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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  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Wow, with all the missing words and ascerbic tone you can definitely tell I posted that way to early in the morning. ;)

    I cited the MBP because it has both exceptional design and widespread familiarity, and because a lot of the consumers that "convert" to Macs do so because they're used to the dramatically inferior consumer PC designs you'll find on the shelves of Best Buy and the like.

    Citing something like an 8730W would have been more appropriate, but not many people even know what they are and even fewer have had the opportunity to see one in person. This isn't about me saying "Apple Rocks!" it's about me emphasizing that the design of a laptop is orders of magnitude more important than its spec sheet. With cheap LCDs and tacky glossy surfaces completely inappropriate to their price brackets, these laptops appear to be all spec sheet, no design.
    Reply
  • gstrickler - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    MBPs are available with either glossy (standard) or matte (optional) screens.

    Right click (2 fingers on trackpad and click) works just fine. It's not the same as having a 2 button mouse, but a mouse is often not convenient on a notebook and the 2-finger click is a lot better than having to use a separate right click button when using a trackpad.

    You might try doing some research and/or using one before posting inaccurate info.
    Reply
  • Gholam - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Touchpads suck anyway, Trackpoint > all. Reply
  • gstrickler - Saturday, October 17, 2009 - link

    I guess that explains why just about everyone except Lenovo has abandoned the trackpoint?

    Or maybe, it's because very few people like them. I thought the trackpoint sounded cool when IBM introduced it in the '90s, then I tried it and found it doesn't work nearly as well or as fast as a mouse or trackpad. Yes, I've tried more recent ones. I'm clear that you like it, but you're in a very small minority and that's why the trackpoint and trackball have disappeared from almost every machine in favor of the trackpad.

    The touchpad/trackpad may "suck", but they're better than anything yet devised except for the modern optical mouse. Unfortunately, a mouse isn't always convenient when using a notebook/laptop/netbook, so the touchpad/trackpad wins by virtue of "sucking less" and having fewer drawbacks than all the alternatives.
    Reply
  • drfelip - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    And laptops such as the Alienware M17x makes good use of them. Clevo should implement that in these laptops! Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Yea, the weight is less than these and it's still a burden traveling with it :) But I can't resist the WUXGA. Plus the machine is pretty speedy at C2D 2.2GHz. Full blown Vostro 17" for $850 thanks to Anand Hot Deals.

    As for these, it just doesn't make sense any way I look at it.
    Reply
  • Lifted - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    Not that I am interested in one of these at the moment, but it would have been interesting/useful to have at least a single $1,000 - $1,500 desktop included in the benchmarks. Reply
  • MamiyaOtaru - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    I will never buy a glossy screen. Not on a desktop LCD, especially not on a laptop. Reply
  • Gholam - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    These are huge, fragile, plastic boat anchors, stuffed to the gills with desktop components and tiny whiny fans struggling to keep them from melting. High end is Lenovo ThinkPad W700/W700ds, Dell Precision M6400, HP EliteBook 8730w - not this crap. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - link

    I'd say some of those characteristics apply to the W870CU (it feels less durable, that's for sure), but I don't think I'd say these are "fragile" notebooks or that the fans are "tiny and whiny". The fans are about the size of what you find in high-end GPUs, and while noisy under load they're not high-pitched like some fans.

    I'll agree that the Precision M6400 is a much nicer build, but it also offers less performance if that's what you're after. And FWIW, Eurocom also takes the time to certify their "mobile workstations" for use with professional applications -- something that's absolutely necessary if you ever need support from one of the software companies.

    But yes, they're definitely huge... just like most mobile workstations. If you're going to put two GPUs or a desktop CPU into a notebook, that's pretty much a foregone requirement.
    Reply

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