Sager NP8950 / Clevo P950HP6 Review by HTWingNut

Discussion in 'Sager/Clevo Reviews & Owners' Lounges' started by HTWingNut, May 28, 2017.

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  1. HTWingNut

    HTWingNut Potato

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    INTRODUCTION

    Sager is always keeping up with the latest Windows gaming PC tech, usually offering best bang for the buck options of the latest gaming laptop trends. The new Sager NP8950 based on the Clevo P950HP6 offers up a thin and light 15" gaming laptop option which clearly is looking to compete with the likes of Aorus and Razer and MSI thin and light options. It contains the latest Intel Kaby Lake CPU and Nvidia Pascal technology with an i7-7700HQ and GTX 1060 driving this machine's performance.

    LPC-Digital provided a sample of the Sager NP8950 laptop fairly well equipped to benchmark and provide feedback to the NBR community. This review will encompass an "out of the box" experience, with a section on overclocking and tuning at the end of the review.

    [​IMG]


    PHYSICAL OVERVIEW:

    The first thing that you notice with the laptop is its thinness, but what really stands out is the full matte black plastic and metal chassis that makes it feel very solid and sturdy. There is really little to no flex anywhere. The lid and the wrist wrest and keyboard surround are formed metal, even the speaker grilles are integrated. The bottom panel (underneath the laptop) and the bezel surrounding the 15" 1920x1080 LG LP156WF6-SPB1 IPS LCD are a black plastic. Its overall aesthetic has some slight faceted design cues, but nothing that stands out and screams "I'm a gaming laptop!", which for me personally, is one of the things I enjoy about Sager notebooks. The simple aesthetic that it can easily pass as a business laptop but has some serious gaming performance inside. There is a three zone backlit keyboard with chiclet-type keys, and a full size numberpad to boot! As I type this review, the keyboard feels comfortable, with medium travel keys and very quiet as well. Only one nitpick is that there does not seem to be a "CAPS LOCK" indicator light. The touchpad has separate physical left and right mouse buttons and a fingerprint reader in the upper left corner.

    [​IMG]

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    As you look around the laptop, the CPU vents out left and left rear side, with the GPU out the right rear. Underneath is a panel with lots of slots for ventillation, I'd say over half the panel has ventillation slots, although some are covered by support structure. The port placement seems well layed out as well, as a bulk of the I/O is placed on the LEFT side so that if you use a mouse with the laptop, you don't have all the excess wires getting in the way on the right side, leaving a single USB port on the right side which is perfect for plugging in a wireless mouse/keyboard dongle. To detail the available ports, the right side from front to rear has microphone and headphone 3.5mm / 1/8" jacks, USB 3.1 Type A port, SD/MMC card reader, gigabit ethernet jacks (with a bottom spring door), and Kensington lock port at the back. Over on the left side from front to back offers two USB 3.1 type A slots, two USB 3.1 type C ports, two mini display ports v1.3, and a full size HDMI (with HDCP, specs don't say which version of HDMI), and finally the power plug. Speaking of which, the power adapter is 150W and reasonably small and light.

    [​IMG]

    Once you remove the bottom panel every component that can be user replaced is available, and that is limited to: two slots of up to 16GB DDR4-2400 RAM, 80mm PCIe M.2 (NVMe supported) SSD, 2.5" 7.5mm height SSD or hard drive, M.2 Wireless card. CPU and GPU are soldered to the mainboard. The CPU and GPU have separate cooling modules, and are relatively easy to access to change thermal paste, just by removing a few screws and disconnecting a couple fan connectors for the GPU. The GPU has dual fans venting out the rear, while the CPU has a single fan but vented out both the side and the rear.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    SPECIFICATIONS

    Here's the specific specifications of this Sager NP8950 laptop:

    LCD: LG LP156WF6-SPB1 15.6" IPS 60Hz Matte
    CPU: Intel Kaby Lake i7-7700HQ 2.8GHz - 3.8GHz
    GPU: Nvidia Pascal GeForce GTX 1060 with Optimus
    RAM: 32GB DDR4 2400MHz
    Storage: Samsung 960 Pro PCIe NVMe 512GB
    Wireless: Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 8265
    OS: Windows 10 64-bit
    Battery: 55WHr

