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Video playback
We tested video decoding performance by playing the Iron Man 2 trailer in a variety of formats. Windows Media Player was used in full-screen mode for the H.264 QuickTime clips, while Firefox was used for the windowed YouTube test. In each case, we used Windows 7's Performance Monitor to record minimum and maximum CPU utilization for the duration of the trailer.

  CPU utilization Result
Iron Man 2 H.264 480p 0-5.6% Perfect
Iron Man 2 H.264 720p 0-5.2% Perfect
Iron Man 2 H.264 1080p 0-4.3% Perfect
Iron Man 2 YouTube 720p windowed 8.2-15.8% Perfect

You weren't expecting a quad-core, eight-thread Sandy Bridge chip to somehow trip over itself and fail to play back high-definition video smoothly with low CPU utilization, were you? Heck, the CPU didn't even have to work all that hard thanks to the video acceleration in the IGP.

Battery life
We took our laptops through two battery life tests—but not before taking care to condition the battery by cycling it two times. For the web browsing test, we used TR Browserbench 1.0, which consists of a static version of the TR home page that cycles through different text content, Flash ads, and images, all the while refreshing every 45 seconds. Then, we tested video playback in Windows Media Player by looping an episode of CSI: New York encoded with H.264 at 480p resolution (straight from an HTPC).

We attempted to keep the display brightness consistent across all four systems, choosing levels correspond to a readable brightness in indoor lighting. A 40% brightness setting was used on the Intel review notebook as well as the Acer 1810TZ, Toshiba Satellite T235D, Asus N82Jv, and Eee PC 1015PN in its "Super Performance" mode. We used a 50% setting on the Eee PC 1015PN in "Battery Saving" mode, since disabling the Nvidia GPU seemed to reduce brightness, as well as on the U33Jc.

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the money shot. While the 71-Wh battery is no doubt a big help, six hours of unplugged web browsing for a quad-core, eight-thread desktop replacement notebook is nothing short of phenomenal. Some folks might be inclined to credit the solid-state drive for the long run time, but keep in mind we measured the impact of SSDs on battery life a little while ago, and the difference only amounted to a few percent. Intel's Sandy Bridge platform really does deserve most, if not all, of the credit here.

Surface temperatures
How hot to the touch does this big honkin' notebook get during an average surfing session? We let the run TR browserbench 1.0 for about an hour before measuring surface temperatures using our IR thermometer from 1" away.

26°C
78°F
  24°C
75°F
  27°C
81°F
 
25°C
78°F
  24°C
76°F

 

24°C
74°F
  26°C
78°F
  30°C
86°F
 
25°C
76°F
  25°C
77°F

On the heels of those mind-boggling battery life numbers, the temperatures above should come as no surprise. The Sandy Bridge review notebook runs awfully cool during a web browsing session, so much so that the fan doesn't really spin up in a noticeable fashion. You could almost use this thing on your lap without discomfort—you know, if it weren't so big.