Workstations

Eurocom Panther 2.0 Mobile Workstation

4 Jun, 2011 By: Ron LaFon

First Look Review: New system offers many connectivity options, fast performance.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2011 issue of Cadalyst magazine.


The new Panther 2.0 mobile workstation from Eurocom comes with an extensive range of configuration options. The system I received for review included an Intel Xeon W3680 3.33 GHz six-core processor with 12MB of L3 cache that drew 130 W of power. The Panther 2.0 supports a full line of Intel Xeon processors, including X5680, X5670, X5660, X5650, and L5630.

The Intel processor is mounted on a Clevo X7200 motherboard that uses an Intel X58+ ICH10R chipset. The system supports 24GB of RAM when fully populated, but the review system came equipped with 12GB of DDR3 1,333-MHz RAM (3 x 4GB SIMM cards). The NVIDIA FX 3800M graphics card with 1GB of onboard RAM supports the graphics engine. This graphics card drives the 17.3" 1,920 x 1,080 display using the preinstalled v8.17.12.5985 NVIDIA driver. I used the 64-bit version of the NVIDIA AutoCAD performance driver for the AutoCAD portion of the benchmark tests, all running under Windows 7 Professional x64.

The Panther 2.0 is not a small system, measuring 16.76" x 11.44" x 2.26–2.43" (W x D x H) and weighing a hefty 11.66 lbs, including the battery. The Panther's sound system includes high-definition audio, S/PDIF output, a microphone, five speakers and a subwoofer, and Dolby Home Theater sound. The autoswitching 300-W AC power adapter is large and also on the hefty side.

The reviewed system included a 6X Blu-ray writer/8X DVD R/W drive, a 256-GB SSD RealSSD Micron SATA 600 drive, and 2x 750-GB Seagate Momentus SATA-300 drives. All told, the Eurocom Panther 2.0 can be equipped with as many as four hard, solid, or hybrid storage drives for as much as 3TB of storage
with RAID 0/1/5/10.

Connectivity options for the system include 2x USB 3.0, 3x USB 2.0, HDMI out, DVI-DL, eSata, IEEE 1394b, and S/PDIF. Additional connections include headphone, microphone, audio line in, and RJ45 ports. An HDMI-in v1.4 connector is available as an option. All connectors are located along the left and right sides of the system; the power feed is located at the rear center.

The Eurocom Panther 2.0 is an attractive and well-appointed system with conveniently located connections. The included carrying case should prove to be durable — no small consideration for a system this heavy.

Performance Testing

I ran two benchmark tests on the Eurocom Panther 2.0, with the first being the Cadalyst C2011 v.5.3b running in AutoCAD 2011 x64 with the most currently available patches and service packs installed. I tested at a screen resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 and at a color depth of 24 bits. I ran several iterations of the benchmark in two basic configurations. First I ran the C2011 benchmark with the native Autodesk drivers included with AutoCAD 2011, and then I ran several iterations of the same test using the latest NVIDIA performance drivers for AutoCAD. As is typical, the performance figures for the latter configuration were significantly higher than for the tests with the native drivers. I performed all tests with Vertical Sync set to the Force Off position, as I usually do for all testing.

Next I ran the SPEC ViewPerf 11 benchmark, the latest release of this industry-standard performance benchmark. For those familiar with the older SPEC ViewPerf 10 test, the results from that version of SPEC ViewPerf aren't directly comparable to the results from ViewPerf 11. The tests of the latter version are more complex and access different features, making a comparison between the two sets impossible.
 


The best score from the first runs of the Cadalyst C2011 benchmark using the native Autodesk drivers generated a total index score of 399, with a 3D graphics index of 806, a 2D graphics index of 333, a disk index of 213, and a CPU index of 242. Completion of the benchmark suite with this configuration took 15 minutes.

I ran a series of tests using the NVIDIA accelerated driver for AutoCAD, which produced a C2011 total index score of 1,020, a 3D graphics index of 3,286, a 2D graphics index of 336, a disk index of 214, and a CPU index of 244. The benchmark run was completed in only 13 minutes. This particular result is the fastest score for a mobile workstation that I've seen.

Next up was the SPEC ViewPerf 11 benchmark. The initial given test score with ViewPerf 11 shows single sample performance. Additional tests with as many as four samples are reported here with composite scores given for the four viewsets affected. I've reported the scores with the single sample performance first and, where applicable, the 4x samples in parentheses.

SPEC ViewPerf performance scores with the Eurocom Panther 2.0 were as follows: 27.99 for catia-03, 17.38 for ensight-04 (43.35, 73%), 59.07 for lightwave-01 (49.91, 102%), 51.00 for maya-03, 9.33 for proe-05 (5.84, 99%), 41.39 for sw-02 (47.17, 100%), 21.23 for tcvis-02 (28.04, 92%), and 29.30 for snx-01. These scores are all good, if not the absolute fastest we've seen.

I encountered some anomalies in running both benchmarks: In the first run of the SPEC ViewPerf 11 benchmark, the system failed to complete the CATIA portion of the test. For the Cadalyst C2011 benchmark, one run took approximately 3 minutes longer than either the previous or next iteration of the benchmark. These incidents are unusual, but there's no specific reason I can pinpoint for either one. As noted, all tests ultimately ran to completion.

Battery Testing

The Eurocom Panther 2.0 was delivered with an eight-cell lithium ion polymer 5300-mAh 78.44-Wh battery. I typically run two battery tests on a mobile workstation: one with the system entirely idle, the other running a long loop with multiple iterations of the Cadalyst C2011 benchmark but with no other input. I prepare a mobile workstation by eliminating polling background services such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and by setting the power settings to brightest screen and to never power down the display or hard drives. On the Idle component of the test, the system shut down in 50 minutes. Then I recharged the system completely.

When I attempted to run the Active portion of the battery tests, I encountered difficulties immediately. The system simply would not run an active AutoCAD session while on battery power. After several attempts and after double-checking the relevant settings, I contacted Eurocom. Mark Bialic, president, replied, "Since we use power-hungry desktop Intel six-core Xeon processors (approximately 130 W), our battery is more like a built-in UPS — so we don't expect users to run their six-core applications on battery. For those that need battery life, we have other models that are based on Intel mobile processors (approximately 45 W)."

Thus, I was unable to run the second portion of the battery tests. If you plan to use a major application on-site with the Eurocom Panther 2.0 mobile workstation in the configuration I tested, you will need to have a reliable, on-site AC power supply. If power is interrupted while AutoCAD is functioning, the application will stop, without an opportunity to exit gracefully, even though Windows is still running.

Portable Power

Pricing for the Eurocom Panther 2.0 system as delivered for review is $3574, which includes one year to return it to the factory depot and one year of technical support. Other warranty plans are available, as is extended on-site coverage. No operating system is included in the base price. If purchased, Eurocom supplies the original disk, which is preinstalled with all the applicable drivers.

The Eurocom Panther 2.0 system is what I would call a portable system rather than a mobile workstation. For those who have access to on-site electrical power, this system is a good choice, but those who need to run power-hungry applications untethered will need to look elsewhere. The system is remarkably
speedy, but the battery issues—combined with the potential for loss of data with major applications—resulted in a B+ score for the system overall.  


About the Author: Ron LaFon


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