Sager NP8153-S Review

Greetings everybody! So, I decided to abandon this blog for the first semester of college in order to have more time to get used to things over here in the US and polish my writing skills, as well as to have more time to slack off…

But in any case, now that the finals are coming next week, which means more downtime for me, I’ve decided to resume my blogging activities with a review of my new laptop. Since I don’t yet have enough money to rebuild my desktop, Yukipishi, I thought a laptop will do. Now, I know I should’ve bought a more portable laptop instead of a gaming notebook for college because reasons, but I’m the kind to break every kind of convention and not have common sense.

Oh, and uhm… this review is actually what I wrote for my third paper in my writing class (about 2 months ago), and I recycled it here because I’m super lazy… thus, the language may sound weird at times, and some of the info might be slightly outdated… but I’ll try to add notes of anything that has happened to this laptop since then. Probably. I hope.

Introduction


When it comes to laptops, there are products from certain enthusiast brands that may stay relatively unknown but nonetheless far exceed common market products’s standards. The Sager NP8153-S from Sager-Clevo is one such example. It’s arguably one of, if not the best and strongest 15” laptops a consumer can find in this world, all at a price of under 2000 USD. It has some of the highest specifications in this price range, without sacrificing stability, form, video and audio quality, any of the little things people so often overlook.

Many people may be unfamiliar with Sager-Clevo, since they don’t make a wide variety of products, and don’t market aggressively, but they are nonetheless very reputable in the gaming enthusiasts scene. Clevo is the original manufacturer from Taiwan, specialized in gaming laptops, and Sager is their official United States reseller. The Sager NP8153-S is the US version of the Clevo P650RS, and is Sager’s top-of-the-line 15” gaming laptop, boasting many features normally only seen on bigger variations. It currently sells for $1,700, but has a regular retail price of $1850. I ordered the basic configuration of this laptop, except with screen calibration instead of 30-day No Dead Pixel Guarantee, for this review.

Build Quality


When the laptop first arrived, the instant takeaway was the alluring aluminum lid. The body of the laptop was fully metallic, with the top and lid made of a black aluminum alloy and other parts made with black stainless steel. Although it was a gaming laptop, it wasn’t extremely thick or bulky and the amount of edges was pretty small compared to a common gaming laptop of this tier, with the metallic Sager text on the lid as its only branding, giving off a serious, eye-catching, futuristic look without being childish. As a whole, the laptop was quite sturdily put together and felt quite robust, with no signs of poor construction or use of subpar materials. It weighs in at 5.5 pounds, which is not very light but still pretty portable compared to other gaming laptops at this range. The laptop also carried a two-year warranty, but I already voided it while doing this review by opening it up to examine its interior.

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Pre-Loaded Software


Like most if not all other laptops, the NP8153-S came with some pre-installed software. Mine was pre-loaded with Windows 10 Home 64-bit Edition with a Sager boot screen, together with all relevant drivers. Three extra pieces of software were also included, namely a Control Center to readily modify some of the laptop’s most crucial settings, a program to configure the keyboard’s settings, and Sound Blaster X-Fi MB 5, a software suite to configure audio settings for the on-board Realtek audio chipset. However, all three programs are driver-like in nature, serve crucial administrative purposes, and can be readily uninstalled if desired, leading to a generally bloatware-free experience.

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Specifications


As for basic specifications, the laptop is armed with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, an nVidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card with 8GB of VRAM, 16GB of DDR4 RAM at 2400MHz with CAS latency 17, overclockable to 2666MHz at the same timings, a Sandisk X400 M.2 SATA 256GB SSD, and a HGST Travelstar 7K1000 7200rpm 1TB HDD. The HDD’s nature wasn’t publicly advertised, instead only shown as a “1TB 7200rpm HDD”, but looking up the part code of the HDD given by the CrystalDiskInfo program allowed me to determine the model of the drive.

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An overall look of the laptop’s insides.

Graphics


These specs will undoubtedly give the laptop venerable responsiveness with everyday tasks, but the main highlight is inarguably the graphics card. The GTX 1070 graphics card is one of the strongest models to date, behind only the GTX 1080 and the Titan X Pascal, and it’s normally only found in gaming laptops costing $2,000 or more. The graphics card is also overclockable with Sager’s built-in Control Center software. Using a slight overclock of 100MHz on the GPU and 30MHz on the memory, the laptop could achieve a score of 5031 in the 3DMark Time Spy test, a score of 3120 with an average FPS value of 74.6 in the Unigine Valley benchmark at Extreme HD preset, a solid pass in Steam VR’s Performance Test with a graphics quality score of 9.9 and no frames below 90 FPS, and 70 FPS in Overwatch at Epic settings and Full HD resolution, which is the native resolution of the laptop’s display. These are very high scores, and generally meant that the laptop should be able to tackle any challenges, i.e. current games, at Full HD or even Quad HD resolution at a stable 60 FPS, the frame rate standard for absolute smoothness, and is generally ready for Virtual Reality or even 4K gaming.

