In a world of $4,000 gaming laptops, the $1,743 iBuyPower Battalion 101 LX750 is certainly inexpensive; but is it a bargain? On the one hand, it has a lovely 17-inch display and a lightweight, compact case, and its gaming performance, though not top of the line, should be enough for casual gamers. On the other hand, it has a cramped keyboard, its disc drive (at least on our review unit) spins noisily, and its scores on our CNET Labs Photoshop performance test were rather abysmal. Ideally, we'd all have $2,899 to purchase a more well-rounded desktop replacement, such as the Toshiba Satellite P100-ST9722. But in the real world, the iBuyPower Battalion 101 LX750 should satisfy users who are looking for a very inexpensive, entry-level gaming laptop.
Measuring 1.3 inches thick, the iBuyPower Battalion 101 LX750 is rather thin for a desktop replacement. With a width of 15.5 inches and a depth of 11 inches, it won't take up much room on your desk (or in your bag). Compare that to the massive Alienware Area-51 m5790, which measures 16 inches by 11.5 inches by 1.7 inches, and you can appreciate the iBuyPower's svelte profile. At 7.5 pounds (8.7 pounds with its chalkboard eraser-size AC adapter), the Battalion 101 LX750 also weighs less than the Alienware by more than a pound, though it's still not portable enough for a regular commute or frequent travel.
As we'd expect from a gaming-desktop replacement, the iBuyPower Battalion 101 LX750 includes a 17-inch wide-screen display with a 1,680x1,050 native resolution. Other 17-inch laptops, such as the Alienware Area-51 m5790 and the Dell Inspiron E1705, feature finer resolutions that look great but make text and icons hard to read. We think the Battalion 101 LX750's resolution strikes a nice balance between readability and an excellent display of graphics and video. The glossy coating on the screen makes colors pop without being annoyingly reflective (those who despise any reflections should note there is no option for a matte finish). Above the display sits a 1.3-megapixel Webcam for video chats and Web conferencing.
We were generally comfortable typing on the Battalion's keyboard, which includes a 10-key number pad. However, the laptop's compact design requires the keys to be a little closer together than expected (we kept hitting number keys instead of Enter). Also, several keys--such as the space bar, the right-side Shift key, and the Enter key--are shortened to make everything fit. We eventually got used to the layout, but we aren't used to making such adjustments on a laptop of this size and wonder whether it would have been better off without the numeric keypad or the 1-inch buffer zone on either side of the board. The touch pad, however, required no adjustment and felt responsive during our use. The metallic activation buttons were a bit stiffer than we'd prefer but functional. Above the keyboard sits a large power button flanked on each side by three controls. On the left are quick-launch buttons to start your default search, e-mail, and Web browser applications; on the right, a wireless on/off button, an on/off button for the built-in Webcam, and a button to launch your default music player.
We wish we could recommend listening to music on the Battalion 101 LX750, but unfortunately the laptop's speakers sound unbelievably tinny at medium-high volume. When we tried playing CDs, we noticed an annoying, leafblower-like buzz coming from the disc drive. Strangely, the sound occurred while playing some CDs but not others, and we didn't hear it while watching DVDs. Though the issue might be limited to our review unit, we'd definitely be bummed if our brand-new laptop was already in need of repair.
With the exception of a DVI-out video port, the iBuyPower Battalion 101 LX750 includes a pretty basic mix of ports and connections. These include four USB 2.0 ports, mini-FireWire, and S-Video, plus headphone, microphone, and line-in jacks. A five-in-one media card reader on the front edge recognizes SecureDigital, MemoryStick, MemoryStick Pro, xD, and MultiMediaCard formats; expansion options include both a PC Card slot and a slot for the latest ExpressCards. For networking there are modem, Ethernet, and 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi. A multiformat DVD burner rounds out the features. The Toshiba Satellite P100-ST9772 includes all of those plus S/PDIF and VGA connectors; other desktop replacements include more USB ports and such higher-end features as high-definition DVD drives and TV tuners.
In a category where price tags can veer dangerously close to the $4,000 mark, our iBuyPower Battalion 101 LX750 review unit cost a very competitive $1,743. That price includes a 2.2GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-64 dual-core processor as well as 2GB of swift 667MHz RAM, an Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics card with 256MB of dedicated VRAM, and a large 120GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm (rather pokey for a desktop replacement with a gaming emphasis). The Toshiba Satellite P100-ST9722 offers a larger hard drive and a higher-end graphics card, but it costs about $1,000 more than the Battalion 101 LX750; the gaming-oriented Alienware Area-51 m5790 Special Edition costs more than $4,000 for an overclocked Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a Blu-Ray drive, and two larger, faster hard drives.
Given its budget price, we were not surprised that the iBuyPower exhibited some uneven performance on CNET Labs' benchmark tests. Though it trailed the Satellite P100-ST9722 by as much as 40 percent on our Quake 4 gaming test, it still displayed a workable 52.9 frames per second at 1,280x1,024 resolution. Its F.E.A.R. performance also matched the Alienware at 1,280x1,024 resolution. When it came to our Photoshop image-processing test, though, we saw a different story: the iBuyPower finished way behind its competitors, including an almost-identically configured HP Pavilion dv9000z (though the HP included a 64-bit version of Vista). Overall, we think the Battalion 101 LX750 appropriate only for casual gamers on a budget who don't need to run their games at high resolutions.
In our DVD battery drain test, the iBuyPower Battalion 101 LX750 ran for about an hour and a half. Though brief, that's not an unreasonable battery life for a system in this class, and it's more or less identical to the battery lives of the Alienware Area-51 m5790 Special Edition and the Toshiba Satellite P100-ST9722.