The global PC market for consumers has moved on from desktops to laptops, but professionals are still mostly clinging to desktop computers because, historically, they have been far more powerful than their portable counterparts.
Over the past few years though, the tables have turned with mobile workstations becoming more and more powerful as component manufacturers focus their R&D efforts on designing small, power-sipping parts that can be used both on laptops and desktops.
In the world of mobile powerhouses, there are only two big players outside of the usual household names (Lenovo, HP, Dell, MSI etc) and both are relatively unknown to the wider community. Quanta and Clevo are both based in Taiwan and account for almost all of the mobile workstations sold globally.
So it is not surprising that Eurocom, one of the few mobile workstation vendors, is using a Clevo platform (likely to be the P751DM2-G) for its latest portable, the Sky X4E2.
Eurocom is based in Canada but has partnered with a Czech outfit, Goldmax, to provide EU-based support to its customers on this side of the Atlantic.
The X4E2 is a beast and reminds us of the PC Specialist Octane II Pro, albeit in a 15.6-inch form factor. It has the same industrial design and disregard for the race towards thinness which has characterised the laptop industry over the past decade.
In fact, this is a ridiculously thick laptop that tops the scales at almost 3.6kg with an 82Whr 8-cell battery, and that’s without the massive 230W power supply unit which weighs just over 1kg by itself (once you factor in the power cable).
As for its footprint, at 386 x 262 x 38mm, it is far bigger than your average business laptop, and about twice the thickness, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are two reasons why Eurocom chose such a generously big chassis for the Sky X4E2.
The first is because it’s billed as an upgradable laptop with a replaceable GPU and CPU, a move aimed at maximising ROI by lengthening the lifecycle of a product that could cost thousands.
Incidentally, that also means vendors can use one base unit for a number of use cases, saving on development and rollout costs. End users can therefore configure laptops with Xeon or Core i7 CPUs paired with GeForce or Quadro parts.
Secondly, the larger size also means there’s space for ample expansion capabilities with up to four storage drives (two M2.2280 SSDs and two 9.5mm, 2.5-inch bays) and four SO-DIMM sockets.
The same applies to connectivity options: there’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, six USB ports (including two TB3/Type-C), two mini-DisplayPorts, one HDMI 2.0, four audio ports, one Ethernet connector, a card reader, and a fingerprint sensor.
As expected, this notebook runs Windows 10 Pro but there are clear signs that betray its gaming DNA. The stylish air vents at the back, the Sound Blaster audio, the Killer NIC technology, gaming settings in the control panel, the ability to create key macros plus the fact that you can customise the colour of the keyboard lights.
Our review sample came with a Full HD IPS display, an Intel Core i7-7700K CPU (clocked at 4.2GHz, with a 91W TDP), an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 MXM GPU with 8GB GDDR5 memory, a single 16GB memory module, 512GB SSD (Samsung NVMe), 1TB HDD (Hitachi, 7200RPM) and a 2-megapixel webcam.
You can customise your own workstation via Eurocom-Europe. A few points worth mentioning: prices are in Euros, the OS is optional, the default keyboard is US (you have to pay extra to get a UK one fitted) and the warranty for individuals (a standard two-year) is cheaper than for companies.
The total bill for the configuration at the time of writing was €3378 (around £2,925, $3,650), which is about 30% more expensive than if the machine was sourced from the US, even with shipping costs included.
When it comes to sheer performance and handling, this particular version of the Sky X4E2 didn’t disappoint. We love the display which delivered sharp and crisp colours, and ditto for the keyboard and the touchpad (which has a fingerprint reader and two physical buttons). Both provided great feedback and all this will likely delight most touch typists.
Eurocom’s laptop returned some exceptionally good numbers on our synthetic benchmark tests. Its CPU reached 2,211 and 9,741 points on CPU-Z single and multi-thread tests respectively. Its SSD hit a jaw-dropping 2.21GBps and 1.59GBps on CrystalDiskMark for read/write speeds.
The X4E2 produced the same level of performance with Passmark, hitting 6,409 in terms of its Passmark rating and 12,268 on CPU Mark. Cinebench numbers were equally impressive with 141.18 fps on OpenGL and a staggering 922cb for the CPU test.
Of course, don’t raise your expectations concerning battery longevity. Eurocom quotes a 130-minute battery life, but expect it to be much shorter, especially if you use the laptop as intended (i.e. under full load with GPU and CPU maxed out).
It is worth pointing out that the device supports Intel’s XTU (Extreme Tuning Utility) which allows users to overclock their (unlocked) CPU without much effort, and TPM (Trusted Platform Module) which encrypts the data on the laptop.
Let’s be clear – the unique selling point of the Sky X4E2 is how customisable it is. The model we were sent used consumer parts (Intel Core/GeForce components) and as such represents poor value for money compared to similar models from established brands in the UK. A similar configuration sourced from PC Specialist costs almost £1,000 less (around $1,250), but comes with an even better processor.
Eurocom is in a unique position, though, as it’s the only vendor in the market to provide an extensive list of customisation options to cater for professional users. PC Specialist confirmed to us that it will no longer offer such components (Xeon or Quadro parts).
The Sky X4E2 is a decent performer with tons of configuration options and extensive connectivity. Its split personality makes it ideal for someone who works in verticals that demand the sort of firepower delivered by this laptop, and is also happy to have some gaming grunt for after the working day is done.
- We’ve highlighted the 10 best mobile workstations of 2017