Mythlogic Pollux 1613 / Clevo P157SM Subjective Evaluation

Since Mythlogic uses Clevo notebooks and simply customizes them, the core hardware has a lot in common with previous Clevo notebooks that we’ve reviewed. That can be both a blessing and a curse, but they do offer up some interesting new options, along with the usual selection of CPU, GPU, RAM, display, and storage choices. While the performance of any particular notebook depends largely on the choice of CPU and GPU (and SSD vs. HDD), subjectively what we think of any notebook often has a lot more to do with things like the display, keyboard, touchpad, and general build quality. Here’s another set of images of the P157SM, this time taken by yours truly:

Chief among optional extras is that Mythlogic will install a different keyboard in the chassis (provided they have keyboards in stock, apparently), which addresses some of the complaints we’ve had with previous Clevo keyboards. In practice, the changes aren’t all that significant; the modified keyboard has chiclet style keys while the standard Clevo keyboard has beveled/ridged edges. You can get an idea of the difference by looking at images from our test notebook compared to the standard keyboard. The alternate keyboard is, as far as I can tell, identical to the MSI SteelSeries keyboards used in the GT60 and GT70 notebooks—though obviously they can’t use the SteelSeries branding—with the only real change being the Fn and Start keys have swapped positions. There’s also colored keyboard backlighting, and you can adjust the colors using a utility that you get by pressing Fn+[Keypad /]—and again, this is identical to the backlighting on the MSI GT70 and other modern Clevo designs.

Note that since the keyboard is not the default Clevo design, some of the Fn key combinations are not what you see on the keys—so Fn+[Left Cursor] doesn’t reduce the volume; you’ll need to press FN+F5 for that instead. Mythlogic includes a reference sheet with all of the Clevo shortcuts, and as you spend time with the Pollux 1613 you’ll adapt—or you can just go with the standard Clevo keyboard. The feel of the MSI/alternate keyboard is very good, and it looks like the stock Clevo keyboards have finally fixed the 10-key and made it a standard layout (with a slightly narrower Numpad-0 key). Given the choice, I’d probably just stick with the stock Clevo keyboard now, but whichever way you got there are still aspects that aren’t necessarily ideal.

Specifically, the keyboard still has some issues with layout and key assignments, and the lack of dedicated Home and End keys is bothersome to me.  You need to use Fn+PgUp/PgDn to get those, which thanks to the right-hand location of the Fn key means using the right hand and stretching to reach both keys, or else move your left hand over to press Fn while you use the right to hit PgDn/PgUp. (Having Fn on the left side of the keyboard like most laptops would have helped, which is what MSI does on their notebooks with the SteelSeries keyboard.) Thankfully, there are utilities that allow you to remap most keys (Fn being the one exception), so you can assign Home and End to some other keys that you don’t use much, like Scroll Lock, Pause/Break, or Insert. Ideally, though, I’d prefer to have the current Pause/Break become Delete, then assign Home and End to the current Insert and Delete locations, with Fn combos providing access to Pause/Break and Insert for those that need them. I’d also shift the extra Backslash over to the left of the Space and have it function as either Fn or the Start key, and then the current Fn key location could provide the Context function (Shift+F10). Of course, this is all personal preference so others might be happy with the current arrangement. YMMV.

The biggest flaw with the latest Clevo generation is next, and it’s the touchpad. Previously I’ve seen plenty of decent touchpads on Clevo, but this time around they apparently skimped out and went with a Sentelic solution. The few times I’ve seen Sentelic touchpads have been very painful, and while this is actually much better than previous hardware it still feels a bit sluggish and unresponsive. Most of the multi-touch gestures work fine at least, but even with the “On-pad Cursor Speed” set to maximum (Level 10), it’s nowhere near what I’m used to with touchpads. The result is that just to get the cursor from the bottom/left to the top/right of the display requires no fewer than four swipes of your finger—and if you’re not careful, instead of a swipe you’ll activate one of the Windows 8 gestures and bring up the Charms menu or switch applications, resulting in additional swipes. (Changing the Windows pointer speed thankfully fixes this, and with it set at about 70% I was much happier – it seems the Sentelic “On-Pad Cursor Speed” just doesn’t work right now.

