- Core i7 Extreme Edition processor
- 24GB of RAM
- Two SSD boot disks in RAID 0
- Dual SLI graphics processing units
- HDMI in and out
- Highly configurable
- Bulky and heavy
- Extremely expensive
- Awkward keyboard
- Nominal battery life
We've reviewed a few large-screen workstation-class notebooks over the past couple of years, including HP's EliteBook 8730w and Lenovo's ThinkPad W701. Impressive as these systems were, we wanted to see just how far the notebook form factor can be pushed. So we invited desktop replacement specialist Eurocom to send in its Panther 2.0: as you'll see, the specification and performance of this beast is truly startling — as is the price: £7,664 (ex. VAT).
Let's begin with the specs of the power supply, just to give you an idea of the territory we're in: the AC adapter measures 20.7cm by 11.1cm by 5cm, weighs a couple of kilograms and is rated at 300 watts — yes, that's 300W for a 'laptop' power brick ('brick' being the operative word).
The 17.3in. Eurocom Panther 2.0 weighs 5.5kg — and that's without the hefty 300W AC adapter
We generally frown on car analogies, but the Panther 2.0 has a black-clad, muscle-bound appearance that brings to mind the hulking US Presidential limousine. It measures a stately 41.9cm wide by 28.6cm deep by 5.65-6.07cm thick and at 5.5kg is one of the heaviest notebooks we've ever examined. Add the AC adapter and you're looking at over 7kg. Don't even think of plonking this leviathan on your lap, or you might do yourself an injury — apart from anything else, there are three fans on the underside that require sufficient airflow to keep the power-hungry internal components from overheating.
Thanks to its 17.3in. display — which is glossy, LED-backlit and has a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels — the chassis has plenty of room for a full-sized keyboard. But although the keyboard has well-spaced 'chiclet'-style keys, a row of full-height number keys and a separate number pad, we found it slightly awkward to use. This was due to a combination of the size of the wrist-rest area (it's some 12cm deep) and the way the system lies flat on the desk. We found it noticeably easier to type with the computer propped up by a few centimetres at the back. There's a good multi-touch touchpad in the wrist-rest, with two mouse buttons flanking a fingerprint reader. The touchpad also has a vertical scroll zone on the right-hand side, but lacks a horizontal scrolling function.
Although the Panther 2.0 has a full-size keyboard with a separate number pad, we didn't find it all that comfortable to type on
Between the keyboard and the screen are a number of touch-sensitive buttons for toggling the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios on and off, firing up the system's webcam and adjusting the audio (volume up/down/mute). Also in this area are a series of LEDs reporting hard disk activity, Num, Scroll and Caps Lock, and power and battery status. The screen hinge area houses no fewer than five speakers, and there's a sub-woofer on the underside too. If you want the full surround-sound experience, you'll need to plug in a set of external (5.1 or 7.1) speakers.
The Panther 2.0 chassis has plenty of room for ports and slots, and Eurocom makes full use of the available space. The left-hand side has the following connectors, starting at the back: DVI-out; antenna jack (for an optional TV tuner); HDMI-out; two USB 3.0; eSATA; FireWire 800 (4-pin); HDMI-in; and multi-format flash card reader (SD- and Memory Stick-compatible media).
The right-hand side is somewhat less busy, carrying three USB 2.0 ports and a quartet of audio jacks (headphone, microphone, S/PDIF and surround sound combo, and line-in). If the Panther 2.0's weight doesn't discourage casual thieves, there's a lock slot at the back of the right-hand side too.
The back is largely given over to fan vents, but also houses the power input, while the front has an infrared receiver and a power status LED.
To say that the Panther 2.0 has a top-end specification is an understatement. The processor is Intel's Core i7 980X Extreme Edition, a desktop-series CPU that runs at 3.3GHz, has 6 cores and 12 threads, benefits from 12MB of shared L3 cache and has a power envelope (TDP) of 130W. It's not a second-generation Core 'Sandy Bridge' processor, but it remains at the top of the desktop Extreme range for the moment. The only Extreme Edition Sandy Bridge processor launched so far is the 2.5GHz Core i7-2910XM, a mobile CPU with a TDP of 55W. A range of other Core i7 and Xeon processors can be specified: the 980X adds £649 to price with the entry-level 3.06GHz Core i7-950.
The Panther 2.0's three SO-DIMM sockets were fully stocked with 8GB DDR3-1333 modules in our review system, giving an impressive total of 24GB of RAM. Equally impressive is the price of this option — an extra £2,201 over the entry-level 6GB (3 x 2GB) configuration. The chipset is Intel's X58 Express.
Continuing the heavy-duty specs, the graphics subsystem comprised two SLI-linked 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 480M GPUs. The price for this 3D performance-enhancing option is £760 compared to the entry-level single 1.5GB GeForce 470M.
Eurocom didn't stint on storage for our review system either. The operating system (we installed Ubuntu 10.10) resided on a pair of 128GB Solidata SSDs, configured in RAID 0 for maximum performance. For data there was a 750GB Seagate Momentus (ST9750420AS) SATA II (3Gbps/300MB/s) drive spinning at 7,200rpm. The optical drive was a multi-format DVD/Blu-ray writer, the Panasonic UJ-240A. The cost of this storage subsystem pushes the price further into the stratosphere: £669 for the first SSD, £776 for the second, £224 for the hard drive and £240 for the optical drive. The entry-level configuration, by the way, is a single 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
For wireless connectivity there's 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (Intel WiFi Link 6300) and Bluetooth 3.0+EDR.
|Case form factor||clamshell|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||41.9x6.07x28.6 cm|
|OS & software|
|Operating system||none supplied (Ubuntu 10.10 installed)|
|Chipset & memory|
|Chipset||Intel X58 Express|
|RAM installed||24576 MB|
|Number of memory slots||3|
|RAM capacity||24 GB|
|Storage controller||RAID 0 (2 x 128GB SSD), plus 750GB Seagate Momentus ST9750420AS|
|Video out||HDMI-out, HDMI-in|
|GPU||Nvidia GeForce GTX 480M (x2, SLI)|
|Graphics RAM||4096 MB|
|Display technology||TFT (glossy, LED-backlit)|
|Display size||17.3 in|
|Native resolution||1920x1080 pixels|
|USB||3 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0|
|FireWire (IEEE 1394)||1|
|Docking station port||eSATA|
|Flash card||SD-compatible and Memory Stick media|
|Pointing devices||2-button multi-touch touchpad with scroll zone|
|Keyboard||full size with separate number pad|
|Audio connectors||microphone, headphone, line-in, S/PDIF+surround-out combo|
|Speakers||5, plus sub-woofer|
|Audio processor||HD audio|
|Other||fingerprint reader, 3-megapixel webcam|
|Service & support|
|Standard warranty||1 year|
|Service & support details||return to factory depot|
|Hard drive interface||SATA|
|Hard drive type||solid state|
|Hard drive capacity||128 GB|
|CD / DVD type||DVD±RW (±R DL)|
|Processor & memory|
|Clock speed||3.3 GHz|
|Processor model||Core i7-980X Extreme Edition|
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