Introducing the CyberPowerPC FangBook

It's been a little while since we've had any blood in from CyberPowerPC and I'm pretty happy to have them back around town. They've been doing perfectly fine, but remember that the past two years have seen a lot of divergence by boutiques as they all begin to carve out more distinct niches. The resurgence of popularity in PC gaming only adds fuel to that divergence, as branding becomes ever more important, and that's what brings us to the customized MSI GT70 we have on hand today in the form of what CyberPowerPC calls their FangBook.

If it looks familiar, we've tested a nigh identical chassis before from iBuyPower, in the form of their Valkyrie. But that was last year, August, and CyberPowerPC has put their own spin on this chassis. So if a lot of this review looks familiar, that's going to be a large part of it, and in fact I'm going to eschew going over the design again in detail. The key distinctions in terms of the shell are CyberPowerPC's lid and interior coloring, but beyond those there isn't a whole lot of different action to check out there.

On the other hand, though, we do get a chance to check out some new hardware, and that's the really interesting part. We keep the great-feeling-but-poorly-laid-out keyboard from the original MSI design, along with the weight and slightly goofy touch controls. Internally, though, we get to check out the last respin of the entry-level Ivy Bridge quad core, the Core i7-3630QM, but perhaps more importantly we get to play with a Kepler-based GeForce GTX 675MX. The iBuyPower Valkyrie enjoyed a GeForce GTX 675M, which was essentially a rebranded GeForce GTX 580M (itself a cut-down desktop GF114). While we've heavily modified our benchmarking suite for 2013, I do have figures for the GTX 580M/GTX 675M to compare against the shinier, newer GTX 675MX.

CyberPowerPC FangBook Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3630QM
(4x2.4GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.4GHz, 22nm, 6MB L3, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 2x8GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 (Maximum 32GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX 4GB GDDR5
(960 CUDA cores, 666MHz/3.6GHz core/memory clocks, 256-bit memory bus)

Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1.1GHz)
Display 17.3" LED Matte 16:9 1080p
Chi Mei N173HGE-L11
Hard Drive(s) Intel 520 Series 60GB SATA 6Gbps SSD

Western Digital Scorpio Black 750GB 7200-RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive TSSTCorp SN-208AB DVD+/-RW
Networking Killer Networks e2200 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino 2230 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD audio
Four speakers
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Battery 9-cell, 87Wh
Front Side Speaker grills
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Left Side Vent
3x USB 3.0
SD card reader
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Back Side Kensington lock
AC adapter
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 16.9" x 11.3" x 2.2"
429.3mm x 287mm x 55.9mm
Weight 6.9 lbs
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
THX TruStudio PRO audio
Red backlit keyboard
Warranty 1-year limited and lifetime phone support
Pricing $1,578

Fundamentally, the Valkyrie CZ-17 and FangBook are hanging out in the same neighborhood. Both enjoy the same perks (backlit keyboard, healthy port configuration, reasonably low heat and noise), and even the same integrated Killer Networks wired ethernet. We want to look at what's changed in the interim.

First, the bottom rung Intel Core i7-3610QM has seen a mild refresh in the form of the i7-3630QM; the 3630QM is essentially identical, but with a 100MHz bump on the nominal and turbo clocks to 2.4GHz standard and 3.4GHz turbo on one or two cores. Our review unit also gets 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 along with a 60GB Intel 520 series SSD; that SSD is no longer available on the CyberPowerPC, having unfortunately been replaced by a 64GB SanDisk SSD based on a slower Marvell controller.

Where I would like to take CyberPowerPC to task is in the wireless hardware that comes standard with the FangBook. I posted my feelings about 2.4GHz wireless to my personal Twitter in terms not particularly safe for public consumption, but essentially my issue is this: the Centrino 2230 with integrated Bluetooth is still a bottom rung, 2.4GHz-only solution. I might not have cared as much before I had a dual band router in my apartment, but now that 5GHz wireless is becoming more common, I really have to bring the hammer down here. 5GHz is a generally less crowded band, and also this is 2013, so maybe our wireless technology should advance further than it was when I started writing for AnandTech. In 2010.

Finally, we get to what I think is the meat of the review. Late last year, NVIDIA refreshed their 600 series with the GeForce GTX 670MX and 675MX, replacing the Fermi-based 670M and 675M. For reference, the 675M is a rebranded 580M, certainly a formidable GPU in its own right, boasting 384 CUDA cores (essentially a full GF114) with 620MHz on the core clock, 1240MHz on the shaders, and 3GHz on the GDDR5. The 675MX, on the other hand, is basically a full GK106 (desktop GeForce GTX 660), though like the FangBook, some of them use harvested GK104s. It sports 960 CUDA cores but drops the hot clocked shaders, so we're looking at 666MHz across the cores and 3.6GHz on the GDDR5. Both chips feature a 256-bit memory bus.

