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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 CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:06AM (#14246533)
    Can you run the most recent distributed.net [distributed.net] client for this system, and provide us with the typical keys/second value you obtain?

    While not a perfect benchmark by any means, and highly dependent upon which core is used (ie. the algorithm and implementation), it is often a useful test to quantify how a machine performs.

  • Ummm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by platypussrex ( 594064 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:08AM (#14246557)
    Who is this person? Why did they get their free loaner (to advertise here perhaps), and why is there no link to anything useful about the machine?
  • by xutopia ( 469129 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:11AM (#14246592) Homepage
    This xmas I'm switching to desktop. I've ordered parts and will be building a very nice rig for gaming. The reasons?

    - more power
    - less neck sores (adjustable height monitor)
    - bigger monitor
    - cheaper than getting something equivalent in laptop form

    The only downside is that I love laptop keyboards. If anyone knew of a place where I could buy a plugable USB keyboard the size and shape similar to what you would find on a laptop it would make me really happy for xmas.

  • Leave off the battery, and shave that lardass down to merely ridiculous levels of heaviness instead of insanely heavy.

    Truely, this is a "desktop replacement" - desktop specs, smaller footprint. I equate this to something like an iMac. But the up side is if you leave IN the battery, a brownout/blackout won't stop the machine, lose any work, or fry your innards. So this is a small-footprint desktop gaming PC with built-in battery backup. Sounds ok to me.

  • Re:Ummm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by garcia ( 6573 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:22AM (#14246724)
    Taco got it apparently and it wouldn't be much of an advertisement when it's not linked to from the main page I guess. Perhaps they left out the link by mistake or they did it purposefully so that people like you and I (who probably bitch when they have Slashvertisements) would complain when they don't blatantly "Slashvertise".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:24AM (#14246743)
    Next time I'll be sure to add "(rhetorical)" after my question. I found it odd that a laptop still includes a serial port since so many other manufacturers ditched them in favor of usb. It made me wonder if the picture was photoshopped or mislabeled.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Generic Guy ( 678542 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:24AM (#14246753)
    Seriously... why?

    LAN parties! While I certainly wouldn't call it a laptop it is certainly more portable than some of the rigs I've seen with carrying straps wrapped around them. A built-in screen is much nicer than lugging a heavy CRT around with you, too.

    Aside from the gaming aspect, it would still be nice to have a fairly heavy-duty station for 'regular work' which you can take from site to site. Again, you're not going to get much use from the battery, but anywhere you can sit and plug-in would be fine. The $3200 price is a little offputting, but I suppose that's the price you pay (pun intended) for the convenience of a portable game-capable workstation.

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

    by daviddennis ( 10926 ) <david@amazing.com> on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @11:47AM (#14246989) Homepage
    He's probably comparing this with the 17" Apple PowerBook, and that's why he thinks the resolution on this laptop is high. The latest 17" PowerBook has 1600x1000 resolution, which is a step lower.

    I'm getting the 17" PowerBook shortly, and I have to say its resolution looks pretty good. I don't think I could read type much smaller, so I'm not sure how much gain higher resolution gives you, and I'm a screen size junkie (I have a 23" Cinema Display which is 1920x1200, or the same resolution as the test laptop).

    The 17" PowerBook is often thought of as a desktop replacement, even though the processor is obviously not as powerful as the G5. I used a 1ghz 15" PowerBook as my sole computer for a few months before I bought my G5, and performance was excellent for everything short of video special effects work.

    So I think as a desktop replacement, the 17" PowerBook with its 4 hour battery life, large screen and 6 pound weight (half of the review unit) is a lot more practical, and at $2,500 it's even a bit cheaper.

    But I'm sure the Black Widow's far better at gaming.


  • by PhraudulentOne ( 217867 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @12:46PM (#14247632) Homepage Journal
    Psssh, I guess that laptop is... OK ;)

    Check THIS [eurocom.com] out.

    Its a Eurocom F-Bomb. Here are some specs:

    Superb 17.1-inch WUXGA 1920-by-1200 pixels with Super Clear Glossy Surface
    - Fully 64-bit capable supernotebook
    - Processor: socket based, fully upgradeable, single or dual core, 64-bit
    * up to 4800+ AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core; 939-pin; 1MB cache
    * up to 4000+ AMD Athlon 64 FX57; 939-pin; 1MB cache; single core
    - Memory: up to 2GB DDR400 SODIMM; 2 sockets
    - Choice of Video with EUROCOM upgradeable VGA technology:
    * 256MB GDDR3 Nvidia Quadro FX 1400 with OpenGL
    * 256MB GDDR3 Nvidia 6800 Ultra
    * 256MB GDDR3 Nvidia GeForce Go 7800GTX
    * 256MB GDDR3 ATi Mobility Radeon x800
    * 256MB GDDR3 ATi Mobility Radeon x800 XT Platinum Edition
    - up to 240GB of HDD space with 2 physical PATA or SATA HDDs and RAID 0,1
    - 2 physical Optical Drives; up to 8x Dual Layer Multi DVD-RAM/+-RW; 2nd DVD Burner optional
    - Internal MCE TV Tuner available
    - Virtual 8-channel audio output; SRS WOW support; 7.1 Surround Sound Output
    - Standard DVI-I port; 4 x USB 2.0; 2x IEEE1394a ports
    - Standard 10-in-1 card reader
    - Integrated WebCam for video conferencing
  • by aclarke ( 307017 ) <spam@cl[ ]e.ca ['ark' in gap]> on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @05:58PM (#14250907) Homepage
    With 7200rpm 100GB drives out as well as 5400rpm 120GB drives, why put a 60GB drive or a 100GB 5400rpm drive in at all? For a computer like this, it seems like it's targetting the I'm-rich-and-want-the-ultimate-gaming-portable-no- hold-barred crowed. Why not 2 100GB 7200 drives in RAID-0 (or separately as configured)?
  • Sounds Perfect (Score:3, Interesting)

    by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @07:30PM (#14251808) Homepage
    I'll be living and working in a remote location starting in February, so this sounds perfect. I need something for a small living space that I can transport without having to disconnect a bunch of cables. A typical desktop is out of the question, but I don't want to sacrifice the performance or storage. I don't care about battery life or weight, just footprint, ease of portability, and performance. I was considering the Alienware line, but after checking out WidowPC, their laptops seem even closer to full featured desktops.

    Now I just need some Pringles cans and a 30 mile high antenna tower so I can get LOS to somewhere with an internet connection.
  • Sager notebook (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ruiner13 ( 527499 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @10:00PM (#14252730) Homepage
    This seems to have similar features but can accept an Athlon 64 X2, which in my mind is the best processor you can buy currently:

    http://www.sagernotebook.com/pages/go_np9750.html [sagernotebook.com]

    Hardware RAID, 2 CD-ROM drive bays, TV Tuner (optional), subwoofer, DVI, remote control, the works. And all in a compact 12.5 pound package! Ok, it is big but won't blind your eyes like the one above.

Prototype designs always work. -- Don Vonada