Nov 232017
 

We needed a new laptop computer here at watermanatwork.com to do photo and video editing and we’ve described the shopping experience in a previous blog post. After the usual internet research we decided to take a chance on a company we’ve never heard of. The company was Eluktronics and they sold Clevo computers. The laptop we bought was the Eluktronics N850HK1. It has a powerful Intel i7-7700HQ 2.8-3.8GHz Quad Core CPU, 16G DDR4 2400MHz RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti video card with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM and a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVM SSD; a powerful system for a laptop computer, more than enough for our editing needs. We’ve been using it daily a few months now and have got a pretty good idea what we like and don’t like about this computer.

We like the power and speed the system provides for everyday use and working with resource hungry programs like Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Photoshop. The dedicated video card and above average LCD display panel makes for great viewing and video game performance. The backlit keyboard is nice, very easy to use in dim or dark rooms while still visible in daylight. It’s a pretty clean looking computer, all black without bold graphics, very thin for all the stuff that’s inside. It’s got enough USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 ports for peripherals like wireless mice, external drives, cameras and phones. The USB 3.0 is great for storage devices like external drives and memory sticks. The built-in SD card reader is fast enough to download digital photos and 1080 video. Wireless connectivity is good. Speakers are pretty good for a laptop, with headphones the sound is great. The Clevo drivers provided by Eluktronics work well with Windows 10 Professional and no additional boatware.

Eluktronics/Clevo N850HK1 laptop computer

Battery life is what you would expect for a laptop with power hungry components like this one. For general daily use and internet browsing, we got about 3.5-4 hours of battery life. For gaming, even with a game that uses moderate CPU and GPU power, we only got about an hour of play before we needed to start looking for an electric socket. For checking email, cruising the internet or light to moderate computing, the battery life is fine. For power hungry tasks like photo/video editing and gaming, the computer needs to be plugged in.

For the most part, we like the N850HK1 and for the first month or so, it was love at first sight. As we used the computer more and more, some things cropped up that we didn’t really like and there is one major build flaw with this computer that, if we knew of it in advance, we most definitely would have not bought it.

We are not big fans of the touchpad/button setup. The touchpad seem over sensitive, the smallest touch sends the cursor flying across the screen. To be fair, we are not huge fans of touchpads in general and usually use a wireless mouse. The 2TB hard drive that comes installed is a Seagate 2TB 128Mb cache 5400 rpm. It is very slow with noticeable lag when writing or reading to the drive. Seagates are not known for their reliability, but there are very few options over 1TB that will fit into the 7mm drive slot, virtually no hard drives running at 7200rpm. The only real replacement option is an SSD. 2TB and larger SSDs are a little out of our price range, we will probably replace the 2TB Seagate hard drive with a 1TB SSD. The computer is generally pretty solid, but the top that houses the LCD panel is very thin. I bends in the middle between the hinges and if the computer is squeezed in a bag or backpack, the keyboard presses against the LCD display panels and leaves marks on the panel. We use a thin piece of packing foam between the panel and the keyboard to prevent this from happening.

N850HK1 keyboard presses into LCD panel. Thin packing foam helps prevent this.

These things are minor issues and if this was all we didn’t like about the computer, we’d probably be happy as possible. There is one major flaw that really has an impact on the laptop’s functionality that makes this computer a disappointing purchase. A powerful CPU like the i7-7700HQ generates a lot of heat, especially under full load. Unfortunately, the cooling system is not capable of keeping the processor within reasonable temperatures when the CPU is under full load. In the HWMonitor screen grab below, you can see the CPU runs about 45°C at idle and 98°C at 100%, which is way to hot for this processor to be. This CPU will “throttle” or shut down at 100°C, so that is too hot. At 100%, this CPU should be closer to 3.8GHz, so it may have already entered the throttling stage.

Eluktronics/Clevo N850HK1 CPU running hot at 98°C

If you run a computer CPU at temperatures close to the thermal shutdown temperature, it’s going to make for a short life for the CPU. There was an issue with running a Windows 10 Performance power scheme and in Performance Mode of the Clevo Control Center at the same time, this caused the CPU to run extremely hot. You must have “Performance” selected in one program and something other than “Performance” in the other. Even with those settings, the CPU runs up to the thermal shutdown under full load. We tried undervolting the CPU. Undervolting can really help an overheating CPU as well as extend battery life with very little performance penalty, but a sensible undervolt on this CPU did nothing to help the high temperatures when under full load.

