Katana 3D-9 review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: 2005

  • Pros: Blistering performance, excellent set of components and great screen.

  • Cons: Too hot to use after a few hours, massive, heavy, and a small hard drive.

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This is the most powerful laptop we’ve ever seen – except you could hardly call it a laptop.

It’s built around an NVidia Quadro FX Go 1400 graphics chip, making it a mobile workstation: certified for all of the major 3D and video editing software. However, calling it mobile is pushing it a little, as this is based around the same massive Clevo chassis as the AJP and Alienware models we looked at in Digit 85. The Katana 3D-9 is a lot larger and heavier than our top-rated mobile workstation – Dell’s Precision M70 – but it’s much more powerful too.

Being so large, the chassis can hold a full desktop Pentium 4 chip, backed up with a hefty amount of DDR2 RAM and a Hitachi 7,200rpm hard drive (which is fast enough for real-time video editing). The top-rated processor ripped through our LightWave rendering scene in 35 minutes and three seconds – the fastest we’ve seen, though only a couple of minutes faster than a unit with a 3.4GHz chip. Completing our Photoshop test in six minutes and 28s, this was again the best ever for a laptop – though again only 15 seconds faster than the competition.

The 3D-9’s Cinebench score is 150-200 lower than units we’ve seen using the equivalent NVidia GeForce FX 6800 Go chip – but this is expected for a workstation-class chip. Compared to most laptops though, the 3D power here is at an obscene level.

Onyx depths

The screen is the same glossy, X-black style as seen on the AJP and Alienware units. A 1,920-x-1,200 resolution screen
is also available, which is great for video editors and those who place screen real estate higher than 3D power.

Other impressive touches include the ability to add a second hard drive or optical drive (though the 8x DVD±RW drive will cover most users’ needs), and the level of chassis customization offered by SavRow. Only the 60GB drives seems a little underwhelming.

The 3D-9 is a powerful unit and moderately priced next to the competition – though it suffers from one major flaw. Like all of the Clevo-based units, it’s too hot to use on your lap – and it’s too hot on the desktop too. Both the keyboard and the desktop area where you’d normally place your mouse are uncomfortably hot after the unit’s been on for a few hours. You could use a cooling mat, but that would reduce the 3D-9’s portability further.

It’s not surprising the 3D-9 gets hot – the extra power drawn by the faster processor and higher-grade graphics card obviously pushes the 3D-9 over the edge.

It seems if you want access to top-notch workstation-class 3D power you have a choice: buy a workstation or settle for the lower power of the eminently more mobile Precision M70.


CPU: Pentium 4 560 (3.6GHz)
RAM (standard/max): 1GB/2GB
Screen: 17-inch
Resolution: 1,680-x-1,050
Graphics chip: NVidia Quadro FX Go 1400
Graphics RAM: 256MB
Hard disk: 60GB
Optical drive: DVD±RW
Dimensions: 397-x-298-x-50mm
Weight: 5.2kg

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