|Introduction and Specifications|
|When Eurocom sent us their latest gaming notebook for evaluation, we expected the usual huge, heavy machine with obscenely powerful components inside. It’s even called the “Monster”, which seems to indicate a particularly beastly rig.
But when the box arrived on our doorstep, it seemed far too small to encase anything resembling the description above. Indeed, inside the small shipping container was an even smaller notebook.
The Monster is barely bigger than a netbook, actually, with an 11.6-inch screen and a body that’s as thin as 0.5 inches and only as thick as 1.5 inches. On the outside, it’s more of an adorable version of a gaming notebook than some terrifying creature; as it turns out, the monster lives inside.
Eurocom Monster 1.0
Eurocom’s idea with the little Monster was to deliver a gaming notebook that wasn’t heavy, ungainly, or battery-hungry but didn’t skimp on the specs, either. For the most part, the company was successful. The Monster comes in at just under 4 pounds and boasts a quad-core Intel Core i7-3720QM (2.6GHz/3.6GHz) Ivy Bridge chip, 8GB of DDR3-1866 (2 x 4GB) memory, and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GPU.
Intel’s integrated HD 4000 graphics are on board to help maximize battery life by handling less intensive graphics tasks with NVIDIA’s Optimus technology shuttling heavier workloads to the GeForce GPU, and a 120GB Intel 520 series SSD ensures speedy performance on the storage side.
Being that the Monster is a gaming notebook, the display is important, but although the glossy screen does have decent viewing angles and contrast, we definitely wish the blacks were deeper. The 1366x768 resolution is a mite disappointing as well, although it’s hard to wish for much more considering the size of the screen.
For connectivity, Eurocom built in gigabit LAN, 802.11n WiFi, and integrated Bluetooth 3.0. There’s also a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, headphone and mic jacks, VGA and HDMI ports, a 9-in-1 multimedia card slot, and an integrated 1.3MP webcam. Our model as configured costs $1,605, although base models start at just $783, and users can opt for a 1-year or 3-year limited warranty.
On the next page, we’ll address the question anyone who’s seen a burly Eurocom notebook before is likely asking: What’s a pint-sized Eurocom gaming laptop like up close and in person?
|Design & Layout|
|The Monster is built from a Clevo chassis, and the company didn’t do too much to dress it up. There’s no fancy lighting scheme (although it could be argued that the lack of lights makes for a better and less distracting gaming experience), and aside from the shiny silver “Eurocom” logos on the back of the lid and just below the screen, this is a simple matte black box.
The finish, however, is an interesting touch; both the lid and the keyboard area have a waffled design that resists fingerprints as well or better than anything we’ve seen. Further, it’s worth mentioning that for as dressed down as the Monster is in terms of style, that aesthetic will certainly appeal to some users, and the subtlety of the waffled finish adds a bit of stylish interest.
Unfortunately, that rough texture also covers the touchpad, which makes for a somewhat uncomfortable user experience. If rubbing your fingertips over a sandpaper-like pad isn’t bad enough, we found that the touchpad got rather hot after extended use, as well. Even though the multitouch pad offers nice amenities such as two-finger scrolling, users will definitely want to plug in an external mouse whenever possible.
The chiclet-style keyboard, though by nature not necessarily ideal for gaming, is well crafted considering how little space is available. The letter keys are sufficiently large, enough so that we found the WASD cluster to be reasonably comfortable, and the space bar fit naturally under our thumb. The Shift, Enter, and arrow keys are a bit small though, so users should be aware of that; it's also worth noting that the arrow keys are located in a somewhat inconvenient spot--tucked away at the lower right corner of the keyboard.
The Fn key grants users access to a numpad, basic media buttons, brightness controls, webcam on/off toggle button, WiFi and Bluetooth on/off toggle buttons, and more.
There is no optical drive on board the Monster to save space and cost, but users can opt for an external ODD when configuring their system. On the left side of the notebook is the LAN port, VGA and HDMI ports, headphone and mic jacks, and two USB 3.0 ports. The exhaust fan blows out this side as well, and although the system stays remarkably quiet at all times, the exhaust area gets rather warm after long gaming sessions.