Undervolting the Eluktronics/Clevo N850HK1 to try and reduce maximum CPU temps

The problem is that the CPU copper heat sink, dual cooling tubes and fan are just not able to keep the CPU within acceptable limits when under full load. The similar GPU heatsink and fan have no problem keeping the video processor cool, even while playing graphically demanding video games.

N850HK1 CPU and GPU heat sinks and fans

This Intel has Turbo Boost that will allow the processor to run at 3.8GHz. Maybe it’s just my desktop, server and workstation building experience that tells me when I look at the N850HK1 CPU heat sink(on the right) on top of a 3.8GHz processor, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to get the job done.

N850HK1 CPU and GPU heat sinks

I repasted CPU with Arctic MX-4 to replace the poor thermal paste application from Eluktronics. Most of the thermal paste was on the motherboard, hardly any between the CPU and heat sink. Repasting the CPU lowered the idle temperature by more than 15°C, but did nothing to reduce the max temp under full load. The only way to keep the CPU from frying itself was to dial down the Maximum Processor State in the Advanced Power Settings of the Windows 10 Control Panel to 98%. That essentially disables the CPU Turbo Boost and limits the maximum processor power to about 2.8GHz. This is a real performance hit because you are losing nearly 1GHz of processing power, we are getting less than 70% of the CPU power we paid for.

The inability to use the CPU at full power is a major disappointment, both with the hardware from Clevo and the setup by Eluktronics, the reseller. Eluktronics told me that this overheating problem is only with my computer. Browsing Clevo laptop computer forums does not really back this up; overheating is a major concern with many Clevo computers. Even if this particular computer is the only Eluktronics laptop computer that has an overheating problem, that means Eluktronics assembled this computer and sent it to me without even basic testing. When I received the computer, the temperature at idle was 65°C, way to high for a computer like this. That was due to a crappy thermal paste job on the CPU. Since they offer an “Extra Cooling Solution” of Arctic Silver 5 at additional cost, they clearly know the stock cooling is inadequate. When I repasted the CPU with Arctic MX-4, which by most accounts is superior to Arctic Silver 5 and dropped the stock cooling temperature at idle buy nearly 20°C, Eluktronics voided the one year warranty on my computer because I was “tinkering” with it. They did offer to RMA the computer, but I travel frequently which makes it difficult to do. Before I purchased the computer, I told Eluktronics that I would be depending on the reliability of their computer out of the box, to which they replied “no problem”, which was 100% BS.

There is a huge question mark with Clevo resellers like Eluktronics who cut corners on final assembly and quality control. Would we buy another Clevo laptop computer? Even though we like many things about this nice looking and powerful laptop, due to the uncertainty regarding Clevo vendors like Eluktronics, we would not take another chance with a Clevo reseller hoping to get a 100% working computer who voids the customer warranty for fixing problems that should have been taken care of before the computer was sold. We are a small business and try to purchase from other small businesses whenever possible, this was a significant factor in our decision to go with Eluktronics, a small business we had never heard of. We took a chance and got burned, next time we have an opportunity to patronize another small business, we’ll keep that in mind. Bottom line, if you like to gamble, get a Clevo from Eluktronics, maybe you’ll get a good one. If you need reliability and customer service, go somewhere else.

Nov 212017
 

You may have noticed, it’s been a long time between blog posts. I’ve just gone through some things nobody should ever have to go through, but people probably do every day. It was a path that lead down memory lane that had happy times, along with memories that look different in hindsight.

Esker Lakes Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada 1968

Lake Erie walleye

Antique South Bend 550 fishing reel

I criss-crossed the United States a number of times by plane, train and automobile

Shelby, Montana

Riding the rails, trying to get some sleep

Mt. Hood, Oregon

Now we are back and have some adventures planned that will be starting up in the next few days. We are packing up and planning to visit some of the most interesting places in the United States, so stay tuned…

Sep 102017
 

In case you’re interested, this is what a 30,000 acre plus wildfire looks like

Eagle Creek wildfire near Cascade Locks, OR

Below the smoke is the nervous and mostly evacuated town of Cascade Locks. The white smoke usually means there is water on it because firefighters are trying to save the town, but up and over the hills there are still thousands of acres of raging wildfire. It will be a long time before this fire is under control and won’t be out until we get some significant rain. Thanks to all the firefighters and support people, this is going to be a big job.

