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Portables Entertainment Games Hardware

Review of WidowPC Sting 917 Gaming Laptop 276

It is absolutely gigantic. I've never had a laptop this giant. It is huge both in terms of dimensions, weight, and specs. The resolution of this screen is larger than all but one of my desktops. It has more disk space on it's two (yes two) hard drives than any laptop and almost any desktop. It has an honest to god numeric keypad, but it's sitting on my lap. It's the WidowPC Sting 917 and I put it through it's paces, using it as my primary gaming machine for a month. And I write about it below.

Let me start by offering some perspective: most of my gaming is sadly done on a Mac. I have no Mac capable to truly running most modern video games. I always turn the video settings down to just below pathetic, and even then I'm fortunate to get tolerably smooth video. It's just something you sort of learn to accept when you have a Mac. Every game I play on it is just a little short of steller when compared to running on a PC. But my newest Windows capable machine is 3 years old, and a joke by today's standards.

This machine came well equipped: A 3.66ghz P4 w/ 2MB of L2 Cache, 1 gig of 533MHz DDR2 RAM, an Nvidia 6800 Ultra w/ 256MB ram, and not one, but TWO drives, a 60gb 7200 RPM for the OS, and a 100 GB 5400 RPM drive for games. It came in minimal packaging- inside the box was little more than a laptop bag containing the manuals and a few cables. Which is good because all that bloat distracts me from my primary mission: It installed my Warcrack in moments and patched up in probably half the time I was expecting it to take.

With that I hoisted the gigantic beast upon my lap, connected my mouse and began to play. Glorious, lickabley smooth graphics. I turned on every single graphics option and restarted the game, only to discover that there was a level of graphical detail in this game that I didn't know existed. Frames never dropped. Capital cities ceased being slide shows and turned into the bustling metropolis of activity that they are meant to be. 15 man boss fights became liquid fast. In short, having real hardware made my favorite game more fun to play. I'd also like to think it made me a better player, but that might be pushing it.

Likewise the audio gave me a surprising thrill. Walking into rooms and hearing acoustic affects. Voices echoing off walls really give spaces a powerful sense of space. The speakers on this machine are great for laptops. Sure your home stereo sounds better. Hell I bet $50 PC speakers sound better, but for built-ins, it was quite nice.

This new gaming experience does not come without tradeoffs. The first thing you will immediately notice about this monster is the screen. Besides having a 1900x1200 resolution screen, it is incredibly shiny. Frusteratingly so. I found myself closing drapes, turning off lights, and even after that, when I entered a dark room, I'd see my reflection shining back at me. Maybe this is simply a personal preference, but I really struggled to see details in dark scenes. I had to throw the gamma settings way up and sacrifice any contrast to see certain things without straining my eye. This might be the single biggest flaw in the machine.

Next up is weight. This thing is heavy. Everyone I showed this machine to was asked to pick it up. No really, I'd say: pick it up. They'd look at me cockeyed and then comply. Without fail they were surprised at the density of this beast. It was kind of a strange experience, watching people lift and then realize that this thing weighed like 20-30% more than you expect. The website says that this thing weighs 11lbs but it sure felt like more.

The thing is huge. It came with a cheapy little case that fit the laptop quite snuggly, but no other bag in my house came close to carrying it. And I've had some big machines over the years. You should expect to need a custom bag. I never hauled this machine through an airport, but I imagine it would suck wipping this out in security. Even the power cube is gigantic. I've actually had handheld computers about the same size as this thing's power cube.

Also worth noting is heat. There is a giant fan on the left hand side that really does an impressive job of moving the heat outside of the case. And onto whatever is sitting next to you. Let's just say my cats were not so excited to sleep next to me. I've used laptops that were physically uncomfortably hot on the lap, and this machine never got to that point. Instead, it simply would turn off. In the middle of the game. No warning. Very unpleasant. I borrowed a little mini lap desk and then there were no heat problems, provided I left the fans completely unobstructed, and used the machine only on a hard flat surface.

With this giant machine comes a full assortment of ports. And not the miniature custom ports some vendors pass off, but rather full sized real ports without stupid dongles to lose. Of course, since bluetooth and 802.11 is built in, the only port you hopefully will need is power.

