The Inevitable Return of Too Much Gloss

Sometimes I feel like we're on crazy pills here. Glossy plastic has proven to be the bane of my existence as a laptop reviewer (let alone mediocre laptop photographer), and we gripe about it every time, yet nothing seems to change. The nicest thing I can say with the Xplorer X6-9100 is that at least they used the gloss in a very uniform fashion: it's the exact same glossy black finish on the lid, the screen bezel, the palm rest, and surrounding the keyboard. In that sense it leaves us very little to talk about: there's just glossy plastic everywhere. But we'll press on.

The Xplorer X6-9100 kicks it old school with its glossy black plastic and keeps it real with blue LEDs for the indicator lights. Just to make sure you get no illusions about progress, there's a touch-sensitive media control bar just above the keyboard that's also backlit with blue LEDs. While the X6-9100 ships with Bluetooth, there's no dedicated switch for it: you have to manually enable and disable the adapter in software.

The model number on the bottom of the Xplorer X6-9100 simply cites "A15A" and that's all CyberPower's website offers us, though once we contacted CyberPower we were able to confirm the ODM as Pegatron. Of course, actually using the notebook suggests its origin isn't the industry stalwart Clevo, as we've grown accustomed to from boutique builders.

The first indication this isn't standard Clevo fare is the keyboard, which doesn't completely suck and uses a slightly different layout. The soft edges and boundless gloss used for the shell notwithstanding, the keyboard uses traditional matte plastic keys as opposed to an island-style (chiclet) keyboard, and the arrow keys don't intrude on the 10-key. The layout still isn't ideal: arithmetic operator keys are above the 10-key instead of to the side, and the 0-key is instead intruded upon by a double-wide enter key. Whenever a manufacturer messes with the 10-key layout it just seems ridiculous and self-defeating, at least to me. The whole point of a 10-key is being able to use it by touch because it has a standard layout; changing that layout severely curtails the pad's usefulness, and this is only made worse when you look at the top of the notebook shell and see what seems like plenty of space on either side of the keyboard to add that fourth column.

Our other sticking point is the touchpad, which ranks among the worst I've ever used. It has the same glossy finish as the rest of the shell, so if you have the slightest bit of moisture on your fingertip it's going to be extremely jerky and difficult to use. Fortunately that's not liable to be a major issue to the users this notebook is targeted towards, who are more likely to just plug in an external mouse and call it a day.

Overall, the build quality of the Xplorer X6-9100 really is pretty good, with sturdy hinges and minimal flex, but the problem is that the glossy plastic makes the whole thing look and feel cheaper than it is. Ignoring my general hatred towards putting glossy plastic on the screen bezel, the use of the material over the entirety of the notebook (save the bottom and the keyboard) makes it appear and feel utterly generic. Frankly even some basic CyberPower branding would go a long way towards sprucing up the shell.

Introducing the CyberPower Xplorer X6-9100 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • Hrel - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - link

    I can just see Dustin. Gets a new laptop in to review, starts getting excited. Grabs a knife, opens the box, pulls off the packaging, pauses... *swears, throws things, swears some more. Shakes fists at the sky "Damn you glossy plastic". Lol, that's the impression I get.

    Anyway, I saw this a while ago and was hoping to see review for it; nice work. It really is a great option for people who don't need GPU power. You can get the price down around 600-700 bucks and it's still a much better than anything else I've ever seen. Largely due to the 1080p screen.

    Cyberpowerpc has an MSI laptop on their website with a 1080p screen and the GTX460M in it. That's the laptop I'd really like to see a review on. I'm going to buy a laptop this summer and frankly the only thing that stopped me from impulse buying that MSI laptop the moment I saw it was the 48Whr battery. Made me think "hm, I better wait till I've read the anandtech review".

    I'm not sure if it's the same model MSI you gave away or not, but it has 2hdd bays so those who were so inclined could have an SSD and mechanical disk without sacrificing an optical drive.
  • Hrel - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - link

    I was hoping that screen would be at least a little better than that. Oh well, it's at least one step in the right direction. At least we got 1080p, maybe 2012 will bring 500:1 minimum contrast ratio? I do wish. Still, best laptop for people who don't about gaming I've found. Nicely configured for 650, very fair.

