The iBuypower Valkyrie CZ-17 ($1,399 list) is a large, purpose-built performance laptop, and there’s no doubt that you’re carrying a lot of performance hardware with you. It’s a true desktop replacement, with upgradable components, space for multiple hard drives, and a huge 1080p screen. If you need a big performance system for not a lot of money, relatively, then consider the Valkyrie a good choice for under $1,500.
Design and Features
The Valkyrie is an unsubtle, unapologetic gaming laptop. As such it is a huge mass of black plastic with lots of lighted accents including the keyboard, lid, speakers, and the system’s trackpad. The system measures about 2.5-by-17-by-12 inches (HWD) and tips the scales at 8.56 pounds. This is a beefy system that will strain your back or the airline tray if you deign to travel with the system. This is larger in every dimension compared with the Editors’ Choice for entry-level gaming laptops, the MSI GX60 1AC-021US ($1,299 list), but in the grand scheme of things they’re both par for the course when it comes to moderately priced enthusiast gaming rigs.
The Valkyrie comes with a full-size backlit keyboard with numeric keypad. Like the MSI GX60, the Valkyrie has a few quirks: The Start button is to the right of the space bar instead of the left, and the placement of the numeric keypad pushes the arrow keys to the left in relation to the return key. Both will make you retrain your muscle memory if you’re used to standard desktop keyboards. The Valkyrie has a much shallower trackpad than the MSI GX60, which will make the trackpad easier to use during day-to-day use and with Windows 8 commands. However, the trackpad isn’t one of the better ones out there, registering mouse movements while we typed on the keyboard. Most gamers would be more comfortable using a USB 2.0 mouse for gaming sessions and day to day.
The Valkyrie has a decent selection of I/O ports, including two USB 2.0 ports on the right for accessories like mice and three USB 3.0 ports on the left for hard drives. The other ports include a SD card reader, multiple audio jacks, a Kensington lock port, Ethernet (with Killer brand network card), VGA, eSATA, and a HDMI port. It lacks newer ports like Thunderbolt and mini-DisplayPort, but the system has a good collection of current and legacy ports.
One neat feature is that the WASD keys and arrow keys are outlined in red, since these are the most important keys for many FPS, RPG, and MMO games. It would have been nice if iBuypower had incorporated a way to darken the other keys not in use or light the WASD keys in a different color, like on the Samsung Series 7 Gamer ($1,899). In any case, the system is easy to use in a darkened room, especially if you have a flashy mouse. There’s a row of soft-touch keys above the keyboard, which let you eject the DVD drive, turn off the display, put the system into airline mode, toggle the keyboard lighting, open the media player, or activate the cooler boost. Cooler boost will help in a hot room, but the switch seemed to simply make the system louder in our air-conditioned lab.
In addition to the Gigabit Ethernet, the Valkyrie comes with 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, but no 5GHz bands. The system comes with a DVD burner, though we wish our review unit had the optional Blu-ray drive for 1080p movies. Movies and games displayed smoothly on the system’s 17.3-inch 1,920 by 1,080 display. While they’re in the same price range, the Valkyrie CZ-17 and MSI GX60 give you a lot more screen real estate than the ultraportable Editors’ Choice Maingear Pulse 11 ($1,349) and it’s Clevo-chassis brothers, the AVADirect Clevo W110ER ($1129) and former EC Eurocom Monster 1.0 ($1,605). The trio of systems that are built on the Clevo W110ER chassis are limited to a 1,366-by-768 resolution on their 11-inch screens. The Clevo W110ER siblings and the tablet-based Razer Edge Pro ($1,450) are made more for portability, and the MSI GX60 and this Valkyrie CZ-17 are built around their huge screens. At least all of these choices, including the Valkyrie, come with removable or supplemental batteries, bucking the trend to make everything sealed and non-serviceable.
Speaking of serviceability, the Valkyrie CZ-17 comes with a service manual to guide users through CPU, memory, and hard drive upgrades. The system comes with three free slots for up to 32GB of memory total, and you won’t have to remove the included 8GB in our test unit. There’s even space for a second internal hard drive, which means you can upgrade to a SSD later. Note that if you do open your Valkyrie CZ-17 for service, you will void the one-year warranty.
The Valkyrie CZ-17 comes with an Intel Core i7-3630QM processor, 8GB of memory, 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675MX discrete graphics, and a 7,200rpm 750GB SATA hard drive. All of these components work together to give the system excellent marks on the multimedia tests like Handbrake, CineBench, and Photoshop CS6. In fact, the system runs through the Handbrake and Photoshop tests as fast as many high-end multimedia desktop PCs.
However, the biggest disappointment with the system was its 3D gaming scores. While it’s smoothly playable at the medium quality settings at 1,366-by-768 resolution, the games we tested (Aliens vs. Predator and Heaven) were just under the 30fps (frames per second) barrier, denoting that you will occasionally see some stuttered frames as we did during testing. The EC for entry-level gaming laptops, the MSI GX60 1AC-02US was 10 frames per second faster on both tests. Those extra 10 FPS yield smoother gameplay. Unfortunately for the iBuypower, that means that the MSI GX60 is a much better gaming platform, even though the Valkyrie topped the MSI GX60 by a good measure on the multimedia and day-to-day performance tests. The MSI simply has a better AMD Radeon HD 7970M GPU, while the iBuypower has a much faster Intel Core i7 CPU. Those are the tradeoffs you need to consider at this price point.
The Valkyrie system has a turbo function key combination (FN-F1), which ran an on screen animation to tell us that it was active. The manual describes it as Over-Clocking. However, when we tried running Aliens vs. Predator again with both the turbo and cooler boost functions active the score on the high quality test only went up by 0.2 FPS. This is a negligible improvement, and as such we’d describe these settings as all show, no go.
The Valkyrie’s quad-core processor, large screen, and other battery-draining features kept the system to a scant 2 hours 19 minutes on our battery rundown test. That’s not even enough to finish the first of the Lord of the Rings movie, the Fellowship of the Ring. Basically, this means that you really need to keep close to a power outlet when you use the Valkyrie.
The iBuypower Valkyrie CZ-17 is a great multimedia laptop with some gaming prowess. The big problem is that for $100 less, the EC-winning MSI GX60 has much better gaming performance. And, if I’m not mistaken, that’s why you would buy a humungous gaming rig over a thin and light ultrabook with excellent multimedia performance. Thus the GX60 holds on to its Editors’ Choice award, but consider the Valkyrie if you’re going to spend a lot of time in between gaming sessions editing photos, videos, and the like.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the iBuypower Valkyrie CZ-17
Compare the iBuypower Valkyrie CZ-17 with several other laptops side by side.
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|Processor Name||Intel Core i7-3630QM|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M|
|Type||Gaming, Desktop Replacement|
|Processor Speed||2.4 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW|
|Screen Size||17.3 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||750 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc