AMD Radeon HD 6970M Review w/ Eurocom

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Eurocom Panther 2.0: Usage Experience & Verdict

As we've seen, the Eurocom Panther 2.0 gets top marks for build quality. We also had a pleasant time using it. For the most part, the build quality continues to all of the controls and keys. Located along the top of the keyboard are a set of LEDs which indicate volume, wireless and bluetooth connectivity, web cam, caps lock, num lock, scroll lock and hard drive activity. The volume, wi-fi, bluetooth and camera LEDs are actually touch sensitive and will act as controls. The wi-fi and bluetooth LEDs actually indicate activity and will flash when data is being transmitted. The AC power and battery status LEDs are located on the front of the machine and the power LED is set into the power button.

 

Keyboard & Trackpad
The Panther's keyboard is very pleasant to use. The keys feel good to type on and the keyboard has minimal flex. Eurocom offers the Panther 2.0 with 14 different keyboard layouts. There are at least two different English keyboards, the US International and UK version. Both have problems in terms of layout. The US International keyboard is the most standard layout but the numpad has been rearranged to accommodate the arrow keys. The numpad's arrangement is somewhat awkward and seemingly unnecessary since there appears to be plenty of room to either side of the keyboard. It should have been possible to fit a standard keyboard layout.

US International Keyboard Layout

The trackpad is without any real usage flaws. However, its on the small side considering the amount of room available. The two keys also make mouse-like click sounds when pressed which might be an annoyance for some. Set in between the two keys is a fingerprint reader. It's worth noting that the trackpad surface and the keys are separated by a clear plastic bar that lights up blue when the system is on, but is otherwise unnoticeable. A nice aesthetic touch that also helps you find the trackpad keys in the dark.

Sound
The Eurocom Panther 2.0 is equipped with 5.1 surround sound, in the sense that there are five speakers and a "subwoofer" placed around the laptop. Three speakers used for the front, left and right channels are located directly under the LCD and two more for the rear channels are located at the front of the laptop, under the palm rest. On the bottom of the laptop is a tiny "subwoofer" unit.

Overall, the sound quality is acceptable compared to other laptops, but nothing special. The surround sound is largely a gimmick and there is no real spacial positioning. While the sound is free of the shrill highs that plague laptop speakers, they are lacking in the midrange and bass departments. The subwoofer unit is completely useless for producing bass, as you would expect from a 1-inch driver. The "subwoofer" is not on a crossover and as a result works as a kind of mid-range driver. The rest of the speakers don't produce much midrange so the majority of the mid to lower frequencies come from the "subwoofer" unit, located on the underside of the laptop. This has the very unfortunate effect of making the sound seem hollow and distant since most of the frequency range is coming from underneath the laptop. It's as if the speakers are being smothered by pillows (or several layers of magnesium, plastic and silicon).

The main attraction, in terms of sound, is the Panther's set of surround sound hook-ups so you can use a proper sound system.

Screen Quality
We initially thought the Eurocom Panther 2.0 was equipped with an IPS panel. Side-by-side comparisons with S-IPS professional monitors showed that the Panther's screen is quite good for a laptop. After some digging we discovered that the screen is actually a TN model like most laptops. Except unlike most laptop TN panels, this one isn't terrible. The back-lighting is even and strong, although we did notice some slight bleeding along the edges. The image quality is excellent and the viewing angles are acceptable. Color reproduction is fair but not quite comparable to a real IPS panel. Overall, the screen is quite good and should be sufficient for all of your multimedia needs as well as basic image production.

Heat & Noise
The Panther 2.0 is well behaved. Even after several hours of heavy benchmarking the laptop did not feel hot to the touch. Since the hard drives are located under the palm rest and not the processor bits, the palm rests remains cool and pleasant to touch. The keyboard gets lukewarm and stays that way as long as the machine is on.

Unfortunately the Panther does make quite a growl, as you might expect from the array of four blower fans needed to cool the components. The fans are noticeable even when the machine is idling at the desktop. The sound level is very comparable to a typical desktop system.

The Clevo X7200 chassis that the Panther is based on has been known to encounter overheating issues when fully equipped with a top-end processor such as the Intel i7-980X in our review unit. We have encountered this problem with a different Clevo X7200 based system in the past from another manufacturer. Unfortunately we did not have the time to investigate this further since this article is not a review of the Panther 2.0. However it's worth noting that our Eurocom Panther 2.0 system performed normally during our benchmarking and we did not experience heat related problems.

Who Should Buy This?
The Eurocom Panther 2.0 is an interesting, unique product that will pique the interest of many, but only be owned by a few. The Panther 2.0 is definitely a niche product aimed at those of you who need serious workstation and server grade computing power in a small, easy to transport form factor for use in locations where you have access to an AC outlet. For all intents and purposes, the Panther 2.0 is a portable desktop, not a laptop. The battery is nothing more than an integrated UPS. You get the benefits of high-end desktop computing performance in a laptop-like form factor but without most of the advantages of a laptop, except for the heavy peripheral integration and easy transportability.

As for what it costs, if you must ask then you probably don't need a Panther in your life. Suffice to say, a decked out Panther 2.0 with all the trimmings, like the one we are using for this graphics comparison, will have a price well north of $7000. Although it is possible to configure a Panther with less features and a lower cost, you need to ask yourself if you really need a Panther 2.0 in that case. You might be better off looking at one of Eurocom's many other, lighter, smaller and more energy efficient laptops. The Eurocom Panther 2.0 is made for scenarios where no desktop can go and an ordinary laptop just isn't enough.

Now that we've seen what our benchmark platform is made of, let's get back to our head-to-head mobile graphics comparison between the Radeon HD 6970 and the GeForce GTX 470M.

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