    Personally, I've had too many bad experiences with Dell to ever buy a laptop from them again. Also, my next laptop will have a GTX460 in it. My main issue with Dell is the restrictions they put on their upgrades. If I upgrade the GPU, I shouldn't be forced to upgrade any other component. And their website sure as hell shouldn't be lieing to me, telling me it causes a compatibility issue. (they claimed I couldn't put a dual core i5 with their gpu upgrade, I think at the time it was up to the 425 or 435M.)
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - link

    If you're talking about this one ( I'm pretty sure that's the same chassis as the MSI GT680R that we gave away. I previewed performance around the time of the Cougar Point bug, and we have a fixed version in for review that I'll be posting shortly.

    Long story short: same performance as other GTX 460M laptops, not the greatest build quality in the world, and the 1080p LCD is about the same as the Pegatron laptop in this review. Also, the battery is NOT 48Wh (hint: no 9-cell battery is that small; the unit I have has an 87Wh battery). So it's a fair amount of power for the price, but I'd go with a Clevo P151HM (or P150HM), or perhaps an ASUS G53SW. You lose the dual HDD bays on both of those, I think, but for sure the Clevo models have much better LCDs.
  • Hrel - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I was very suspicious about that battery size. It's really good to hear these reviews are coming. I am surprised to hear you'd prefer the Clevo... you guys all seem to REALLY hate that keyboard. On that point, is it just the 10 key or is the whole thing bad?

    I was looking at that Asus too. Last time Asus had a good 15.6" laptop though the 1080p screen was below/at average. Where compal/clevo/dell units had nice 1080p screens.

    Have you heard/seen anything from Compal with Sandy bridge and GTX460 in 15.6" 1080p flavors? They seem oddly absent from the laptop market all of a sudden.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 5, 2011 - link

    Nothing from Compal yet, at least not that I've heard about. They do seem to be a bit behind with most launches, though Pegatron isn't exactly a brand known for being cutting edge (i.e. witness the aesthetics in this review).

    As far as best gaming laptop in a 15.6" form factor, it's a question of compromise. MSI and ASUS seem to have lesser 1080p LCDs, and none of them get the keyboard *right* (MSI is probably closest with the layout, though), so you have to decide what's most important. The MSI touchpad is really bad, with a 2008 aesthetic on the build quality. ASUS looks good overall, but without testing the LCD I can't make a final call. Clevo has a poor keyboard layout, with a pointless 10-key, but I can still type on the rest of the keyboard "okay" and they have one of the best LCDs right now in my opinion. Pricing on the Clevo is also quite good, which is probably a deciding factor.
  • StrangerGuy - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - link

    I'm sure that glossy palmrest is gonna like turn off at least 50% of potential buyers away regardless of specs.

    Anyway, 1080p is squeezing too many pixels for a 15.4" screen IMO. But then nobody does 1600 x 900 on laptops anymore...
  • Belard - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - link

    Uh... Lenovo ThinkPads have optional 1600x900 screens for their 15.6" models.

    ThinkPad L series: L520 2620M CPU / 4GB RAM / HD / 1600x900 non-glare screen is about $1070, give or take on your options. But the T-series T520 is a much better notebook, same config but with an i5 = $970 (But $1160 with Q2620)

    One of my clients has a slightly older T-510 with the 1600x900 screen and it looks very nice!
  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - link

    I actually like the pixel density on my 15.6" display. I wish it was 16x10, but other than that I like it.
  • Belard - Thursday, May 5, 2011 - link

    Personally - with my eye-sight... I'd go for the 1920x1080 15.6" screen... But since I find 15.6" screen 16:9 notebooks so wide and add more than another 1lb of weight, I'd most likely go with a 14" screen @ 1600x900.
  • JMS3072 - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - link

    Unfortunately, the target audience (photographers/videographers) are going to want a decent LCD, making this a no-go.

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