Doing the math (or just being lazy and opening GPU-Z) reveals that the 675MX has 120% of the 675M's memory bandwidth, 135% of the 675M's texture fillrate, and ~135% of the 675M's pixel fillrate. That means that at absolute worst, the 675MX should be about 20% faster than the 675M. All of this on top of the newer, more efficient Kepler architecture, and the 675MX should theoretically be a slam dunk when compared to its predecessor.

As it turns out, though, that's not entirely the case.

System Performance
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  • kjohio - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - link

    Excellent observation. Heat is definitely a big issue while playing games. Would love to have any updates on this topic. Thanks,
  • darkhawk1980 - Friday, May 3, 2013 - link

    Since this chassis is based off the older MSI GT70, the most likely cause is that it has the same problems the GT70 did in production, and that the heatsink compound and heatsinks were not done properly, do you were not getting efficient cooling. After re-applying compound and remounting the heatsinks, it should be better. Atleast, if this is based on the GT70 as much as it looks like. They could have skimped on the heatsink more than MSI did, which might help explain the heat issues.
  • whyso - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - link

    Does the 7950m even exist? I've never seen it.
  • cknobman - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - link

    I'd rather have the MSI GX60 for $1200.
    It boasts a 7970m and is overall a nicer laptop.
    TH did a review on it yesterday and while it lacked the raw cpu horsepower of some of the intel models the review proved that when it came to games it really did not make that big of an impact and it could still play everything at max settings on 1920x1080. It also had pretty decent battery life.
  • Bob Todd - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - link

    That's actually a very interesting gaming laptop. I love the tear down pics of the cooling design. CPU performance obviously isn't earth shattering but about the only intensive thing I do on my laptop these days is playing the occasional game anyway. I wish they made a more subtle looking version. Also, I checked the usual places and the versions they are selling lack the dual mSATA RAID 0 array. It's still a good deal of gaming performance for the money, but the SSDs would make it a pretty phenomenal piece of gaming kit for the money.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - link

    Consumer SSD raid0 is a benchmark chasers/suckers gimmick only. You won't notice the performance difference vs a single larger drive any more than you will the difference between a cheap and high performance SSD.

    You will however have doubled your risk of losing data to a drive failure.
  • Bob Todd - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - link

    Understood, and I don't really care that it's set up as a RAID 0 array. What I'm really after is just mSATA (or NGFF now) + 9.5mm HDD. I'll gladly give up a few millimeters in any laptop for a full height HDD. Newegg had the HGST 1TB drives for $65 for quite a while. That plus a 256GB mSATA is an ideal setup for me. Unfortunately Lenovo seems to be the only manufacturer including mSATA/NGFF support into most of their lineup. And I wouldn't really care if they throw two mSATA drives in RAID 0. I have sysprep'd OS images set up how I want them, and anything important goes to a home server with 2 disk redundancy, with the stuff I really care about in the cloud as well. I screw around with my hardware enough that wiping the system drives on any of them isn't going to make me lose any sleep. If one of the mSATA drives died I'd just replace it and restore from the last daily backup.
  • Majes - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - link

    I was pretty dissapointed in the MSI GX60... The video card did not switch as advertised for some of my games, and was quite a hassle to deal with. Would have rather they just put in the 7970m as a dedicated card than do all the switching based on program. I returned my laptop in less than a week I was so dissatisfied.

    My two cents anyway :-/
  • will54 - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - link

    notebookcheck reviewed the GX60 a while back and the CPU bottlenecked the GPU so bad that some games were below the 660M and 3630QM.
  • whyso - Thursday, May 2, 2013 - link

    The a10 bottlenecks quite badly. It can be seen in the toms hardware review or the notebookcheck review. Even looking at the bf3 singleplayer benchmarks we see a cpu problem at lower settings (and looking at other bf3 reviews practically any cpu will not bottleneck bf3 singleplayer). BF3 multiplayer is going to kill this thing. Hitman is flat out unplayable. You can see a lot in that review that in a lot of games you are limited to only 40-50fps in current and old games, as hardware requirements rise you are going to be cpu limited to 30 fps or below.
    In my opinion gpu bottleneck is much preferable to cpu bottleneck. You can always work around a gpu bottleneck but a cpu bottleneck is much harder. Its better to have a laptop than can play all games on average settings than one that can play 75% of games on high and 25% not at all.

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