Friday, 13 January 2012

Dell L702X & ThermalTake Massive 23 Review

Dell L702x

Right, so I'll give you the premise to this upgrade. I purchased a laptop from Dell in around January 2010, it was a Studio XPS 1645 with an i7 720 and the mobile Radeon 4670. It was a nice looking machine but unfortunately there was an inherent issue with it, when you stressed the computer and more specifically, the CPU, the BIOS would clock back the CPU, so that in the middle of a game, it would drop the clock down to 82%, 66%, 32%, and finally around 15.7%, so I was effectively running a 0.25Ghz i7 dual core... great!

After two years of promises, switching to a 130W adapter and trying countless BIOS updates, nothing would stop this laptop throttling, other than a program called ThrottleStop, but even then it a) only worked half the time and b) I didn't want to run a program every time I used my laptop, as it forced the CPU to 100% and got very hot. End result being an angry email to Dell and they promised to replace the machine for their new L702x model.


1920x1080 HD WLED screen
Intel i7 2640M 2.8GHz (3.5Ghz on Turbo)
4GB 1333MHz RAM
(I fitted 8GB Corsair 1333MHz)
750GB 7200rpm SATA 2 HDD
(I added the 64GB Crucial m4)
3GB nVidia GT555M GPU (New revision chip)
Win 7 Pro 64bit
2 Years in house, 3 years collect and return

(I must apologise for the quality of some of the images, I need to sort the lighting out in this room)

It has a nice exterior design, I still prefer the 1645's looks, but I'm sure this will grow on me

Good sized screen without a ridiculous bezel size. 

Features a backlit Keyboard, complete with numpad. Speakers are JBL, a fairly decent brand.

The package came with installation disks for the OS and drivers/software, the laptop itself and the 150W charger.

A quick look at the ports first:
On the left hand side there is just the one USB2.0 port as the fan vent takes up the rest
Taking the rear top left corner first, it has the charger slot and 2xUSB3 SS ports
Top rear right corner has what I think is the Infrared sensor, a standard size DisplayPort, HDMI and ethernet port

The first thing I did was to put the 64GB crucial m4 in the second bay, which runs at SATA3 speeds and to replace the 4GB standard RAM with 8GB of the Corsair 1333MHz kit. From this respect I can't comment on how the standard system would have performed but technically it should really only alter loading speeds by changing the drive and RAM.

Now, this machine came with the factory set A14 BIOS, however, there is a known issue due to the BIOS build which will not allow you to reinstall certain drivers due to unrecognised hardware (whether this was just not programmed into the BIOS correctly is anyone's guess, Dell have not rectified it yet). This obviously affected myself as I did a fresh install of Windows to the SSD. The affected drivers were the WavesMaxx Audio, Intel HD3000 graphics driver and the nVidia drivers, I'm still trying to rectify the USB3 driver.

It took a frustrating evening to set up the machine and finally get various programs installed. I did run a few benchmarks as standard and recorded the temperature.

Seems like fairly decent colour reproduction (Thanks to Digital Blasphemy for the background!) - the desktop uses the HD3000 graphics on the CPU

A incredibly fast boot for a laptop of 10.56 seconds, mainly due to the m4

Very good read speeds (552.8MB/s) again, write (114.4MB/s) is only low due to the small size of the SSD (64GB)

Shows mobile processors can do alright in a PCMark test! 14089 score

Most people tend to be using 3DMark06 on the L702x as laptops aren't quite as powerful as desktops, this scores a decent 10684

Temps still well within limits there at 74.5 average on load and 42 at idle

It doesn't score too badly on these benchmarks, however the real crux of this laptop is the overclocking potential of the GT555M. As standard it comes at 590MHz core clock with a memory clock of 900MHz, however my MSI Afterburner would push up to a stable 760MHz (can get 770 in benches but sometimes not in games) core and 960MHz memory, though pushing the memory won't give you as large of a gain as the core clock does.


