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Truly Portable Power

By David Cohn

Eurocom has sent us a number of impressive mobile workstations, such as the Panther 4.0 that we reviewed in June 2013. While that Panther system proved to be one of the fasted mobile workstations we have reviewed, it was also expensive, very heavy, and in spite of doubling the battery life of an earlier Panther model, still ran for just 74 minutes.

Eurocom Racer

Happily, the new Eurocom Racer 3W mobile workstation that recently arrived at our test lab overcomes all of those issues. It was half of the Panther 4.0’s weight, had three times the battery life, and had a price tag one-third of the Panther — yet delivered excellent performance.

Unlike previous Eurocom mobile workstations, which were built using some decidedly non-mobile components (such as server-class Intel processors), the Racer 3W is a pure mobile system. The base configuration includes an Intel Core i7 mobile CPU and an NVIDIA mobile GPU, and its base price of $1,559 (without an operating system) reflects that.

The Eurocom Racer 3W measures 14.75x10x1.75 in. and weighs 6.7 lb., although the large (6.5×3.25×1.5-in.) 180-watt power supply adds an additional 2 lb. to the total package.

Raising the lid reveals a beautiful 15.6-in. backlit LED display with a native 1920×1080 resolution and a full-size keyboard with a separate numeric keypad. For the Racer 3W, Eurocom eliminated the backlit keyboard we saw in previous reviews. There is also a touchpad centered below the keyboard with a pair of buttons and a fingerprint reader. A 2-megapixel webcam, centered above the LED, is standard and flanked by a microphone.

A pair of speakers for the Sound Blaster X-Fi sound system are located below a perforated band that extends across the top of the keyboard. It actually took us a few seconds to find the rectangular power button located at the far left end of this band. LEDs to its left indicate number lock, caps lock and scroll lock, while a similar bank of LEDs at the far right show hard drive activity, airplane mode and whether the system is using its discrete graphics processing unit (GPU) or the graphics integrated into the Intel CPU. LEDs along the right-front edge of the system indicate AC/power and battery status.

Interestingly, there are no dedicated buttons for speaker volume, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or the webcam. The system relies instead on keyboard combinations. You need to press the Fn+ESC keyboard combination to access the system’s Control Center app to toggle Wi-Fi, for example.

Configuration Options

The right side of the case houses the optical drive bay, which in our evaluation unit was the tray-loading 8X dual-layer DVD +/-RW ROM drive that comes standard in the base configuration (along with a copy of Cyberlink Media Suite 8 software). As is typical of most Eurocom systems, the company also offers other options, including a Blu-ray Disc burner or an additional hard drive. Here you will also find audio jacks, including headphone, microphone, S/PDIF-out, and line-in as well as a single USB 2.0 port and a security lock slot. The left side of the case hosts a 9-in-1 multi-card reader, a combined eSATA/USB 3.0 port, two USB 3.0 ports (one of which is powered for charging devices), an RJ-45 LAN jack, and a mini-IEEE 1392a FireWire port.

While there are no jacks or ports along the front of the case, the rear provides a DisplayPort, HDMI-out port and a mini DisplayPort, as well as the power connector and a pair of air vents. There are two more air vents on the bottom of the case, plus access to the internal component bay, hard drive bay, a subwoofer and the battery compartment. Although a wireless LAN is standard, Eurocom included an Intel AC-7260 wireless LAN module with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac.

That was just one of the options we received. Customers have lots of choices. For example, while all systems come with a 15.6-in. backlit 1920×1080 display, the panel in our evaluation unit was enhanced with a non-glare matte finish — capable of displaying 95% of the National Television System Committee (NTSC) standard color gamut, a $110 add-on. Our display was also professionally calibrated; it came with its color profile stored on a CD, for an additional $45.

The base Racer 3W configuration comes with an excellent NVIDIA Quadro K1000M GPU, a discrete graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM and 192 cores. But Eurocom offers a choice of seven different GPUs, including the Quadro K5100M, an ultra-high-end board featuring 8GB of memory and 1,536 cores. It’s an option that would add $2,018 to the price — and we suspect its 100-watt power demands would significantly decrease battery life. Instead, Eurocom equipped our evaluation unit with an NVIDIA Quadro K1100M. While it matches the 2GB of memory in the K1000M, it has 384 compute unified device architecture (CUDA) cores without drawing additional power, an option well worth the $92 premium.

The Eurocom Racer 3W is based on the Intel Haswell HM87 Express chipset. You can configure the system with one of five different quad core processors, ranging from the 2.4GHz Intel Mobile Core i7-4700MQ in our evaluation unit up to a 3.0GHz Intel Mobile EXTREME Core i7-4930MX, which would have added $734 to the system cost. The i7-4700MQ has a 6MB cache, and provides a max turbo frequency of 3.4GHz, while maintaining a thermal design power rating of 47 watts.

All of the available CPUs support up to 32GB of system memory, and we were somewhat surprised to find that our evaluation unit came with 16GB of DDR3-1600 MHz memory. What proved even more surprising was that 16GB is standard for the Racer 3W, although that memory came configured as two 8GB dual in-line memory modules (DIMMs), allowing for additional expansion. That option adds just $37 to the system cost. Configurations of 24GB and 32GB of RAM are also available.

There are 16 different storage options from which to choose. The Racer 3W supports up to two solid-state drives (SSDs), plus a third hard drive that can be SSD, regular or a hybrid drive — as well as a fourth drive if you forego the optical drive. So you could equip the system with nearly 4 terabytes of storage.

