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Portables Entertainment Games Hardware

Review of WidowPC Sting 917 Gaming Laptop 276

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i've-had-portables-smaller-than-the-power-cube dept.
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 stupidfoo (836212) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:01AM (#14246458)
    Did I toggle off slashvertisements?
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:02AM (#14246473) Homepage Journal
    Its hard to see it without one.
  • No link? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Donniedarkness (895066) <Donniedarkness&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:05AM (#14246502) Homepage
    All that, and no link to the product?
  • by general_re (8883) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:07AM (#14246541) Homepage
    With all that shit bolted on to the thing, battery life is surely going to be around eleven seconds once you unplug it - an assumption on my part that's surely confirmed by the fact that neither Taco nor the mfr's website bother to discuss battery time. So why not make it into a luggable computer? Leave off the battery, and shave that lardass down to merely ridiculous levels of heaviness instead of insanely heavy.
  • Off the Mark (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oculus Habent (562837) * <oculus.habent@gmail . c om> on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:09AM (#14246569) Journal
    "Laptop" is not a valid term for this product, as he mentions in his review. It can be called "portable", but it would not be advisable to place this twelve-pound heat-sterilizer on your lap. Taco mentions it randomly shutting off due to heat.

    That said, who has a lap big enough for it? Let me give you the key points:

    Dimensions: 15.6"(W) x 11.7"(D) x 1.95"(H)
    Weight: 11.3 lbs. with Battery

    That is almost the size of two reams of paper .

    Product Link [widowpc.com] for reference.
  • by AnswerIs42 (622520) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:14AM (#14246639) Homepage
    Thanks /.!

    How about some links to real reviews?

    Such as:

    http://laptopmag.com/Review/WidowPC-Sting-917.htm [laptopmag.com]
    http://hardware.gamespot.com/Story-ST-23446-x-1-3- 1 [gamespot.com]
    and
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=WidowPC+Sting +917+ [google.com]

    While this is an interesting writeup... lack of REAL information AND LINKS makes this kinda pointless (At least he didn't link to his blog that has the same writeup)

  • Re:Extra Paragraph (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eyepeepackets (33477) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:16AM (#14246656)
    These are DTRs: Desk Top Replacements. They aren't meant to replace the light and mobile laptops. Think a full-powered desktop equivalent you can shove in your backpack and take to the LAN party or back and forth to work.

    Comparing these to light and mobile laptops is a false comparison as that is not what these machines are made to be or do.

    Cheers

     
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:34AM (#14246849)
    Spelling matters.
  • So, to sum up... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:57AM (#14247106)
    ...It's about as good as a desktop station you may buy today, but for two-to-three times its price. It is so big and weights so much that you can't really carry it around (in a backpack, in a suitcase. Sure, you can *move* it, but that's not my idea of a laptop, or even a portable device. And don't forget the powerbox). It has two optical drives, and I still fail to imagine what may the second one be useful for. It requires extreme care in choosing where you place it -- and even then, it seems that to be safe you need a laptop deck. It is noisy and hot. And most likely, the battery lasts a brief time.

    Even the spider placed in the case is rather bad-looking (if at least it were centered, and in the place of that squary logo it has...)

    Honestly, the only good thing I can find about this lapt-- uh, port-- no, wait. Um... "thing". "Thing" will do. I was saying -- the only good thing I can find about this "thing" is the keypad, because I always miss it and it's just unconvenient having to use the Fn key to invoke the emulated keypad of most laptops

    If I were looking for a true gaming platform, I would buy a desktop station. With a TFT. And even a nice, small barebone that doesn't bulge out a lot. And all that I can carry in a large sports bag (even the bubble-plastic-wrapped TFT) which, though indeed will be bigger than the reviewed lap-- eh, "thing", I bet won't be much harder to carry around. *And*, it will pack more power. And cost about the same.

    That supposing I went to LANs and played games. Which I don't do.

    In the meanwhile, my 12" iBook will do nicely. Cheap and good.