The 9-in-1 media card reader neatly tucked away on the front side of the case (below and to the left of the touchpad area), and the right side contains just a lock slot, a lone USB 2.0 port, and the AC adapter jack.
Eurocom isn’t keen on bloatware as a matter of course, but there are a few items pre-installed that are designed to let users adjust component settings, which include the BisonCam and webcam installer, network manager, KeepSafe Personal Safe, a fingerprint scanner, and THX TruStudio.
And now, it’s on to the benchmarks to see how this little fellow performs.
|SiSoft SANDRA and ATTO Disk Tests|
|Test Methodology: As you'll note in the following pages of benchmarks, we've compared the Eurocom Monster to a few different machines. In every test case, we tried to leave each notebook as delivered to us from the manufacturers. This meant, after any pending Windows updates were installed, we disabled Windows update and also disabled any virus scanning software that may have been installed, so it wouldn't kick in during benchmark runs. That said, it's virtually impossible to ensure identical system configurations between notebooks; so we'll caution you that reference scores from the various test systems are listed in order to give you a general feel for performance between these similar class of machines and not for direct, apples-to-apples comparisons.
We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2011, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2011 suite (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth and Physical Disk Performance).
SANDRA Processor Arithmetic and Multimedia Performance
SANDRA Memory Bandwidth and Physical Disk Performance
It’s almost impossible to build a rig with size and cost restrictions in mind without compromising somewhere. In the case of the Monster, that somewhere is in the graphics department, where it uses a solid but not particularly impressive NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M. As we’ll see on the next few pages, that will cost the Monster some points in a few benchmarks.
However, Eurocom made up for it by popping in a smoking fast Intel SSD, and in the SANDRA Physical Disk test, we see how powerful of a difference that can make. That 506MB/s blows away excellent some othher gaming systems like the Alienware M17x, which posted a score of just 87.34MB/s.
Otherwise, the SANDRA scores here are solid, if predictable.
ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.
Whereas rigs like the aforementioned M17x have lacked in the ATTO read/write test due to slower storage devices, we again see the performance benefit of the speedy SSD here.
|PCMark 7 and PCMark Vantage|
|Futuremark's PCMark 7 is the latest version of the PCMark suite. It has updated application performance measurements targeted for a Windows 7 environment. Here's what Futuremark says is incorporated in the base PCMark suite and the Entertainment suite, the two modules we have benchmark scores for you here.
Futuremark's PCMark 7 is the latest version of the PCMark suite. It has updated application performance measurements targeted for a Windows 7 environment. Here's what Futuremark says is incorporated in the base PCMark suite and the Entertainment suite, the two modules we have benchmark scores for you here.
If the Monster were competing as an ultrabook or other smallish notebook, this would be a truly impressive score. As it is, we’re looking at this machine as a gaming notebook, and judging by that criteria a 4295 isn’t bad, but it leaves something to be desired. A better GPU would make that score explode. C’est la vie.
Next up, we ran our test systems through Futuremark’s previous generation total-system performance evaluation tool, PCMark Vantage. PCMark Vantage runs through a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity.
Remember that SSD living inside the Monster? It scorched the competition in PCMark Vantage. Granted, this test is affected perhaps too much by SSD performance, but nearly doubling the next closest score is still quite a feat.
|Cinebench and 3DMark 11|
|Maxon's Cinebench R11.5 benchmark is based on the company's Cinema 4D software used for 3D content creation and tests both the CPU and GPU in separate benchmark runs. On the CPU side, Cinebench renders a photorealistic 3D scene by tapping into up to 64 processing threads (CPU) to process more than 300,000 total polygons, while the GPU benchmark measures graphics performance by manipulating nearly 1 million polygons and huge amounts of textures.
It’s clear that Ivy Bridge Intel chips are affording systems an impressive performance boost over Sandy Bridge. The OpenGL score leaves something to be desired, though.
