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iBuyPower CZ15-2 Valkyrie gaming laptop review: a monster truck gaming laptop

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iBuyPower CZ15-2 Valkyrie gaming laptop

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If the Razer Blade gaming laptop is a sleek Ferrari of the gaming laptop world, the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-15 Mark “2” (or CZ15-2) is the Monster Truck. It’s an (almost) high-end, desktop level gaming laptop that will leave your lap warm, your battery dead, and imprints in your thighs. Don’t wear shorts with this one.

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iBuyPower CZ-15 "Mark 2" Valkyrie System Specifications

  • Operating System: Windows 8 Pro 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel® Core™ i7-4700MQ Mobile Processor (4x 2.4GHz/6MB L3 Cache)
  • Chipset: 4rd Generation Intel® Core™ HM87
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M 3GB GDDR5 Video w/ NVIDIA Optimus [CZ-15]
  • Memory: Corsair 8GB [8GB x 1] 1600MHz DDR3 SO-DIMM Laptop Memory
  • Storage: 750GB 5400RPM Hard drive
  • Optical Drive: 8x super-multi DVDRW
  • Display: 15.6" Full HD 1920x1080 Widescreen
  • Webcam: 1.3 Mega Pixels
  • Sound: HD Audio with Creative Soundblaster Cinema
  • MIC-in : 1 ; Line-in : 1 |Headphone out : 1 ; Line-out : 1
  • 2.1 Built-in Speakers
  • Interface: 1x HDMI; 1x D-Sub; 1x eSATA; 1x USB 2.0; 3x USB 3.0
  • Networking: Killer E2200 Gaming Networking 10/100/1000 Network + LAN 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth
  • Built-in 4-in-1 Media Card Reader/Writer
  • Backlit Keyboard
  • Battery: 9 cell Li-Ion Battery
  • Power Adapter: 19V DC, 100~240V AC, 50/60Hz universal
  • Dimensions: 14.97"(L) x 10.24"(W) x 1.77"(H)
  • Weight: 5.9 lbs with Battery
  • Enclosure: Metallic Black
  • Warranty: Standard One (1) Year Parts and Labor Limited Warranty + Lifetime Technical Support
  • Software: Office 2010 60-day trial

The CZ15-2 is certainly no lightweight at a hefty but luggable 5.9 pounds. But despite its relative ugliness (at least compared to sleeker competitors), size does have some advantages—in this case a spacious, Chiclet-style keyboard where your fingers can fly and roam freely.

The keyboard is also backed by blue LED lighting, and the WASD cluster and arrow keys are outlined in red for enhanced visibility. An additional series of touch buttons runs along the top to provide additional functions:

  • Customizable program launch
  • Cooling fan on/off
  • backlight on/off
  • airplane mode
  • DVD eject
  • Power off the display (only) to save power

The ability to toggle the cooling fan on and off is a nice touch. By default it’s off, and that’s a good thing because when it’s on it’s very, very loud. Although a “desktop replacement” should provide the power (or near power) of a desktop, it really shouldn’t replace the noise of one—or in this case, surpass it.

Along the right side of the laptop you’ll find a single USB 2.0 port, the 8x super-multi DVDRW drive, and four 3.5mm audio connectors (Line in, Line out, Microphone in, Headphone out). The left side holds 3xUSB 3.0 ports and a 4-in-1 card reader slot, while the rear holds the Ethernet, HDMI, VGA, and even a Thunderbolt connector if you like to roll that way.

The trackpad is adequate, but its single-bar mouse button is a stiff and clumsy design—especially for gaming. Then again, given the size of the CZ15-2 it’s best suited to being a desk-bound gaming rig. There’s no reason you couldn’t (or shouldn’t) connect a good gaming mouse to it.

Gaming & Graphics tests

The CZ15-2 is powered by an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M with 3GB GDDR5 Video. Backed by the Intel® Core™ i7-4700MQ Mobile Processor (4x 2.4GHz/6MB L3 Cache) and 8GB of RAM, I’ll admit I expected a little more impressive gaming horsepower from the CZ15-2 and its 1920x1080 15.6” display. It did well enough (as you’ll see from the tests), but it didn’t blow me away.

All of the chart results for the various frame rate tests below can be viewed in the slideshow gallery, or independently by clicking the links.

3DMark
The latest version of 3DMark features 3 synthetic tests designed to simulate casual, mid-range, and extreme gaming. The iBuyPower CZ 15-2 performed well in the casual (Ice Storm) and midrange (Cloud Gate) tests, but fell on its face in the extreme (Fire Strike) test, where it managed a very pretty slide show. View results

Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock Infinite is Irrational’s FPS (First Person Shooter) published in 2012. It’s based on a heavily modified Unreal Engine 3 and it’s one of the more GPU-intensive games on its highest settings. The iBuyPower CZ-15-2 managed playable frame rates at its native resolution of 1920x1080, but it performs better and gives you a little buffer against frame rate drops if you drop the resolution a notch or two. View results

Metro: Last Light
4A Games’ Metro: Last Light is based on a proprietary engine created by 4A games, and it’s one of the most graphically punishing DirectX 11 games this side of Crytek’s Crysis 3. At maximum settings, the iBuyPower couldn’t squeak out 30FPS even at a reduced resolution of 1280x720. View results

Batman: Arkham City
Arkham City is a 3rd-person action game, also based upon a highly customized Unreal Engine 3. At its highest settings this DirectX 11 game can be pretty brutal; the iBuyPower managed to squeak out playable frame rates at the highest settings, but you’d likely want to drop the resolution and reduce a couple options for the best experience. View results

Call of Pripyat

This S.T.A.L.K.E.R. benchmark includes four stages using different weather and time of the day settings (day, night, rain, bright sun). S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is based upon a proprietary game engine called X-Ray. I ran the test mainly just to get some DirectX 10 numbers with all settings (anti-aliasing, etc.) set to maximum. View results

Battery life—and death
Battery Eater Pro measures the CZ15’s battery life at roughly 2 hours and 31 minutes, and PCMark8 measured it at about 2 hours and 7 minutes during its most demanding tests. You can certainly squeeze a little more juice out of it with some aggressive power-saving features, but suffice to say the CZ15-2 is better for short trips around the house than long flights across the country.

Audio
The CZ15-2 delivers good if unexceptional audio—but again, as a desktop replacement and nearly desktop bound laptop, it could easily be upgraded to a high-end surround sound gaming headset. Otherwise, the Soundblaster Cinema 2.1 it provides will get the job done well and (reasonably) loud.

Networking
The CZ15-2 uses a built-in Killer E2200 Gaming Networking card for LAN (10/100/1000) and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi. I've always liked the Bigfoot Killer networking cards--even if in my own experience they don't really make much of a difference in actual 'real world' networking speed as far as gaming is concerned, I like that they give you the ability to 'throttle' and control what is using your bandwidth.

Overall: 4/5 stars
The CZ15-2 delivers good gaming performance and certainly makes for a solid mid-level “desktop replacement” laptop, although it falls a bit short of “no compromise” gaming. That said, you don’t really have to make too many sacrifices to achieve good (30+ FPS) frame rates and ensure a consistently smooth ride through demanding games.

But given that the CZ15-2 is only marginally portable and starts at around $1350, you should probably weigh the cost against a standard desktop gaming rig if you don’t need even modest portability. $1350 will buy you a more powerful gaming desktop with a few bucks to spare if you shop smart.

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