Eurocom M980NU XCaliber Design

The Eurocom M980NU XCaliber isn't cut from the same mold as the D900F. Instead, it's an 18.4" chassis similar to the W90Vp. If you set the D900F and M980NU next to each other, most of the dimensions are the same but the M980NU is about an inch and a half wider. The exterior styling is also a complete change from the D900F; whether or not that's a good thing will depend on personal opinion.

The Eurocom M980NU XCaliber is a lot flashier than the D900F and W870CU, and it goes for a mirror-like finish on most of the surfaces. We're not exaggerating either: you could fix your hair using this laptop in a pinch! As always, the big drawback for a mirror finish is the difficulty of maintaining a clean exterior. Unless you plan to wear gloves, the palm rest and other surfaces on the M980NU quickly become smudged. We provided a picture of the palm rest and touchpad after moderate use to show you what we mean. Personally, I don't care how nice glossy finishes look in pictures; they're terrible in actual use.

The glossy finish extends to the LCD, again something that would be right at home in a beauty parlor or a salon. Granted, these heavy notebooks aren't as likely to be used outside where direct sunlight really makes glossy panels a bad design choice, but we still find the panels less than ideal. Other options would be more than welcome. Other than the glossiness, though, the M980NU panel is very nice and surpasses most other LCDs. The color gamut is noticeably better, something which our empirical tests will confirm later.

Another big issue for us is the touchpad, which has the same glossy finish as the rest of the palm rest. There's no clear tactile delineation between the touchpad and the rest of the laptop, with the result being that you'll often move outside the tracking area. Plan on using a mouse whenever possible... but then that should be a given for a gaming notebook, right? (Has anyone else ever tried to play an FPS with a touchpad? It makes gamepads seem downright precise!)

Expansion ports are more conveniently located on the M980NU, with two USB ports on the left and two more on the right; one of the USB ports on the right also doubles as an eSATA port. Like the D900F and W980CU, the M980NU includes two digital video outputs, one dual-link DVI and one HDMI, again with no dongles in the box. The back of the chassis focuses on cooling, with ventilation provided for the two GPUs as well as one HSF for the CPU and chipset. The only connector on the rear is the AC power connector, located in the center.

Looking at the interior, it's obvious that the Core 2 mobile CPUs and NVIDIA 730i chipset run a lot cooler than the Core i7 + X58 combination in the D900F. Each GPU still requires a large HSF, but the CPU and chipset get by with far less cooling. The power brick is still huge, and as we will see later the power draw under load ends up being essentially the same as the D900F. We talked with Eurocom and they said one of their limiting factors for creating more powerful desktop replacement/mobile workstation systems is the AC adapter. Currently, the 220W models are the biggest units on the market, and they feel they could easily add more hardware if they could get more power into the system. It's possible we will see notebooks in the future that fuse two large power bricks in order to run higher-end CPUs and GPUs. Again, such solutions aren't for everyone, but as we said on the AVADirect D900F, the cost of software on professional workstations can dwarf the cost of the hardware, and mobility can be a valuable asset.

You'll note that the keyboard is virtually identical to the keyboard on the D900F. Despite the wider chassis, Eurocom didn't look into a different number keypad arrangement. Instead, there are eight programmable macro keys on the left of the chassis. The benefit is that the keyboard ends up being centered relative to the display and touchpad, but it should still be possible to create a "normal" 10-key arrangement.

Eurocom M980NU XCaliber Specifications Clevo W870CU Specifications
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 15, 2009 - link

    I think LAN party goers is a far smaller market than CAD/CAM companies that need a mobile workstation, personally. I'd also say military gamers that are deployed would be more than LAN attendees (though that might be close). I've also heard of professional athletes getting something like this, but they're a VERY small niche. LOL Reply
  • kagey - Monday, October 19, 2009 - link

    I appreciate the review and like to see these plus other laptop ODMs rather than just Sony, Dell, HP, etc.
    You have hit it right on the head, it's a niche market. They are DTR machines, that are portable but not without a plug-in sooner than later (within 45-60 mins).
    Having a Sager NP9850 and the 3000 price tag that goes with it, I can say it has its pro's and con's but for what it's used for it was worth it. It could of been cheaper (always)!!! Buying a desktop or mATX was not an option for the portability that's necessary. Who'd lug around an LCD, not I. Build quality compared to other laptops I've owned is hands down better. Swaping CPUs (which I've done cause I had a better one), GPUs or HDD, ram, without taking the who machine apart is a 1000 times easier. All MFRs are getting better but some are there already.
    As far as the LCD (glossy), yes there's glare at times and it can be a pain. I do like the LCD more than any other laptop I've owned to date plus the 18.4 inch screen is huge. I haven't owned an LED LCD yet though, maybe next. This laptop does fit into a Targus backpack XL617 as well plus you do get a workout carrying (i.e. lugging) it around.. lol. Yes it's about 15 lbs all said and done carrying it.
    I don't regret the purchase as it's serving the purpose. .02 cents
    Reply
  • FXi - Thursday, October 15, 2009 - link

    Very, very pleased that you included a mainstream desktop machine in the tests. It really is important that people get a sense of perspective before they spend this kind of money. You have to "need" or "want" portability badly for the cash to performance outlay.

