If you could build your dream gaming notebook, it might look like the $3,348 Eurocom Racer 2.0. Equipped with an Ivy Bridge processor, a matte 1080p display and one of the most powerful AMD GPUs on the market, the Racer 2.0 is here to kick ass and take names. But can this rig hold its own against bigger names?
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Click to EnlargeCompared with gaming machines such as the Alienware M17x R4 and the Origin Eon 17S, the Racer 2.0 is rather unassuming. The black rubberized lid is emblazoned with a large gray Eurocom insignia, and subtle angles along the edges and a gentle slope along the top of the lid gives the Racer some character. We appreciate the rubberized finish; it not only eliminates the possibility of smudging and fingerprints, but feels good, too.
The notebook's interior is also rather humdrum, featuring a black rubberized keyboard dock and palm rest. The only standouts are the ornate speaker that runs the length of the keyboard, the backlit keyboard shining an ethereal blue light and the fingerprint reader between the discrete mouse buttons.
Overall, we prefer Origin's approach, which lets customers choose from a slew of custom paint jobs and panel designs to make their notebooks stand out.
At 7.2 pounds, the 15 x 10.2 x 1.4-1.7-inch Racer 2.0 is no lightweight, but a bit more portable than the MSI GT680R-008US (7.6 pounds, 15.6 x 10.5 x 2.2 inches). Nevertheless, this is not a notebook made for travel.
Click to EnlargeWe were pleasantly surprised to see a matte display on a gaming notebook. The 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080-pixel display delivered vivid colors and wide viewing angles, enough so two friends can watch you put the hurt on a few n00bs.
As we played "Assassin's Creed 2," the Racer did a great job rendering the rich, colorful vistas of Venice, including the deep blue waters of its famous canals, and the decadent purples, reds and golds of noblemen and women's attire. As we surveyed the lay of the land in "Eagle Vision," friends were swathed in an ethereal blue while foes glowed a menacing red. The crisp, clear graphics were even more breathtaking as we perched on the precipice of especially tall viewpoints that pulled back to reveal the intricate architecture of the expansive city.
As we watched the 1080p trailer of "Les Miserables," Anne Hathaway's painfully gaunt, ashen white skin made her periwinkle blue cape pop. There were areas of fuzziness, however, particularly in darker scenes. The Racer 2.0's 273 lux display is easily brighter than the 249 desktop replacement average as well as the Eon 17S (262), but falls a little below the 282-lux M17x.
Overall, the M17x displayed deeper blacks, sharper details and more vivid color in games such as "Assassin's Creed 2," but we prefer the Racer 2.0's matte display to the M17x's more reflective screen.
Despite the THX TruStudio Pro technology, audio isn't the loudest on the Racer 2.0. The Onkyo speakers barely filled our small testing room. As we listened to the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic," we heard crisp snares and the distinctive sound of a record being scratched. The bass, however was woefully absent. As we played "Assassin's Creed 2," street fights sounded raucous and visceral as our punches connected with a sickening thud on our hapless opponents. Still, the speaker could use a little more oomph.
Keyboard and Customizable Backlighting
Click to EnlargeThe classic keyboard with number pad on the Racer 2.0 delivered firm feedback, and we were especially fond of its soft-touch finish. However, we didn't like the undersize Right Shift key. On a 17-inch notebook, there's more than enough space for full-size keys. During the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we scored 47 wpm with a 1 percent error rate, slightly lower than our usual 50 wpm with 1 percent error rate.
Similar to Alienware and MSI, the Racer 2.0's backlit keyboard can be customized with a number of colors and effects. Eurocom's configurator features eight colors and eight effects, including Tempo, Dancing, Custom and Wave. Customizing the layout was simple; just click on an effect and the keyboard changes. Choosing the Custom setting allowed us to set our own colors, but we couldn't add any effects. We prefer Alienware's AlienFX configurator, as it offers a wider level of customization along with a slicker, cleaner interface.
Touchpad and Fingerprint Reader
Click to EnlargeThe Racer 2.0's 3.4 x 1.8-inch Synaptics touchpad is coated in the same rubberized material as the palm rest. Our fingers skated over the surface, resulting in a smooth and accurate performance. Multi-touch gestures also worked well, such as two-finger scroll and rotate and three-finger flick and press. The pair of discrete buttons delivered strong feedback with a audibly satisfying click.
We encountered some trouble using the fingerprint reader between the mouse keys. We continually received error messages from the AuthenTec TrueSuite software saying the reader didn't get a full scan of our finger or that we were moving our finger too slowly over the scanner. Once set up, we liked that you can use the reader as an alternate, secure login for email and social networking accounts, including Facebook, Gmail and Yelp.
After running a Hulu video for 15 minutes at full screen, the Racer 2.0's touchpad registered a chilly 76 degrees Fahrenheit. That's well below our 95-degree threshold of comfort. The space between the G and H keys measured 90 degrees while the underside registered 89 degrees. The front and the middle of the bottom of the notebook were the hottest points at 94 degrees.
Understandably, things heated up when we started gaming. After 15 minutes of playing "Batman: Arkham City," the touchpad, space between the G and H keys and underside measured 78, 100 and 93 degrees, respectively. The rear bottom right vent measured a disturbing 108 degrees. It should also be noted that when we started gaming or serious multitasking the Racer 2.0's fan kicked into overdrive and became noticeably loud.
Click to EnlargeThe 2.0 megapixel full HD webcam captures stills and video in 1920 x 1080 pixels. We saw decent color accuracy in both natural and fluorescent light, including our red-and-blue N.Y. Giants bandana. Photos and video were fairly sharp, showing off the geometric cuts in our silver ring, but there was still a fair amount of noise.
