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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  • 7Enigma - Thursday, October 15, 2009 - link

    Not to mention a person buying one of these expensive monsters probably doesn't think twice about having a spare (or 2) extra charged batteries lying around. Another $100-200 for double/triple the battery life at little extra inconvenience turns these rigs from "only near a power outlet" to "1-2 hours of heavy work".

    Everyone complains about the pitiful life on a single charge, but DTR's more than any other laptop probably fit into the multiple battery pack club as what's an extra couple pounds when it's already a pig?
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    If you haul this mATX in your car, not on foot, then you won't feel the difference. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    The two areas where these sort of systems make the most sense are:

    1) Businesses where they want to have a mobile workstation. Yes, companies do use stuff like this. I've heard examples of construction and oil companies that can fly out and stay at a site, doing all the computer work locally using something like a D900F. It's far easier to pack that around and plug in than to pack mouse + keyboard + mATX + LCD.

    2) People with very limited space that move around frequently. The prime example for this is military personnel. I've heard from quite a few that say, "I wish I could get a desktop, but it's just not practical in the military." Still, you really need to be a dedicated gamer to plunk down $2500+ on a notebook that will be slower than $1500 desktops, and it can't be upgraded (outside of RAM and HDD).

    I'm sure there are a few other instances where these sort of systems make sense, but for typical users I'd strongly recommend a moderate laptop and a desktop if possible.
    Reply
  • Marcel17 - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Yeah , thanks for the review but you shouldn't have...
    Myself , Ill gust replace my aging inspiron 8600 with a sweet 16 ,XPS 16 that is once it's available with W7 , I guess another month or two .
    Reply
  • InternetGeek - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Are you guys aware that the 3 laptops you're reviewing in this article are actually made by Clevo themselves? AVADirect and Eurocomm sell Clevo laptops made to order. Reply
  • InternetGeek - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Not at all. I like Clevo laptops, but I would call out the fact you're reviewing products coming from the same manufacturer a bit more strongly and not as a fact about just one of the companies. They deserve credit for the job they do. But as you guys used to do with GPUs, that is tell us who's using the reference design and who isn't, I think you should do the same with these laptops.

    I liked the part in which you contrast the different platforms. One uses more desktop parts, the other uses more mobile parts. That was good. Same as with SLI. It really doesn't make sense for a laptop to use SLI given the limited resolutions they run at.

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Page 2: TITLE: "AVADirect Clevo D900F Specifications"

    "Unlike some companies, AVADirect doesn't try to hide the fact that they are using 'whitebook' notebook/laptop designs -- the name of the ODM is visible in each of their laptops. We appreciate the fact that they are willing to disclose what sort of chassis they use."

    So yes, I am fully aware of who makes the base notebook chassis. I would have called it a Clevo roundup, but Clevo isn't the company actually sending these systems for review so I give credit AVADirect and Eurocom. Does it matter that they're Clevo units? Like any ODM, Clevo has good designs and bad designs, so I review the product rather than the source company.
    Reply
  • rmlarsen - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Nobody would buy these ugly behemoths except for a very small number of users with specialized needs, (e.g. engineers needing to run simulators or CAD programs in the field). I cannot understand how you serve your readers by continuing this article series. Maybe you have become a little too cozy with Clevo? Or you are letting your own fascination with the biggest-most-bad-ass-computing-machine-in-a-lug-able-box-with-monitor cloud your judgment of what is worthy of publication?

    And while I am ranting, please no more articles about almost identical Atom & Intel 945 based netbooks.

    You are really diluting the authority of Anandtech's (mostly excellent) reviews with these semi-irrelevant articles.

    -RML
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    AnandTech, as you might have noticed, covers more than just CPUs, GPUs, and motherboards. I agree that few people are interested in buying these, but they do represent a market and I think it's useful to at least periodically look at the high-end DTR segment. I'm pretty much done with $3000+ notebooks for a while (just need to finish one other review), but as the mobile reviewer it's actually my job to review... laptops and notebooks and netbooks.

    So, if you don't want me to review Atom netbooks, or Intel 945 laptops, that just eliminated about 90% of the mobile market. How exactly does a review like this dilute AnandTech? Do you disagree with the commentary (i.e. these are expensive systems that we don't recommend for most people, but yes they're the fastest notebooks)?

    I'd be more than happy to hear suggestions on what you want me to review in the mobile segment. Keep in mind that actually acquiring the laptops is often more difficult than writing the review, sadly. I spend a fair amount of time just trying to get new laptops sent my way, and several companies that I'd like to review haven't shown any interest. As such, I'm working to grow the mobile section in any way I can, including putting together roundups of Clevo based notebooks on occasion.
    Reply
  • 5150Joker - Saturday, November 7, 2009 - link

    I very much appreciate the fact that you wrote the article. Don't let these idiots make you think otherwise. There is a large market out there for these gaming laptops and contrary to what the uninformed people posting here think, they're not nearly as heavy as they think. I ordered a W860 a few days ago and it weighs 7 lbs yet it comes packed with an i820qm, 4 gb ddr3, gtx 280m gpu and a beautiful display. Reply

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