- High-end specification
- Outstanding performance
- Highly configurable
- Decent screen and keyboard
- Uninspiring industrial design
- Bulky and heavy
- Moderate battery life
The last notebook we reviewed from Canadian high-performance specialist Eurocom was the 'ultraportable' , about which we concluded: "This 11.6in. notebook is an outstanding performer...it's not particularly lightweight or attractive, but the specification is top-notch...". Wind forward a year, boost the screen size under review to 15.6in. and upgrade the 22nm CPU architecture from Ivy Bridge to Haswell, and you've got a picture of the review prospect before us — and our expections of it.
Not even its best friends would describe the Racer 3.0's industrial design as elegant. Best characterised as 'workmanlike', this 15.6in. 3.1kg powerhouse's slate-grey chassis does its job, which is to securely house a top-quality set of components and keep them cool.
If the weight doesn't do it, the Racer 3.0's dimensions of 37.6cm wide by 25.6cm deep by 3.5-4.3cm thick will keep it rooted to the desktop of all but the fittest and most determined of travellers.
The screen is a full-HD (1,920 by 1,080 resolution) LED-backlit display that, unusually for a high-performance notebook likely to the bought by gamers, has a matte finish. Business power users — or anyone who works in a brightly lit environment — will appreciate this. Image quality is good, with plenty of brightness and contrast, and rich colours. Viewing angles are good, too, in both horizontal and vertical planes.
The Racer 3.0's width provides room for a separate numeric keyboard, which data-wrangling users will appreciate. The 99-key keyboard is a sold island-style unit with a good action that we found made for good typing speed. A keyboard backlight is available as an option, but this was not present on our review unit.
Above the keyboard is a grille, running its full width, that contains a pair of Onkyo stereo speakers. The underside also houses a 2W subwoofer, giving the Racer 3.0 an above-average sound system. The on/off button occupies the left end of the speaker grille, which is flanked by two banks of three status LEDs. The wrist-rest area has a multitouch touchpad with a fingerprint reader sitting between the two mouse buttons.
Not surprisingly, given the amount of available chassis real estate, there are plenty of ports and slots dotted around this system. On the left, starting at the back, you'll find a mini-FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, RJ-45 Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports (one powered), a USB 3.0/eSATA port and a multi-format (SD- and Memory Stick-compatible media) flash card reader.
The right-hand side houses, again starting at the back, a USB 2.0 port, a quartet of audio jacks (line-in, S/PDIF-out, microphone, headphone) and a Panasonic UJ260 DVD/Blu-ray rewriter.
The front of the Racer 3.0 is bare save for a pair of power-status LEDs, while the back has the video connectors — DisplayPort, Mini-DisplayPort and HDMI-out — plus the power input and a pair of fan vents. The underside has more fan vents, the aforementioned subwoofer, a hard drive bay, the optical drive (or second hard drive) bay and the battery bay — the latter occupied by an 8-cell 79.96Wh (14.8V, 5,200mAh) unit.
The headline component in the Racer 3.0 is its quad-core 4th-Generation Intel Core i7-4800MQ processor, which runs at 2.7GHz, or up to 3.7GHz in Turbo Boost mode. This is supported in our review unit by 16GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM, expandable to a maximum of 32GB. The operating system is Windows 7 Professional SP1, which makes sense given that the display is not touch-enabled. Windows 8 Pro can be specified if you need it.
The Intel CPU includes integrated HD Graphics 4600, but the Racer 3.0 also has a discrete GPU in the shape of Nvidia's top-end Kelper-architecture GeForce GTX 780M. This supports Nvidia's Optimus technology, allowing the system to switch seamlessly between integrated and discrete GPUs as workloads demand, in order to minimise power consumption.
The storage subsystem is equally high-end, comprising a 1TB Hitachi SATA III hard drive spinning at 7,200rpm and a 120GB Micron M500 mSATA solid-state drive.
Wired communication is handled by a Realtek Gigabit Ethernet PCIe controller, with wireless duties overseen by the gaming-oriented Killer Wireless-N 1202 module, a dual-band (2.4GHz, 5GHz) 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi adapter that also integrates Bluetooth 4.0.
Performance & battery life
Given its specification, you'd expect the Eurocom Racer 3.0 to chew through Microsoft's standard Windows Experience Index (WEI) benchmark for breakfast, and it does. The overall WEI is determined by the lowest subscore, which in this case is a three-way tie at 7.7 (out of 7.9) between Processor (Calculations per second), Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero) and Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance. Next comes Memory (RAM; Memory operations per second) with 7.8 while the top-scoring subsystem is the SSD/HDD combo with an unimprovable 7.9:
Basically, there isn't a weak link here. Let's have a look at a few more demanding tests.
Maxon's Cinebench 11.5 exercises the CPU and GPU subsystems, with the Racer 3.0 delivering scores of 7.59 points and 64.62 frames per second. To put that into persepective, Eurocom's Monster 1.0 — based around a Core i7-3920XM Extreme Edition and a GeForce GT 650M, and the fastest notebook we tested last year — scored 6.43pts and 49.02fps.
We used the ATTO benchmark to examine the disk subsystem's performance further. The 120GB Micron M500 SSD exceeded its manufacturer's rated read performance (up to 500MB/s) and write performance (up to 130MB/s), reporting 526.3MB/s and 201.4MB/s respectively. The 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive, meanwhile, clocked up 136.7MB/s read and 132.9MB/s write:
Given its bulk and weight, battery life may not be uppermost in the minds of many potential buyers of the Racer 3.0, which is likely to spend most of its time deskbound. Still, if you should suffer a power outage, here are a few battery life estimates. As usual, we tested the system's power consumption with the battery out, under a variety of regimes, and divided the resulting average wattage into the battery's rated 79.96Wh capacity, giving an battery life estimate in hours:
Depending on the mix of workloads you're running, and your screen brightness setting, you can expect the Racer 3.0 to last between one and 4.5 hours on battery power. The system didn't become particularly hot under load, although the fan noise is noticeable when it kicks in.
Although it's aimed as much at gamers as mobile professionals, the Racer 3.0's looks are bland enough not to attract disapproving looks in the office. Power users who need exemplary CPU, graphics and disk performance should certainly give it consideration — so long as they don't need to carry it too far. The Racer 3.0 isn't cheap at £1,471 (ex. VAT) — but then, you're getting a top-notch specification that performs as expected.