The Monster’s score here is disappointing compared to most of the other systems in this test, and it would appear that the GeForce GT 650M is again at fault. The system kept pace with a couple of Sandy Bridge builds running similarly classed GPUs, but was otherwise unimpressive.
|Game Tests: Metro 2033, Far Cry 2|
|Next we fired up some high-end game engines to allow the Monster to stretch its legs with leading-edge game titles and rendering effects at play. Note that throughout our gaming tests, we omitted the 1920x1080 scores because the Monster doesn’t support that resolution.
Although the score of 25.89 is close to a couple of the systems that scored near the bottom of our test bank, the Monster failed its first real-world gaming test by delivering less-than-adequate framerates in Metro 2033. In order to see better framerates, users will have to reduce game settings somewhat.
The news isn’t all bad for the Monster; the system banged out some nice, high framerates in Far Cry 2, although it stacks up here about as well as it did in Metro 2033 compared to the other systems.
|Game Tests: Lost Planet 2, Just Cause 2|
As you can see, Lost Planet 2 is tough on systems, so even though 26.2 isn’t a great score, it’s not bad compared to the rest of the field. The only systems that really blow it out of the water are packing powerful GPUs and in some cases are running in SLI or CrossFire configurations.
The Monster’s Just Cause 2 score is solid, putting it close to the Alienware M18x running a GTX 580M GPU; in any case, 98.7 is more than adequate for high framerate gaming.
|Most gaming notebooks are simply not built with battery life in mind. Builders usually just cram in the largest battery they can and hope that the high-powered components don’t suck it dry too fast. The Monster is different because of its size constraints; it has a smaller (6-cell) battery than many of these other rigs, but of course, the display is pulling a lot less power, as well.
Regardless, we wanted to see what battery life was like under moderately strenuous workloads. Here are the results from our Battery Eater Pro tests.
The Monster ran for an hour and twenty minutes, which puts it ahead of most of the field. Only the Maingear system and ASUS G74SX did better.
Of course, if you’re just noodling around the Internet or typing up a document, the battery will last far longer, and you can adjust settings such as brightness to increase battery life, as well. A little tweaking on the user’s part would no doubt tease out some additional minutes of juice while gaming, too.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
|Performance Summary: Although the Monster will offer up excellent gaming performance with some older games, it's GeForce GT 650M struggled a bit in newer DX11 titles. In certain tests isolating CPU, memory and storage performance, it’s clear that Eurocom did a good job of selecting strong components (Core i7, 8GB of DDR3-1866 memory, Intel 520 Series SSD) to give the whole system a boost, and all around, benchmark scores were really goo, though not always impressive. Battery performance and portability, however, are two areas in which the Monster shines.
Eurocom Monster 1.0
Eurocom is going for something here--a balance of performance, portability, and price--and although we like where this is going, the company just missed hitting the sweet spot yet. For starters, the $1605 price tag isn’t bad, but it doesn’t stop buyers in their tracks; they’ll likely shop around for potentially better deals on other systems. (For what it’s worth, Monster configurations start much lower, at $783, and Eurocom also offers a 10% off education deal for students.)
Further, although the CPU, memory, and SSD provide superb all-around performance, the GeForce GT 650M GPU held the system back somewhat in a few tests. For a small notebook on which users will sometimes play games, that’s no problem, but this is billed as a gaming notebook, and as we’ve seen, there will be some compromises when playing certain titles.
The design of the laptop itself could also use some excitement; it’s a simple black box with no lighting scheme or anything particularly attractive save for the two Eurocom logos, and the display didn't stand out. Although the multitouch touchpad is responsive, it's bumpy and rather uncomfortable, not to mention it gets hot when the system is running under a heavy load. That said, the finish does do an uncanny job of resisting fingerprints, and the build overall is solid yet light.
What the Monster really has going for it is true mobility in a gaming notebook. Most gaming rigs are obscenely large and heavy, making them “laptops” in name only. Only a few of the most hardcore gamers would bother to haul one of those things around on any regular basis. The Monster, by contrast, is light at under 4 pounds and is surprisingly small; instead of being terribly unportable, it begs to be taken along for the ride. Other shortcomings aside, Eurocom nailed that aspect of the Monster 1.0, and they’ll no doubt continue to improve upon the design and features in future generations.