EUROCOM Monster Gaming Notebook Review
Desktop systems have the luxury of space for all of today’s high end components but gaming notebooks have continually struggled to attain manageable dimensions and thermal characteristics. They just didn’t have the space necessary to house the large cooling assemblies necessary to ensure low temperatures but change is in the air.
As the gaming market slowly shifts to more portable mediums, manufacturers are finding ways to adapt powerful hardware for use in the notebook market. While we have already seen the positives and negatives of this approach, the Eurocom Monster takes it to the next level. With a size of just 11.6”, this gaming notebook is anything but monster-like and flies in the face of the many huge 17” system cluttering other categories. However, Eurocom has still managed to packs a massive amount of horsepower into a such a small body.
With a starting price of just $899, the Monster provides a well appointed, albeit extremely compact gaming platform. Its default configuration comes with an Intel i5-3210M, NVIDIA GTX 650M (with Optimus), 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive. Those are some generous specifications for a sub-$1000 notebook but just be warned that adding options or upgrades will cause the price to rapidly spin out of control. For example, the configuration you see above costs nearly $2,500, with the Extreme Edition processor alone adding nearly a grand to the bottom line. This is billed as a “desktop replacement” and with such a high price, expectations are understandably quite high.
So what can be configured on this notebook? Absolutely everything. Unlike Alienware, Dell, ASUS, HP and every other manufacturer of gaming notebooks, Eurocom takes pride in their ability to customize every one of their products to your specifications. Just glancing at the Monster’s ordering page will have enthusiasts salivating and bank accounts crying for mercy in no time.
There are however some limitations which are dictated by the abnormally small chassis. The Monster is only available with an 11.6” screen and NVIDIA’s GTX 650M is where the buck stops GPU-wise. Don’t expect massive resolutions here either since two different 1366x768 screens are available: the standard glossy version and one with a matte finish for an extra $120. To their credit, Eurocom offers professional screen calibration for $50 and will save the .icc color profile on your desktop.
Based in Ottawa, Eurocom’s standard 1-year warranty should provide hassle-free RMA shipping for Canadians while folks south of the border still get access to an expedited product support process through their US facility. There's even RMA options within the EU. In addition, since all of their CPUs use standard sockets and the GPUs are installed via an MXM module, this is one of the only companies which offers a full upgrade service for their existing notebooks. Everything from a GTX 680M to lower end parts are available depending upon your base configuration.
From the outside, Eurocom’s Monster isn’t really much to look at, but this ugly duckling has a heart of gold. The simplistic two tone color scheme is backed up by an extremely durable rubberized finish, making it nearly impervious to scratches and fingerprints. Using a finish like this notably improves solidity as well and even though its lid does exhibit some flex, the Monster certainly feels like a well crafted device.
While many gaming notebooks have gone with outrageous designs and eye-opening LED lighting effects, Eurocom has continued their neutral color scheme within inside and out. Some will like this approach while others won’t but we happen to appreciate the understated confidence exuded by the Monster.
It may be small, compact and fabricated primarily from plastic but there isn’t an exposed seam or material shift to be found here. In most cases smaller “boutique” manufacturers tend to lack the advanced OEM fabrication facilities enjoyed by top tier brands and their build quality suffers as a result. Eurocom has deftly avoided that fate.
That well designed rubberized material we mentioned makes its way onto every surface you’ll likely come in contact with on the Monster. It provides an excellent gripping surface, ensuring this notebook stays firmly within your grasp and there’s no palm deviation when typing on such a confined space.
Status indicator LEDs and a power button live on a small ridge above the keyboard and are well integrated into the chassis. Due to their positioning and small size, the LEDs (light blue for Power and green / yellow for HDD status, WiFi, etc.) won’t be too distracting while gaming or photo editing. However, the indents above both of these areas tend to catch grime and all sorts of other nastiness so have a Q-Tip on hand for cleaning.
One problem we did encounter was a lack of responsiveness from the power button. It typically took two presses before actually turning the system on or off.
The Monster’s connectivity options are befitting of any high-end notebook with a trio of USB ports (two 3.0 and one 2.0), a full size HDMI output, a LAN jack and standard VGA connector. There’s also a Kensington lock system and headphone / mic jacks. All of the ports are reality accessible, especially the all-important USB connectors which are just to the sides of the Monster’s palmrest.
Some of you may have been wondering where the 9 in 1 card reader went and it’s actually located on the palmrest’s leading edge. It is flanked by power and charging LED indicators.
Due to Eurocom’s use of high end components, the Monster’s underside is primarily dominated by air intakes and slightly oversized feet to ensure adequate air movement. A pair of down-firing speakers has been added though this setup lacks the added subwoofer included on some gaming-grade notebooks.
The top area’s finish doesn’t extend here which is completely understandable given the limited benefits it would have. However, the entire bottom panel can be removed for quick hardware change-outs.
A recent trend among many notebooks has been to directly integrate the battery into the chassis, eliminating the possibility of upgrades or change outs when it can’t hold a charge anymore. Eurocom meanwhile has remained steadfastly committed to a completely modular battery design. Now, their 6-cell unit does protrude from the chassis a bit but the front rubber feet compensate for this discrepancy, ensuring a level gaming surface can be maintained.
Last but not least, we come to the power brick. This is usually something which can be glossed over but the one Eurocom shipped with our sample was laughably oversized when compared to the notebook’s minimal footprint. It also weighs in at nearly two pounds when the power cord is taken into account. Luckily, this is the optional 120W adapter so if you want something a bit more compact, opt for the 90W version.
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