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iBuyPower Battalion 101 M865TU review: iBuyPower Battalion 101 M865TU

iBuyPower Battalion 101 M865TU

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
6 min read

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.


iBuyPower Battalion 101 M865TU

The Good

Affordable; good gaming performance for the price.

The Bad

Bland design; poor battery life; display not 1080p.

The Bottom Line

While its aesthetics leave something to be desired, the iBuyPower Battalion M865TU gaming laptop is a decent cocktail of no-frills performance and price.

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.

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.

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.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
iBuyPower M865TU

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
iBuyPower M865TU

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
iBuyPower M865TU

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280x800, 0X AA, 0X AF*  
1,440x900, 4X AA, 8X AF*  
Alienware M17x
iBuyPower M865TU
Gateway P-7808u
Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
iBuyPower M865TU

Juice box
iBuyPower Battalion 101 M865TU  
Off (watts) 1.16
Sleep (watts) 1.88
Idle (watts) 26.25
Load (watts) 110.24
Raw (annual kWh) 187.09
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $21.23

The included eight-cell battery ran for 2 hours and 6 minutes in our video-playback battery drain test. While that's not as bad as other desktop replacement laptops, the midrange size would have suggested a better battery life. It's sufficient for a laptop in this category, but by no means should you let that AC charger out of your sight.

The iBuyPower M865TU comes with a standard one-year warranty, except for the battery, which has a 90-day warranty. iBuyPower's Web site provides needed drivers and technical support info, although attempting to download drivers will link you confusingly to external manufacturer sites since iBuyPower doesn't make these laptops (we got routed to Clevo). A toll-free support number is available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday.

System configurations:

iBuyPower Battalion M865TU
Windows Vista Home Premium SP2 (64-bit); 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9800; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Gateway P-7808u
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Asus W90VP-X1
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600; 6GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Dual ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4870 X2; 320GB Seagate 7,200rpm

MSI GT725-212US
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM 1066MHz; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4850; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm

Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 667MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTX; HDD No. 1: 64GB Toshiba SSD / HDD No. 2: 320GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Alienware M17x
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9300; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; (2) 512MB SLI Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M; (2) 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm


iBuyPower Battalion 101 M865TU

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 7Performance 7Battery 5Support 5