Meet Eurocom's Panther 5D
With its home base in Ontario, Canada, Eurocom offers a wide variety of notebook systems that span from very portable to very fast. The Panther 5D is the company's statement piece on the performance you cram into an ultra-high-end mobile platform with a 17.3", 120 Hz, stereoscopic-capable display.
Part of driving that large panel with its fast refresh involves two GPUs working in tandem. And keeping those graphics processors fed with data, not bottlenecked, requires a big, beefy CPU. Eurocom goes so far as to drop a desktop Core i7 in there. In order to ensure the potent configuration stays cool, the Panther 5D is built into a large chassis with cooling and power delivery that you've probably never seen before. The system also offers a ton of I/O options.
Truly, the Panther's focus is on the most breakneck speed possible in an enclosure that can still be called mobile. It's performance above all else.
This thing is aimed at content creators, gamers, coders; basically, anyone who needs the power of a workstation, but doesn't necessarily want to be tied down to the same desk every day can use it. Configure it with a Xeon processor and up to two Quadro graphics modules. Or go the route we did with a Core i7 and two GeForce GTX GPUs. In both cases, you end up with the alacrity of a desktop in a package you can pick up and move to your next job site or LAN party.
Building One Bad Mobile Monster
Most of Eurocom’s systems are highly customizable. The company prides itself on providing the highest-quality parts there are, and its online configurator often gives you the option to choose between specific brands. In the Panther 5D, you don’t just add a hard disk. Rather, you choose up to four mechanical or solid-state drives, and then decide if you want storage from Samsung, Crucial, Intel, Seagate, or Hitachi. From there, you can set the drives up in a variety of RAID arrays, or just as a JBOD setup. This flexibility extends to the display panel, networking hardware, power, optical storage, and so on.
When we ordered our review unit, Eurocom was offering the Panther 5D with up to eight-core Xeons and Sandy Bridge-E-based Core i7s. Now, you can go so far as to equip the laptop with 12-core Ivy Bridge-EP-based Xeons, yielding 24 logical cores in a 150 W processor package. In fact, the lowest-power processor you're able to drop into the Panther is Intel's Xeon E5-2620 v2, a six-core, 80 W model. With support for CPUs dissipating as much as three times as much thermal energy as the fastest mobile chips, Eurocom's system must employ one of the most elaborate cooling subsystems of any notebook we've reviewed. Its power demands have to be satisfied with two adapters.
The Panther 5D also has two slots for a pair of MXM-B graphics modules, and you're able to choose between several Quadro and GeForce GPUs. Our test system came with a pair of GeForce GTX 680M cards running in SLI mode. Although the system's graphics cards are specified to draw 100 W, each is supplied with up to 125. Each graphics module has its own independent cooling fan, as well as heat sinks for the processor and GDDR5 memory.
Just between the Core i7-3970X and GeForce GTX 680Ms in our review unit, we're looking at up to 350 W, extending to 400 W with some graphics overclocking. Add in the motherboard, storage, and display, and we're closer to 450 W. From a notebook. That's more than twice what we've seen from other so-called high-end laptops. If the Panther 5D can keep all of that hardware cool and fed with ample power, it should deliver performance in excess of anything we've seen.
Not surprisingly, this machine wasn't built to offer hours of battery life. Even at idle, the desktop-oriented CPU and platform controller hub draw a lot more power than their mobile counterparts. Even with a 78 Wh battery, the Panther only runs for about an hour away from a wall socket. It's more sensible to think of the system's battery as a built-in UPS instead.
Our sample is rounded out with 32 GB of Samsung DDR3 memory at 1600 MT/s. The primary storage target includes three Crucial 256 GB m4 drives in RAID 5 (Eurocom no longer offers the m4; it was replaced by the M500). The 120 Hz 17.3” screen is anti-reflective and includes a set of Nvidia's 3D Vision glasses. Sound is supplied by a Sound Blaster X-Fi MB2 solution. Wireless networking comes from the Atheros Killer series, which includes QoS software for prioritizing gaming traffic. We also got a Blu-ray writer, webcam, and surround sound speakers. Although the default adapter is a 300 W supply, our setup is naturally more power hungry, necessitating the dual-330 W option for an extra $300.
Given its beefy chassis, there's plenty of room for I/O on the Panther 5D. Display outputs include DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI-D. The Panther 5D also packs three USB 3.0 ports, as well as two USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 800, and e-SATA. You also get separate gold-plated jacks for headphones/mic/audio-in/audio-out, as well as a TOSLINK optical audio output. Finally, there is built-in GbE, ExpressCard connectivity, and SD storage compatibility.
|Eurocom Panther 5D|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3970X Extreme (Ivy Bridge), Six-Core, 3.5 GHz Base Frequency, 150 W TDP|
|Platform||Intel X79 Express Chipset|
|Memory||32 GB Samsung Dual Channel DDR3 @ 1600 MT/s|
|Graphics||2 x (SLI) Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M, 4 GB GDDR5|
|Display||3D 120 Hz 17.3" 16:9 matte LED-backlit LCD @ 1920x1080|
|Solid State Drives||3 x 256 GB Crucial m4, RAID 5|
|Optical Disc Drive||Matsushita LightScribe MLT UJ260 Blu-ray Burner|
|Wi-Fi||Atheros Communications AR938x Wireless Network Adapter 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi Controller|
|Ethernet||10/100/1000 Mb/s Base-TX Ethernet LAN (Intel 82579V)|
|Audio||Sound Blaster X-Fi MB2 audio,THX TruStudio Pro, Five Internal Speakers + One Subwoofer.|
|Ports||3 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI v1.4, DisplayPort, DVI-D, Headphone, Mic, Line-in, Line-out, Optical Digital Out, FireWire 800 (1394b), e-SATA|
|Miscellaneous||Integrated Webcam & Mic, SD (XC/HC)/MMC Card Reader, Kensington Security Slot, UPEK TouchStrip Fingerprint Sensor, ExpressCard/34 or /54 slot|
|Battery & AC Adapter||Removable Polymer Li-Ion; 78.44 Wh Battery,2 x 330 Watt Power Adapters|
|Size & Weight||419 x 286 x 57.7-62.1 mm / 16.76 x 11.44 x 2.31-2.48 inches / 12.1 lbs (Weight)|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8 Pro (64-bit), Options for no OS and other Operating Systems available|
|Warranty||One Year Return to Depot / One Year Tech Support Standard.|
|Price||Starting at $3300, $6638.56 As-Configured|
Eurocom likes to call the Panther 5D a mobile supercomputer. That's a bold statement about a design full of top-tier parts, intended to outrun every other mobile machine available. It's time to put the company's claim to the test.