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Eurocom Panther 5SE: The Incredible Hulk of notebook computers

Tom Henderson | Aug. 27, 2013
Eurocom rocked us with the most powerful per-pound choice in a notebook that we've seen to date. The Panther 5SE came with 4TB of storage, 64GB of DIMM3 memory and eight Xeon cores. You won't find the Panther at the big-box retailers – the version we tested runs $7,500. But we rate this device highly for its extreme flexibility and muscularity.

Eurocom sent our test unit with an Intel E5-2687W that clocks at 3.1GHz. It has eight cores and sixteen threads, and so makes for a rational NOC-grade 1U equivalent server platform. This Xeon uses 150 watts of power and has plentiful processing capabilities — as well as a lot of waste heat to dissipate. Despite that fact, Eurocom's 5SE chassis wasn't loud — but it wasn't completely quiet, either.

Eurocom supplied Windows 2012 Server Edition installed — although it missed a few simple default settings which we quickly fixed — and Windows 2008 R2 Server editions along with Windows 7 or 8 can be ordered. Also available is RedHat Linux, and as that's true, other Linux distributions should be able to work correctly, too, although we didn't extensively test this. VMware ESXi can also be installed and finds the drives correctly, unlike a few other servers that needed support media.

The server is ready to roll quickly. We say that, and then remember that its form-factor is actually that of an overgrown notebook.  

Several weeks of using the server in the labs drew mostly praise. Uniformly, we feel the keyboard placement is awkward in relationship to the touchpad. It's wickedly heavy for some, but easy to change components — it passed the "can I use a coin to tighten everything" test. Speed was glorious, but we occasionally had trouble booting from a flash drive so that we could install new hypervisors or operating systems in the USB-3 jacks. Were we to have had SSDs installed, the disk performance would have been faster, but we had no real complaints, just that the SATA drive speeds aren't as fast as 1U servers containing fast SAS drives. Eurocom can solve this; it just takes money. And if Eurocom wants this to be a server, it arguably needs more Ethernet ports and remote administration.

Although the unit has a metal case that's good looking, we felt we might be able to scratch its high gloss finish with comparative ease. The keyboard bezel surface uses anodized metal, and would be tough to scratch unless gouged. Still, we would hesitate putting the 5SE into a public safety vehicle, ambulance, truck, or dispatch unit. Perhaps it might survive but we didn't want to attempt it. It doesn't have "industrial" looks, which is a two-edged sword. Road warriors doing heavy work may not care if it gets a few marks.

The Eurocom Panther 5SE notebook server has good looks, and more importantly: very serious power for its form-factor. It's vastly heavier than a typical notebook but has the guts of a hefty 1U, NOC-grade server inside. It can be backpacked, but you'll need to exercise first. It's wickedly expensive, but has high value for its form factor and flexibility.


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