We’ve come to expect a lot from Eurocom. In the past, this Canadian company has sent us several very impressive mobile workstations, many of which set new performance records — often with impressive price tags to match. Armed with that experience, we were quite excited when Eurocom sent us their latest mobile workstation, the Panther 4.0, which the company bills as the “world’s first supercomputer-class, fully upgradeable and configurable super-laptop” designed for CAD, CAE, DCC, visualization and simulation applications.
While that’s quite a claim, the Panther 4.0 lives up to the hype.
Like previous Panther mobile workstations, the Eurocom Panther 4.0 uses some decidedly non-mobile components — such as a server-class Intel Xeon E5 processor — to achieve all of that power. The last Panther mobile workstation we reviewed, the Panther 3.0, exhibited some significant cooling problems as a result of packing too many power-hungry components into a mobile chassis (see DE, November 2011). Happily, this time around, the Panther 4.0 showed no such issues.
The Eurocom Panther 4.0 measures 16.76 x 11.4 x 2.48 in., and weighs a hefty 12.5 lbs. — plus another 3.5 lbs. for its enormous (8.25 x 4.5 x 2 in.) 300-watt power supply. The system is configured like a traditional notebook computer, with a nicely finished black plastic and brushed aluminum case, but it’s nearly twice as thick as more conventional notebooks.
Raising the lid reveals a beautiful 17.3-in. full-HD display with a native resolution of 1920×1080, and a full-size backlit keyboard with a separate numeric keypad. There’s also a touchpad centered below the keyboard with a pair of buttons and a fingerprint reader.
Our evaluation unit came equipped with a 2 MP webcam centered above the LCD, flanked by a pair of microphones. Three speakers are located in the hinge below the LCD, with two more in the top corners above the keyboard. Between these are a series of touch sensors for adjusting speaker volume and toggling the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and webcam on and off, as well as hard drive and keyboard status indicators. These controls, as well as the large round power button to the right of the keyboard, glow bright blue when active.
Abundant Configuration Options
The right side of the case provides jacks for headphone, microphone, audio line-in, and S/PDIF-out as well as a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a subwoofer and a security lock slot.
The left side houses a pair of USB 3.0 ports, mini-IEEE 1394b (FireWire) port, combined eSATA/Powered USB 3.0 port, DisplayPort, HDMI-out port, RJ-45 LAN jack for the built-in Gigabit Ethernet, and DVI-I-out port. The optical drive bay is also located on the left side, and our evaluation unit came equipped with a Panasonic 6X Blue-Ray Writer, standard in the Panther 4.0.
The rear of the case contains just the external power connector centered between fan intake vents. The front includes more air vents, as well a 9-in-1 card reader and LED indicators for power and battery.
Like most Eurocom systems, configuring the Panther 4.0 is all about choices. The LCD display is available with or without non-glare coatings, and can be driven by a choice of 13 different GPUs ranging from an NVIDIA GTX 670MX to a pair of top-of-the-line NVIDIA Quadro K5000M (Kepler) graphics cards. Our evaluation unit came with a single Quadro K5000M with 4GB of GDDR5 ECC memory and 1,344 compute unified device architecture (CUDA) cores, adding $1,381 to the cost of the system. The system we received featured an AUO LED backlight and professional display calibration profile saved on a CD-ROM, options that added $86 to the price. A 3D display with a pair of shutter glasses is also available.
The Panther 4.0 is based on the Intel Sandy Bridge-E X79 Express chipset, and you can configure the Panther 4.0 with any one of 12 different Intel processors. In our case, Eurocom included an 8-core 3.1GHz Intel Xeon E5-2687W CPU with 20MB of L3 cache. That server-class CPU has a maximum turbo frequency of 3.8GHz and a maximum thermal design power (TDP) rating of 150 watts. The system can accommodate up to 32GB of memory in four 204-pin small outline dual in-line memory module (SO-DIMM) sockets, and our system came equipped with 16GB of memory using four 4GB DDR3 1600MHz memory modules.
Like its predecessor, the Panther 4.0 supports up to three standard hard drives — or a fourth if you forego the optical drive. The Panther supports solid-state (SSD), hybrid or enterprise-level drives with redundant array of independent disk (RAID) 0, 1, 5, 10 capability, and again Eurocom offers 20 different drive options, including the ability to equip the system with 4TB of storage. In our case, Eurocom provided a 512GB Micron/Crucial SSD in lieu of the 1TB Seagate Momentum hybrid drive standard in the base configuration. Thanks to the SSD, the Panther booted to Windows 7 64-bit in just 41 seconds.