The short and long of this machine is that it is heavy and hot. The base model costs $2700 but as I reviewed it, it was more like $3200. And this is one laptop that probably shouldn't be used on your lap: the weight, heat, and random freeze-ups when given improper breathing room pretty well kill that. But if you have the cash to spare, this is a sweet machine. It plays games as well as most any desktop I've seen. It added a level of playability to my favorite game. It has the stones to handle the heaviest 3D games of today, and will likely be able to play the cutting edge games for several weeks into the future. I know most people can't afford a machine like this... but if you can, you'll definitely be envied by your friends next time you haul it out at a LAN party... it's a hell of a lot sexier than lugging around a monitor and a mini-atx based machine. I'm sad to let the review unit go back to WidowPC.

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Review of WidowPC Sting 917 Gaming Laptop

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:05AM (#14246514) Homepage Journal
    Don't worry, I found some pictures []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:07AM (#14246546)
    WindowPC Laptops [].
  • Link to said laptop (Score:5, Informative)

    by neosake (655724) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:08AM (#14246560) Homepage
    Here's a link [] to the sting 917.

    I read teh review, was like ok, it's big, but what's inside?
    Here it is:
    • Choice of nVidia 7800 GTX, ATI x800 , or nVidia Quadro 1400 video cards with 256MB DDR3 memory
    • Intel Desktop Pentium 4 600 Series Extreme Edition CPU with 2MB L2 Cache
    • 17 inch 1900 x 1200 WUXGA+ LCD with ClearView SuperBrite Technology
    • PCI-Express graphics technology
    • Apacer 533Mhz Dual Channel DDR2 RAM
    • Fujitsu SATA and Ultra ATA drives with commanding queuing
    • New 600 series 64 bit P4 w/ 2MB cache
    • Phoenix BIOS
    • Full size keyboard
    • Fully user upgradeable video & CPU
    • Full desktop CPU combined with incredibly fast graphics power
    • More powerful than most desktops
    • TV tuner with remote available
  • Re:No link? (Score:2, Informative)

    by GeekyMike (575177) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:09AM (#14246565)
    Link to product []
  • Made by Clevo (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_cowgod (133070) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:10AM (#14246573)
    Looks like this machine is manufactured by Clevo [], the Clevo D900T []... It's also sold by Alienware (Alienware Area-51 m7700 []) and probably a few other vendors
  • See them here (Score:4, Informative)

    by eyepeepackets (33477) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:11AM (#14246596)
    At Sager: ml []

    At PCTorque: []

    A sample desktop screenshot, wsxga: ker02.html []

    Place where people talk about them: []

  • Links & Reviews (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:14AM (#14246630)
  • by Tucan (60206) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:19AM (#14246687)
    The Logitech DiNovo [] is the right size and has an excellent feel, but it's wireless. Perhaps you can hold out for the Optimus []?
  • by Brian Stretch (5304) * on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:21AM (#14246709)
    Wait for the AMD dualcore version []. Less heat, WAY more performance. It's a standard Clevo D900K [] notebook, also sold by M-Tech [], VoodooPC [], Alienware [], etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:29AM (#14246797)
    In the picture, it also has an :AN port. Someone typoed LAN.
  • Re:Made by Clevo (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rinisari (521266) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:29AM (#14246798) Homepage Journal
    You can get one of these through PC Torque [] for under $3,000. It's also a Sager 9890 [].
  • by alx512 (194670) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:14AM (#14247301)
    Pro-star oems machines for Alienware, Sager, and apparently this company as well. You can get the exact same machine without the extra markup by buying direct from them at []. You won't get things like "machine tattoos" or cool colors, or rubber doohickies, glowing alien eyes or anything like that on your box though. They also have a thinner lighter centrino based machine that has a GeForce 7800gtx. I have the Pro-star 3724 which is a 15", WUXGA (1920x1200), GeForce 6600 machine and I love it. Just about every company I've seen that makes a machine of this caliber is a pro-star.
  • by spacerodent (790183) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:37AM (#14247546)
    This same system is marketed by Sager, Prostar, Alienware, and many others. I have the Prostar version and it over heats like a mother fucker. I'm in the military so I mainly bought it for portability, not necessarrily laptop use. It pisses me off though that it over heats so much. At best you can expect 20 minutes of gameplay before it crashes. I highly reccomend getting somthing else. I don't think I'm even going to take it to Iraq because I doubt it would last 5 minutes in that heat.
  • by rdebath (884132) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @05:41PM (#14251351)
    I've had one of these for just under two months now; It's a beast of a machine!
    Two Gb of memory 200Gb of disk (raid 0, 1 or jbod), reliable Wifi, brilliant screen and the best builtin speakers I've come across in a portable.