    (This is my first attempt at trolling, so bear with me if I have been somewhat informative, insightful, funny or otherwise. I will get better with practice. ;o)
  • Gaming on a Mac (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NtroP (649992) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @12:11PM (#14247266)
    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.
    Hmmm. I'll admit that the selection of games is not stellar for Macs (and I'm not a hard-core gamer), but when I DO play games on my Mac I crank all my video settings to the max and have no performance problems. I don't "sort of learn to accept [it] when [I] have a Mac". I expect that I have to play a decent game on a decent compuer. My wife's gaming performance (mostly Command & Conquer) on her PowerBook isn't great and she has her settings cranked down, but then, she paid $1,200 for it and did not get it for gaming. I do my gaming on my Dual G5 1.8 with a Radion 9600 XT on a 23" Cinema Display - and my games play fine - and I spent less than $3,400.00 on the whole rig (got the monitor used).

    My desktop Mac is primarily used for video editing and graphics work, but I just find Taco's statement unfortunate, because it just perpetuates the "Macs suck at Gaming" myth. My God, Taco's "laptop" is freakin' $3,400. It sounds like the only thing it has going for it is that it's easy to pack up to a LAN party. You aren't going to pull this out on an Airline tray. The batterly life must suck. It's hot, heavy, not particularly good looking (IMHO). In short, it has almost no features that I would look for in a laptop.

    I don't know, I suppose this kind of bohemoth will probably appeal to the kind of guy who thinks he'll look L33T to everyone around him because he's got the biggest, noisiest, hottest laptop in the room. When in reality the guys with the sleak Vaio's and PowerBooks are just laughing at him.

    The other day I was sitting in a hotel cafe and this guy's struggling to fit his gigantic laptop on his "table-built-for-two" and still have room for his breakfast. He was pounding proudly away on it. I just felt sorry for him because he kept getting dirty looks from the waitress who had to keep stepping over the powercord he'd strung about 10 feet to the wall. I thought about pulling my TiBook out, but that would have just been low.

  • by Inoshiro (71693) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @12:46PM (#14247639) Homepage
    You can buy a desktop computer that is big, but powerful for about 1400$ US (AMD64, GeForce 6800 or better, min 1gb of ram, etc).

    You can also buy a 12" PowerBook for that much. It weighs 4.6lb, and gets 5 hours of battery life (half-bright screen and WiFi off; turn on WiFi to start with 4.5hr). My 12" plays WoW alright (although my desktop does it better).

    Alternatively, you can pay a bit more, and get a little ShuttlePC that has a nice projector output. Lug it around in your backpack (after all, it's going to be 8-10lb), and it's about as portable as this Widow PC.

    Or, for the price of both the desktop and the PowerBook (or a Shuttle and a cheaper x86 laptop), you can buy this monster which weighs 11-13lb (depending on whose specs you read), and gets 57 minutes (!) of battery life. Plus you can't upgrade the thing when it's out of date in a year or two (like a friend of mine who had a Dell gamer laptop he hated). That laptop is the same as if I took 3 12" PBs and stacked them up in terms up weight, and gets roughly 1/15th as much battery life (57 minutes vs. 15 hours of 3 PBs).

    You might as well buy a 17" widescreen PowerBook, which comes equipped with some very sexy specs, is thin, and gets up to 5.5hr of battery life. You'd only buy such a "laptop" as a penis extension!
  • by Pfhor (40220) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @12:59PM (#14247765) Homepage
    16:10 is to have menu / toolbar / timeline access while watching a 16:9 movie. Or more likely to edit one. Or thats my justification for it anyway. I don't mind the black bars during the movie part if the ratio lets me have two full 16:9 windows in 2up mode and my final cut timeline underneath it.
  • Re:Ummm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JourneyExpertApe (906162) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @04:54PM (#14250120)
    Whether there is a link in the article is irrelevant because there are links in the comments now. Taco knew there would be.

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long

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