iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-28 Review

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The iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-28 is a great entry-level gaming laptop, but outside of gaming it doesn’t offer the all-around capability that many are looking for.

3.5 stars
(3.5 out of 5)

Pros

  • Potent gaming performance thanks to an AMD A10 APU and Radeon HD graphics
  • Full HD display and Blu-ray drive make it as much a media machine as a gaming rig
  • Sizeable hard drive offers plenty of storage

Cons

  • AMD hardware is great for gaming, but less powerful for productivity and media creation
  • Hard drive only is slower than SSD-boosted competitors

The iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-28 is a gamer’s gaming laptop, giving you high-end gaming prowess and little else. The Valkyrie CZ-28 offers potent gaming performance for a lower price, leveraging more affordable AMD hardware for elite level gaming. While it comes with some small compromises—like diminished productive power—it does more than enough on the gaming front, giving you power for even demanding titles.

Design
The iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-28 measures 2.2 by 16.9 by 11.3 inches (HWD), and weighs 6.9 pounds. It’s nowhere near as portable as the trim Razer Blade (2013) ultraportable, but for a standard gaming laptop, it’s not terribly heavy. The laptop features a 17.3-inch display with 1,920-by-1,080 resolution. The display offers good visibility from reasonably wide angles, and has a matte finish that keeps glare and reflections at bay.

The laptop lid is dressed up in black brushed aluminum, but inside, on the palmrest and across the chromed speaker grills, the metal is imprinted with a textured pattern. The pattern is a series of triangles, sharing the triangle motif seen on iBuyPower’s recent entry-level desktop, the iBuypower Revolt A960 (AMD A10-6800K). Most people won’t be as familiar with iBuyPower’s several products, but it’s still a nice touch, and it’s more visually interesting than plain brushed metal. The aforementioned chrome-grilled speakers are joined by an integrated subwoofer and get an extra boost from Creative Soundblaster Cinema software enhancement. The result is crisp, clear sound and bass that can be felt (slightly) as well as be heard.

The full-size keyboard and numeric pad are backlit for gaming in dim light, and each chiclet key is slightly sculpted for a more comfortable typing experience. The WASD and arrow keys are also highlighted, with red accents around the edge of each keycap, but unfortunately, this highlighting is printed directly on the keycap and is not illuminated by the backlight. There are also a few oddities that we’ve seen on other iBuyPower machines–like the Valkyrie CZ-17–such as the fact that the Windows button is found on the right hand side of the keyboard instead of the left, and the arrow keys feel a bit crowded, sandwiched between the regular keyboard and numeric pad.

The accompanying touchpad is relatively large, and supports multitouch gestures and Windows 8 commands like swiping from the edges. Thankfully, though most gamers will opt for a purpose built gaming mouse, the physical right and left mouse buttons are separate from the touch surface. Less desirable, however, is the fact that the buttons are combined into a button bar and covered with a chrome finish that shows every smudge and fingerprint.

Features
The Valkyrie CZ-28 is outfitted with a good selection of features, with a Blu-ray/DVD combo drive on the right, five USB ports—two USB 2.0 on the right, three USB 3.0 on the left—and a card reader slot. On the back you’ll find a number of video connections, with HDMI, mini DisplayPort, and VGA outputs, as well as Gigabit Ethernet, and a lock slot. The Ethernet connection uses a Killer E2200 networking card for gaming-grade connectivity, and 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless options.

Inside, the Valkyrie CZ-28 has a 750GB 7,200rpm hard drive. That’s the same size as the drives found in the Editors’ Choice MSI GX70 3Be-007US and the Alienware 17, though those systems also add a solid state drive to boost performance. While the Valkyrie CZ-28 doesn’t get the SSD performance boost, you’ll still have plenty of room for storing your library of installed games and media collection. Aside from Windows 8 (64-bit), graphics drivers, and a system monitoring utility from iBuyPower, you won’t find any superfluous software installed on the laptop. iBuyPower covers the Valkyrie CZ-28 with a one-year warranty and lifetime technical support.

Performance
The Valkyrie CZ-28 is equipped with an AMD A10-5750 processor and 8GB of RAM, the same combination of dual-core CPU and memory used in the Editors’ Choice MSI GX70 3Be-007US. As such the two systems were close in performance, with the Valkyrie CZ-28 pulling into the lead with a PCMark 7 score of 2,084 points, but falling behind in multimedia performance, finishing Photoshop in 10 minutes 22 seconds, well behind the MSI GX70 3Be-007US (6:21).

Unfortunately, in terms of productive performance, both of these AMD-equipped systems fell behind competitors outfitted with Intel Core i7 processors. The CyberPower FangBook X7-200, for example, boasts a quad-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM processor and scored 5,884 points in PCMark 7 and cranked through Photoshop in 3 minutes 45 seconds. If you’re intending to used your gaming laptop for heavy non-gaming use, such as using it as a workstation alternative, you might want to opt for an Intel-equipped system.

In a gaming laptop, however, productivity and multimedia performance take a backseat to gaming performance, and there the Valkyrie CZ-28 held its own. The Valkyrie CZ-28 is outfitted with an AMD Radeon HD 8970M graphics processor with 2GB of dedicated memory. The graphics prowess of the AMD solution showed in our gaming tests, where the Valkyrie CZ-28 produced solid playable framerates even at full 1080p resolution with detail settings all the way up. In Aliens vs. Predator it produced 46 frames per second, ahead of the MSI GX70 3Be-007US (43fps) and the Alienware 17 (39fps), and it did the same in Heaven, producing 38 frames per second, again ahead of both the MSI GX70 3Be-007US (36fps) and the Alienware 17 (36fps).

The other area where the Valkyrie CZ-28 really impressed us was battery life, lasting 4 hours 27 minutes in our battery rundown test. While that might not sound overly impressive, it’s far ahead of other gaming systems, like the CyberPower FangBook X7-200 (2:12) and the Asus G75VW-DH72 (3:02). The only competitor to even come close was the MSI GX70 3Be-007US, which still fell slightly behind (4:16). Plus, thanks to the Valkyrie CZ-28′s removable 87Wh, 9-cell Li-ion battery, you could also buy a second battery for all-day use on the road.

The iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-28 offers gaming power for less thanks to AMD’s affordable hardware, but it doesn’t come without compromise, offering less capability for productive tasks and multimedia creation. If gaming is your primary focus, then definitely put the Valkyrie CZ-28 on your list of systems to consider; but if you want faster overall performance and power outside of the gaming arena, consider something like the Editors’ Choice CyberPower FangBook X7-200 which offers more power with Intel hardware and an SSD cache for faster performance.

By Brian Westover, PCMag

Specifications

  • Type: Gaming
  • Processor Name: AMD A10-5750M
  • Processor Speed: 2.5 GHz
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Weight: 6.9 lb
  • Screen Size: 17.3 inches
  • Screen Type: Widescreen
  • Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 8970M
  • Storage Capacity (as Tested): 750 GB
  • Storage Type: HDD
  • Networking Options: 802.11n (2.4 GHz only)
  • Primary Optical Drive: BD/DVD/CD +/-RW


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