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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  • MonicaS - Friday, October 30, 2009 - link

    I think the best way to get a high end laptop is to build one. Obviously you are very limited in what you can with a laptop over a desktop, but still the options are enough. The obvious upgrades are HD and Ram. On that note you can Raid to SSD's and put in some serious ram on a 64 bit machine and have a incredibly fast machine. The other benefit of this is that you can basically pick your own laptop to upgrade and not have to buy fugly one.

    Monica S
    Los Angeles Computer Repair
    http://www.sebecomputercare.com">http://www.sebecomputercare.com
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    "Unfortunately, 60GB isn't enough space to install even a small subset of our gaming benchmarks"

    All you have to do is move the game folders to the big drive when you're not using them, and move them back over to C:\Program Files when you need to use them. It takes all of 2 minutes (or 10 seconds for a multitasker) and is surely smarter than wasting hundreds of dollars on bigger SSDs, no? Are we that lazy?
    Reply
  • Draxanoth - Thursday, October 22, 2009 - link

    I see a lot of complaints for no good reason in these comments. If you don't like them, don't buy them. Complaining about something you don't own nor want sounds like bitterness at the price tag.

    I have an M570etu, which is the dual core version of the GTX280 Clevo model with the orange trim. It's a lot better looking in person, those pictures are awful. 3.2ghz I think but I'd have to check. My battery life is 3 hours non-gaming. It easily functions as both a mobile and a gaming machine. I don't have any problems with Call of Pripyat in HD either. i7 in a laptop is overkill, and if you want one with a decent battery life that's a poor choice. Why is anyone surprised by that?
    Reply
  • Meaker10 - Saturday, October 17, 2009 - link

    You can already get official mobile drivers for all laptops for windows 7 the same version as the desktop set for the HD 2,3 and 4 series. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, October 17, 2009 - link

    True, but the real question will be whether this is a one-time thing (because Win7 is launching and ATI has to have valid drivers or they'll be in deep trouble), or if this is a change going forward. I'm inclined to think it's just for the Win7 launch, since they don't provide mobile drivers for anything besides Win7. Vista and XP users are still the vast majority of people and will be for a good while to come, and there are laptop users that literally haven't received updated ATI drivers in years.

    I'll keep an eye on things, and hopefully ATI will change their stance officially at some point. At present, searching for ATI Mobility Radeon drivers for XP and Vista only gives you the choice of X1800 or earlier GPUs. It looks like perhaps the integrated HD 3200 on laptops might also have up-to-date drivers in XP/Vista, but discrete GPU laptop owners are out of luck for now if they don't upgrade to Win7.
    Reply
  • jmhorridge - Saturday, October 17, 2009 - link

    I and my work colleagues must regularly fly to other countries for a week or two, and there perform computations (economic forecasting) that can occupy a quad-core for 2 or 3 hours. These big DTR laptops (or luggables) are the only way to get the job done. Battery life is not an issue -- always used plugged in.
    An mATX system (with monitor) would weigh twice as much, might not suit all voltages, and, in a suit case, would bust the flight weight allowance. However, everyone is allowed to carry on a laptop -- no matter how big.

    I'm very pleased to see such machines reviewed.

    Mark Horridge
    Reply
  • Kishkumen - Friday, October 16, 2009 - link

    "it appears most notebook manufacturers are convinced users aren't interested in matte LCDs anymore."

    Then they are wrong and I will not buy their product. I've passed up some pretty awesome notebooks over the past couple of years. Looks like I'll be passing up many more. If I'm the only one who can't stand glossy displays, then so be it, but I'd rather go without then pay good money for something that is the visual equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard for me.
    Reply
  • EBH - Thursday, October 15, 2009 - link

    Falcon NW should have been in the review. Their machines > than any Aienware

    http://www.falcon-nw.com/">http://www.falcon-nw.com/
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 16, 2009 - link

    I'm not sure why you say Falcon is so much better than Alienware. They're basically the same thing as AVADirect, but with far fewer options.

    Fragbox DRX = Clevo D900F with custom paint.
    Fragbox TLX = MSI MS-1722 (GX720) with custom paint.
    I/O = MSI MS-1361 (X340)with... yup, custom paint.

    AVADirect also offers all three of those, with optional custom paint. Pricing definitely isn't in favor of FNW, though perhaps they have better customer service. Let's see, using as close to identical options as I can get (including custom paint on the AVADirect models):

    D900F AVADirect = $4545
    Fragbox DRX = $6086

    MSI GX720 AVADirect = $2229
    Fragbox TLX = $2625

    MSI X340 AVADirect = $1292
    I/O = $1727

    I think the main draw of Falcon is if you want a special paint job with some custom image (i.e. not just the Exotix Single Color option). That can add over $1000, but at least then you have something truly unique. Anyway, inasmuch as performance and features are concerned, Falcon was in this review, albeit indirectly. The same goes for WidowPC and ProStar and anyone else that uses whitebook chassis.
    Reply
  • nortexoid - Thursday, October 15, 2009 - link

    I'm sure most would be better off buying a desktop (of the same caliber) and a cheap netbook for mobility, and for the same price as these ghastly beasts.

    The only market I can see for these things is someone who goes to LANs more often than he should, and who would rather port around a 10lb+ notebook than a desktop + LCD or all-in-one. But this has to be a very small niche market.
    Reply

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