True replacement

All of which is just a long winded way of saying that yes, there's still a place for high performance desktop replacements. And they don't necessarily need to hide the fact they're not particularly portable, so long as they have something to offer that you can't get elsewhere.

And the X90 certainly does that. It's a true desktop replacement in the sense that we haven't seen since the launch of Core 2 made low power laptop chips capable of running games. In the absence of a specifically designed Intel Nehalem CPU for notebooks, Novatech has gone out and customised a notebook motherboard with an X58 chipset so it can stick a fully fledged Core i7 940 chip inside its portable.

Modded to trot

There's a few things about this Nehalem processor that makes it slightly surprising no-one else has done this before. We know it has the ability to automatically overclock cores that are running under stress, and has enormous memory bandwidth. We also know that it runs very cool, as evidenced by the ludicrously high clockspeeds people are achieving on air cooling.

It doesn't, however, seem to do a lot for the battery life. If you could get a £60 reduction in the price for buying the X90 without the power cell, you might as well do so for all the use it is on the go.

For raw computing power, though, no other portable packs this much processor performance. It even leaves the mighty Asus W90 in the dust, and that machine is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records, don't you know. Any game that tends to be CPU bound, like World in Conflict or World of Warcraft, will fare very well on the Novatech X90 GTX Pro.

The only slight problem is that games are only one half of the equation, and while the Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M is the best single chip graphics processor for laptops at the moment, other notebooks in a similar price band tend to feature SLI or CrossFire arrays for even more pixel performance.

Throw in the ability of Windows 7 and DirectX 11 to offload even more work onto the GPU than CUDA and OpenCL currently allow, and there's a real toss up between which is more relevant for the gamer. Do you go for single GPU with a high powered CPU for better all-round performance, or opt for even higher picture quality and compromise on your pick of processor?

Unfortunately for Novatech, it's probably the latter, which would make the Asus W90 or one of Alienware's M17s a better bet at this price.

There's a slightly cut-down model, which features a Core i7 920 CPU and a slightly less ambitious – but more spacious – hard drive array for just over two grand, though, which suddenly beats all the similarly priced competition. So, having a play around with Novatech's customisation options will bring the Core i7 power within a more reasonable price-range.

As well as being great for gaming, both have the same multimedia credentials: a Blu-ray drive, HDMI out and a top rate screen for a lappie. The extra processing power of the 940 over the 920 chip becomes less of a gap when you're also comparing it with the next Core 2 Quad below the Core i7.

For gaming on the go though we'll stick with our current favourite, the quad core, HD4850 touting MSI GT725, which is both lighter and half the price. But that's a machine built for a different purpose. The X90 is a powerhouse desktop replacement, offering the sort of CPU performance we've yet to see in a mobile platform.

Given that mobile Core i7, Clarksfield, chips aren't going to be around until much later in the year, and if you really don't feel like compromising on things, this is the way to go.

Novatech x90 gtx pro benchmarks

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