    Dims: 380 x 255 x 23mm (with rubber feet) ~ 2.1kg / 4lbs 10oz

    Power Supply: 19V 7.89A (150W) (150 x 75 x 25mm) ~ 0.5kg / 1.1 lbs with all cables


    SAGER NP8950 DETAILS

    Out of the Box Windows experience is typical of Sager, with no bloatware installed. It does come pre-installed with drivers and apps like the Sager control center that gives users control over the power and fan profiles, along with LCD brightness and keyboard backlighting and macro controls, and other convenient features like volume control, enabling/disabling touchpad, webcam, or the Windows key. Sound Blaster Connect 2 software is also pre-loaded which gives more concise control over the audio experience with an equalizer, acoustic engine (i.e. smart surround, bass, volume, etc), scout mode for gaming, and environmental mode for presets for commonly used games and video. Otherwise it's your vanilla Windows 10 install.


    BIOS

    The BIOS is fairly sparse with options but does include options like Flexicharger, Hyper-Threading, Speed Step, and Fast Boot enabling or disabling, as well as activing or limiting a number of CPU cores.

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    LCD

    An LCD is a very important aspect of a laptop, especially a gaming one. The LCD in the Sager NP8950 is the LG LP156WF6-SPB1 which is a 1920x1080 60Hz IPS Matte with 80 degree viewing angles, 25ms response, 700:1 contrast, and 300 cd/m^2 brightness. While the display itself looks very crisp and clean, these days 60Hz is minimum refresh a gamer needs or wants, but a faster stock LCD with a higher refresh and response time would be welcome. Considering this is an Optimus laptop, overclocking the LCD can become a bit problematic. Out of the box, the Intel custom resolutions gives the error "The custom resolution exceeds the maximum bandwidth capacity." so overclocking the display is not an option. Some beta drivers have been found in the wild to allow this, although I have not taken the time to test it at the moment. The LCD hinges are quite firm and the screen does not wobble while typing at all. It rotates back maximum about 45 degrees from vertical.

    Viewing Angles
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    Calibration of the screen results in 72% of Adobe RGB color gamut.

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    Storage

    The Sager NP8950 has some flexible storage options with offering a single PCIe 80mm M.2 slot with NVMe support as well as a bay for a SATA III 7.5mm height 2.5 inch SSD or hard drive. This particular machine came equipped with a Samsung 960 Pro M.2 NVMe 512GB SSD. It's performance is very good overall and well outpaces any SATA III drive, with sequential read speeds of about 1650 MB/sec and write speeds of about 1570 MB/sec. 4K read is over 50 MB/sec with 4K write a respectable 150 MB/sec. While it does run a bit warm under load, peaking at 61C during benchmarking and large file transfers, it idles at around 40C.

    You can see the performance results below from both ATTO disk benchmark as well as CrystalDiskMark.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    SPEAKERS AND WEBCAM

    There are stereo speakers placed just above the keyboard, or just below the bottom of the LCD, however you want to look at it, and offer a pleasant range with good volume without distortion. The included Sound Blaster Connect 2 desktop app definitely helps improve the overall audio experience and boost loudness where without it, it typically comes across as flat and a bit quieter than desired.

    There is a single 2MP webcam centered above the LCD. Perfectly adequate for casual chats.




    RAM and Networking

    There's not much to say about RAM and networking hardware these days, but I will at least make mention of them here. The i7-7700HQ can support up to 64GB of DDR4 2400MHz RAM through four 16GB modules. The Sager NP8950 offers only two modules, but 32GB is typically more than adquate for most users with the CPU performance that this machine offers. The 32GB RAM in this system is DDR4 2400MHz CAS 17 which CPU-z indicates is manufactured by Hyundai Electronics.

    CPU-Z Memory Tab
    [​IMG]

    CPU-Z SPD Tab
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    Intel 8265 802.11AC wireless card is stock in this machine supporting the AC standard of course, and both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bandwidths with 867 Mbps max speed. Bluetooth 4.2 is also integrated into the Intel wi-fi card. The gigabit ethernet port is driven by Realtek drivers. Both wireless and wired performed as advertised without any issues with connection or speed.