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A mysteriously covered part of the laptop’s electronics. This is presumably where the CPU and GPU are held.

Memory and CPU


The other components are no slack, either. The high-performance 6th generation Intel CPU and the copious amount of 16GB of DDR4 RAM allowed the laptop to achieve a score of 4676 in the PCMark 8 Creative test and take only 9.5 seconds to boot up with few startup programs installed. These scores denote generally high responsiveness in everyday operations like photo-editing, non-professional video-editing or working with Microsoft Office, since the PCMark 8 Creative test is among the heaviest general-purpose PC benchmarks out there.

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The RAM modules from Goldkey, another Taiwanese company.

Storage


The included hard drives were not only spacious, but also very fast. CrystalDiskMark proved that the SSD could readily reach over 500MB/s in both read and write speeds, and real-life tests showed that the included HDD could copy at a stable speed ranging from 120MB/s to 135MB/s, whereas generic laptop SSDs’s speed is normally around the 400MB/s range, and generic laptop HDDs’s is normally around the 70MB/s to 90MB/s range. Inside shots of the laptop also proved that the included SSD, HDD, and RAM modules were indeed all brand names, with the SSD manufactured by SanDisk, a large flash storage brand known for bringing great value, the HDD manufactured by HGST, a hard drives brand known for durability and is revered by many enthusiasts and business customers, and the RAM modules manufactured by Goldkey.

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Display


However, as powerful as the NP8153-S is, the main reason why it’s a winner in this price range is because it could do well even in aspects most brands don’t bother to care about. The first of which to analyze is the laptop’s display. It’s a 15.6” Full HD monitor with G-Sync support and an IPS panel, compared to more common monitors with the older TN panel and lack of support for discrete GPU vertical syncing. Not only did it boast high specifications, but the monitor could also display very vivid yet accurate colors with the factory screen calibration option, a feature truly rare among mobile displays. Being a regular student, I don’t have access to specialized display calibration devices, but using http://www.lagom.nl as a benchmark, the screen passed the Contrast test with all 32 bands differentiable from one another, all with roughly equal spacing and vibrant colors. It also managed to show all squares in the White Saturation test and missed only two squares in the Black Level test, all of which denoted the ability to display a wide range of colors beautifully.

Audio


Another highlight of this laptop is its audio system. Unlike other enthusiast gaming laptop brands like Asus and MSI, it doesn’t rely on a proprietary piece of audio software, but instead opted to integrate audio hardware from actual hi-fi brands. Its speakers were made by Onkyo, a popular Japanese “audiophile” brand best known for their home theater sets. Although laptop speakers will indisputably be much worse than discrete speakers from the same brand, the Sager’s speakers delivered fairly crisp sound and actually worked decently in games, without giving me ear fatigue like most other laptop speakers do. It also uses an ESS Sabre Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), though the exact model was difficult to discern, and a Texas Instruments Burr-Brown headphone amp. Both of these brands are regularly found in actual, discrete hi-fi DACs and headphone amplifiers. Plugging my Audio-Technica R70x headphones into the laptop’s headphones jack, I discovered the sound directly from the laptop to be fairly close to that from my discrete DAC-amp set, but with slightly less depth, slightly more distortion, higher noise floor and noticeably more boomy, muddy bass. The Burr-Brown amp was more than strong enough to drive my 470Ω-impedance headphones, meaning it should be able to drive any headphones on Earth, even 600Ω ones, to loud levels (…but not hi-fi levels of course no! Else I wouldn’t have bought a discrete amp).

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The audio area of the motherboard, with an ESS DAC and a hi-fi NEC capacitor visible in the picture.

Cooling


The cooling system of the laptop was also top-notch, with three 80mm fans and the use of copper heatpipes and aluminum heatsinks across the top half of the motherboard. The back cover of the laptop is also padded with aluminum panels for further temperature regulation. Interior shots also revealed that the cooling system and motherboard were manufactured by Foxconn, a Taiwanese giant. Sager’s website also claimed the use of IC-Diamond thermal compound on the CPU and GPU of the laptop when I bought it, but this was difficult to experimentally validate without potentially breaking the device. However, this offer is no longer available for free. Nonetheless, all this cooling, combined with my Cooler Master X-Slim cooling pad, translated to a GPU temperature of 41oC at idle, a CPU temperature of 49oC and a GPU temperature of 45oC at light load, and a stable CPU temperature of 79oC and GPU temperature of 75oC at prolonged maximum load. These temperatures were recorded at an ambience temperature of 72oF (22.2oC), and are all way below the average throttling threshold of around 90oC to 100oC for latest hardware. In fact, the laptop could pass the 3DMark Time Spy Stress Test with a score of 99.3%, 2.3% higher than the passing score of 97% for high stability.