Aug 222017
 

We’re only a hundred miles or so from the “path of total darkness” during the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse, so we got a pretty good look at it. It got darker and cooler and the skies were clear so we got a good view with our eclipse glasses.

Solar eclipse 8-21-17

It was a pretty big event, the local library had an eclipse viewing party and there were people everywhere standing outside looking up at the sun with eclipse glasses on. We watched the eclipse for a couple hours with our neighbors, the Great American Eclipse was over and it was back to everyday life.

Aug 222017
 

We got our new Canon PowerShot G9X and have spent a few days trying it out, here’s what we think so far.

This camera is unbelievably small, which makes it very easy to take along on just about any adventure. Despite it’s small size, it packs a lot of features and functions, including full manual control, RAW format still images and 60fps 1080p video.

Canon PowerShot G9X

It’s going to take some getting used to. For starters, it is so small, I have to be careful where I grab it and put my fingers because the controls are operated by touch screen and my fingers inadvertently hit the buttons on the screen. For an old manual camera guy used to knobs, dials and levers, this is a pretty big change. The camera takes really nice photos so I’ll adjust to the new touch screen operation. The .CR2 RAW files don’t open in Adobe Photoshop CS6, but the Adobe DNG converter will do the job because we refuse to “upgrade” to subscription based Adobe software. Anyway, we’ll have more on the Canon G9X as we get used to it. Hopefully, you’ll notice the better quality photos on the watermanatwork.com blog and website.

Aug 222017
 

Well, the honeymoon for the new Eluktronics N850HK1 is over pretty quickly as we have discovered that it has major overheating problems. The first video we rendered using the new Eluktronics N850HK1 laptop put the CPU temperature almost to the thermal cutoff of 100°C. Further checking showed the CPU running about 60°C at idle. These temperatures are way over what would be considered normal and to continue running the computer like this could shorten the life of the CPU or damage the computer.

Eluktronics N850HK1 overheating problem

We’ve only used the computer about a half dozen times so having Eluktronics tell us to pack it up and send it back are not what we want to hear. We bought this computer because we have work to do, not to do quality control checking for Eluktronics. Eluktronics offered to pay to have it returned, but all our stuff is on the new computer and we are traveling, which makes returning the computer for who knows how long, not feasible. We got a lemon.

We are guessing the overheating is caused by poor thermal connections between the CPU and the CPU heatsink. Eluktronics offered to “upgrade” the thermal paste for an extra $35, so it’s pretty safe to guess the quality control over this important manufacturing step done by Chinese workers is not very good. If we disassemble this new Eluktronics N850HK1 computer and do the job they should have done in the first place, it will most likely void the one year warranty. We took a chance on a small company like Eluktronics, who we had never previously heard of, and this is what we get.

Aug 042017
 

We’ve had the Eluktronics N850HK1 laptop computer for a couple weeks now and are starting to see what it has to offer so we are giving it an initial review after getting to know the computer.

Eluktronics pre-sales customer service was great. They answered all my questions and were offered to change a couple things to make the computer what I wanted. I kept track of my order on their website and they kept me informed about my order. The computer arrived pretty quickly for free shipping and was packaged very well. I got a Windows 10 Pro upgrade which was installed with all the necessary drivers to have the computer running right out of the box.

The computer is a Clevo N850HK1. Different vendors sell this computer with different components. The Eluktronics N850HK1 is basic black, plastic, kind of high performance looking laptop. It’s surprisingly thin for all the stuff it’s got in there. The display half of the laptop is pretty thin, I would not pick up this computer by the lid. The display panel itself is LG LP156WF6-SPB1, which is a really nice 72% NTSC IPS screen. I’ve played a few video games, and done some video and photo editing and I have no complaints.

