Review: The Eurocom Sky X4C “Mobile Supercomputer”
Michael Alba posted on May 20, 2019 |
The Eurocom Sky X4C in its natural habitat. (Image courtesy of Eurocom.)
The Eurocom Sky X4C in its natural habitat. (Image courtesy of Eurocom.)

What do engineers and gamers have in common? For one thing, they both need powerful computers for their demanding software. Despite this similarity, there’s often a distinction between professional mobile workstations and consumer-focused gaming laptops. Today we’re going to look at whether a gaming laptop—the Eurocom Sky X4C—can be a good fit for engineers.

The Eurocom Sky X4C

(Image courtesy of Eurocom.)
(Image courtesy of Eurocom.)

Eurocom doesn’t describe the Sky X4C as a gaming laptop but rather as a “mobile supercomputer.” It sure feels like a gaming laptop, with its customizable rainbow backlight on the keyboard, W/A/S/D gaming keys and gaming-grade bulk, but let’s not fret about the label. Eurocom has designed the Sky X4C with the power for any power user.

And powerful it is. The CPU specs are stellar with the option of up to 8 core processors—most mobile workstations only offer CPUs with up to 6 cores. This is also the first laptop I’ve been able to review with the new NVIDIA RTX graphics cards. Our Sky X4C review unit had the GeForce RTX 2080, currently the second most powerful GeForce you can buy after the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. It’s a great card, but enterprise users will probably want the option of Quadro RTX cards. Eurocom informs me Quadros will be supported at some point, but you’re currently limited to GeForces in the Sky X4C. Here are all the processor options for the Sky X4C (asterisk denotes our review unit):

  • CPU
    • *Intel Core i9-9900K (8 core, 16MB cache, 3.6GHz up to 5.0GHz Turbo, 95W)
    • Intel Core i7-9700K (8 core, 12MB cache, 3.6GHz up to 4.9GHz Turbo, 95W)
    • Intel Core i7-8086K (6 core, 12MB cache, 4.0GHz up to 5.0GHz Turbo, 95W)
    • Intel Core i7-8700K (6 core, 12MB cache, 3.7GHz up to 4.7GHz Turbo, 95W)
    • Intel Core i7-8700T (6 core, 12MB cache, 2.4GHz up to 4.0GHz Turbo, 35W)
    • Intel Core i7-8700 (6 core, 12MB cache, 3.2GHz up to 4.6GHz Turbo, 65W)
    • Intel Core i5-9600K (6 core, 9MB cache, 3.7GHz up to 4.6GHz Turbo, 95W)
    • Intel Core i5-8600K (6 core, 12MB cache, 3.6GHz up to 4.3GHz Turbo, 95W)
    • Intel Core i5-8400 (6 core, 9MB cache, 2.8GHz up to 4.0GHz Turbo, 65W)
  • GPU
    • *NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 (8GB GDDR6)
    • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 (8GB GDDR6)
    • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6GB GDDR6)
    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5X)
    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB GDDR5)
    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (8GB GDDR5)
    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB GDDR5)

The memory on the Sky X4C can be configured from 16GB all the way through to 128GB, the same max RAM found in the most powerful of mobile workstations. However, unlike some mobile workstations, the Sky X4C does not offer error-correcting code (ECC) memory, a useful option for mission-critical enterprise use. The storage on the Sky X4C far exceeds most mobile workstations: two M.2 slots and two hard drives can be combined for a massive 20TB of SSD storage. Our unit had 64GB of memory (4x16GB DDR4-3000) and 1TB of storage (2x512GB M.2 970 Pro NVMe in a RAID 0 configuration).

The internals of the Sky X4C. (Image courtesy of Eurocom.)
The internals of the Sky X4C. (Image courtesy of Eurocom.)

The 15.6-in display of the Sky X4C can be configured between a matte 1920x1080 resolution (either 60Hz or 144Hz refresh rate) or a 3840x2160 resolution (matte or glossy) with a 60Hz refresh rate. We had the matte 4K display in our unit, which came with a display calibration profile that users can pay an extra $74 for. The display looks nice enough, but it falls a bit short on color with only 74 percent Adobe RGB coverage and 98 percent sRGB coverage.

There’s a wide selection of ports on the Sky X4C, including a welcome six USBs—one USB-C Thunderbolt, one USB-C, three USB 3.1 and one USB 2.0— two Mini DisplayPorts, HDMI port, RJ45 Ethernet port, SD card reader, line-in and line-out jack, microphone jack and two-in-one audio jack for headphones + S/PDIF. That list of ports exceeds many mobile workstations in quantity.

With base specs, the Eurocom Sky X4C will cost you $1,666; you can max out the specs for 10 times that amount at $16,677. Our review unit came in at about $5,385. Note that you don’t have to max out the Sky X4C at purchase; the laptop is completely user-upgradeable, so if down the line you decide you want more memory or storage, or a faster processor, the option is there.

Performance of the Sky X4C

The 8-core Core i9-9900K coupled with the GeForce RTX 2080 in our Sky X4C review unit was a powerful combination, and these high specs dominated benchmarks compared to the mobile workstations we’ve recently reviewed. Here’s how the Sky X4C compared to those mobile workstations in SPECviewperf 13, a benchmark of graphical performance in CAD applications:

*Data unavailable

Quadro graphics cards are optimized for professional applications, whereas GeForce cards are targeted at the consumer-level gaming market. I would normally expect Quadros, found in most mobile workstations, to outperform GeForces in SPECviewperf. However, the GeForce in the Sky X4C is the only one of the cards above with NVIDIA’s latest Turing microarchitecture, giving it a huge edge over the older Quadros in the Dell Precision 7530, Lenovo ThinkPad P1 and HP ZBook Studio x360. The only real competition comes from the Precision 7530 with a Quadro P3200, and then only in a select few categories: CATIA, SOLIDWORKS, NX and the energy industry viewset. The obvious outlier for the Sky X4C is its performance in Siemens NX, where it loses drastically to all three workstations. This suggests that Quadro cards have been tuned particularly well for that CAD application, but less so for others.