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Networking


For networking components, the laptop uses a Realtek Gigabit Ethernet chip and an Intel 8260 wireless chip, the current industrial standard in high-speed, low-latency networking. It could reach 10MB/s to 12MB/s real-life download speed regularly with my university’s Ethernet (i.e. wired internet) and only had a ping value ranging from 15ms to 18ms while playing Overwatch.

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The Intel 8260 wireless chip. There’s also a choice for a Killer chip when you buy the laptop.

Connections


As full-featured as the laptop is, it also incorporated many connection ports, namely two Mini DisplayPort ports and one HDMI 1.4b port for displays, allowing 4K and 3D displays to be properly utilized, five USB 3.1 ports, three of which are the classic Type-A and the other two are the new reversible Type-C, one Ethernet port, a SIM card reader and a SD/MMC card reader. However, the most intriguing of all the connection ports were the audio jacks. The Sager used a total of three 3.5mm audio jacks, a discrete headphones jack, a discrete microphone jack, and even a coaxial jack, whereas most other laptops only use one combined microphone/headphones jack nowadays in order to save space. The extra jacks allowed for more devices to be connected, and also eliminated the cross-interference problem seen in most other laptops, where input signals are sometimes regarded as output and vice versa. As many ports as it has, however, the laptop lacks an optical disk drive, which is not unexpected in this day and age, but since I still use Audio CDs and Blu-Ray Discs a lot, this was its most significant flaw for me.

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Keyboard


The keyboard on this laptop is a chiclet-type keyboard with scissor switches, which is regular in this price range. It also has RGB backlight with 8 different lighting modes, but doesn’t have per-key lighting like what Aorus laptops in this price range offer. Instead, it only provides backlight configurations for three areas on the keyboard, the left area, the central area and the numpad. The included keyboard software also allows you to set macros for every key. Typing this paragraph on this keyboard felt pretty similar to regular Asus ROG laptops, if slightly less mushy. That is to say it’s not bad, but business-minded laptops like the ThinkPads will be better in this aspect.

Other Components


The laptop also comes with a few accessories like a touchpad, a webcam, and a fingerprint reader. Although these are not bad, they are also not very notable. In fact, I’d say the touchpad and fingerprint reader were pretty regular. The touchpad still had some friction on it and the fingerprint reader still worked much worse than those found on phones. I do like how the webcam is a Full HD, 60 FPS one, but otherwise it didn’t have stellar recording quality, either.

Battery Life


This is possibly the weakest part of this laptop, as it only uses a 4-cell, 60WH battery, which translated to a mere an hour and a half of battery use in real-world conditions when I was bringing this laptop to class to do a class project. It’s advisable to bring the charger with you at all times!

 

Conclusion


Overall, I think the Sager NP8153-S is an excellent buy for those who want a perfect machine for personal applications without needing to bring it around much. While it’s obviously constructed for gamers, I can see how it can also work for media enthusiasts and people who work at home, but still need to bring their machine to the workplace occasionally. That being said, if you are looking for an Apple-like product, a very slim and mobile laptop with a ThinkPad-tier keyboard and touchpad for less stationery applications, you’ll most likely be better off looking somewhere else, but if you are looking for a laptop that does everything you need it to do and does it well, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal.

If you want to buy this laptop, I’d advise you to buy it on LPC-Digital (which also has the option of shipping without an OS for $70 cheaper, and removing the Sager branding) or Sager’s homepage instead of other sites.

Scoring


  • Build Quality (10% of Overall Score): 9.5/10 (Goldkey is not the best RAM brand)
  • Performance (45% of Overall Score): 9.5/10 (RAM CAS latency and networking chips could be better)
  • Display (10% of Overall Score): 9/10
  • Sound (5% of Overall Score): 10/10 (not as good as discrete audio for sure, but for onboard audio I honestly couldn’t find anything to score against)
  • Connections (15% of Overall Score): 8/10 (no ODD is a no-no for me)
  • Keyboard, Touchpad, and Webcam (6% of Overall Score): 7/10
  • Battery and Weight (9% of Overall Score): 1.5/10
  • Overall Score: 8.4/10 (Amazing buy!)

 

By the way, I named my laptop Hyosho, and bought her mostly to play The Sims 3. Thank you for reading again, everyone. See you later!

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