Five Multimedia Notebooks, Tested

Eurocom D90X

If we had a "Big Kahuna" award to dispense for this round-up, the Eurocom D90X Phantom would be a shoo-in. Featuring an Intel Core 2 Q9450 quad-core processor, 8 GB of DDR2-667 RAM (with a 64-bit version of Vista Ultimate that really caused us some heartburn until we figured out how to construct a clean system build with all the right hardware drivers) and a RAID 0 pair of 7200 rpm 200 GB Seagate hard disks, this notebook was literally in a class by itself. Of course, at a price of over $5,965 as configured (you can only order these notebooks direct from Eurocom), you’d have to expect a lot of capability for such a big, big price.

On the keyboard deck, the order is: left channel speaker, four audio jacks (line-in, S/PDIF, microphone-in and headphone-out) then the right-channel speakers.

The D90X also qualifies as big for several other reasons: weight, performance and expandability. Eurocom reports an official weight of 11.9 lbs for the unit, but as ours came configured it weighed 13.0 lbs. Add another 2.2 lb. for the AC adapter and power cord and you’ve got a hefty chunk of technology to lug around. Of course, this is also the only notebook in this round-up that includes a quad-core (desktop) CPU and also dual-SLI graphics cards, so it pulls way ahead in our test results (except, of course, in battery life). With room for up to four hard disks, dual graphics cards and all kinds of other internal interfaces, this unit also accommodates more add-ins than most notebooks as well. Surprisingly, its dimensions are not the biggest, either — that honor goes to the HP HDX 9203KW, which appears next in this round-up.

The D90X also included a built-in Bluetooth receiver, a modem and GbE RJ-45, plus 802.11a/b/g/n wireless networking capabilities. Its DVI video output with HDCP support delivered high-definition output, but we were a little surprised that Eurocom omitted an HDMI output given the convenience of transporting audio and video over the same link. The built-in TV tuner included over the air HDTV support along with QAM for unencrypted HD channels on CATV (there aren’t many, but there are some, and this device handled them nicely).

Left side, from left to right: VGA port, S-Video out, CATV jack, RJ-11 modem jack, RJ-45 GbE port, ExpressCard slot, (beneath) optical drive tray and 7-in-1 memory card reader (MMX, SD, MS, MS Pro, MS Duo, Mini SD and RS MMC).

Ports and connectors galore also adorn all four edges of the D90X, as the following photographs will attest.

Eurocom recommends you leave these air intakes unobstructed or face overheating problems. As we ran this unit, it got noticeably warm underneath (we measured surface temps of 104 °F / 40 °C on the bottom surface using an infrared heat sensor), especially under heavy load. Yet another reason why this unit is by no means a true laptop!

Rear view, from left to right: Vent/fan intake, DC-in jack, DVI port, more vents and S-Video input jack.

Other notable things about the D90X reflect its desktop heritage: top FSB speeds of 1,066 MHz and 1,333 MHz, plus honest-to-gosh Intel 965 and ICH8R chipsets. The two 8800 GTS graphics cards together provide 1 GB of DDR3 graphics RAM and thereby limit 32-bit Vista to 3 GB of working memory space, which neatly explains why Eurocom stuffed our unit with 8 GB and installed a 64-bit version of Windows Vista Ultimate on this machine. Although Eurocom provides room for up to 3 320 GB drives in the D90X, ours included two 200 GB 7200 RPM drives in a RAID 0 configuration.

If you can get past the price on this unit, it makes a great desktop replacement computer and a completely capable multimedia notebook, except for the lack of an HDMI output.

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