Another SPEC benchmark, SPECworkstation 3, gives a holistic assessment of a computer’s capabilities as a workstation across different industry segments. This is where you would expect the self-proclaimed mobile workstations to shine, but again we see the Sky X4C nearly sweep the board:

The Sky X4C’s GPU Compute score is off the charts, probably thanks to that new Turing architecture. It only falls behind in General Operations, in which the two Intel Xeon CPUs take top spot. Like Quadro graphics cards, Xeon CPUs are targeted toward professional requirements with features like ECC RAM support and bigger cache sizes. I’m told by Eurocom that there are no plans to support Xeon CPUs in the Sky X4C.

Finally, we ran the Passmark Performance Test benchmark on the Sky X4C. This benchmark is less geared toward professional capabilities and more indicative of a computer’s general performance. Here’s how the Sky X4C compares:

The Sky X4C doesn’t crush the competition quite as cosily, but it still manages to take top spot in most categories. It obliterates the 3D Graphics Mark test, which is unsurprising with the GeForce RTX. The only stumbling block for the Sky X4C is the Disk Mark subtest, suggesting there’s a lot of room for improvement on the storage speeds of the X4C.

Next, we used the Spyder5Elite colorimeter to test the quality of the Sky X4C display. On our 4K matte display, we measured 74 percent Adobe RGB coverage and 98 percent sRGB coverage, which is typical for most mobile workstations.

The display luminance was a bit on the low side, with an average of 256 nits at 100 percent brightness. An average black level of 0.32 nits gives the display a contrast ratio of 800:1. That’s a bit on the low side, but not the worst we’ve seen.

The color accuracy on the Sky X4C display was superb, with an average Delta-E of only 0.99. That’s the best we’ve seen in any review unit yet, and it means the colors on the Sky X4C display are incredibly faithful. However, the low Adobe RGB coverage means that if colors are important to your workflow, you should probably look elsewhere (or hook up an external monitor or two or three or four).

The display uniformity is a bit of an issue, especially in luminance. For example, the bottom left corner of our display was a full 18 percent dimmer than the top right corner at 100 percent brightness. That’s a tad high, but not completely outside the realm of normal display inconsistencies. The color accuracy also deviates as you move around the display by as much as 3.3 Delta-E. Though these deviations sound bad, in practice, most users probably won’t notice the difference.

Overall, the Sky X4C’s 4K matte display got a 4/5 monitor rating from the Spyder5Elite.

The Sky X4C falls far short in battery longevity. In our tests of typical use, checking emails, writing documents, spreading sheets and the like, we averaged 131 minutes of battery life. In tests designed to push the Sky X4C as hard as it could go, we averaged a measly 52 minutes—not even a full hour of use. Even when we did everything we could to optimize the battery life, we still ran out of juice in only 155 minutes.

The Sky X4C’s 4980mAh battery is removable, but you’ll have to restart the computer to put in a charged replacement. The computer also ships with a massive 330W AC adapter, so at least you can quickly top up its tank.

The Eurocom Sky X4C’s removable battery and 330W AC adapter. (Image on left courtesy of Eurocom.)
The Eurocom Sky X4C’s removable battery and 330W AC adapter. (Image on left courtesy of Eurocom.)

Using the Sky X4C

(Image courtesy of Eurocom.)
(Image courtesy of Eurocom.)

The Sky X4C is a utilitarian machine. It’s both heavier and bulkier than the biggest mobile workstations we’ve reviewed, weighing 7.48 pounds and standing 1.52 inches tall when closed. The AC adapter alone weighs an extra 3 pounds and measures 8x4x1.5 inches. Combined with the extremely short battery life, it’s clear that the Sky X4C is not designed with portability in mind.

Other than its size, using the Sky X4C is mostly comfortable. The keyboard is nice to type on and has a number pad on the side, but the trackpad is subpar. I found myself longing for a mouse (or a better trackpad). The Sky X4C comes with an application called Control Center 2.0 that lets users customize the keyboard backlighting. You can set up to three different colors across the keyboard or turn on modes like wave, random and flash. It’s gimmicky—and gamery—but it’s kind of fun if you’re into it. Control Center also lets users change system settings, set up hotkeys and monitor the system performance.

Screenshots of Control Center 2.0.
Screenshots of Control Center 2.0.

Above the keyboard of the Sky X4C is a small light panel to indicate power, lock keys, airplane mode and disk use. This last light was one I found more annoying than anything else. Since the disk is constantly in use, it rapidly blinked at me most of the time. But now I’m nitpicking.

The Verdict

How does the gaming-focused Eurocom Sky X4C stack up to mobile workstations? That depends whether you’re more interested in the mobile or the workstation. The size and abysmal battery life of the Sky X4C doesn’t lend itself to mobility, but the excellent and upgradeable specs give the Sky X4C workstation-level performance. However, the Sky X4C lacks some features that professional users may require, such as no Quadro cards (yet), no ECC memory and no smart card slot. Ultimately, engineers considering the Sky X4C will have to weigh the trade-offs of low portability and low enterprise support versus high performance and upgradeability.

Pros

In the Middle

Cons

  • Exceptional specs and performance
  • User-upgradeable
  • Lots of I/O ports
  • Nice keyboard with customizable backlight, but subpar trackpad
  • Good display, but could be better in luminance, uniformity and gamut
  • Very heavy and bulky
  • Barely any battery life
  • Currently no support for Quadro graphics cards and no planned support for Xeon CPUs

Recommended For You