P150EM laptop review after a years use

My laptop, a Metabox P150EM, is a little over a year old at the time of writing (which usually means it’s half a century old in laptop years). It has since been succeeded by the P150SM. My understanding is that the two are very similar and thus this review should hopefully still be relevant. There are plenty of reviews out there that talk about what the laptop is like brand new but I aim to provide some insight into the reliability of this machine over a longer time period.

I bought the laptop because I knew I was going to be doing a lot of traveling and wanted something I could take with me if need be. I’ve used it frequently since then and also had to move it around a lot so I’ve had an opportunity to see how it copes in plenty of different situations.

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No room for fancy seamless backdrops in my tiny London apartment, you’re going to have to make do with my  scungy carpet

 

Clevo

Clevo is a Taiwanese company that produces laptop chassis. These get sold to other companies around the world who kit it out with parts and sell them to their customers. Thus, whilst my version is called a Metabox P150EM, it’s really a Clevo P150EM that’s had components installed by Metabox. There are literally hundreds of companies around the world that sell Clevo laptops, all with differing names but they usually use the same model numbers.

 

Specs

I’m not going to go into detailed benchmarks on every spec in this review but for the sake of thoroughness, here’s the details of my machine. The whole thing ended up costing  about AU$2500.

Processor: i7 3720QM
Graphics: GTX 675M
Screen: 1920×1080 LED/LCD 95% Gamut Matte
RAM: 16GB DDR3 1600MHz
OS Hard Drive: 128GB mSATA Solid State
Secondary Hard Drive: 1TB disk drive
Optical: Blu-ray Reader / DVD burner combo
Wireless: Intel Advance-N 6235, Bluetooth v4.0
OS: Windows 7 Professional
Audio visual: HD Webcam, Onkyo speakers, Fingerprint reader
Ports: 3 x USB 3.0, Firewire, Card reader, HDMI, DVI-I, VGA, Display Port 1.1a, S/PDIF
Power: 8 cell battery, AC adapter

 

Looks

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Keyboard can light up with all sorts of shmancy colours

For something that’s marketed primarily as a gaming laptop, the design is pleasantly minimal. The case has a nice matte texture to it and almost everything is the same shade of dark grey. There aren’t too many fancy lights although you can change the colour of the keyboard backlights to all sorts of colours if you wish. My one gripe is that while there is a keyboard shortcut for turning the keyboard backlight off, there’s no way of turning all the bright blue LEDs above the keyboard off (at least I haven’t figured out a way). This gets particularly annoying when I’m trying to watch a movie in the dark and all I want to see is the screen.

P150EM_01

Blue LEDs can be distracting when watching movies, the green one’s not so bad

 

Case Build Quality

The case is decent quality, the plastic feels solid and I can’t really get any flex in the keyboard. I can flex the monitor a little but this is to be expected.

P150EM_05

Case piece missing

At one stage a small piece of the case that sits just behind the hinge fell off. It probably came off while I was transporting the laptop but I’m usually pretty careful with how I move it so it was disappointing that the piece wasn’t held on better. The hole is in a pretty hidden away location so I hardly notice that it’s there but I do wonder how much extra dust this introduces into the case.

 

Noise

When running games or rendering, the fan noise on this thing is LOUD. It’s not something that a pair of headphones won’t fix but it is certainly noticeable. I don’t know how difficult it is to design a laptop like this but I imagine it would be quite difficult to cool both a high end graphics chip and a high end CPU when they’re going full pelt, the noise probably can’t be helped.

When not at full crank, the fans automatically slow down to a much more pleasant level. I can never get them to be as quiet as my friend’s lower end HP laptop but it’s not really noticeable unless the ambient noise level is really low.

Occasionally the fans will make a clicking noise which is really annoying. If I’m lucky, I can get it to stop by hitting the case (probably not recommended practice) but other times I have to do a full restart to fix it… even that doesn’t work every time.

 

Optical

The drive works great and I haven’t run into any issues using it to read or write DVDs. There was no software for watching Blu-rays bundled with the laptop but once I got that working, it read them smoothly and loading times were not too bad.

To get the drive open, you have to push a button in and the tray pops out. The problem is that the location of the button seems to be just where I put my hand when I’m carrying the laptop around. This means the tray pops out quite frequently mid transport and I’m worried it will get damaged one day.

 

Keyboard

The keyboard feels comfortable to type with and I rarely get problems with hitting two keys at the same time. The letter ‘F’ used to be a bit finicky, I’d have to push it extra hard to get it to register but that problem seems to have fixed itself now so make of that what you will.

 

Trackpad

The trackpad works as you’d expect, it controls the cursor with relative accuracy and has two finger scrolling, etc. Even after a year, I still haven’t quite gotten used to the matte texture on it, I do wish they’d opted to give it a smoother surface.

The mouse buttons are pretty hard to press and the left button makes two clicking noises when pressed which makes it sound a little cheap.

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Trackpad with (now useless) fingerprint reader.

