By David Cohn
If you’ve never heard of Eurocom before, you’re not alone. This Canadian company has been quietly making notebook computers since 1989. But with the release of its new top-of-the-line D900T Phantom Mobile Workstation, word is out. This company is very serious about building a world-class portable computer.
There’s nothing svelte or light about the Phantom. It’s big (15.6 in. x 11.7 in. x 2.1 in.) and heavy (12.5 lb. for the computer alone plus another 2 lb. for the large external power supply). But what you get is a powerful notebook packed with features and options that rival or surpass many desktop systems. The Phantom is designed to be a true desktop replacement, aimed at meeting the mobile computing needs of designers, engineers, scientists, researchers, animators, video and audio producers, architects, and developers.
Our evaluation unit was powered by an LGA 755 socket-based 3.8GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor with 1MB of L2 cache. It also had an 800MHz front side bus and PCI Express architecture, making the Phantom the first PCI Express-based notebook. Eurocom also offers other CPUs ranging from 2.8 to 3.6GHz, but why settle for less? Nor is there any skimping on graphics performance. For the first time ever in a notebook, buyers have their choice of PCI Express 16x graphics accelerators with 256MB of DDR video memory—also the first notebook computer to offer such graphics power. Choices include the NVIDIA Quadro FX Go1400, the NVIDIA GeForce Go6800, and the ATI Mobility Radeon x800. But again, we went for the top-end Quadro FX Go1400 with OpenGL and DDR3 memory.
The Eurocim D900T Phantom. Click on image to enlarge.
The first notebook to use DDR2 memory, our Phantom evaluation unit came with 2GB of DDR2-533 memory installed as four 512MB DIMMs. For those who need more, the D900T accommodates up to 4GB of RAM using 1GB DIMMs. It’s also the first notebook to support Serial ATA hard drives, and the Phantom has room for two of them, which means that you can equip the system with up to 240GB of hard drive space. With two drives, you can even configure the system for RAID 0 or RAID 1.
For our evaluation, we elected to go with a single 80GB hard drive. Raising the lid on the silver and black system reveals a 17-inch display. Eurocom offers a WSXGA (1680 x 1050) display, but we opted for the WUXGA (1920 x 1200 pixel resolution) LCD that is nothing short of stunning. And Eurocom takes ample advantage of the extra width afforded by the huge LCD to include a full-size 102-key keyboard with a separate numeric keypad. That still leaves space for a large touchpad with plenty of room left to rest your wrists.
The round power button glows blue when the system is running, while three buttons to its immediate left activate e-mail, the Web browser, and a user-specified application. Five LEDs arrayed above the keyboard clearly indicate the card reader and hard disk activity as well as Number lock, Caps lock, and Scroll lock. Three additional LEDs in the bezel below the LCD show A/C power, battery, and wireless LAN status.
Along the right side of the case, Eurocom manages to fit not one but two optical drives into the Phantom, including an optional dual-layer DVD burner—yet another first for a notebook. Our system came with a single slot-based 8X dual-layer multiDVD (DVD-RAM/-RW/+RW) drive. Tray-based drives are also offered.
And there’s no lack of ports. Along the left side of the case are an S-Video output jack, four USB 2.0 ports, two mini IEEE 1394 FireWire connectors, separate audio line-in, S/PDIF audio-out, microphone and headphone jacks, and an infrared receiver. There’s also a single Type II PC Card slot and a 10-in-1 card reader that supports virtually every digital memory card storage format. Across the rear panel, in addition to the power connector, you’ll find a 9-pin serial port, 25-pin parallel port, DVI-I port for an external monitor, PS2 mouse/keyboard port, RJ-11 phone jack for the built-in 56K V90/92 WinModem, RJ-45 port for the built-in Gigabit LAN, and CATV and S-Video input jacks for use with the optional TV tuner.
Yes, a TV tuner. Hey, even a workaholic engineer has to kick back and relax sometime. When you do, you can watch DVDs on the widescreen LCD and enjoy excellent notebook sound quality thanks to a high-performance Sound-Blaster Pro compatible sound system with virtual 6-channel audio output and four internal speakers—two along the front edge and one on either side of the keyboard—plus a small subwoofer on the underside of the system. You can also use the Phantom for video conferencing thanks to the built-in 640 3 480 Web cam inconspicuously positioned in the center of the bezel just above the LCD. The camera’s 1.5MP image quality is among the best we’ve ever seen.