It took me awhile to figure out how to configure the programs, games and apps to use either the integrated Intel graphics or the GeForce 1050Ti. There is a big, big difference between the two in graphics performance, that’s for sure. I played some fairly moderate computer games(Pinball FX2, Serious Sam HD) and did not notice any significant excess heat, even after a few hours of gaming. I’m sure more complex games will tax the system a bit more, but it’s encouraging to see everything in the max power department working as expected. We’ll get to run the CPU up to the red line when we do some full length video rendering, but so far with Photoshop and short video clip production, the Intel i7 processor barely seems to be getting a workout.

Editing kayak fishing photos on the Eluktronics N850HK1 laptop computer

The 256GB Eluktro Pro-X m.2 SSD is fast and has been working well. 16G RAM does the job. The 2TB 5400 rpm HD that came with the computer is an older model Seagate Barracuda 128MB cache with a two year warranty. We are not the biggest Seagate fans but laptop hard drive choices 2TB and over are limited, so we’ll see how it goes. Everything is backed up on a USB 3.0 WD 4TB Passport external drive. The card reader and USB ports all work the way you’d expect. Don’t have any USB-C peripherals, so we’ll have to wait for that.

What don’t I like so far? Not much really. The keyboard has a little bit of flex, but it’s not noticeable unless you are looking at the keys while you type. The touchpad seems really sensitive, but I’m not much of a touchpad fan and try to only use them when necessary, so it’s probably the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t like some of the things about Windows 10, but that’s no reflection on the computer itself.

So now the Eluktronics N850HK1 is in everyday use for the watermanatwork.com field unit. The watermanatwork.com blog posts, photos and videos are now coming from the Eluktronics N850HK1. It’s going to get a workout so we’ll keep the reviews updated.

Jul 182017
 

We are going to spending some time on the road, so we here at watermanatwork.com are in the market for a laptop computer that can handle the video and photo editing tasks as well as do a little bit of video gaming on the side. As always, price is a factor. If we had unlimited funds, the decision would be a lot easier, but we need to get the most bang for our bucks. As always, we pay for all of our gear just like you do, so our reviews and articles are not biased in any way. We build all of our own workstations, servers and desktop computers, but laptops are generally pretty limited when it comes to upgrades and customization, so you pretty much have to get the main components you want, like the CPU(processor) and GPU(graphics processor), out of the box. Some components can be upgraded, we’ll cover that as we go along.

We have a pretty good idea of what we would like to spend and the components we can get at that price point. Like most computer purchases, you’ll find computers with mostly the same specifications from different manufacturers. That’s where things like warranty, customer service and company reputation come into the picture. For this computer, we want to stay in the $1200USD range, give or take a few dollars. For sure we want an 7th Generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad Core CPU. This powerful 2.8Ghz(3.8Ghz Turbo) processor will be able to handle all of our editing and gaming needs. It also has onboard graphics, but for our graphics, and especially gaming requirements, we want a dedicated graphics; a graphics processor separate from the main CPU. This will give us much better graphic quality. The best price/performance GPU for our needs is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti GPU with 4GB GDDR5 Video Memory. To go with the dedicated GPU, especially for our editing jobs, we want an IPS LCD display. There are cheaper LCD panels, but this is one place we don’t want to skimp. Things we would need are 16G of RAM minimum, a PCIe SSD for our operating system and at least one SSD or hard drive for storage. These components are usually upgradeable, but if we can get what we want from the manufacturer, that will save us money down the road. We’ll get into more details as we go along.

A basic decision is should we go with a traditional mobile workstation or a recent newer line of consumer gaming computers? Mobile workstations are nice; powerful, durable and built for heavy duty work. They also come with a heavy duty price tag, probably close to double what we would like to spend. We are looking at a relatively new genre of laptop “gaming” computers. This type of computer has plenty of power necessary to run demanding computer games which means they have all the power needed for the 1920×1080 video editing and photo work we have. The downside of gaming computers is that they are not as durable as mobile workstations and the cooling may not be as good. Since we will be spending a lot of time traveling, we won’t be able to easily ship the computer back and forth for repairs, so reliability is one of the most important purchasing decisions. As with most computer purchases, it’s a price/performance/reliability trade off that usually causes a potential computer buyer to spend hours doing research trying to figure out which computer or component to purchase.

