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Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator review: Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator

Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator

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.
Michelle Thatcher
7 min read
Xtreme Notebooks made quite a splash by declaring the 917V Accelerator "the world's first quad-core laptop" when it was unveiled earlier this year. But because there are no quad-core processors designed specifically for the mobile space, Xtreme turned to the Core 2 Quad Q6700 desktop processor, then paired it with dual-SLI Nvidia graphics cards and 4GB of fast 800MHz memory. The result is certainly one of the fastest laptops we've seen in CNET Labs, though we're not convinced the speed gains are worth our 917V Accelerator's $5,000 price tag. You could certainly save between $500 and $1,000 by choosing a Dell XPS M1730 or Alienware Area-51 m9750, both of which posted great gaming scores and include some more high-end features around the case. Or you could configure a lower-cost desktop desktop using many of the same components found in the 917V Accelerator. The Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator seems suited only to those who really need a portable, desktop-caliber gaming rig--and have five large to drop on it.


Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator

The Good

Quad-core CPU, fast and ample memory, and dual SLI graphics mean it's a strong performer; unparalleled frame rates among laptops; 10-key number pad is useful for gaming; built-in subwoofer and optional integrated TV tuner.

The Bad

Expensive, especially for our fully-loaded configuration; though the 3D gaming performance is outstanding, laptops that cost considerably less aren't that far behind; lousy battery life; uncomfortable for typing; lacking multimedia extras such as media control buttons and instant-on playback; the albatross that is the massive power brick.

The Bottom Line

The Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator is an unquestionably powerful laptop, but impressed as we are with its performance and 3D frame rates, it's hard to justify the sky-high price. This quad-core laptop seems suited only for those who want a true desktop gaming rig that's still moderately portable.
Price as reviewed / starting price $5,037 / $2,699
Processor 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700
Memory 4GB of 800MHz
Hard drive 250GB at 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel 965
Graphics Dual 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7950 GTX in a scalable link interface
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate
Dimensions (WDH) 15.5 x 11.9 x 2.2 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 12 / 15 pounds
Category desktop replacement

The Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator is built like a tank--an American tank, thanks to the optional photorealistic American flag design on the case of our review unit. (Opting for a simpler case immediately shaves $390 off the laptop's price.) The screen sits very securely on its hinges, and--while we wouldn't recommend testing this claim--the laptop feels like it could not only survive a significant drop, but would possibly cause some damage to whatever surface it drops onto. At 2.2 inches thick and weighing 12 pounds even without the power adapter, the massive system is a true desktop replacement. We honestly can't imagine roaming anywhere with this box, except LAN parties.

The broad, 17.1-inch screen on our review unit included the optional 1,920x1,200 native resolution (sharper than the standard 1,680x1,050 resolution). It almost goes without saying that games and movies look great on the screen, which includes a glossy finish that adds richness to colors. Of course, the sheen of the finish also results in a slight glare when working in bright environments, such as near a window. The sharper resolution also means text and icons appear smaller on screen. However, we were impressed by the display, especially when watching movies. Above the display sits a 1.3-megapixel Webcam for video chats.

Appropriately for a gaming-oriented system, the 917V Accelerator includes a 10-key numeric keypad--handy for controlling games--next to its full-size keyboard. Typing was comfortable enough for short stretches, but the keyboard is set so far back on the laptop's case that it forces some unergonomic positioning. The broad touchpad and brushed-metal mouse buttons are slightly recessed within the case, which helps prevent you from accidentally grazing the touch pad and misplacing the cursor while typing. The keyboard deck includes two gaming hot keys along the left side; these can be programmed to run macros of your choice in any game or other application. Three programmable application-launch buttons sit above the keyboard. Though the laptop ships with a slim remote control, we missed having dedicated buttons for media playback and volume control. Also missed: an instant-on media player that would let us play CDs and DVDs without booting the system.

  Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator Average for desktop replacement category
Video VGA, S-Video in and out, DVI, coaxial input VGA-out, S-Video
Audio 2.1 speakers, microphone, headphone, S/PDIF-out, line in Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader 4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader
Expansion ExpressCard PC Card and ExpressCard
Networking Ethernet, modem, 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

Feature-wise, the Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator is one of the most loaded laptops we've seen this year. The massive case provides plenty of room for nearly every video connection you could need, including S-Video in and out, plus a coaxial jack that works nicely with the (optional, but included on our review unit) TV tuner and slim remote. There are also four audio ports for a variety of inputs and outputs. Our primary complaint lies in the placement of the laptop's four USB ports, which are clustered in a tight grid on the right side. We'd appreciate some breathing room to help prevent cord crowding, particularly given that this laptop will spend most of its time parked on a desk. Like many high-end desktop replacements, the 917V Accelerator incorporates stereo speakers and an integrated subwoofer; the speakers produce great sound for a laptop, especially for watching movies, but music was slightly muddled at high volumes.

Because there are no quad-core processors made specifically for mobile computing, Xtreme Notebooks uses a desktop CPU: the 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700. The configuration also includes 4GB of 800MHz RAM--a speed we have yet to see on other laptops--and two 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7950 GTX graphics cards in a scalable link interface. That's way more loaded than almost any other laptop on the market, so it's hardly surprising that the 917V Accelerator excelled on CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks. In a competitive field that included the Dell XPS M1730 and the HP Pavilion HDX, the 917V Accelerator pulled at least 25 percent ahead on our multimedia multitasking benchmark and 17 percent ahead on the Photoshop benchmark. The laptop performed predictably on our CPU-intensive iTunes conversion test, which does not necessarily take advantage of the quad-core processor; it finished a little behind the XPS M1730, which features a slightly higher clock speed. We were pleasantly surprised by how quietly the 917V Accelerator ran; usually laptops with desktop processors require large, noisy fans. Generally you have to trade a noisy fan for excessive heat, but while the keyboard did get warm during our use, it didn't feel much hotter than most of the laptops we've seen.

The Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator earned the frame-rate crown on our gaming tests, posting higher frame rates than the Alienware Area-51 m9750, which featured the same graphics cards, and the Dell XPS M1730, which included two of Nvidia's latest Nvidia GeForce 8700M GT cards. The 917V Accelerator displayed a chart-topping 110.6 frames per second while playing Quake 4 at 1,024x768 resolution. It continued to dominate while playing F.E.A.R. at the same resolution, posting 139fps. However, its leads over the second-place finisher were small (10fps on Quake 4, 6fps on F.E.A.R.), so we're not entirely sure that its gaming performance alone can justify the 917V Accelerator's high price tag, particularly as more DirectX 10 games become available.

What you gain in performance, you lose in battery life: The 917V Accelerator's desktop processor reduced its battery life to just 43 minutes on our DVD battery drain test. The Dell XPS M1730's mobile processor, meanwhile, ran for 1 hour and 27 minutes. Nevertheless, we hardly expect a system of this size to spend much time at all away from the power outlet. Should you actually want to carry the 917V Accelerator around, you'll have to schlep its 3-pound power brick--the size of an actual brick--with you.

All Xtreme computers come with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty as well as 24-7 toll-free phone support. Available upgrades extend coverage up to three years and include LCD damage protection. There's not much support to be found on the company's site, though there are driver downloads and a user forum.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator

Quake 4 performance (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1024x768, 4xAA, 8X AF  
Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator

F.E.A.R. performance (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1024x768, SS:on, AA:off, 8X AF  
Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator

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System configurations:

Xtreme Notebooks 917V Accelerator
Windows Vista Home Ultimate Edition (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 2x512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX; Intel RAID 0 250GB 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion HDX
Windows Vista Home Ultimate Edition (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 EXtreme Notebooks X7800; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI HD2600-XT; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm / 100GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Alienware Area-51 m9750
Windows XP Media Center Edition; 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; Dual 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX; 300GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Dell XPS M1730
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 EXtreme Notebooks X7900; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8700M GT; 200GB(x2) RAID 0 7,200rpm

HP Pavilion dv9500t
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600M GS; 120GB Western Digital 5,400rpm; 80GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Velocity Micro NoteMagix X25
Windows Vista Home Premium, 2.6Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo 6700, 2048MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT, 200GB Hitachi 7200rpm