    That said Intel really kind of did Clarksdale a bit backwards.
    The quads should have come next spring and been 32nm and the dual's should have been 45nm and introduced first. I'll never understand why they reversed that.
    They really needed to hit basic clock parity with the QX9300. Yes the 920 is faster, but it doesn't set enough distance between itself and it's older cousin. That leads to comparisons like this article and a lot of soul searching between "new" vs "old" design purchase decisions.
    It is also almost unfathomable why they didn't include USB 3.0 in the PM55 spec. Intel is a founding member of the coalition the developed the spec. USB changes come around every 5-10 years, so getting 10x the speed of USB 2.0, lower CPU utilization in the process, makes this a kind of must have item. In desktops it doesn't matter as much because you can just throw in a pci-e card and get USB 3.0 whenever you feel like it. But for a laptop, USB is THE way it does most of it's communicating with the outside world. How fast and efficient (and how numerous) those USB ports are is a really big deal on notebooks. To have introduced a "high end" Quad core system and to have foregone this basic 10x increase in outside world communication is like delivering a Ferrari with 70 series tires on it. Great engine, great looks but missing a key component of how it talks to the road. It really is a feature that should not have been left out, no matter what delay it took to get it included.

    Faster 32nm Clarkdale, at least 2.53 base speed on all 4 core operation.
    USB 3.0 IN the Intel chipset, not as an add in chip.
    SLI designs and hybrid Intel IGP or low end integrated GPU for power savings when simply surfinng.
    M6400 designs, not M17x garrishness or Clevo "chicklet" keyboards we got rid of in the 80's.

    These are a few of the things that "should" have been in systems aimed at the audience that can afford these things. What we got isn't the above. And lack of sales will be blamed on the economy rather than the real issue, "a failure to successfully innovate".

    $.02
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    It's like four times cheaper to build a mATX box and throw it in your car with a nice 22" LCD monitor whenever you gotta go somewhere. Same "mobility" as these behemothbooks, but with better hardware, and less money wasted.

    I mean if you're rich these are totally normal ones, why not waste a few grand here and there, but for practical not rich middle class people who look for price/performance/mobility balance these are poor choices.

    I wasted almost $2k on an Alienware M17 and probably will never do it again. It's working great and everything, games are flying light speed and all, but every time I think I could get much better hardware for $1k I feel uneasy... with the same mobility as this box, that needs power outlet anyway... nah, these gamebooks are a mixed bag, I'll probably go for cheapo 17" Dell next time + my own mATX box, that's for me is as portable and "mobile" as all these Alienwares, Clevos and similar fat bricks
    Reply
  • InternetGeek - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    These are DTR machines. You buy them because you don't want to have the big clunky box and what not anymore.

    I for one gave up desktops after buying my DTR. At work I have the work provided workstation and they allowed me to use my own keyboard (ergonomic) and trackball. At home I use my DTR and I'm quite happy with it. When on the move I just use my WinMo and OneNote. That's it. No need to keep hauling stuff around when you realize there's a lot of free services that will let you keep all your PCs synchronized.

    I for one use "My Phone" for backing up my info, and the let live have my calendar and emails. Same goes for contacts.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    mATX slim cases are pretty far from being "big clunky", they are somewhat bigger than 12 pound DTR we're talking about, but when you stuff 'em in a bag with 22 incher and K/M there's not a huge difference in weight/size compared to DTR + its humongous power brick + mouse + carrying bag for all that, trust me. Reply
  • InternetGeek - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Well, just the pic of someone hauling their entire pc around along a 22incher makes me lol. So, if you think that's practical for you go ahead and knock yourself out :).

    I agree those Clevo machines are huge to the point of missing the point of a laptop. 3 Harddrives, SLI, 18inches. Crazy. You can still get good performance without going all that way in adding crazy hardware like that.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    What's the difference between hauling around huge 12 pound Clevo with its 6 pound power brick versus very small mATX slim desktop case, 22" LCD and K/M? Answer: none or very little. Got my point now? Reply
  • InternetGeek - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Bluntly put, a DTR is designed to be carried around. The entire set up is made so it can be carried around in a bag. Laptop bags can also play the role of your backpack so you can put books, magazines or whatever you want in them.

    Carrying around a Desktop PC is done for LAN parties. And even then you try to minimize what you haul. Again, I do think seeing someone carrying around their PC because they can get the Desktop performance/Experience wherever they are funny. I'd love to see that during a Tech event. Pic of the year for sure.

    In any case, DTRs have their purpose which I think they cover quite well. Until I got mine I built every single system I had (I built my first PC when I was 12), and to be honest, I think it's an awesome path to try. I would only ask for upgradable GPUs.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Technically, the power brick weighs in at two pounds. I'd say that's a pretty big difference between DTR laptop (15 pounds including a backpack and mouse) and LCD + mATX + backpack + keyboard + mouse. A 22" LCD will weigh about that much on its own, and you need a good backpack for carrying such a display... I don't even know where you'd find one.

    This is not to say that people should go but DTRs, but if you know the limitations and are okay with that they fulfill a need. I don't think anyone would actually want the task of carrying around a complete mATX system with peripherals if they could avoid it. The only reason to go that route is for performance at the cost of mobility.
    Reply

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