But wait; there’s more. Eurocom also equipped our evaluation unit with its optional 802.11 wireless LAN and Bluetooth, both of which worked flawlessly. An array of eight buttons along the front of the case control speaker volume and let you listen to audio CDs and MP3 disks even when the computer is off. An LED display shows track information and doubles as a digital clock when you’re not listening to audio. And if your system includes the TV tuner, there’s a second infrared transceiver that works in conjunction with a handheld remote to control the tuner and CD functions.
The Eurocim D900T Phantom. Click on image to enlarge.
Okay, so where’s the downside? In addition to being heavy, this system is also hot, as in temperature. Eight rubber feet raise the computer a quarter of an inch off the desk to allow four separate fans to circulate air through the case and out two vents, one just below the card reader on the left and a larger vent across the rear. Thankfully, the fans are exceedingly quiet. But we measured a temperature of 93ºF at the small vent and 110ºF at the rear after running the system for only 30 minutes.
And while the Phantom has a battery, you won’t get much work done in flight, even if your first class seat gives you enough room to open the computer. The 97.7A 14.8V battery, which is concealed beneath a panel on the bottom of the system, is not meant to be removed except for replacement. Our unit ran for just 53 minutes on battery power—perfect as an uninterruptible power supply but not really designed for extensive work on the go.
With all its power, we expected superlative performance from the Eurocom Phantom, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. We recorded SPECviewperf scores that surpassed last year’s AGP-based workstations and nearly equaled (and on a few tests even exceeded) those of the two PCI Express-based workstations we’ve recently reviewed (see chart). On the application-specific SPEC benchmarks, the scores were a bit lower than the workstations, but not by much. We ran SolidWorks, Inventor, Solid Edge, AutoCAD, and even 3ds Max with ease, and seeing our screen spread across the Phantom’s LCD and an external monitor, with the external monitor running at resolutions up to 2048 x 1536, is a sight to behold.
Of course, all this power comes at a hefty price. Are you sitting down? As equipped, our evaluation unit costs $6,262. Base units start at $2,739. And if you really try, you can add enough options to run the price up above $8,000. That gives the Phantom one more distinction: the first non-ruggedized notebook computer to cost more than $5,000.
That price includes an excellent 180-page printed manual written by Eurocom covering all aspects of the D900T. What the price does not include, however, is a significant warranty. Eurocom provides only one-year of coverage; an extra two years plus on-site service costs $345 more. And on-site service is only available in Canada. US buyers will need to ship their systems back to Eurocom’s service depot in Odgensburg, New York. Nor has Eurocom yet received ISV certification for any CAD or DCC software applications. However, many of those are pending and we had absolutely no issues running any programs on the Phantom.
Potential buyers will need to consider all of these issues, but one thing is clear. The big, beautiful Eurocom D900T Phantom Mobile Workstation is currently the most powerful, most expandable notebook computer money can buy.
David Cohn is a computer consultant and technical writer based in Bellingham, WA. He has been benchmarking PCs since 1984. He’s a Contributing Editor to Desktop Engineering, the Editor-in-Chief of Engineering Automation Report and CADCAMnet published by Cyon Research Corp., and the author of more than a dozen books. You can contact him via e-mail at email@example.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com. You can also send your thoughts on this article through e-mail to de-editors@ helmers.com.
D900T Phantom Mobile Workstation At a Glance
Price: $6,262 as tested ($2,739 base price)
Size: 15.6 in. x 11.7 in. x 2.1 in. (WxDxH)
Weight: 12.5 lb. plus power supply (depending on configuration)
CPU: 3.8GHz Pentium 4 with1MB L2 cache
Motherboard: based on Intel 915P+1CH6 chipsetMemory: 2GB (4GB max)
Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro FX Go1400 with 256MB DDR3 memory
LCD: WUXGA 1920 x 1200
Hard Disk: 80GB SATA
Optical: slot-based 8X dual-layer multiDVD (DVD-RAM/-RW/+RW)
Audio: AC’97; 3D stereo; virtual 6-channels; SoundBlaster Pro with audio line-in, S/PDIF audio- out, microphone and headphone jacks, built-in microphone
Network: integrated Gigabit Ethernet, 102.11 b/g wireless LAN, Bluetooth
Modem: 56K V90/92 WinModem
Other: One 9-pin serial, one 25-pin parallel, four USB 2.0, PS/2 keyboard/mouse, two mini IEEE 1394 Firewire, CATV in, S-Video-in, S-Video out, 10-in-1 card reader, one Type II PC Card slot, built-in 640 3 480 Web cam, DVI-I, infrared communication port, infrared TV control
Keyboard: integrated 102-key keyboard
Pointing device: integrated touchpad