The 78.44Wh lithium-ion battery in the previous Panther was useful only as an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) rather than for actually powering the system. But here again, Eurocom has made improvements. After using the intuitive Control Center application to switch the system to its Power Saving mode, our Panther 4.0 ran for 74 minutes on battery power — double that of its predecessor.
Happily, the Panther 4.0 was also considerably quieter than its predecessor and ran much cooler. While air leaving the rear vents of the Panther 3.0 we tested in 2011 reached 107 ° F, the Panther 4.0 stayed below 100 ° F.
Based on Eurocom’s lofty claims and our past experience, we expected to see stellar performance from the Panther 4.0. And we got it: On the SPECviewperf test, which focuses solely on graphics, the Panther 4.0 not only outperformed every mobile system we’ve ever reviewed, it beat all of the desktop workstations as well.
On the SPECapc SolidWorks benchmark, we can’t make any comparisons. The SolidWorks 2005 benchmark that we had been using is quite old and was not really designed for Windows 7. For that reason, we’ve now switched to the new SolidWorks 2013 benchmark. The new benchmark performs a number of tests, yielding composite scores for graphics and CPU performance (the bigger the number, the better the score). But the Panther 4.0 mobile workstation marks the first system on which we’ve run this new test. Judging from the performance we experienced when actually running SolidWorks and other CAD software, however, we’d definitely expect the Eurocom Panther 4.0 to do an exceptional job on even the most demanding CAD, CAE and DCC tasks.
On the AutoCAD rendering test, in which the competitive edge clearly belongs to fast CPUs with multiple cores, the Panther 4.0 again beat every other mobile workstation we’ve ever tested, thanks to its equivalent of 16 CPU cores with hyper-threading enabled.
Of course, all of the Panther 4.0’s power comes at the expense of a lot of weight and a very hefty price tag. The base Panther 4.0 configuration sells for $3,210. Once we added up all of the options included in our evaluation unit, the system we received would cost $6,800. Still, that’s $1,440 less than its predecessor.
That price included Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition. Eurocom also offers Windows 7 Premium or Ultimate, Windows 8 Home Premium or Professional, or Windows 2008 Server, or you can order the system without an operating system and install your own. The price also includes a one-year warranty and requires owners to ship the system back to a factory depot for repairs. Extending the warranty for a second year adds $151, or $271 to extend it out to three years. But Eurocom continues to offer lifetime upgradability, as well as credits of up to 20% if you trade in an older system when purchasing a new Panther.
The Eurocom Panther 4.0 is meant to replace a desktop workstation for power users on the go. While its price likely makes it a niche product, this time around Eurocom got it right. The Panther 4.0 really does perform like a super laptop, delivering amazing power in a portable package.
David Cohn is the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies. He also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA, and has been benchmarking PCs since 1984. He’s a contributing editor to DE and the author of more than a dozen books. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at DSCohn.com.
Design Engineering Mobile Workstations Compared
4.0 mobile workstation (3.1GHz Intel Xeon E5-2867W 8-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K5000M, 16GB RAM)
|Lenovo W530 mobile
workstation (2.90GHz Intel Core i7-3920XM quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K2000M,
workstation (2.70GHz Intel Core i7-2960XM quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro 5010M,
8560w mobile workstation (2.30GHz Intel Core i7-2820QM quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro 2000M,
|SPECapc SolidWorks 2013||higher|
|RealView Graphics Composite||2.42||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Ambient Occlusion Composite||5.14||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Shaded Mode Composite||2.41||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Shaded with Edges Mode Composite||2.12||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|RealView Disabled Composite||1.72||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Autodesk Render Test||lower|
Numbers in blue indicate best recorded results. Numbers in red indicate worst recorded results.
Eurocom Panther 4.0
- Price: $6,800 as tested ($3,210 base price)
- Size: 16.76 x 11.44 x 2.48 in. (WxDxH) notebook
- Weight: 12.5 lbs. as tested, plus 3.5-lb. power supply
- CPU: 3.1GHz Intel Xeon E5-2867 W eight-core w/20MB cache
- Memory: 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM (32GB max)
- Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K5000M w/4GB memory
- LCD: 17.3-in. diagonal (1920×1080)
- Hard Disk: 512GB SSD
- Optical: Panasonic 6X Blu-Ray write and DVD+/-RW dual layer
- Audio: line-in, S/PDIF-out, microphone, headphone, built-in microphone and speakers
- Network: integrated Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000 NIC); Intel 802.11 a/g/n wireless LAN; optional integrated Bluetooth 4.0
- Other: two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, one mini IEEE-1394 (Firewire), eSATA/Powered USB 3.0 combo, 9-in-1 card reader, DVI-out, HDMI-out, DisplayPort, 2MP webcam
- Keyboard: integrated 102-key keyboard with numeric keypad
- Pointing Device: integrated two-button touchpad