Design and Build Quality
The M98NU XCaliber comes with a stylish-looking, black glossy lid, which is unfortunately prone to collecting fingerprints and dust. The system weighs in at 13.0 pounds and measures 2.73x17.28x11.77-inches (HWD) at its highest section; the unit is thinnest at the front, where it is only 1.73-inches high. The lid features a design element that lights up when the notebook is on.
The notebook's 18.4-inch display is flush with the black matte bezel, giving the LCD a sleek look. The webcam is located above the LCD, flush with the bezel. At the top left of the keyboard are LED status lights for hard disk activity, num lock, caps lock, and scroll lock status. Across the top of the keyboard are touch-sensitive controls for the LED color toggle, Webcam toggle, Bluetooth module toggle, Silent mode toggle, WiFi module toggle, Web browser launch, sound-effects equalizer, volume mute, and volume level. The LED color toggle button controls whether the system's LED lighting stays the same color or changes color: The LED lights are located in the lid's design element and in the front and back speaker grills; the lights can change color every three, five, 10, or 15 seconds, and light up dark blue, red, green, yellow, purple, light blue, and white. Silent mode reduces fan noise and increases power conservation features.
The M98NU XCaliber has a full-sized keyboard that includes a three-row numpad. The keyboard is sturdy with only the keys toward the center of the keyboard displaying a bit of flex. To the left of the keyboard is a set of eight programmable hotkeys--the manual calls these "Game Keys." Below the keyboard is a wrist rest that is about 5-inches deep. Centered on the wrist rest is the 3.75-inch (diagonal) touchpad, and below that are the touchpad buttons and the biometric fingerprint reader. The touchpad is framed by a blue light, which does not change color. Below the buttons and fingerprint reader is a small LED indicator for power and battery status. The entire top section (with the LED status and LED touch-sensitive controls), as well as the bottom section that surrounds the keyboard (the wrist rest, touchpad, buttons, and fingerprint reader) are all flush with the notebook’s chassis.
The front of the notebook includes a second set of LEDs that show power and battery status, located in the center, above an IR receiver. (The IR receiver is for use with the remote control that comes with the optional TV tuner. Our unit did not include a TV tuner.) Most of the front of the unit is occupied by two speaker grills. Behind each grill are LED lights that change color along with the design on the lid. The back of the notebook houses the DC-in jack and another pair of speaker grills, which also have LED lights inside that change color.
The left side of the M98NU XCaliber has DVI-out, two USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI-out, and mini-FireWire ports. Also located on the left side of the unit are the 7-in-1 card reader slot, the ExpressCard 34/54 slot, and Blu-ray drive (which does double duty as a DVD+/-RW drive). The right side of the unit houses four audio jacks, a CATV antenna connector (which doesn't work on our unit, as it lacks the optional integrated TV tuner), an eSATA port, a USB port, an eSATA port, a lock slot, and the power button--the eSATA port can also be used as a USB 2.0 port as well.
In addition to three vents located on the bottom of the unit, there are also two user-accessible component compartments, and a subwoofer. One compartment is located beneath the battery and houses one of the system's 2.5-inch hard drive bays--which in the case of our unit, is a 120GB SSD. The battery is held in place by three flathead screws. The other compartment is accessible after removing two Phillips-head screws and contains two 2.5-inch hard drive bays--our unit had one of the two bays occupied by a 500GB drive. It is possible to configure the M98NU XCaliber with a fourth hard drive, which would be installed in place of the internal optical drive. Depending on the hard drive configuration, the M98NU XCaliber supports RAID 0 and RAID 1.
If the M98NU XCaliber looks familiar to you, it is because this model is actually manufactured by Clevo, and is sold by other OEMs. AVADriect sells an identical unit, which it calls the Clevo M980NU Core 2 Gaming Notebook.