Eurocom's 11-inch Monster ($1,444) may be small, but with its Intel Ivy Bridge processor, Nvidia 650M graphics and solid-state drive, it packs more than enough power to go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest and baddest gaming machines on the planet. But a gaming machine needs more than strong performance numbers to be considered a must-have.
Click to EnlargeFor a gaming notebook, the Eurocom Monster has a relatively subdued look to it. Its rubberized lid features a nearly imperceptible grid pattern that is bisected by a pinstripe that runs through its center. In the middle of the pinstripe sits a silver Eurocom logo. The system feels good, but it doesn't have the premium, more menacing vibe of the Alienware M11x.
Pop the lid and you'll see the same rubberized material and grid pattern found on the Monster's wrist rest and touchpad. The keyboard deck also gets a rubberized treatment, although no grid pattern. In the top left corner of the Monster's keyboard deck sit the system's green Wi-Fi, hard drive, caps lock, number lock and scroll lock indicators. Opposite those is the Monster's large power button complete with a blue LED.
Measuring 11.5 x 8.3 x 1.5 inches and weighing 4 pounds, the Eurocom Monster is lighter than the Alienware M11x (4.4 pounds), but it has a chunkier profile. The Alienware measures 1.3 inches thick. Overall, the Monster reminds of an oversized premium netbook.
Click to EnlargeNext to excellent performance numbers, one of the most important things a gaming notebook needs is a top-notch display. Unfortunately, the Eurocom Monster is saddled with a glossy 11.3-inch panel (1366 x 768) that's relatively dim. The screen registered just 173 lux, compared with the category average of 228 lux.
Images were still sharp and colors accurate while watching a 1080p trailer for "The Amazing Spider-Man." Viewing angles, however, were subpar, making it tough to watch Peter Parker's exploits at a 45-degree angle.
Eurocom built the Monster's speakers into the rear of the Monster's underside, which caused the audio to sound slightly muffled when the notebook was in our lap. That issue aside, the Monster pumped out crisp and accurate audio.
While listening to Jay-Z and Kanye West's "H.A.M." bass notes were on point, and the dramatic breakdowns in the song still had the same intense impact as they would on a larger system. The heavy guitar riffs and guttural sounds of All That Remain's "Overcome" were equally clean.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Click to EnlargeWe didn't experience any trouble crushing goons while playing "Batman: Arkham City" on the Monster's chiclet-style keyboard. That's because the WASD keys (and other keys) offer satisfying feedback. We were able to run through Arkham without skipping a beat.
That said, the direction keys on the right side of the keyboard are incredibly small, so gamers accustomed to using those to navigate might have a difficult time. Touch typists will also be frustrated by the shrunken right Shift key.
The Monster's Elan multitouch touchpad features the same textured rubberized material found on its keyboard deck. Overall, we found the touchpad to be accurate and well-suited for gaming.
The Eurocom Monster managed to remain cool when pushed to its limits. After running "Batman: Arkham City" on its highest settings for 15 minutes, the Monster's keyboard was still a relatively cool 83 degrees. The touchpad was a bit hotter at 94 degrees, while the system's underside was 95 degrees. We consider temperatures of 95 and below to be comfortable.
That's not to say the Monster doesn't generate its share of heat. In fact, the left corner of the notebook's underside, where the system's vents are located, reached 108 degrees.
Click to EnlargeEurocom outfitted the Monster with a good number of ports for such a small system. On the left side are its two USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, HDMI port, VGA connector and Ethernet port. The right side features a USB 2.0 port, lock slot and power jack. Up front, you'll find the Monster's 9-in-1 card reader. Because it lacks an optical drive, gamers will need to download digital copies of their games (or use an external drive).
Click to EnlargeThe Monster's 1.3-megapixel webcam captured disappointingly grainy images. Photos and videos of faces lacked significant detail, whether in a well-lit setting or more softly lit room. When we tried using the cam with a strong light source to our back, the image got washed out.