There is a fingerprint reader built between the two mouse buttons. The computer came bundled with a plugin that let me automatically input my passwords into Chrome by scanning my finger. It worked great, I used it all the time. If my fingertips were a bit oily or wet, sometimes it would have difficulty registering. Recently it appears that the company, AuthenTec, has stopped updating the plugin so I can no longer use this function. This effectively limits the fingerprint scanner to logging on to Windows only.

 

Display

I got the 95% gamut version of the display which is supposed to be a bit better than the standard. I read on a forum that the black levels are better on the glossy version but I have been quite impressed with the levels on this matte monitor, see the photo further up in the review to get an idea of how the screen looks in a dark room. The display also has impressive colour depth and contrast. The horizontal viewing angles are fantastic and vertically they are pretty reasonable. It’s not going to compare to a professional IPS monitor at the end of the day but it certainly does a decent job.

 

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Bright spot is not too bad really

Something I’ve noticed recently is that a bright patch has started to become visible in the top left corner of the screen. It’s only really visible when something white is positioned there but it is still a little unsightly.

 

Sound

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Subwoofer apparently

It’s difficult for me to write anything particularly glowing about the sound, I guess there are laptops out there with worse sound but this really isn’t anything to write home about. One of the ‘features’ of this laptop is a driver on the bottom of the case. This is supposed to act as a subwoofer… or something. I haven’t noticed the bass being any better than laptops without this feature. Also, my right speaker is blown and adds an annoying crackle when people are talking, even if I turn the volume right down… not much fun.

The inbuilt sound card is pretty ordinary. It lacks bass, has an audible hiss and you can hear random computer noises going on. If audio quality is important to you, I would suggest getting a USB sound card, the difference is night and day.

 

Power

The power brick is pretty big and heavy. Combined with the weight of the laptop, it adds up to quite a hefty load to move around. You will want to take the power cable with you too because the battery really doesn’t last that long and you get a significant performance hit when the laptop’s not plugged in, you can forget about playing games.

Performance

I have to say I was very happy with the performance of this laptop. I was able to crank all the settings up in Crysis 2 and it still managed a playable frame rate. Render tasks finished as quickly as I could hope. The most important thing here, however, is its reliability. I’m happy to say that so far, the reliability has been fantastic. I’ve played games for hours on end, given it overnight render tasks and despite the bottom getting pretty hot, it has yet to have any overheating problems and very rarely crashes.The thing gets loud and you won’t to be putting it on your lap for fear of first degree burns but it will get the job done reliably.

 

Conclusion

Pros:

    • It’s bloody reliable
    • Case feels solid
    • Good looking display
    • Good price

Cons:

    • Noisy
    • Sound quality isn’t great
    • Part of the case fell off
    • Bright patch on screen

There are a few niggling issues with this laptop but considering it’s performance reliability and price, I have no problems recommending it. I’m still very happy with my purchase.

What are your thoughts on Clevo laptops? Let us know in the comments below.

5 Comments

  1. Reply
    B. P. December 28, 2013

    I’ve had the P150EM since July 2013, and replaced my last tower PC with it (It has the AMD 7970m so it is still current gen for the most part) It rarely travels (although I did take it to college 3 days a week for a semester) and I also must say it has fantastic reliability and performance. The cooling system in many P150EMs is flawed and has poorly aligned heat pipes and warped heat blocks. Many folk have sanded their shim or added minor mods and have reduced the temps by 15-30C without much effort. You may want to have a look if you’re interested in small fixes for long term gains. I dropped my temps 15c covering gaps between the vents and fins in the cooling system amongst other things.

    http://forum.notebookreview.com/sager-clevo/676272-clevo-p150-p170-cooling-systems-neglected-clevo-solutions-here.html

  2. Reply
    B. P. December 28, 2013

    Oops. I’ve had the P150EM since July 2012*** as the original owner. Typo.

    • Reply
      Kev December 30, 2013

      Wow, I was not aware of all these cooling problems, thanks for the heads up!

      I just did a quick check and I think I may have been lucky in regards to most of the issues mentioned but taking the back cover off did make about 5C of difference.

      I’ll have to give that foil trick a go, sounds like it’s worth the effort even if the heatsink is well aligned. With regards to the airflow problem, I don’t really have the tools to go carving into the plastic case so I think I’ll just have to live with it.

  3. Reply
    Danni Jensen May 15, 2014

    I had mine for about 1½ year had it with me to school every day.

    I dont treat it well at all i did have a video card replaced under warrenty at the local importer.
    i would say it was a random hardware error.

    Since all things considering its not the thing i would expect to break.
    I clean the fans and keyboard once in a while since im a smoker so it gets pretty nasty!

    But VERY VERY reliable machines……a freind of mine has a bit newer clevo model a knocked over a beer in his.

    it shut down the let it dry for a few days and now its running again.
    im sceptical for how long but it dosent seem to have taken any sort of damage!

    Only thing i guess i can put a finger on is the factory its made on :p

  4. Reply
    LI May 26, 2016

    Last year I bought a clevo w650 at 1900$ but then I sold it at 700$ just because I couldn’t stand the random noise anymore. Yes, I do believe it that the performance is great, but if there is the random noise, the laptop is like a garbage for me.

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