS options were limited offering only very basic options. It's not even possible to disable the on board audio system in the BIOS.
I created a slipstreamed copy of Win XP Pro with SP3 and included some of the drivers and my favorite tweaks to allow a quick installation (www.nliteos.com). I thought about Vista but I’ve never been too happy with Vista even though I’m running it on three other computers including my Sager 5720. The Nvidia drivers on the CD seemed outdated and included notes on installation for an 8800GTX. They didn't recognize the 9800M GT so I used the recently posted 175.97 drivers downloaded from the Sager website.
I have this thing sitting next to my old Sager 5720 (Clevo M570A). The 9262 is much quieter. The 9262 actually quiets down to where you can’t hear it anymore so for casual use I’d say it’s as quiet as any notebook. The fan cycles automatically if needed to keep the system cool. During casual use the system doesn't get hot at all and is only slightly warm to the touch on the underside with a little heat dissipating through the keyboard as it should. The power brick, while larger, doesn’t get as hot as on the 5720 either but considering the 9262 supports SLI and quad cores there's probably a lot of overhead for my configuration allowing it to run cool. Older configurations are probably much louder and hotter as there have been many reviews indicating how hot this machine can get. It's possible with a keyboard command to manually select the fans to run at full speed and they do get loud. I run the fans at full speed when gaming but I also use headsets so the noise isn't an issue.
The footprint is the same as the 5720 but it’s much thicker and sits slightly higher off the surface. One thing I noticed is the very large rear feet to allow plenty of airflow under the case, a full ½ inch clearance at the back of the computer. This makes sense but it would be nice if they were somehow retractable to allow easier transportation. The power brick feet are very shallow so I figure it’s important not to place the brick on a soft surface such as a bed, pillow, sofa, or carpet to keep it cool. I wouldn’t recommend placing this notebook on anything other than a hard surface either and watch the room temperatures if you are going to be gaming. A lot of people recommend laptop coolers that you can buy for a bunch of money but I think if you use the machine in a good environment (indoors and air conditioned), you would be fine, that’s what it’s designed for. If you need additional cooling….buy an inexpensive desk fan and let it blow air across the machine from the side and/or place some small objects under the rear feet to raise the notebook a little higher off the desk.
On battery or just when idle the GPU slows automatically to 200/100 MHz. This keeps the GPU very cool during normal use and allows the fan to run at a nearly silent idle speed.
The 8500 CPU runs at 6x multiplier (2.0GHz) and 1.15 Volts when idle or on battery and picks up to 9.5x (3.16GHz) and 1.225 Volts automatically on demand when plugged in. This keeps the system cool enough to run nearly silent during normal use and allows longer battery life. It may be possible to extend battery life further with third party applications like Rightmark CPU Clock Utility and lowering the bus speed but I haven't experimented with this.
The built in Intel WiFi works flawlessly with my 5.0GHz Linksys wireless n router as does the Gigabit ethernet.
The included hard drive is the 250GB Fujitsu MHY2250BH 5400rpm 8MB 2.5”. Hard drives will vary from build to build.
The 1920x1200 WUXGA glossy screen is very nice for a 17” notebook and is bright enough with no detectable dead pixels. Back lighting is fairly consistent with barely noticeable variations. You will never get the quality of a desktop monitor in such a compact design but I'm pleased with the overall quality.
The touch pad is well placed and includes a built in scroll panel. The touch pad can be switched off via the keyboard. The buttons are brushed metal and I personally find the texture irritating. If you are bothered by running your fingernails over a chalkboard the buttons may bother you. I use a mouse mostly.
The four USB slots are grouped on the right side where your mouse usually sits (I'm right handed) but it hasn't bothered me as much as I thought it would. The DVI out and video in are located on the rear and all other slots including the DVD drive are on the left side of the case.
The 9262 has a full keyboard and I personally like it compared to other notebooks.
Tested battery life was one hour and forty minutes with the LCD brightness two clicks above minimum to provide a realistic setting. My test included continuous work with a USB mouse and WiFi connected, casual use such as web surfing, writing this review, and a couple short videos but no 3D applications were opened. Battery life would likely be less with quad core CPUs or the 9800M GTX graphics card. You might have trouble watching a long movie on DVD.
Gaming performance is very good and comparable to a similarly configured desktop system. The slightly higher latency RAM and slower hard drive may be noticeable in some situations but you can always change those with upgrades. Most current games are still optimized for only dual cores which is one of the reasons I didn't bother ordering my configuration with a quad core CPU as current games typically run faster with a higher clocked dual core than a lower clocked quad core. The CPU is upgradeable in this system to any desktop LGA 775 CPU that doesn't exceed the cooling capacity.
The 9800M GPU seems comparable to a desktop 9600GT in performance and is slightly faster than the 8800M GTX. The graphics card can be upgraded or configured for SLI with a second 9800M GT.
I ran 3DMark 06 at 1280x1024, AA off, with Nvidia forceware version 175.97. The results over two tests were consistent at 10085 overall and CPU score of 2960.
I would like to see a quick update of the supported video drivers from Sager especially considering Nvidia has recently included support for there new PHYSX technology with the 177.83 drivers.
Edit: laptopvideo2go has inf files specifically for Clevo based notebooks and driver version 177.83. This provided an almost 2% higher 3DMark06 score (10247) and Physx is now supported. I don't understand why it's so difficult for Notebook manufacturers to provide these updates directly but they generally don't. They also won't provide support for such updated drivers. If you ordered the system bare with no OS this is mostly irrelevent.
I was waiting for the new 9800 series GPUs before getting a new notebook and although I'm sure they will be superseded by superior products from either Nvidia or AMD at some time in the future they represent a significant improvement over the 8800 series in price, performance, and efficiency. The 45nm CPUs also represent an improvement over the previous Intel CPUs offering better clock for clock performance while using less energy and producing less heat. I think given the current prices it is a good time to buy one of these notebooks if you're in the market. The 9800M GT equipped 9262 is only barely more expensive than the 5796 or 8660 while offering a much better upgrade path and better CPU performance. If you don't mind the size it's a great computer and much less expensive than a comparably equipped Dell or Alienware.