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iBuyPower Z92T review: iBuyPower Z92T

We'd be willing to look past the iBuyPower Z92T's average performance and lousy battery life if its price were lower, but because there are better options out there for the money, we can't recommend it.

Michelle Thatcher
Michelle Thatcher Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops
Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.
4 min read
At first glance, the iBuyPower Z92T looks like a good deal: $1,563 for a Media Center laptop with a midrange dual-core AMD CPU, discrete Nvidia graphics, and a fast 100GB hard drive. With these components the Z92T posted decent scores on our performance benchmarks, but it trailed similar systems based on the Intel Core 2 Duo platform. We'd be willing to overlook the performance lags if they resulted in a lower price, but you can get the Core 2 Duo-based Polywell PolyNote V512NC, which bested the Z92T on nearly all of our performance benchmarks and posted a longer battery life, for $80 less. Worse, a Dell Inspiron E1505, configured with a same-speed Intel Core 2 Duo processor and otherwise identical specs, costs $1,456 on Dell.com. While the iBuyPower Z92T offers a decent feature set and a pleasant design, there are plenty of better options for the money.

Meauring 14 inches wide, 10.4 inches deep, and 1.2 inches thick, the iBuyPower Z92T closely matches the size of the Polywell PolyNote V512NC and the Velocity Micro NoteMagix L80x Ultra. The Z92T's 6.9-pound weight places it toward the heavy end of midsize laptops; its AC adapter, the size of a whiteboard eraser, brings the system's weight to a barely luggable 8 pounds.


iBuyPower Z92T

The Good

High-end components; strong gaming performance for the money; comfy keyboard; touch pad on/off button.

The Bad

Mediocre application performance; lousy battery life; screen can be reflective; crummy speakers; lacks hardware volume control.

The Bottom Line

We'd be willing to look past the iBuyPower Z92T's average performance and lousy battery life if its price were lower, but because there are better options out there for the money, we can't recommend it.

The iBuyPower Z92T's 15.4-inch wide-screen display features the 1,280x800 native resolution common to laptops of its size, such as the Polywell PolyNote V512NC. With plenty of screen real estate and remarkable brightness, the Z92T's display is great for working or watching movies, though its reflective finish can occasionally be annoying. Above the screen, a 1.3-megapixel Webcam is joined by a built-in microphone for Web conferencing.

Typing and navigation on the iBuyPower Z92T are quite comfortable, thanks to its full-size keyboard, wide track pad, and large mouse buttons. Three buttons above the keyboard launch commonly used applications: IM, e-mail, and Web browser (though you can't reprogram them); a fourth button lets you quickly turn the track pad on and off--one of our favorite features on a laptop of this size. Along the Z92T's front lip are four extremely skinny media controls (play/pause, stop, track forward, and track back), as well as a button that lets you power on the CD player without booting the laptop. While you can access the media buttons with the lid closed, the lack of a hardware volume control means you'll have to get to the keyboard to control the volume. We were disappointed in the Z92T's speakers, which produced tinny, muddled sound.

When it comes to ports and connections, the Z92T caters to the media-savvy crowd with an audio-in jack, four-pin FireWire, and VGA, S-Video, and DVI-out ports. In addition there are the expected headphone and microphone jacks and four USB 2.0 ports, though they're placed in two side-by-side stacked sets, which makes it difficult to use all four ports at once. The laptop also features a DVD burner, a PC Card slot (though no support for the latest ExpressCards), plus a 3-in-1 card reader that recognizes Memory Stick, Secure Digital, and MultiMediaCard formats. Networking options include Ethernet, modem, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

Our iBuyPower Z92T costs $1,563 for some pretty high-end components, including a 1.8GHz dual-core AMD Turion 64 X2 processor, 2GB of quick 667MHz RAM, a 100GB hard drive spinning at the fastest, 7,200rpm speed, and an Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics card with 256MB of dedicated memory. On CNET Labs' benchmark tests, the iBuyPower Z92T's 2GB of RAM helped it keep up with several notebooks based on Intel's Core 2 Duo platform. But its performance on the processor-intensive iTunes encoding test is telling: Its performance trailed 13 percent behind that of the Intel-based systems, a difference that can't entirely be explained by the difference in clock speeds. The iBuyPower's top-shelf GPU, though, resulted in a respectable 53.7 frames per second in Quake 4 at 1,024x768. In spite of its robust 71WHr battery, the iBuyPower Z92T ran for a below-average 2 hours, 18 minutes in our drain tests.

The iBuyPower Z92T ships with an industry-standard one-year warranty that covers parts and labor. The company also offers technical support for the life of the product--a really nice perk considering most vendors cut off phone support when the warranty expires. Unfortunately, phone support hours are limited: from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday only. The company's support Web site is rather weak, offering only a list of contacts; there aren't even links to driver downloads.

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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

Microsoft Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

3D gaming performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Quake 4 1,024x768, 4xAA 8xAF  

BAPCo MobileMark 2005 battery life (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:

Acer Ferrari 1004WTMi
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.8GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 600MHz; 512MB ATI Radeon Xpress 1150; 160GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Alienware Aurora mALX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz AMD Turion 64ML-44; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7900; 100GB Seagate 7,200rpm

iBuyPower Z92T
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 1.81GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 600MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7600; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm SATA/150

HP Compaq nc8430
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 666MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon Mobility X1600; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Polywell PolyNote V512NC
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 664MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7600; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm SATA/150

Velocity Micro NoteMagix L80x Ultra
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 664MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7600; 100GB Seagate 7,200rpm SATA


iBuyPower Z92T

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 5Battery 4Support 6
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