Unparalleled Speed; Clear Compromises
Performance above all else was Eurocom’s mantra as it put this thing together. It had to be. The Panther 5D is a solid machine that delivers speed in games and threaded desktop apps that you won't find from any other notebook. Although, calling this a mobile platform is somewhat of a misnomer. Yes, you can pick it up and move it from one room to the next. But flip the lid as your plane lifts off and you won't even make it to beverage service before it cuts out on you.
With that said, despite its power-hungry contents, the Panther 5D never crashed on us and it never showed any signs of getting overwhelmed by dissipating hundreds of watts of power. Thanks to a 150 W Core i7-3970X CPU, general-purpose processing far exceeded the capabilities of any laptop with a mobile processor. Its two GeForce GTX 680M graphics modules sliced through every game we threw at them. A native 1920x1080 screen just isn't large enough to tax a pair of GK104s rendering cooperatively. This machine doesn't do well on battery power, but plugged into the wall, it's a true gaming and productivity beast.
There would only be a couple of ways to extract more performance from this setup: either upgrade the GTX 680Ms to GeForce GTX 780Ms, or drop in one of the new Ivy Bridge-EP-based Xeon E5s with up to 12 physical cores. The step up wouldn't be cheap, but yeah, talk about turning the dial to 11.
Content creators, engineers, and other professionals who need big performance wherever they go can rely on the Panther. It demonstrated the stability to be a dependable tool, and it is fast enough to get real work done quickly. In fact, the Panther's performance could end up paying for the procurement costs quickly by giving contract workers better productivity, translating into more billable projects in the same number of hours. It's a complete desktop workstation that fits in a large backpack. And Eurocom is quick to point out that the CPUs, GPUs, memory, and storage are all readily upgradable, saving you from buying a new system if you start small and scale up down the road.
Gamers should also be impressed. It's not often that we run across a notebook that begs to be hooked up to an external display just to tax its graphics modules. We had the Panther 5D set up for a group of enthusiasts, and it received a lot of attention. It was naturally faster than every notebook in the room, but its specs also outmoded most power users' desktop rigs, too. The big hexa-core CPU largely uncorks the performance of two GTX 680Ms in SLI, which is where those huge average frame rates come from (ideal when you're using 3D Vision, too).
Now, we can already predict how the comments for this story are going to look. There will be those who understand where a platform like this makes legitimate sense, whether for desktop-like performance or for making money on the go. Those are the folks Eurocom has in mind when it does something like announce its Panther 5SE mobile server (a concept that still seems strange to us, but is just one step removed from this very similar mobile workstation). It's all about performance and adaptability above all else.
Then there will be the critics who see this system's size, its inelegant dual power adapter setup, its battery life, or even just its price tag and conclude that it doesn't do anything for them. These folks aren't going to be entirely wrong, either. The Panther 5D is undoubtedly a very niche offering for a very specific customer. It's aimed at a narrow group that needs maximum performance in a portable. People outside the target demographic will see overkill.
We used the Panther for a variety of tasks over a couple of months. During the day we worked with video production, photo editing, and software testing. The Panther was great at chewing through hours of sequential video data. After hours, there was a lot more gaming going on. There's a lot to like about the system's headphone output, too. At the end of the day, Eurocom's configuration never let us down in a task that demanded maximum speed. And while its weaknesses are apparent, it does everything else exceedingly well.