    Intel i7-7700HQ CPU

    Intel keeps plugging along with newer CPU's despite slipping behind Moore's law of doubling number of transistors every year, and offering Kaby Lake on the 14nm process. That being said, this CPU keeps up with the latest technology offerings especially DDR4 RAM and an integrated GPU capable of supporting 4K at 60Hz through DisplayPort. The latter is especially important since the NP8950 is an Optimus laptop meaning the Nvidia GPU runs through the Intel GPU to the external display ports. Not that the 1060 could handle 4k real well, but some less demanding games may be able to, not to mention using it for additional Windows desk space.

    The Intel i7-7700HQ is a 45W TDP FCBGA quad core CPU with hyper-threading, 2.8GHz base clock with boost up to 3.8HGHz (with single core active). Although the stock boost settings greatly limit the time at boost, as well as runs at only about 3.0 to 3.1GHz with all cores loaded for most any length of time. That being said, Intel XTU does offer the options to increase boost power to unlimited with a 96 second boost time. More on that later in the OVERCLOCKING section.

    An Intel 630 GPU is integrated as part of the i7-7700HQ and is used for most desktop applications and purposes, while the dedicated GTX 1060 Nvidia GPU is piped through the Intel GPU for 3D graphics intesive games and applications. The Intel GPU on its own is reasonably adequate even for basic light gaming, but its low power is more designed for general desktop work. If one so desires, it can be overclocked or underclocked or even undervolted using Intel XTU.

    CPU related benchmarks can be found below in the BENCHMARKS section.

    Below are details of the CPU in CPU-Z:

    i7-7700HQ Details in CPU-Z
    [​IMG]



    Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB

    The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU is based off the latest Nvidia Pascal architecture and has great performance attributes for use in a thinner and lighter laptop like the NP8950. The GPU runs at a base clock of 1405MHz with boost up to 1671MHz, however I have seen it climb as high at 1900MHz for short periods, typically running down to about 1700MHz max boost limit. There is 6GB of 8000MHz GDDR5 vRAM on a 192-bit bus for a total of 192GB/s bandwidth, so there should be no RAM bottleneck in speed or capacity, especially at 1080p resolution. These specs from GPU-z fall right in line with Nvidia's spec sheet for the GPU (https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/geforce/products/10series/laptops/). I have not found anything definitive on the TDP of the laptop 1060. The desktop version claims 120W TDP, however, based on what I have run, it likely is more along the lines of about 75W.

    Gaming and synthetic benchmarks can be found below in the BENCHMARKS section.

    GPU-Z GTX 1060 Details
    [​IMG]


    BENCHMARKS

    Note: The NP8950 in the below benchmarks were run at complete stock state withoug adjusting and clocks or voltages or any special drivers.

    CPU

    Cinebench R15
    [​IMG]

    wPrime 2.10
    [​IMG]

    x264 v5
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    GPU SYNTHETIC

    3DMark Time Spy
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    3DMark Fire Strike
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    GPU GAMING
    Numeric black values at end indicate average FPS, while white white numbers indicate minimum.

    [​IMG]



    BOTTOM COVER REMOVAL and THERMAL COMPOUND REPLACEMENT

    All testing was originally completed as an "out of box" machine, but decided to go forward with replacing the thermal paste on the CPU and GPU. Removing the bottom panel is a bit of a chore, but not too bad once you figure it out. You are required to remove the below screws, pop off the keyboard, remove three more screws, and then find an object to pry open the case and carefully pry it open to pop it off. On the side with ethernet port, there is something that hangs or clips that you need to use a little bit of force to disengage, so was a bit disconcerting at first hoping not to break anything but essential to remove the bottom panel. Sequential removals were not so precarious.