A USB 2.0 port, tray-loading DVD writer, secure lock slot and jacks for headphone, microphone, Line-in and S/PDIF sit along the right side of the Racer. A pair of USB 3.0 ports and a USB 3.0/eSATA port line the left with a 9-in-1 card reader, a Firewire 400 port and Ethernet. The back of the notebook houses a DisplayPort, a DVI-out port, HDMI and the AC jack.
You won't find many 15-inch laptops with this kind of firepower. The Racer 2.0 comes ready to game with a 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-3920XM CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive paired with a 256GB SSD MLC mSATA drive and AMD Radeon HD 7970M graphics with 2GB of RAM. During our real-world testing, the notebook easily ran our Web browser game of "Bastion" while running a full virus scan with nine open tabs in Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.
On PCMark07, the Racer 2.0 notched 5,146, well above the 3,391 desktop replacement average. The Origin Eon 17S, which also has a 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-3920XM CPU, delivered a scorching 5,602, while the Alienware M17x R4 and its 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-3720QM CPU scored 4,610.
The Racer 2.0's 256GB SSD MLC mSATA drive loaded the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional in 42 seconds, 13 seconds faster than the 55-second average. The M17x and its 32GB mSATA SSD booted in 0:34, while the Eon 17S and its dual 120GB SSDs loaded in a swift 0:17.
During the File Transfer test, the Racer 2.0 duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 58 seconds for a transfer rate of 87.8 MBps, well above the 44.7 MBps category average. However, the Origin 17S continued to dominate with a rate of 254.4 MBps. The M17x brought up the rear (23.6 MBps).
It took the Racer 4 minutes and 7 seconds to match 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses on the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, slightly faster than the 4:20 average. The Alienware M17x was right on its heels with 4:10, but both were no match for the Eon 17S' speedy time of 3:17.
Gaming and Graphics
Click to EnlargeThe Eurocom Racer 2.0 can switch between its Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU and an AMD Radeon HD 7970M with 2GB of VRAM to achieve optimal performance. However, you have to first designate which program will use what GPU using AMD's Catalyst Control Center control panel. We prefer Nvidia's Optimus technology, which switches GPUs on the fly without your input.
Our play-through of "Assassin's Creed 2" (pictured) was a heady mix of navigating rooftops, climbing to dizzying heights and stealthily stalking our prey for the kill. When we ran the game at its native resolution of 1920 x 1080 at 60 Hz with Multisampling off, but with everything else on maximum, the Racer 2.0 topped out at 50 fps. As we changed the Multisampling setting to 2x, 4x and 8x, we saw frame rates of 51, 64 and 70 fps, respectively.
The Eurocom Racer 2.0 delivered a strong showing during our synthetic testing, scoring 5,988 on 3DMark11. That's 3,490 points higher than the category average. The Origin Eon 17S and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M GPU notched 3,651. However, the Alienware M17x's Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M GPU blew past the competition with 6,158.
During our "World of Warcraft" benchmarks, the Racer 2.0 averaged 214 fps on autodetect at full HD resolution. That's 51 frames above the 163 fps desktop replacement category average. Still, the Eon 17S and M17x scored 232 and 279 fps, respectively. When we cranked it up to maximum, the Racer 2.0 matched the 86 fps category average. The M17x scored 147 fps while the Eon 17S delivered 129 fps.
When we pitted the Racer 2.0 against the graphically taxing "Batman: Arkham City," the notebook delivered 76 fps on low at 1920 x 1080. That was more than enough to top the 65 fps average and the Eon 17S' 69 fps. However, the Alienware notched an impressive 82 fps on these same settings. Switching to High, the Racer 2.0 notched 58 fps, well above the 30 fps category average. The M17x and the Eon 17S scored 52 and 30 fps, respectively.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing at 40 percent brightness) the Racer 2.0 lasted a disappointing 2 hours and 21 minutes. That's nearly an hour and a half behind the 3:48 desktop replacement category average. The Eon 17S only did slightly better, at 2:35, while the M17x delivered 5:27 hours of juice.
Software and Warranty
Click to EnlargeSimilar to most gaming notebooks, the Racer 2.0 eliminates bloatware and stocks just a few programs. Our favorite utility was Control Center, which enabled us to set display brightness, desktop background and time zone.
The Eurocom Racer 2.0 comes with a one-year return to factory depot warranty with one year of 24/7 tech support.
Our review unit of the Eurocom Racer 2.0 cost $3,348 and comes equipped with a 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-2670QM CPU with 16GB of RAM, a 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive paired with a 256GB SSD MLC mSATA drive, AMD Radeon HD 7970M and an Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU. The $1,375 base model features a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-2670QM processor, 8GB of RAM, a Nvidia GTX 660M GPU and a 7,200-rpm 500GB hard drive.
Similar to Origin, Eurocom offers an insane amount of customization, including up 32GB of RAM, a second 600GB Intel 320 SSD, or an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M GPU. Keep in mind however, that any additional bells and whistles will quickly drive the price up.
Click to EnlargeFor $3,348, the Eurocom Racer 2.0 is one tricked-out gaming notebook/desktop replacement that delivers solid performance and graphics with a matte display. However, its short battery life and somewhat plain chassis give us pause. To keep things in perspective, the Alienware M17x costs $700 less, but offers a sleeker design, comparable performance, longer battery life and sweeter backlighting features. However, gamers looking for a reliable gaming rig that's more compact but still big on power should check out the Eurocom Racer 2.0.