Anyway, the included touchpad works well enough, but I think Clevo should have done more research before going with the Sentelic touchpad. It feels like a decision a bean counter made rather than something to benefit the end users. For a high-end notebook, it’s just not okay to continue cutting corners on little items like the touchpad. My advice is to make sure you bring along a mouse, particularly if you’re planning on playing games, but that almost goes without saying. I’ve mentioned this before, by my personal hierarchy of touchpads in order of decreasing quality is: Synaptics, Elan, Alps, and then Sentelic (though I may have missed a couple of the smaller players in that list). Interestingly, the P150SM and P170SM go with a Synaptics touchpad instead (sans backlighting), and Mythlogic will replace the touchpad with a non-backlit option if you want (but still Sentelic), which is great as I could see more than a few users being turned off by the “tramp stamp” on the touchpad.

For the display, Mythlogic lets you choose between a standard matte 1080p display or a high gamut 1080p offering; it’s only $35 extra for the 95% NTSC gamut panel, and I personally like this panel a lot. It’s the AUO B156HW01 v4, which I’ve reviewed a few times already in other laptops, and it still impresses compared to most other options. I’d like to see better IPS or AHVA panels instead, but the truth is most of the current notebook IPS panels are using WLED backlighting, so you get improved viewing angles but a much lower color gamut, with a higher price as well. Until we start seeing higher quality backlights on the IPS/AHVA laptop panels, a good TN panel with a high gamut backlight is at least a reasonable alternative.

Everything else is decent if not exceptional. The build quality and aesthetics are standard Clevo fare, which means there’s a lot of plastic with some slight flex if you press hard on the chassis. I’m not sure if the bezel is standard fare or if it’s something Mythlogic customizes, but it’s thankfully matte plastic this time and goes well with the matte LCD. Mythlogic did customize the lid on our review sample with their carbon fiber wrap, which is a $150 extra. It adds some visual flare to an otherwise black and nondescript design, but it shows marks and scratches more than the standard cover and for the price I think most users will be fine with the soft-touch coating Clevo uses. The use of plastic for the chassis also means that the surfaces don’t tend to feel too hot, even under sustained loads—only directly under the CPU and GPU will you notice hot spots, as well as on the rear exhaust ports.

Audio quality is likewise good if not great—though somewhat surprising to me is that even at maximum volume the notebook doesn’t get all that loud. (I was testing this at the same time as the Acer R7 and Acer V7, both of which put out more volume.) The P157SM does have a subwoofer that helps with lower tones, but at one point I had some friends trying to listen to an audio book and they felt it wasn’t able to get loud enough. In a quiet environment it’s okay, but if there are other people around that are talking or laughing then you’ll likely also wish for increased sound output levels.

As you’d expect from a system that’s designed to be customized by notebook vendors, getting at the internals of the P157SM is quite easy. There are four screws (two on the bottom, two on the back) that you need to remove, and then you can pull off the bottom panel that provides access to the HDD/mSATA slots and two of the SO-DIMMs, as well as the CPU and GPU. You can see the CPU upgrade process in the gallery above as well. The other two SO-DIMM slots are located under the keyboard, which can be a bit more of a pain to access but it isn’t too difficult. I’d like to see Mythlogic populate the two less accessible SO-DIMMs first, but perhaps it’s more stable with the bottom slots occupied than the reverse.

In my mind at least, Clevo has never been about the latest in design and aesthetics; if you want something flashy or with higher quality/higher cost materials you’ll want to look elsewhere. Instead, Clevo is typically focused on providing as much performance as possible in a reasonably inexpensive chassis, with a thicker casing allowing for improved cooling. The MSI GT60/GT70 are very similar in a lot of ways, but Clevo uses two cooling fans instead of a single HSF – one fan/heatsink for the CPU and chipset, and the other for the GPU. The result is lower temperatures and likely improved longevity, and with the keyboard layout now mostly fixed the only real question is how the Clevo P157SM performs. So let’s hit the benchmarks….