Battery life has been an Achilles heel of previous Eurocom systems. Happily, after opening the Control Center and switching to Power Saving mode, the Racer 3W ran for 3 hours and 47 minutes. The Racer 3W also remained cool and relatively quiet during our tests, although the fan became quite audible at times.

Great Performance

While its use of mobile rather than desktop components enabled the Racer 3W to trim weight and extend its battery life, we wondered what impact this would have on performance. We’re please to report that the tradeoffs appear to be justified.

On the SPECviewperf test, which focuses graphics performance, the Racer 3W lagged behind other systems we have tested recently. But that’s to be expected, considering its GPU was just one cut above entry-level while every other mobile system we’ve tested in the past two years came with at least a mid-range card.

On the SPECapc SolidWorks benchmark, which is more of a real-world test, the Eurocom Racer 3W was quite impressive, beating every other mobile system we have tested to date.

And on the AutoCAD rendering test, in which the competitive edge clearly belongs to systems equipped with fast CPUs with multiple cores, the Racer 3W outperformed systems with faster CPUs. This is even more impressive when you consider that the system we tested was equipped with the base-level CPU.

The modest number of add-ons Eurocom included boosted the price of our evaluation unit to $2,172, making the Racer 3W one of the most affordable mobile workstations we have ever tested. That price includes Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition. Eurocom also offers Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 8, or you can order the system without an operating system and install your own. The price also includes a one-year warranty with return-to-depot service, but you can extend the warranty to two or three years for $151 or $271, respectively.

Eurocom says that the Racer 3W is designed for professionals who frequently travel and require capable hardware to fulfill their professional commitments. We think this is right on target, making the Racer 3W an excellent alternative to similar mobile workstations from more mainstream companies.

David Cohn is the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies. He also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. He’s a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering and the author of more than a dozen books. You can contact him via email at david@dscohn.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.

More Info

Eurocom Corp.

Eurocom Racer 3W

Price: $2,172 as tested ($1,559 base price)
Size: 14.75×10.0x1.75-in. (WxDxH) notebook
Weight: 6.7 lb. as tested, plus 2.2-lb. power supply
CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ quad-core with 6MB cache
Memory: 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM (32GB max)
Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K1100M with 2GB memory and 384 CUDA cores
LCD: 15.6-in. diagonal (1920×1080), non-glare, calibrated, 95% NTSC
Hard Disk: 120GB mSATA SSD and 1TB 7,200-rpm Hitachi HD
Optical: Panasonic 8X 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 AC-7260 802.11 ac wireless LAN; optional integrated Bluetooth 4.0
Other: two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, one eSATA/Powered USB 3.0 combo, one mini IEEE-1394 (Firewire), 9-in-1 card reader, HDMI-out, DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, 2MP webcam
Keyboard: integrated 98-key keyboard with numeric keypad
Pointing device: integrated two-button touchpad

Mobile Workstations Compared

Eurocom Racer 3W

(2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K1100M, 16GB RAM)

BOXX GOBOXX G2720

(3.6GHz Intel Core i7-3820 quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K5000M,

16GB RAM)

Eurocom Panther 4.0

(3.1GHz Intel Xeon E5-2867W 8-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K5000M,

16GB RAM)

Lenovo ThinkPad W530

(2.90GHz Intel Core i7-3920XM quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K2000M, 16GB RAM)

Eurocom P150HM Racer

(2.70GHz Intel Core i7-2960XM quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro 5010M, 16GB RAM)

HP EliteBook 8560w

(2.30GHz Intel Core i7-2820QM quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro 2000M, 16GB RAM)

Price as tested

$2,172

$5,895

$6,800

$2,592

$4,933

$4,063

Date tested

11/10/13

5/28/13

4/20/13

12/29/12

5/1/12

5/1/12

Operating System

Windows 7

Windows 7

Windows 7

Windows 7

Windows 7

SPECview 11

higher

catia-03

28.97

73.23

65.87

34.82

49.74

27.49

ensight-04

17.38

61.24

61.01

18.40

41.07

18.46

lightwave-01

31.53

78.03

65.85

62.75

60.13

48.21

maya-03

51.20

111.58

102.18

62.04

93.79

58.12

proe-5

9.43

16.06

13.82

15.58

10.97

9.77

sw-02

24.95

63.26

55.06

39.48

53.57

35.85

tcvis-02

27.70

60.91

59.28

30.63

45.65

23.12

snx-01

23.17

63.57

64.62

25.14

42.48

19.85

SPECapc SolidWorks 2013

Higher

Graphics Composite

3.63

2.72

2.26

2.06

n/a

n/a

RealView Graphics Composite

3.97

2.93

2.42

2.18

n/a

n/a

Shadows Composite

3.95

2.93

2.42

2.18

n/a

n/a

Ambient Occlusion Composite

5.35

6.09

5.14

3.76

n/a

n/a

Shaded Mode Composite

3.83

2.66

2.41

2.13

n/a

n/a

Shaded With Edges Mode Composite

3.44

2.78

2.12

2.00

n/a

n/a

RealView Disabled Composite

2.55

2.02

1.72

1.65

n/a

n/a

CPU Composite

3.99

3.61

3.72

3.59

n/a

n/a

Autodesk Render Test

Lower

Time

Seconds

55.83

79.20

57.33

62.00

76.66

89.83

Battery Test

Higher

Time

Hours:min

3:47

1:15

1:14

6:09

1:50

2:37

Numbers in blue indicate best recorded results. Numbers in red indicate worst recorded results.

About David Cohn

David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. Watch for his latest CADLearning eBooks on AutoCAD 2015 on the Apple iBookstore, at Amazon, and on the CADLearning website. You can contact him via email at david@dscohn.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.