Graphics and Gaming
Click to EnlargeFor a manufacturer to call its laptop a gaming machine, it has to pack it with some of the best hardware on the planet. And that's exactly what Eurocom did with the Monster. This little guy comes with Nvidia's Kepler-based GeForce GT650M with 2GB of RAM. While not as powerful as, say, the Nvidia GTX 670M graphics chip found in the excellent MSI GT60, the Monster muscled its way to some strong scores.
With the graphics set to auto-detect, the Eurocom Monster ran "World of Warcraft" at a blistering 179 frames per second. That's better than the Samsung Series 7 Gamer's (Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M with 2GB of RAM) 167 fps and the ASUS G75VW-DS71's (GeForce GTX 660M GPUs with 2GB of RAM) 158fps. When we set the graphics settings to max, the Monster still managed 96 fps, besting the category average of 16 fps and the ASUS G75VW's 88 fps.
The Eurocom Monster also managed to party with the big boys when it came to running "Batman: Arkham City." With the graphics at their lowest setting and the resolution set to 1,366 x 768 (the Monster's max), we cleaned up Gotham's streets at a brisk 41 fps. When we pumped the graphics up to Very High and switched on Direct X11 and 4X MSAA, the Monster dropped to an unplayable 22 fps.
It's worth noting that rendering graphics on the MSI GT60's 15-inch and the ASUS and Samsung's 17-inch displays at their native resolutions requires more processing power than it takes to the Monster's to power its lower-res 11-inch display.
The Eurocom Monster is the smallest Ivy Bridge notebook yet to land in our labs. But don't let its diminutive footprint fool you. The Monster's 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-3720QM quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM and 120GB SSD make for a potent combo.
On the PCMark 07 test, which measures a PC's overall performance, the Monster scored 4,299. That's almost double the category average of 2,476 and nearly 1,000 points better than the MSI GT60's score of 3,336 (2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM quad-core processor, 12GB of RAM and dual 500GB, 7,200-rpm HDDs). The Monster even managed to outclass the Samsung Series 7 Gamer, which scored 3,611 on the same test (2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM quad-core processor, 16GB of RAM and dual 750GB 7,200-rpm HDDs).
The Monster's 120GB SSD made quick work of our LAPTOP File Transfer test, moving 4.97GB of mixed media files in 45 seconds. That's a rate of 113 MBps. The average ultraportable manages 45 MBps.
Just as impressive was the Monster's blazing boot time: just 19 seconds.
Click to EnlargeEurocom doesn't cram any bloatware down your throat like other manufacturers. Our system came with Windows 7 Ultimate, THX TrueStudio Pro audio software and that's all.
Our $1,444 Eurocom Monster review unit came with a 2.6-GHz Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3720QM quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 120GB SSD and Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics chip with 2GB of RAM. If you're looking for even more power, you can step up to the big leagues and outfit the Monster with a 2.7-GHz Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3820QM quad-core processor, 16GB of RAM and 600GB SSD for $3,409.
If, however, you're in the market for a gaming machine and are on a sub-$1,000 budget, you can pick up a Monster with an Intel 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-2410M dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 7,200-rpm HDD and Nvidia GeForce GT 650M with 2GB of RAM with no operating system installed for $899.
Click to EnlargeWhen it comes to gaming laptops, battery life is usually an afterthought, and the Eurocom Monster is no different. On the LAPTOP Battery Test, the Eurocom's 6-cell lithium ion battery lasted just 3 hours and 28 minutes. That's well below the ultraportable category average of 6 hours and 49 minutes, but not too bad when you consider how its fellow gaming rigs fared on the same test.
Click to EnlargeThe Eurocom Monster proves that you can get an 11-inch notebook with serious gaming muscle. This pricey but very capable $1,444 mini rig can play the latest titles and go with you anywhere, and the built-in SSD adds an extra dose of speed. However, the keyboard feels netbookish, and we wish the display were brighter. Despite these drawbacks, the Monster is an impressive little powerhouse.