    REMOVE YELLOW HIGHLIGHTED SCREWS TO POP OFF KEYBOARD TO ACCESS FOUR MORE SCREWS UNDERNEATH KEYBOARD BEFORE REMOVING BOTTOM PANEL. ALSO REMOVE ALL RED HIGHLIGHTED SCREWS TO REMOVE THE BOTTOM PANEL.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    REMOVE THESE SCREWS UNDER KEYBOARD TO REMOVE BOTTOM PANEL

    [​IMG]


    As you can see below, the stock thermal compound was layed on thick. It appears to be IC Diamond, which is good, and usually a little excess doesn't hurt anything, but this seemed excessive. After a thorough cleaning, and requiring to remove the black sticker surrounding the GPU because so much thermal paste was shoved underneath, another application of thermal compuond was applied, this time a little more frugal amount. Both Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut and IC Diamond were trialed (independently of course).

    Factory Thermal Compound
    [​IMG]

    Thermal Paste All Cleaned Up
    [​IMG]

    Remarkably, even after removing the stock paste, and applying a more resonable amount, thermal results during benchmarking were not improved by much if at all. Maybe 1C at best, within margin of error at least. I tested with both Thermal Grizzly as well as IC Diamond with the same results.


    OVERCLOCKING / UNDERVOLTING

    CPU UNDERVOLTING

    The Intel i7-7700HQ is locked from overclocking, however, Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (or XTU) does run on this machine and offers some configurable options for undervolting and extending the time at boost. The Sager NP8950 was originally run out of the box without any alterations to CPU or GPU function and even without a repaste. After benchmarking, I did however, run wPrime at different CPU voltages to check for any thermal improvements and they were substantial.

    [​IMG]

    The stock voltage of the i7-7700HQ is 1.05V at load. Using Intel XTU by lower the voltage offset slider, I was able to gradually reduce the voltage to 0.875V, or -0.175V. While wPrime was stable, running games would eventually error out and hang or auto reboot the system. In the end, -0.125V was used, or effective voltage of 0.925V which has been running stable and effecrively dropped the peak temps down by a good 10-12C.

    Just for reference, below are the results from undervolting and resultant temperatures while running 1024 Million wPrime 2.10 run with 8 threads:

    1.05V 89C
    1.00V 84C
    0.95V 80C
    0.925V 77C
    0.90V 75C
    0.875V 73C - System crash shortly after completion

    After testing, and knowing that the sytem was most stable at 0.925V, I repasted the CPU and GPU to see if there was any significant improvment. Remarkably the CPU temperatures were identical in testing (see thermal paste application section above). In any case, overall the CPU was now running significantly cooler under load. You can see thermal results in THERMAL, NOISE, and POWER section.


    GPU OVERCLOCKING

    Right off the bat let me tell you there isn't much opportunity with a stock system to overclock the GPU. Primarily due to thermal and power limits implicit in the system. While the GPU does not get extraordinarily warm, it can still run in the mid to upper 70C range. Despite that, there seems to be a power limit that won't let it run faster. Nvidia Inspector crashes, but MSI Afterburner allows for overclocking. I was able to run the GPU with a +200MHz overclock and vRAM with an additional +100MHz without any issue. This resulted in slightly better 3DMark scores, but actual gaming performance was well within margin of error without an overclock. It did trend a bit higher, but nothing substantial or noticeable.

    Additionally, the power supply is 150W, and was drawing 135-140W at peak in some instances. So there is some room for additinoal power draw, there isn't much more headroom even if you could overclock. All that said, the performance of the GTX 1060 is phenomenal and had no issue running the handful of games I threw at it running 1080p Ultra settings at playable FPS, while obviously dropping details a bit will improve the FPS pushing the FPS up to the 60Hz LCD refresh limit.


    THERMAL, NOISE, and POWER

    In a thin and light laptop, thermals and noise are usually a concern. While I can safely say that thermals and fan noise at load are more than adquate, at idle, the fans are a bit annoying. The Sager Control Center does offer a "Quiet" mode as well as some limited customized control over the fans, by allowing the user to set fan on and fan off limits, even with it set to "fan on" at 70C, and "fan off" at 60C (maximum limits allowed), the CPU fan still blows constantly and at a clearly audible level. It's not an annoying whine or anything, just that it's always humming even with a completely idle laptop and CPU running well below the 60C threshold.

