Introducing the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17

The overarching recommendations we've had for big gaming notebooks these days have been pretty simple: ASUS G7x series if you're on a budget, Alienware M17x if you're not. Clevo and MSI are alternatives, but really gamers have been best served by one of these two lines, and it's been that way for some time now. I originally brought in iBuyPower's Valkyrie CZ-17 because it's an ODM notebook that's been rebranded by a boutique that's gradually growing almost too big to be considered a boutique anymore, and worth at least a little attention.

As it turns out, the CZ-17 is worth more than a little attention. Sourcing a notebook from MSI instead of Clevo is actually a good start to differentiating your brand from other boutiques, but the real surprise is just how strong of a competitor this gaming notebook is. For the first time in some time, the old Alienware design is starting to really lose its lustre.

While it's not much to look at, the CZ-17 has a little more verve and style than Clevo's notebooks. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M feels warmed over (it's just a rebranded GTX 580M) but still a powerful GPU, while even an entry level Ivy Bridge quad core is going to feel plenty fast. Yet the underlying hardware isn't the whole story with notebooks, and the CZ-17 has to be tested to truly be appreciated. There are some surprises here.

iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3610QM
(4x2.3GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.3GHz, 22nm, 6MB L3, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 2x4GB G.Skill DDR3-1333 (Maximum 32GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M 4GB GDDR5
(384 CUDA cores, 632MHz/1265MHz/3GHz core/shaders/memory clocks, 256-bit memory bus)

Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1.1GHz)
Display 17.3" LED Matte 16:9 1080p
Chi Mei N173HGE-L11
Hard Drive(s) Seagate Momentus 7200.5 750GB 7200-RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
(one open 2.5" bay)
Optical Drive BD-ROM/DVD+-RW Combo Drive
Networking Killer Networks e2200 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino 2230 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD audio
Four speakers
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Battery 9-cell, 87Wh
Front Side Speaker grills
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Left Side Vent
3x USB 3.0
SD card reader
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Back Side Kensington lock
AC adapter
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 16.9" x 11.3" x 2.2"
429.3mm x 287mm x 55.9mm
Weight 6.9 lbs
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
THX TruStudio PRO audio
Backlit keyboard
Warranty 1-year limited and lifetime phone support
Pricing $1,459

Just about everything but the GPU is fairly entry level for a gaming notebook, but that's not necessarily a bad thing since this is about the lowest price I've ever seen a GTX 580M/675M at. The Intel Core i7-3610QM is Intel's bottom rung quad core processor, but still able to turbo up to an impressive 3.1GHz on all four cores, 3.2GHz on two cores, and 3.3GHz on a single core. This is more than enough processing power for most tasks.

Even if the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M existed essentially as a stopgap for NVIDIA to release the GTX 680M (review impending), it's still a very formidable GPU. The 675M is a rebranded GTX 580M, but ours is running at very slightly higher clocks than spec; 632MHz instead of 620MHz on the core clock, resulting in a corresponding 1265MHz on the CUDA cores instead of 1240MHz. It's not really a noticeable difference, but remember the 580M was basically last generation's top of the line mobile GPU and it still has a lot of fight left in it.

As I mentioned, though, the rest of the system is less exciting. The lack of any SSD is going to cripple the base CZ-17 in our PCMark tests and certainly doesn't help it feel more responsive, while the 8GB of DDR3-1333 is standard if unexceptional. Users looking to upgrade RAM will have to remove the keyboard to do so or replace the existing DIMMs with 8GB sticks. At least iBuyPower includes a blu-ray combo drive standard, and the Killer Networks e2200 gigabit ethernet (complete with connection management software) is a nice touch.

In and Around the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17
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  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    I don't understand why they chose a rebranded 580M over the 7970M....
    And 4GB of VRAM is absolutely overkill for 1920x1080 even with maxed anti-aliasing.

    The pricing is actually quite good for what you get, but the 7970M is cheaper and beats the 675M....
  • Mugur - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

  • Freakie - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    This. Once AMD can compete on the battery front, then they will find themselves very successful in this market because in this economy, people want to merge devices into one package and having a gaming rig with low battery life is hard to justify over a dedicated desktop for gaming and a laptop for when you're somewhere else. But if you throw in 4+hrs of 720p video watching, then suddenly you can combine your two devices and save some money in the mean-time.

    But of course, AMD has to completely change the way they do Drivers to pull that off. Nvidia has done damned good work on their drivers to get Optimus to work so smoothly, and it took a few hiccups along the way. And as we've seen with AMD, they really suck at implementing new software features over a whole family of products.

    But I of course await the day when AMD can become more competitive :)
  • jtd871 - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    I was actually shopping this unit w/ the 7970m within the past 24hrs as a replacement for my 5-yo lappie (ThinkPad T61p with Core 2 and Quadro NVS140M - don't laugh still runs great for older stuff).

    However, I then learned about the recent Enduro (AMDs Optimus) issues with laptops using the 7970m (and possibly all GCN dGPUs), and stopped shopping as seriously until such time as AMD works out their issues with Enduro.

    That having been said, I'm still glad to have Dustin's opinion on the rest of the build.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    I'm meeting with AMD tomorrow to discuss Enduro/Switchable Graphics, so hopefully they'll have something to tell/show me in regards to drivers. [Crosses fingers...]
  • mpschan - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    I'm sure you're planning on it already, but please let us know if there are any developments on that front (assuming no NDA of course). AMD desperately needs this feature in the mobile space.
  • TheHolyLancer - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    As an owner of a saiger NP9170 w7970m that is having massive driver issues (since the NP9170 is optimus enabled, and something about how the output from the GPU has to go thru the IGP....)

    I would love to know what will their response to this issue.

    ATM, I have to run the old custom version of the driver from saiger as the newest offcial driver will not install willingly, if I force it by pointing the driver update to an extracted driver folder's right location and update to the newest version, I get issues if I run two copies of eve online (or two copies any any two game that uses discreet). The performance boost is very nice tho, granted at the point it was more like 100 fps vs 60-70 fps so I reverted to the old driver that lets me run multiple games at the same time without crashing badly.
  • jtd871 - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    Whoops, must have confused this with the Origin/Sager/AVA machines. iBuyPower doesn't show AMD graphics as an option for the CZ-17...
  • hardwareguy - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    My M17xR4 with the 7970 can hit about 4 hours on battery with pretty high web use and visual studio. Buddy with same laptop who does everything through RDP gets about an extra hour.
  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    Nice! I didn't know the Walter White got an Alienware.

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