We’ve been looking around for awhile and have a couple laptops leading the pack for our hard earned money. The Dell Inspirion 15 7000 Gaming(7567) and the Sager NP6852 are the computers that seem to have everything we are looking for. Dell is one of the most well known computer brands while Sager is a laptop specialist popular with enthusiasts.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming laptop computer(7567)

The Dell Inspirion 7567 is a solid computer. Positives would be Dell’s generally good record for quality products and solid warranties. The battery life is very good, perhaps the best, in this computer class, that’s a big plus. Negatives would be Dell’s proprietary software and partitioning scheme that can make upgrades and software configuration difficult, if not impossible. We have a good deal of experience with Dell computers and while Dell Business Customer Service is very good, for everyone else, it is hit and miss. Since we will be in there with “everyone else”, we have to count Dell customer service as mostly negative. For the price and what you get, the Dell Inspirion 15 7000 is still a leading contender, as long as nothing goes wrong.

Sager NP6852-Clevo N850HK1 Sager NP6852-Clevo N850HK1

The Sager NP6852 is actually a Clevo N850HK1. Clevo is a Taiwanese OEM/ODM laptop computer manufacturer, Sager is one of a number of resellers for their laptop computers. The upside of the Sager NP6852 is that is is more user upgradeable/serviceable and for a few bucks more comes a 250G Samsung 960 EVO M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, where the Dell Inspirion comes with a 128GB SSD and 1TB 5400RPM hard drive. The absence of bloatware and proprietary software is a plus. The downside of the Sager NP6852 is the question of reliabilty and customer service. Although reviews on the internet seem mostly positive, we have personally never had any experience with Sager. This is a big negative for us. Sager may be the best company on the face of the earth, we just don’t know anything about them.

We’ve sent emails to both Dell and Sager asking a few questions about their computer’s components and configurations. We’ll see what they have to say and continue with our research. We will also be checking out laptops with basically the same specifications like the Lenovo Legion Y520 and laptops from Asus and MSI. We’ll be updating this blog as we get closer to making a final decision.

7-20-17 Update We’ve been looking at a lot of laptop computers and finally the time spent researching has paid off. We liked the Dell Inspiron 7567 but could not get any information about the computer’s components. Buying a $1200 computer without knowing the brand and model of the PCIe SSD, hard drive and especially, the display panel is ridiculous. I could not get a straight answer from anybody at Dell despite repeated attempts. Emails to Dell sales department went unanswered. Throw in Dell bloatware and proprietary software to compliment the poor customer service and that’s all she wrote.

Despite the fact I had never heard of Sager until we started looking for this laptop, they seemed like they were willing to provide the customer service we would expect. We really liked the Sager NP6852/Clevo N850HK1, but Sager informed me the computer used an LG LP156WF6-SPK3 display panel, which is not a very good IPS panel. We were hoping we could find the Clevo N850HK1 computer from another vendor with a better IPS display panel and we came across Eluktronics.

Eluktronics H850HK1

Eluktronics sells Clevo laptops, but while the chassis, motherboard and other core components are the same, different vendors have different components like display panels, memory, solid state drives hard drives and other components. Eluktronics sells the Clevo N850HK1 as the Eluktro Pro N850 Series N850HK1. It has all the stuff we want; Intel i7-7700HQ Quad Core CPU, GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, 16G DDR4 2400MHz RAM and a 256G M.2 PCIe NVMe Flash SSD. What sold us on this version of the Clevo N850HK1 is that Eluktronics specs their version with Crucial memory, their “house brand” 256GB Eluktro Pro-X Performance M.2 PCIe NVMe Flash SSD, which is a Samsung PM961 Polaris M.2-2280 PCI-e 3.0 x 4 NVMe Single-Sided Solid State Drive and a huge plus is an LG LP156WF6-SPB1 display panel, which is significantly better than the LG LP156WF6-SPK3. Like Sager, I had never heard of Eluktronics until a few days ago. When I contacted them for information, they responded quickly with all the information I asked for. I asked them to swap a hard drive that we really didn’t need for an upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro, they said it would be no problem. Free shipping is also another big plus. Along with a slew of great reviews about Eluktronics, I feel pretty good about purchasing a laptop from them.

The reviews and observations of the Eluktronics N850HK1 continue HERE