    That being said, below are the results of CPU and GPU temperatures during benchmarking. Thermals at load, especially after undervolting the CPU, are very respectable for such a thin and light machine, and do not get excessively loud considering the performance the machine is providing. Fan noise is a lower hummed "whoosh" than any high pitched whine, unless my old ears just can't hear the higher pitches any more.

    CPU TEMPS
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    GPU TEMPS
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    SURFACE TEMPS

    Surface temps were a little warm but not uncomfortable at all. Just a bit warmer than the room. You can see peak temps in the video below.




    POWER

    You can see peak power draw from the wall during benchmarking in the graphs below. Note that this is power draw from the wall, where actual power usage of the laptop is probably about 10-15% less considering inefficiencies in the power supply.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    BATTERY LIFE

    The Sager NP8950 has a 55WHr battery and uses Optimus to help save on battery life by using the integrated Intel GPU 630 instead of the more power hungry Nvidia GTX 1060. Windows 10 also has a "Battery Saver" option if you click on the battery icon in the lower right system tray. This option was used for the battery test, setting the system on "balanced mode" in addition to turning on the "battery saver" mode, LCD brightness at 40%, and running a 1080p movie on repeat using VLC Media Player. Two Chrome browser tabs were also open in the background randomly refreshing between 15 and 90 seconds. This resulted in a battery life of 3hrs 32minutes before system shut down at 5% remaining. Not overly impressive, but not bad either, making it very usable for general media or internet browsing uplugged.


    FINAL THOUGHTS

    The Sager NP8950 really has a lot to like. It balances high gaming performance in a well thought out thin and light chassis and maintains proper cooling while gaming, and does not thermal throttle. Overall the build quality is solid, and the added metal structure really adds to its rigidty and overall feeling of ruggedness. Battery life is reasonable and storage and RAM options are flexible enough giving users the option to upgrade later given they don't max it out with their initial order. Overclocking is limited, but to be expected for cramming so much performance silicon in such a small package. At least the CPU can be adjusted to make it run cool under load. The IPS LCD is great for desktop work, and performs well with gaming. I/O layouts are plentiful and well laid out, decent speakers for a laptop this size, and the keyboard and touchpad are actually very good and comfortable to use.

    However, what really keeps this laptop from being just good to becoming great or near perfect are a few minor things. For one, even with the quiet mode fan profile enabled, the CPU fan constantly spins up and/or is on for significant periods of time at a low RPM but plenty audible. This should hopefully be fixed through a future firmware or BIOS update of some sort down the road. But to really make this laptop shine, offering manual switchable graphics and a higher refresh and response time LCD with G-sync would really make this laptop stand out. Unfortunately this can only be fixed with a newer model laptop, and I sure hope Sager does go that route with the next revision, because personally, I would buy this laptop in a heartbeat if they offered that option (and fix the fan profile. :p).
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  2. Galm

    Galm "Stand By, We're Analyzing The Situation!"

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    S/O to @Larry@LPC-Digital for being awesome! He supplied the P650HS review too right?

    BTW your sig calls it a P650HM-G instead of HS.
     
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  3. jaybee83

    jaybee83 Biotech-Doc

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    awesome baby! as always :)

    btw @HTWingNut you mentioned the 7700K several times at the beginning of the review, better correct that before other users think this is an LGA machine with BGA gpu :p
     
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  4. sicily428

    sicily428 Donuts!! :)

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    Dr. AMK likes this.
  5. HTWingNut

    HTWingNut Potato

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    Duh, dammit, lol. thanks for catching that. Wishful thinking! :D
     
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  6. Meaker@Sager

    Meaker@Sager Company Representative

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    Thanks for the review, nice as always :)
     
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  7. sicily428

    sicily428 Donuts!! :)

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  8. HTWingNut

    HTWingNut Potato

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  9. sicily428

    sicily428 Donuts!! :)

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    there is a big difference there. is it pci-e x2 or x4?
     
  10. TyroG

    TyroG Notebook Geek

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    Nice review! Will this laptop come with a 1070 Max-Q ? And is there any thunderbolt 3 ?
     
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