Introducing the Mythlogic Pollux 1613, aka Clevo P157SM Mythlogic Pollux 1613 / Clevo P157SM Gaming Performance
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  • Meaker10 - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    It would be interesting to compare the XTU graph of each actually to see how their behaviour is different then. I might have to investigate that when I get the chance.

    That does not change the fact the 4930MX can run in the MSI at 4.1ghz during game play though. Sure that might not last during full rendering load or prime (stock CPUs will not either in any system including the sager) but it still behaves and just lowers the clock as it hits the power limit (Set to a healthy 75W) rather than temp throttle.
    Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Sunday, September 1, 2013 - link

    95C sounds about right to me.

    Speaking for my M18x R2 - If I'm gaming for extend periods (think h o u r s), I run HWinfo64 to force the CPU fan higher than the bios would ordinarily set, and I find 4 cores @ 4.4GHz in High Perf mode to be the most stable for me. 85C is the absolute max I would see in this state, and it is often less. I can run a 4.5GHz, and some run higher, but I'm happy with the stability with 4@ 4.4GHz.

    The GPUs I don't overclock, ever.
    Reply
  • xtyling - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    Jarred.. On a $1500 budget and need for a portable (13-15inch form factor) gaming machine... which would you choose.. Digital Storm's Veloce or this Mythlogic Pollux? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    The Veloce is just the Clevo W230ST (sold as the Mythlogic Chaos 1313, as well as by most other Clevo resellers -- http://www.mythlogic.com/configure.php?id=147), and it's in a different category as it's smaller and tops out at the GTX 765M. You can get an idea of performance by looking at the Razer Blade 14 numbers, but of course for $1500 you wouldn't be getting GTX 780M in the first place. I believe the W230ST also includes an IPS panel (that's what Mythlogic says at least), so that's actually a nice bonus.

    For portability at the cost of performance, I think W230ST looks like a good compromise. Gaming at 1080p will need to drop down to ~High detail with no AA in many games, but I would be okay with that. If you can push the budget to $1630, grab one from Mythlogic with the 512GB mSATA SSD. :-)
    Reply
  • name user - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    ah yes, a tramp stamp

    yes i will buy this product, with money, and take it places with me because its portable, with a tramp stamp

    because im a goddamn idiot
    Reply
  • gnorby - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    While many Clevo based systems run about the same, dollar-wise, Mythlogic has a policy called the Phoenix Upgrade Policy which means that as long as you own the laptop, you pay 5% over their cost on any upgrade components, and they will install and then run a full test suite (just like when the machine is new) before returning it to you with the new hardware. That's as close to future-proofing as I've found yet.
    I have a Mythlogic Nyx 17", and since getting mine, my son and nephew both bought theirs. We've all been very pleased with pre-sales support, sales and technical support. These guys are a joy to work with.
    Keep in mind that I'm 53, have dealt professionally with computers since the 1980s, and am not easy to impress.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    That sounds promising; but my question would be if the extremely high prices that a 3rd party would have to pay for the parts for a DIY an MXM are AMD/nVidia's (distributors?) prices or profiteering my the people putting them up on ebay/etc.

    I suppose the question to ask if I was in the market for one would be what their price would be to upgrade last years model from a 680 to a 780.
    Reply
  • nerd1 - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    I have found that upgrading MXM GPU is prohibitively expensive and usually it is way easier and cheaper to sell and repurchase a new laptop. Reply
  • rpgfool1 - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    Any differences between the Clevo P170SM and the Clevo P177SM? I'm looking to get one probably around Black Friday or Christmas. Checking out the various Clevo resellers and vendors and Mythologic seems to be quite friendly, even though their prices are slightly higher. Also looked into PowerNotebooks, Malibal, XoticPC, and LPC-Digital. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, August 31, 2013 - link

    The P170SM and P150SM have slightly different designs, with one less 2.5" drive supported I believe, plus no backlit (tramp stamp) on the touchpad, and the touchpad is Synaptics instead of Sentelic. Basically, all reasonable tradeoffs in my book. Reply

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