The hard-core PC gaming world is a landscape littered with expensive, crazily designed towers and heavy, chained-to-the-desktop laptops, often capable of thoroughly embarrassing the average PC's graphics capabilities--but at a significant price. iBuyPower is one of several companies that specialize specifically in building and customizing gaming desktops and laptops, often with ridiculously unnecessary features for the connoisseurs of sizzling frames per second rates.
The company's latest laptop, the Battalion 101 M865TU, actually eschews a numbing set of configurations for a simple set of somewhat affordable options. Set in a bulky but not monstrous chassis, this 15.4-inch laptop isn't exactly portable or attractive. On the other hand, there are far bulkier gaming laptops. And for a price of roughly $2,012 for our handily configured machine, it's worth a look as a serious gaming rig that won't break the bank.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$2,012/$1,501|
|Processor||2.93 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9800|
|Memory||4GB, 1033MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Hard drive||500GB, 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM45|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M|
|Operating System||Windows Vista 64-bit Home Premium SP2|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.3 x 10.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.24/9.12 pounds|
We'll say one thing first: iBuyPower makes some generic-looking laptops. That's not meant as a knock per se: it's simply a reality. Its branded chassis is made by someone else (Clevo, according to the driver download page on iBuyPower's tech support site), and it shows: the iBuyPower logo on the back lid literally peels off. On the other hand, to the credit of its hardware supplier, the case feels solid and sturdy. Black textured plastic covers the inside and outside, with chrome accents around the edges. The look is sober rather than neon-flashy, an understated approach that we appreciate. Bland is better than garish, sometimes.
The keyboard is a solid-feeling tapered-key affair, full-size and comfortable, with a tiny bit of flex. While the textured touch pad and buttons responded well and are a decent size, we had a major issue with their design. The texture of the pad and buttons is exactly the same as the surrounding wrist rests, and everything is flush--meaning that it's nearly impossible to find your way on and off the pad without looking. While gamers are almost certainly going to be plugging in an external mouse, this was an awkward move in a gaming laptop.
The M865TU's 15.4-inch glossy screen has a 1,680x1,050 native resolution, which is better than average but still not 1080p. Nevertheless, icons and text portrayed crisply and at a fine, but not eye-straining, resolution. The built-in audio, while 3D-surround capable, didn't sound particularly impressive on the M865TU's internal laptop speakers. External speakers or headphones are recommended.
|iBuyPower Battalion 101 M865TU||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||DVI, HDMI||VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks.|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 1 USB/eSATA combo, mini-Firewire, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner or Blu-ray|
While not mind-blowing, the port selection on the iBuyPower M865TU covers all the bases. Four USB ports--one of which is eSATA--as well as HDMI and DVI (no VGA, although there's an included converter cable) are all here, and there's even a mini-FireWire port. Half the ports are arranged along the right side, and the rest are on the back and front.
Our test configuration of the M865TU came with a 2.9GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9800. Retail versions don't offer this processor, although the closest version, a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo T9900, is close to the same performance. Our upgraded version with a 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive and 4GB of DDR3 RAM costs $2,012 on iBuyPower's site. The P9900 is the highest-level processor; RAM can be upgraded to 8GB. At a little more than $2,000 for a top-of-the-line configuration on this model, it's a more affordable prospect than a similar Alienware M17x, for instance. On the other hand, the M865TU has no options for Blu-ray or any additional graphics enhancement other than the included 1GB Nvidia GTX260 GPU.
The 2.9 GHz Core 2 Duo T9800 we tested the M865TU on is a top-of-the-line Core 2 Duo that ran multimedia and our other benchmark tests quite well. As a gaming machine, the M865TU also impressed, based on benchmark results. The Nvidia GTX260 GPU handled all our gaming needs easily, and played Street Fighter 4 with many settings maxed, yet suffered no slowdowns whatsoever. We played Unreal Tournament 3 at 94.1 frames per second (fps) at the maximum native M865TU resolution of 1,680x1,050, keeping pace with the MSI GT725-212us, which we previously considered quite highly. While the Alienware M17x completely smokes the iBuyPower M865TU in the benchmark tests, it's also more than twice the price.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)