Eurocom Panther 2.0 Core i7, SLI notebook
Just what does a £5k laptop get you these days?
Review While currently every notebook manufacturer seems to offering the thinnest, lightest and easiest to carry around notebook ever, in a bizarre way, it’s quite refreshing to find a company wandering off message and offering notebooks at the other end of the scale. Enter Eurocom’s Panther 2.0, the heaviest, most amazingly specified, most expensive and without doubt the fastest performing notebook I’ve ever come across in over ten years of laptop testing.
Canadian construct: Eurocom’s Panther 2.0
Eurocom may be a new name to you but the Canadian computer maker has been around since 1989 and has a range of notebooks from lightweight models, all the way up to mobile servers. Yes, that’s right, mobile servers.
Calling it a desktop replacement doesn’t seem to quite do it justice and, in fact, the Panther 2.0 sits in Eurocom’s mobile workstation line-up. Yet the sheer number of options offered to customize it to your own requirements, pretty much makes it anything you want it to be, depending on how deep your pockets are and, believe me, they do need to be rather deep.
Looks almost normal from a distance...
Powering the system I’m looking at is an Intel Core i7-990X  processor. Yup, no pussying around with a mobile CPU in this bad boy, you get a full-blown Extreme Edition Socket 1366 desktop chip with its six hyper-threaded cores, a 3.46GHz (3.73GHz with Turbo Boost) clock speed and 12MB of level 3 cache.
The multitude of options available for the Panther 2.0 includes a choice of 1366 socketed processor, either in Intel’s desktop range – from the 990X down to the 3.06GHz i7-950 – or in the Xeon range from the 2.26GHz E5607 up to the X5690, which is clocked at 3.46GHz.
...but there's a desktop CPU in there
Along with the 990X is its other partner in crime, Intel’s high-end X58 chipset with its triple channel memory support. The motherboard in the Panther 2.0 can support up to 24GB of DDR3-1600 memory from its three SO-DIMM slots – the review model came loaded with 12GB of DDR3-1600 RAM.
Five grand designs
With these specifications, it goes without saying that the performance is nothing short of mind blowing. Yet carrying a £5k price tag, you have every reason to think it should be so. Making comparisons to other laptops that Reg Hardware has reviewed doesn’t really help either, as there is nothing that gets remotely close to the performance of this configuration of the Eurocom Panther 2.0.
Surprisingly quiet, all things considered
The other impressive thing about it is that it’s relatively quiet, not silent by any means but it doesn’t scream like a wailing banshee even when being pushed hard. When you consider what’s under its skin, this is no mean feat.
It’s not only immense in performance, it’s pretty imposing in physical appearance too, measuring 419 x 286 x 67mm and although Eurocom thoughtfully provide a laptop bag to carry it around it does weigh an impressive 5.3kg without the equally massive 300W power adaptor. To avoid dislocating either or both shoulders, probably the best and safest option is to ditch the bag and invest in a good quality backpack, if you intend to travel with this monster.
The monster 300W PSU is almost as big as a netbook
For storage there’s not one but three 250GB Intel 510 SSD’s built into a RAID 0 array and there is space in the huge chassis for a fourth drive, should the need arise. Once again, Eurocom offers a huge selection of drives to choose from – both mechanical and SSD that can be ordered preconfigured in various RAID arrays, if required. There’s also a 6x Blu-Ray writer for back-up on-board too.
It goes without saying that the Panther 2.0 is rather quick, bearing in mind that although it has three SSD’s in a RAID array, they aren’t the fastest drives around. Booting into the desktop from the end of the BIOS loading took 17 seconds, which, for a desktop equivalent with plenty of bits and pieces to access, is certainly respectable. And to copy a 50GB folder of mixed files sizes and types, took just three and a half minutes.
There’s no letup in the graphics department either. A few high-end gaming notebooks offer dual card solutions but Eurocom go one better by offering both SLI and Crossfire options for the Panther 2.0. The review sample came with both in the shape of a pair of AMD HD6990s  (£306) in the bag and a pair of Nvidia GTX580Ms  already installed. In keeping with the rest of the kit, numerous options of both single and dual card GPUs are available.
Packing 5.1 surround audio inside too
The standard full HD 17.3in panel thankfully isn’t as glossy as some of the notebooks I’ve seen recently but, as you might have guessed, a matt option is available, as is the calibration service should you be using the system for professional graphics.
One advantage of the screen size is that it allows a full-size keyboard (in this case with a German Qwertz layout) to be installed complete with a separate number pad. The chiclet syle keys are well spaced but because of the depth of the wristpad, the Panther 2 isn’t the most comfortable system to type on. Sitting between the two mouse buttons under the track pad is a finger print reader and the review system also came with a TPM module for extra security.
PCMark 7 Results
Longer bars are better
3DMark 11 Results
Longer bars are better
Gaming Performance Results
Ratings in frames per second (fps)
Longer bars are better
As the Panther is really a mobile workstation, some muscle flexing seemed in order. It took 1m 43s to open a 3.3GB, 275dpi image in Photoshop. To re-render the image up to 600dpi took just 15 minutes, producing a 16GB file in the process. I then did a full resolution composite and save to the hard drive which took just over 17 minutes – impresseive. For a run-of-the-mill desktop PC, you could be looking at an hour or so for these sorts of rendering tasks.
With any notebook that’s powered by a CPU with a TDP of 130W, unless you have power cells the size of your local electricity substation, battery life is going to be short and sweet. Indeed, the 78.44Wh unit in the Panther lasted for a mere 40 minutes while playing back a DVD and just over 30 minutes while in gaming mode. Futuremark's new notebook battery tester, PowerMark , delivered a benchmark score of 34mins in balanced mode. Yet in reality, battery life for this type of notebook is pretty meaningless, as it's going to spend nearly all its time plugged into the mains.
A lot of laptop, in more ways than one
The fun's not over yet, though. Withing the Panther 2.0 is sound system featuring five speakers including a sub woofer built into the base of the chassis. It’s really rather good too – loud enough in volume although to my ears a tad on the bright side but the Realtek HD audio manager features a multitude of adjustments to suit personal tastes.
Eurocom describes the Panther 2 as "the ultimate mobile workstation" and cetainly does well to live up to this claim given its blistering performance matched by an eye watering price tag. However, despite its mobile form factor, it's not really that portable, so it does beg the question: what's the point when a desktop alternative is cheaper? If it lives in a back of a truck performing 'special ops' then it kind of makes sense, but for the travelling techie, just be sure you sign up with a gym before taking a stroll with this Panther. ®
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