    But it seems to weigh a TON; or it did at first and has a battery life of just barely over an hour. Despite the power requirements it feels quite quiet because it's fans tend to blast the hot air out for only a few seconds before going back to normal office 'silence'.

    This machine seems to be a classic Clevo design just like the last three machines I've bought from them (through distributors of course). They've all been heavy (tho this is the heaviest!), they've had huge screens (tho this is the biggest!) and the previous ones were very reliable.

    1) (200Mhz) Died 'cause it got rained on.
    2) (750Mhz) Still going strong, no battery, little sis has it.
    3) (2.4Ghz) Glide pad got gouged. I wonder how much it'll cost to get it repaired?

    So far this one is living upto it's ancestors only time will tell if it will continue to.

    Still ... my other computer is a Toshiba R100 ...

  • My Review (Score:3, Informative)

    by jaredcat (223478) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @06:23PM (#14251728)
    I've got this same laptop from WidowPC, and overall I've been quite happy with it. The screen is amazing, and the laptop has more speed than any desktop or laptop I've used before. 2 SATA drives in RAID, 2 DVD-R drives, builtin webcam, more firewire and USB ports than I know what to do with... This laptop has got it all.

    WidowPC is also able to deliver these laptops, fully customized, in 2 business days! Compare that to Alienware's several weeks for the same piece of equipment (Clevo D900T).

    On the downside:
    • This is truly a desktop replacement laptop. It weighs in at something like 17lb and the battery only lasts for about 45 minutes if its not plugged in. If, like me, you just lug your laptop to whatever desk you are working at for the day and don't move around with it much, then this laptop is a good choice. I've got enough power to make it from my apartment to the local Starbucks, and thats all I really need it for. I've only run into problems when I fly-- There is no way to plug in a 300W power supply on an airplane (most airlines limit the seat power to 60 or 75W), so I end up switching to my iPod for entertainment on long trips.
    • Wireless network support is FLAKEY. The internal wireless NIC just can't compete with all of the EM noise generated by this laptop's other components, and I am lucky to get a strong signal anywhere. I often find myself looking for the hottest spot of the hotspot in Starbucks, and I have an external antenna for my wireless gateway at home. This is probably the most dissapointing part of this laptop. WidowPC's support team suggested that I get an external wireless NIC (they even offered to send me one for free), but rather than lug something else around I've decided to just struggle with the internal.
    • WidowPC support isn't so great. When I do finally get ahold of someone, they are very knowledgable and helpful. On the other hand its rather difficult to get ahold of someone. My guess is that WidowPC is a less-than-10-person company, which gives you the benefit of responsible and personalized service, but you lose some of the stability and 24-7 response that you get working with a megacorp support desk.
    • This laptop is REALLY ugly. I mean, its a big grey box with WidowPC's logo glued on the back of the screen. If you are going to pay this kind of cash for a laptop, you want it to look good. Or at least I do... and this rebranded Clevo looks like the laptop that design forgot.
    • This laptop gets very hot very quickly. I haven't had any stability problems due to the heat (as some other posters have mentioned), but I defenitely couldn't leave it sitting on my lap for any length of time.

  • Re:no wi-fi !? (Score:3, Informative)

    by pecosdave (536896) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:19PM (#14253097) Homepage Journal
    And I quote:

        "Of course, since bluetooth and 802.11 is built in, the only port you hopefully will need is power."

    Guess again.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27