The Highest-End Notebooks, 2009by Jarred Walton on October 14, 2009 3:10 AM EST
Eurocom M980NU XCaliber Specifications
Eurocom is another company specializing in large desktop replacement notebooks and mobile workstations. They started out as a Canadian company but have since expanded to include other parts of the world. They list prices in Canadian Dollars, US Dollars, Euros, and Great Britain Pounds, and our understanding is that the USA market is served by offices in New York. Eurocom offers other products including laptops, all-in-one desktops, as well as mobile servers and workstations. Today we're looking at the M980NU XCaliber, a "performance desktop replacement" notebook.
|Eurocom M980NU XCaliber Specifications|
|Processor||Core 2 Duo P9700 (2.80GHz, 45nm, 6MB Shared, 1066FSB, 28W)
Core 2 Duo T9800 (2.93GHz, 45nm, 6MB Shared, 1066FSB, 35W)
Core 2 Duo T9900 (3.06GHz, 45nm, 6MB Shared, 1066FSB, 35W)
Core 2 Quad Q9000 (2.00GHz, 45nm, 2x3MB Shared, 1066FSB, 45W)
Core 2 Quad Q9100 (2.26GHz, 45nm, 2x6MB Shared, 1066FSB, 45W)
Core 2 Extreme QX9300 (2.53GHz, 45nm, 2x6MB Shared, 1066FSB, 45W)
|Chipset||NVIDIA 730i (MCP79)|
|Memory||2x2048MB DDR3-1333 to 2x4096MB DDR3-1333|
|Graphics||1 or 2 x GeForce GTX 260M/280M (SLI)|
|Display||18.4" Glossy Full HD 1080p (1920x1080)|
|Hard Drive||Up to four SSDs/HDDs (using optical drive bay)
Optional RAID 0/1/5/10 Supported
|Optical Drive||8x DVDR SuperMulti
Blu-ray Reader/DVDRW Combo
|Networking||NVIDIA MCP79 Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Wifi Link 5300 AGN
|Audio||6-Channel Realtek ALC888 HD Audio
(5.1 surround speakers with four audio jacks+digital out)
|Battery/Adapter||4-Cell High Capacity 68.82Whr, 14.8V DC, 4650mAh
230W Power Brick
|Front Side||None (Speaker grilles)|
|Left Side||1 x Mini FireWire
MS/MS Pro/SD/MMC reader
BDROM/DVDR Combo Drive
2 x USB 2.0
|Right Side||4 x Audio/Microphone jacks
Optional TV Tuner Input
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0
1 x USB 2.0
|Back Side||4 x Heat Exhaust
|Operating System||Windows Vista 32-bit or 64-bit, Windows Server|
|Dimensions||17.28" x 11.77" x 1.89-2.70" (WxDxH)|
|Weight||12.98 lbs (with 4-cell battery)|
98-Key Keyboard with 10-Key
10 touch-sensitive multimedia keys
8 customizable/programmable buttons
Fingerprint Scanner (Optional)
|Warranty||1-year standard Warranty
2-year and 3-year extended warranties available
|Price||Starting at ~$2600 online.
Tested configuration priced at $4432.
Since the M980NU uses Core 2 processors, we once again have several configuration options for the CPU. Eurocom offers everything from the P9700 up through the QX9300. There are plenty of other CPUs that would work in the M980NU, but Eurocom figures most users interested in this sort of system probably aren't going to want anything less than a 2.8 GHz dual-core CPU.
In something of a change from previous SLI notebooks, the M980NU uses an NVIDIA chipset, the 730i (MCP79). Previously, SLI notebooks used an Intel chipset with an nForce 100/200 PCI-E splitter. The one feature that we would like to see that isn't included is hybrid graphics -- the ability to switch between integrated graphics and discrete graphics. (Note that the Alienware M17x offers this functionality, and it's still possible to get nearly three hours of battery life with the M17x -- despite it being a gigantic desktop replacement system.) As you would expect for a high-end laptop, graphics options are limited to NVIDIA's top options: the GTX 260M and the GTX 280M. You can order the M980NU in single or SLI graphics configurations. It appears that Eurocom charges around $430 per GTX 260M and $600 per GTX 280M, which makes desktop GPUs like the GTX 285 look downright affordable, considering you get roughly twice the performance of the GTX 280M for "only" $350.
Eurocom sticks to higher end memory configurations, starting at 2x2GB and scaling up to 2x4GB. You can choose between DDR3-1066 and DDR3-1333 if you opt for the 8GB configuration; the 2GB SO-DIMMs are all DDR3-1333 parts. You can also choose between a standard DVDRW, a Blu-ray reader, or an extremely expensive Blu-ray recorder. Most users should find either the Blu-ray reader or standard DVDR more than sufficient.
Again, storage options are likely to cause the most confusion if you're not sure what you're looking for. Eurocom supports three hard drives along with an optional fourth hard drive in place of using an optical drive. That means they can support RAID 0/1/5/10 -- with the latter two requiring either three+ or four hard drives respectively. Unlike AVADirect, Eurocom charges extra if you want to configure a RAID set. In terms of HDDs/SSDs, Eurocom doesn't provide quite the same selection as AVADirect, but they do provide all of the important options. Users can choose a 320GB or 500GB Seagate 7200 RPM hard drive, 64GB/80GB/160GB Intel SSD, 250GB OCZ Vertex SSD, or a whopping 512GB Solidata X4-512 SSD. The first hard drive can also be a 120GB or 128GB SSD. Of note is that the fourth hard drive only gives an option of using the 250GB OCZ Vertex (at least for now).
Where the Clevo D900F offers the fastest current CPU in a notebook, the Eurocom M980NU focuses on graphics power. The test system we received includes Intel's fastest Core 2 Extreme QX9300 mobile CPU. The drawback is that NVIDIA's GTX 280M SLI is extremely expensive, to ¬-the tune of $1200, and it still doesn't offer the performance of $400 desktop parts. Battery life is also going to be a sore spot, and with a weight of 13 pounds this definitely isn't a notebook you want to lug around any more than you absolutely have to.
Considering very few games can use more than two CPU cores, users interested in gaming performance might be better served by a Core 2 Duo T9900 (3.06GHz). The "downgrade" would also shave $550 off the price of the system, and while intensive multithreaded CPU performance would obviously be lower the gaming performance should improve -- by up to 20% in CPU limited situations. Either way, the M980NU will handle pretty much any current game at 1920x1080, though not always at maximum detail with 4xAA. If you're looking for the fastest current gaming notebook and you don't want to buy an Alienware M17x, give the M980NU XCaliber a look.