12915 3DMark06 score - a 20.9% increase over stock
7043 3DMark Vantage
1555 3DMark11

As you can see it really did improve the performance in 3DMark06, and after running Vantage and 11 benchmarks didn't do so badly in them for a laptop.

I won't run FPS tests in games as it's not primarily a gaming laptop, more so I at least have the option of playing a game or two when I'm out and about. All I can say is that it runs Skyrim fairly well on medium/high settings on the overclock!
ThermalTake Massive 23

Along with the L702x I also purchased this little piece of kit:

The purpose of it is to provide a decent platform for cooling the laptop, be it on a desk or on your lap. It has four rubber feet to provide extra grip and is very lightweight for its size. A USB2.0 lead is packaged with it, which fits into a small flap at the rear of the fan so you can keep it stored in a safe place.

The side panel contains two USB2.0 ports, one for plugging the unit into the laptop, the other as an 'extender' so you don't lose out on the functionality of the port you are using on the laptop. The buttons are quite self explanatory, to turn on and off the LED and the fan.

I'm a fan of blue/black in components generally, as you can tell from my main setup, but I wasn't so sure of the LED on this, I leave it on mostly because it's 'bling' but I still can't scratch the feeling that some LED's can be tacky.

In short, the cooling potential of this varies greatly with the laptop type, as it all depends on where the fan ducts are. If I'm honest, after running a 3DMark11 test, the highest temps reached were only around 2-3 degrees lower than without the unit. So the answer to the question of 'does it do anything?' I would say is yes, it does, but not a great deal. I can imagine it doing more as temps go up, really these CPU's have a TJunction of 100, I think they start to throttle around 95ish, mine only capped at around 75 on load, without the pad.

Test Result Summary

Boot Time: 10.56 seconds
SSD results: 552.8MB/s read, 114.4MB/s write
PCMark Vantage: 14089
Geekbench: 6150
3DMark06:  10684 (Stock), 12915 (Overclocked)
3DMark Vantage: 7043
3DMark11: 1555


The L702x in itself is a fantastic piece of kit. It doesn't look much from the exterior but I'm happy with that. It can take most of the applications and games I throw at it, and run them to a decent standard, especially the games. It will cope with even Skyrim/BF3 on medium settings.

Load speeds are great, very quick to boot and run most day to day programs, primarily down to the SSD I would say though. The standard hard drive isn't so bad though, it's obviously not as quick but I have a few programs/games installed to it and it doesn't do so bad.

One good thing is that it can't take advantage of a 20% price hike because it looks cool and has a certain, *ahem*, extra-terrestrial brand name on it (yes, Alienware, I'm looking at you). Bear in mind that while Dell and Alienware are effectively the same company the equivalent hardware in the Dells are always cheaper.

I would recommend this laptop as I think it's a great unit, however, I would caution you if you plan on  reinstalling windows, due to the dodgy BIOS, to make sure you have all the relevant information before you do this reinstall and to confirm you can reinstall the drivers successfully. The only other criticism is that the charger doesn't quite fit properly in the port, an issue Dell is aware of but when issued with a 'replacement' charger, it's the same model! I can't comment on value for money, but I would say this system would cost you around £1100 if you purchased it through the Dell store. I paid just over that for my 1645 two years ago and in my eyes they are around the same performance for their era, but I am impressed with the L702x. Definately think of getting 8GB or more RAM in there and a decent spec SATA3 SSD, does wonders for everyday performance.

The ThermalTake, well, that's all down to you. It does work, a little, looks alright and is quite comfortable when just resting on your legs, however is it worth ~£30? I'm not sure, I found mine cheap, but I'm not sure I would pay quite that much for one, maybe £20 tops.

I hope you find this useful and if you have any queries don't hesitate to ask away.

1 comment:

  1. When you say "After running Vantage and 11 benchmarks didn't do so badly in them for a laptop" I disagree with the "didn't do bad for a laptop" part as there are plenty of laptops out there that can game amazingly! The GTX 680M sli is impressive, and I know it is more expensive, I'm not denying that, but it can still game, it's faster that a single GTX680 in a desktop.