Gaming on a laptop normally requires a sacrifice of graphics power for form factor. AVADirect's Avant P870DM-G gaming laptop houses a NVIDIA Geforce GTX 980 desktop GPU, and it makes a hell of a difference.
While the Avant is on the thicker and heavier side of the gaming laptop spectrum, weighing more than 5kg with battery installed, it's not packing a full-sized GTX 980 like the ones proudly displaying their names behind the transparent side panels of gaming desktops. In September of last year NVIDIA introduced a special laptop form-factor version of the card, featuring the same components and overclocking ability in something a bit slimmer.
It's so adorable. Properly cooled and clocked, this mini GTX 980 is capable of performing at or close to the same as one of those fancy desktop versions with their fancy fans and LED lighting. The Avant keeps its LED lighting subdued.
Of course a graphics card and elegant LED lighting are just half of the battle. A gaming system needs more than a GPU to make games work. It also needs an LED keyboard.
I suppose things like memory, a powerful CPU, and a lovely display help. Maybe some system storage. Rather than simply list out all of these things, I took a picture of the fancy sheet the folks at AVADirect put together. It took them a lot of time, so it would be a waste if only I saw it.
Note that the price as configured listed on the sheet seems a bit on the low side. I configured a similar spec at the company's fancy new website and came closer to $US3500 ($4,634).
The Avant P870DM-G uses its relative bulk to its advantage, dotting it with convenient ports. It's got five USB 3.0, a Thunderbolt port, two separate network cable ports (for two separate networks if you're into that sort of thing), an HDMI out and two mini DisplayPort outs in case the one monitor isn't enough.
It also has an SD card reader, which automatically earns it two points on our non-existent point scale.
The lighted keyboard is a fine example of a keyboard of its type, softly clicking beneath my fingertips. The touchpad is there, which is good to know in case my mouse ever dies.
While I'll sing about the graphics and performance in a moment, let me first touch on the Avant P870DM-G's ironically unsung hero. See these speakers? Turn them up loud. I it's generally considered more pleasing to the player and considerate to those around the player to wear headphones while laptop gaming. Those around the player can deal with it. The sound on this thing is excellent. Loud, clear and rich, it's more than capable of waking my wife up from three rooms away at 3 AM.
Sorry, honey. And now for the main event: battery life. Hahahahaha. Oh you guys.
So, on to performance. I've been playing several games on the laptop since I've had it, which is far longer than AVADirect's new PR person is comfortable with. The Division, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy XIV, Second Life (why not?), Metro: Last Light Redux — basically a mix of my benchmarking go-to's and some random fluffery.
The plan was to play each for a good bit, which I did. Then I would benchmark each one, seeing how they perform in terms of easy-to-quantify numbers.
Why, like those numbers right there. That average frames per second of 59.3 with all of the bells and whistles turned on (except for v-sync, of course) is about the same as I've seen for the desktop version of the Geforce GTX 980.
Rise of the Tomb Raider at max settings averaged nearly 70 frames per second. The notorious Metro: Last Light Redux managed an average of 54 with everything but PhysX enabled.
The fans run a little loud at times, which is to be expected, but the heat they are dissipating shoots out the back of the unit via large vents, so using the laptop on your actual laptop is possible, and will likely help build your thigh muscles.
I was so impressed I even ran 3DMark 11. I never run 3DMark 11.
Look at that sad "Gaming laptop (2013)" score. Better yet, look at that Oculus Rift recommended spec score, how it's below the orange line? I could see hooking up the Rift to this thing and Rifting out, or whatever the kids call it.
If I didn't think it would give AVADirect's PR person an aneurysm I'd hold on to the Avant P870DM-G until my Vive arrives at the end of this month. A laptop like this seems like an awesome alternative to moving my entire office into our more spacious living room. Steam's VR performance test seems to think so as well.
But alas, the Avant P870DM-G is on its way back to AVADirect, where it will be vigorously cleaned (seriously, clean it vigorously) and sent out to another evaluator of portable-ish PC hardware to enjoy. And I'm shipping it back only a business day later than promised, in most of its original boxes. That's how much I enjoyed my time with the unit.
The LEGO people and Cheese Sandwich shall miss you, little laptop. For those who prefer power over portability in their gaming laptops, the AVADirect Avant P870DM-G with the Geforce GTX 980 is the best you can get in a single GPU configuration. It will be missed.