Desktop replacements are an acquired taste to say the very least. Pro-gamers may love their balance of power and mobility, but for most of us they present something of a quandary.
You see, the problem afflicting them isn't so much their crippling bulk, unquenchable power demands, measly battery life or, dare we suggest, inflated prices, but the fact that no desktop replacement is ever going to be as powerful as a well-specced desktop rig. Well, at least we thought so until the D900C Phantom landed.
Eurocom is a Canadian manufacturer, which has sidestepped such power-related worries by shoe-horning the premium parts of an outright desktop into the form factor of a 17-inch laptop. What we are left with, according to Eurocom, is the 'world's first quad core mobile workstation'. Catchy.
A cursory glance at the spec list suggests the Phantom takes its cues from the 'desktop' element of its signature, packing in Intel's 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q6700 edition pimped out with 4GB of DDR2 RAM (admittedly as SODIMMs).
If that gets you grinning then prepare yourself, as the Phantom's graphics muscle comes courtesy of dual NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950GTX cards in SLI. Who needs a desktop rig now, eh? But before we tear into its performance figures, lets see what kind of luxuries are afforded to you for the £2,937.50 for outlay, tax and shipping costs.
In terms of looks, the 17-inch chassis is something of a beast. Its mixed matte and gloss coating is uninspiring, and its broad bottom unit and top-shell look plain oafish. But heck, the Phantom's not built for looks, and importantly its 17-inch 1920x1200 WUXGA resolution display at 16:10 screen aspect ratio is a delight. Even though it's a long-way off a desktop display, it remains a very good screen, and does the twin SLI cards justice, even when gaming at the most demanding of screen resolutions.
Weighing in at just shy of 7kg, the Phantom's not particularly mobile. But then, in truth, it's not really meant to be. Corroboration of this comes from the UPS, which Eurocom provides: it's a PSU, with the 20V break-out box itself adding some extra bulk.
Inside, the Phantom's equipped with two monster 160GB SATA-II hard drives, spinning at 7,200rpm and pre-configured in a RAID 0 array for that extra zip. The drives are blisteringly fast, while the 4GB of RAM supplied in two 2GB DDR2-800 sticks is a further premium touch.
Such specs saw the Phantom breeze through a cumbersome Photoshop scripting benchmark that left a Mac Pro (also quad core) struggling. The Phantom's impressive 8MB of level 2 cache saw it through with solidity and speed.
Graphics-wise, the 7950GTX's pumped by 512MB of GDDR3 each produce some astounding benchmarks; 3DMark06 (9994) was unbelievable, while its Cinebench R10 performance (844) - which invokes Maxon's Cinema 4D - was on a par with a premium desktop.
The MXM-HE designed 7950GTX has been one of the chief winners of the increase in performance laptop technology. As NVIDIA's flagship GPU, its chipset supports CineFX 4.0 Shading Architecture and 64-bit texturing, filtering and blending.
Paired with lesser processors, it has been known to encounter the occasional bottleneck, and 64-bit and DirectX 10 support on Vista in particular, remains a sticky issue. That said, Eurocom says it's committed to bolstering its drivers as regularly as possible, and already its site has various updates, so as not to lose any of the Phantom's functionality.
What's clear then is that the Phantom is mightily powerful. Indeed, Eurocom should be congratulated for managing to build the thing, especially given the heat produced by the Intel chipset. To offset this, the Phantom packs no-less than four fans to suck cool air in and belch hot air out - all placed on the bottom of the chassis.
Perhaps Eurocom had its tongue planted firmly in its cheek when it christened the Phantom, because it's about as loud as any laptop we've ever heard, and given the four fans strapped to its hide, would possibly take-off were it not so heavy.
The related snag of such cooling requirements, and the knock-on effect of plonking a desktop processor in a slimline case, is that it's also more power-hungry than any other mobile workstation we've seen.
The Phantom's battery life is so feeble it failed MobileMark 2006, and during a timed DVD playback managed a derisory 52 minutes before dying. To give Eurocom its dues, it has done astonishingly well to ensure a battery-life of any kind, and given it's aimed squarely at gamers and high-end, desk-bound users it's certainly no huge problem.
Anyone considering the Phantom wil be buying it for one sole reason; its raw power, and Eurocom seems happily aware of this. The Phantom lacks, for example, any form of HD DVD or Blu-ray drive, and though the connectivity options are complete enough: with four USB ports, S-Video in and out, a DVI out, multi-card reader and a TV tuner, it lacks the kind of extras you'd hope for at this price, including HDMI and any kind of decent pre-installed software.
There are alternatives in HP's Pavilion HDX9000 and Dell's Core 2 Duo-equipped XPS M2010; each of which offer more whistles and bells, with HP in particular including an HD DVD ROM drive and 7.1 surround sound options - but neither matches the Phantom's tremendous power.