Haswell LaptopsWritten on August 1, 2013 by Matt Bach
With the recent launch of Intel's new Haswell line of CPUs, Puget Systems has completely revamped our laptop product line to take advantage of the new improvements in technology. In addition to supporting the latest mobile CPUs from Intel, these laptops also have newer chipsets and have received significant increases in GPU power compared to previous models.
At Puget Systems, we understand that laptops get used for a very wide variety of applications, and that some features may be more, or less, important to one user over others. For example, one user may prize great battery life, while another wants to have the best gaming laptop possible. For this reason, we strive to offer a range of units to satisfy nearly every need. In addition, we have first hand experience with how misleading many battery life estimates can be, so we do our own testing to find out exactly how much battery life you can expect with each unit in real world situations.
With all this being said, let's take a look at these new models!
Puget Traverse Pro
|Chipset||Intel HM86||Intel HM87||Intel HM87||Intel HM87||Intel HM87|
|CPU Compat.||Intel 4th Gen Mobile*||Intel 4th Gen Mobile||Intel 4th Gen Mobile||Intel 4th Gen Mobile||Intel 4th Gen Mobile|
|Onboard Graphics||Intel UMA||NVIDIA GT 765M||NVIDIA GT 765M||MXM NVIDIA/AMD GPU||MXM NVIDIA/AMD GPU|
|2.5" Drive Bays||1||2||2||1||2|
|Closed Dimensions (in)||14.7x9.9x1.2||14.7x9.8x1.7||16.3x10.9x1.7||14.8x10.6x1.7||16.2x10.9x1.8|
*Limited to 47 W CPUs
**Only one active with current firmware revision
Starting with our entry model, the B560i is the only unit that does not utilize an additional video card. Instead, it uses just the Intel graphics that is integrated into the CPU. This is more than powerful enough for things like browsing the web, playing movies and writing documents, but is not the best choice if you are planning on doing more than very light gaming. In addition to the lack of an additional GPU, it also has the least amount of supported RAM, is limited to 47W CPUs, only has two WiFi antenna, and uses the HM86 chipset. There are a few minor features differences between the HM86 chipset and the HM87 chipset that is found in the other models, but in this case the most notable difference is the lack of Intel Smart Response Technology. This is only important if you want to use SSD caching, however, so for any other use these chipsets are essentially identical.
The main difference between the V and M-series units is the fact that the V-series includes a built-in NVIDIA GT 765M video card while the M-series allows for various models of video cards to be used. This gives the M-series a much higher degree of flexibility since you can tailor the video card to suit your needs, but it does come with a price premium. In addition to the GPU differences, the V-series units also maxes out at three sticks of RAM while the M-series can use up to four sticks. Finally, the M-series units have dual MSATA slots which allow for the installation of a second MSATA card, although at the time of this article there is a firmware bug that causes system instability if the second MSATA slot is used.
Externally, the available connectivity ports are very similar on all of these models with the differences coming in the available audio and video ports. For external audio, the M-series has 7.1 audio output, the V-series has 5.1 audio output, and the B560i only has 2.1 audio output. For external video, both the B560i and the V-series units have a VGA and HDMI output, while the M-series units have HDMI and two DisplayPort outputs. All of these units can output to three video displays at once with the integrated display being included in that count. This means that the B560i and the V-series units can utilize both of their VGA and HDMI outputs at the same time as the integrated display. Since the M-series have three video outputs in addition to the integrated display (for a total of four displays), only three of these displays can be active at the same time on those units.
In addition to the higher internal specifications, the M-series also feature a full size illuminated backlit keyboard. Hotkeys on the keyboard allow you to turn on and off the LEDS as well as change the brightness of the LEDs. With the control software installed and running, the illuminated keyboard is also very customizable. You can change the backlit LED color as well as choose between multiple profiles that change how the LEDs behave.
|Hotkeys for controlling the backlit keyboard||Each of the three zones can be set to a different color|
Laptops tend to have very limited BIOS options and these Haswell laptops are no exception. For example, the BIOS does not give you any options for configuring RAM timings, frequency or voltage. There is also no way to customize the fan throttling to make the unit either quieter or run cooler. This is completely normal for laptops, so this is not a problem; just something to be aware of. In fact, there are really only three useful things you can set in the BIOS:
- Boot priority
- SATA mode (IDE/AHCI/RAID on the V and M-series, AHCI only on the B560i)
- Enable/disable UEFI boot
Note that in our testing, we found that the UEFI boot option is only functional with Windows 8. When we tried to install Windows 7 in EUFI by various means, the installation froze even before we were able to select which drive we wanted to install the OS on. So if you are using Windows 7 and start having boot issues, checking to confirm that the BIOS is still set to have UEFI booting disabled is one of the first things you should check.