Eurocom Panther 4.021 Mar, 2013 By: Art Liddle
First Look Review: This mobile workstation delivers a brilliant display, good memory and storage capacity, and terrific speed — but shouldn’t stray far from an outlet.
We last reviewed a Eurocom mobile workstation two years ago. Here, we review the Panther 4.0, which proved to be a substantial upgrade to the Panther 2.0 in every respect.
Eurocom's Panther 4.0 is one of several models Eurocom offers in its line of professional mobile workstations. Each is fully customizable with a large selection of options designed to meet a variety of needs. The Panther 4.0 used for this review was built around the Intel X79 Express chipset and configured with an Intel Xeon E5-2687W eight-core (16 threads) CPU, which runs at 3.1 GHz and includes a massive 20-MB cache. Turbo mode, available when running a single core, bumps the clock speed of this power-hungry chip (150 W) to a maximum of 3.8 GHz.
Eurocom's Panther 4.0 system offers workstation power and expandability in a portable package.
The 17.3" matte-finish, LED-backlit panel produces a beautiful and bright image at its native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 with 32-bit color. It boasts a 120-Hz refresh rate (double that of standard panels) and includes Spyder 3 display calibration technology for color matching. Eurocom chose the very latest mobile graphics card option from NVIDIA to drive the display: The Kepler-based (28-nm core) Quadro K5000M includes 4 GB of GDDR5 dedicated memory and supports a maximum resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 with an external digital monitor or projector plugged into the DisplayPort.
The review unit was loaded with a whopping 32 GB of DDR3-1600 system memory, filling all four of its SODIMM sockets. A single Micron Crucial 512-GB solid-state drive (SATA; 6 Gb/s) provided hard drive storage. The Panther 4.0 supports up to four drives, pushing the maximum file storage capability to an incredible 4 TB without an optical drive, and a still very impressive 3 TB with an optical drive. Our review system included an 8X DVD+/-RW (dual-layer) burner. With multiple hard drives installed, you can enable RAID 0/1/5/10.
The Panther 4.0 is not diminutive in any way: It measures 16.8" x 11.4" x 2.5" and weighs a little more than 12 lbs. It includes an illuminated full-size keyboard with number pad and a multigesture touchpad with two buttons and an integrated fingerprint reader for controlling access to your system and managing passwords. We tried it and, after a little practice, found it to be a quick way to log on. The Panther 4.0 includes a pair of built-in Onkyo speakers with a subwoofer, plus an integrated sound card. The built-in webcam supports video with a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 at 30 fps.
The Panther 4.0 has a wide range of connectivity options, including a DisplayPort, a DVI-I (SL) port, an HDMI connector, three USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA port, a FireWire-800 port, microphone and headphone jacks, and standard network connector, as well as support for wireless LAN (802.11a/g/n) and Bluetooth 2.1.
We ran our standard benchmarks to gauge the CAD performance: our own Cadalyst c2012 (running AutoCAD 2012) and SPECviewperf 11. Before starting any tests, we set AutoCAD to hardware acceleration and turned off vertical sync for the graphics card. We then set the display resolution to 1,280 x 1,024 with 32-bit color. The operating system was the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional.
Scores for the Cadalyst c2012 benchmark were as follows: total index of 445, 3D graphics index of 974, 2D graphics index of 340, disk index of 219, and CPU index of 247. These numbers are good for a mobile workstation. The total index mark ranks as a top score for mobile workstations, except for another recently reviewed system that also included a Quadro K5000M graphics card. After closer inspection of the data, we believe that the Panther 4.0 did not take full advantage of the CPU's turbo mode when running our benchmark in AutoCAD.
Scores for the SPECviewperf 11 suite of tests, single-sample mode only, were even better. The weighted scores were as follows: 65.55 for catia-03, 60.97 for ensight-04, 65.97 for lightwave-01, 100.39 for maya-03, 13.80 for proe-05, 54.22 for sw-02, 58.20 for tcvis-02, and 63.05 for snx-01. These scores place the Panther 4.0 in the top three for any type of workstation — desktop or mobile — ever reviewed in Cadalyst Labs.
The Eurocom Panther 4.0 runs off a Chicony 300-watt A/C power brick that measures 8 1/8" x 4 3/8" x 2 1/8"; that's a bit bigger and heavier than we usually see. When disconnected from the wall, its internal eight-cell (78-Wh) Smart Li-ion battery keeps the Panther 4.0 running for a short time. To test the battery performance, we used the c2012 Battery Rundown Test option, which runs the Cadalyst benchmark test in a continuous loop until battery power is exhausted. We ran the test four times. Under battery power, the Panther 4.0 averaged 42 minutes before powering down. This is well below the average of 75 minutes for the seven mobile computers we have reviewed in the past two years. As for recharging, the battery required a full twelve hours to reach a complete charge with the system on. With the system turned off, the recharge time was less than three hours. This mobile computer is meant to operate primarily on A/C power.
The Eurocom Panther 4.0 mobile workstation offers enough computing and graphics power to tackle all but the most demanding tasks. It is loaded with system memory, offers an excellent display, and has tremendous room to grow when it comes to hard drive storage.
Packing this much power and all these robust features into a mobile computer comes at a price — in this case, $7,983. That includes Eurocom's one-year return-to-factory-depot warranty and one year of technical support.
If you can afford the price, require this kind of power and expandability in a mobile system, and do not expect to spend much time off the power grid, the Eurocom Panther 4.0 is worth serious consideration.
Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a different AutoCAD feature in every edition of her popular "Circles and Lines" tutorial series. For even more AutoCAD how-to, check out Lynn's quick tips in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Subscribe to Cadalyst's free Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!