At Puget Systems, we are constantly updating our products to ensure that what we are offering matches the needs of our customer's. Recently, the 15 and 17 inch laptops in our Traverse line received a slight upgrade from the manufacturer. This new version has better graphics and better battery life, but also includes a small price increase. So while we want to evaluate these new models to ensure they are right for our customers, we also decided to take this opportunity to evaluate a laptop that removes the NVIDIA graphics completely and only uses the Intel graphics that is integrated into the CPU.
By removing the NVIDIA graphics, the price of the base unit is reduced by a pretty large margin. If the lack of NVIDIA graphics was the only difference, we would add this model pretty quickly. Unfortunately, it also has a smaller screen resolution (1366x768), although the lower screen resolution should help improve the battery life of the unit. Overall, it should be a great choice for our customers who want a laptop for work and home, but don't need the gaming power that our laptops traditionally offered.
Laptops are very complex as they are essentially a combination of a chassis, motherboard, video card, power supply, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and many other pieces of hardware that is bundled into a single unit. Because of this, the testing we put new laptops through goes above and beyond even our normal exhaustive testing. Some of the most important additional things we test involves real-world battery life estimates and thermal performance readings, both of which we will be presenting later in this article.
With all this being said, let's take a look at these new models!
The V552i and V752i utilize NVIDIA Optimus technology which lets the laptop choose which video card to use. In most situations, the laptop will use the low-power Intel graphics but will switch to the more powerful NVIDIA graphics as needed. This is a great way to extend battery life when the laptop is not being used for intensive tasks, yet still gives you the power when you need it. One of the nice additions to the V552i and the V752i are the LEDs that show which video card (Intel integrated or NVIDIA GT 660M 2GB) is actively being used. While the previous models had the GPU Switching button that allowed you to either lock the laptop to only using the Intel integrated graphics or allow it to choose between the Intel and NVIDIA graphics, unless you ran monitoring software you would not know which graphics the laptop was actually using. With these LEDs, you can easily see which one the laptop is using.
**Third RAM slot requires a quad core CPU
*Unit has only two antenna, so wifi cards are limited to 300mbps
As far as the specifications go, these units are fairly standard. The V552i and V752i have a slightly updated chipset, faster GPU, and the ability to install a third stick of RAM. For most purposes, the chipset upgrade on the V552i and V752i is not going to be relevant as the HM77 only includes a few minor features over the HM76 including Intel Smart Response Technology, Rapid Start Technology and Small Business Advantage. The only feature that may be useful for some users is the ability to use SSD caching to improve the performance of standard platter hard drives.
The B550i is a bit different than the laptops we traditionally offer as it does not have a NVIDIA or AMD video card. Instead, it simply uses the video processor integrated onto the CPU. In most cases, this has plenty of power for basic tasks like browsing the web, watching movies, or editing documents; but is not great for anything beyond light gaming. Also, to go along with the weaker graphics capability, instead of a 1920x1080 resolution screen like the other units, the B550i only supports a resolution of 1366x768. The tradeoff for losing the NVIDIA graphics and the higher resolution screen is a much more budget-friendly price, and the fact that it is about 37% lighter than the V525i.
|ESATA/USB 3.0 Combo||-||1||1|
Externally, the available ports are very similar on all of these models. The only one that differs at all is the B550i which lacks an ESATA/USB 3.0 combo port and only has 2.1 analog audio out capability. One nice thing for each of these units is that each retains a single USB 2.0 port. That may not seem like a great thing at first since USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 devices, but what you need to remember is that Windows 7 and older operating systems do not have native USB 3.0 support. So if you have a USB drive with the drivers you need in order to install an OS, you need to have an actual USB 2.0 port available or else the USB device will not even be detected until after you have installed the drivers.