Eurocom is a well known manufacturer of high performance gaming laptops. I’ve had the opportunity to test several of the company’s models in the past and they always impress. This time, I have a Eurocom Armadillo, something different. It’s a thin ultra-portable with a touchscreen display and long battery life—something different for a gaming laptop. Read on to see what I thought of the Armadillo.
Armadillo: A new world placental mammal with a leathery armour shell, related to sloths and anteaters.
I’m not sure where Eurocom drew the inspiration to name this ultra portable PC laptop the Armadillo. It’s not armoured, leathery and with a Core i7 CPU it has no resemblance to a sloth.
Eurocom Armadillo Key Specs (as tested):
For full specifications, check out the Armadillo product page.
Look and Feel
The Armadillo doesn’t look like a gaming laptop. It doesn’t look like a typical nondescript PC notebook either. It’s thin, with a brushed metallic-effect, dark grey plastic shell. The hinge feels solid, with no play when the lid is opened. A series of LED indicator lights on the front edge display key status information at a glance. A slightly angled speaker grill runs the length of the keyboard top.
In short the Armadillo may be made by a company known for gaming laptops, but this PC doesn’t look anything like those super-powered behemoths. It’s sleek, stylishly business-like and would look at home in an office or in a cafe. In fact, it has a Kensington lock port, so you can secure it during coffee breaks.
Touchscreen displays are a given in Ultrabooks, but they are less common in the world of gaming laptops. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of touchscreen PCs —poking a vertical screen is both uncomfortable and tends to end with a smudgy screen— but if you like the feature, the Armadillo has it.
The display is also sharp (it’s Full HD, which looks very nice in a 14-inch panel) and bright. It has good viewing angles, but the high gloss can mean glare in bright light situations.
So you want to avoid bright lights to keep the glare down. Or maybe you’re taking notes during a presentation or a lecture. Backlit keys are one of my favourite features and great to have in these scenarios, but the Armadillo lacks this nicety, which is too bad. You can always carry around a Bluetooth keyboard with backlight capability, but that kind of defeats the whole ultra-portable thing.
I also found the keyboard just slightly “off” for my tastes. There is something about the chiclet keys that made typing slightly awkward —they look like a standard size, but the edges seem to be rounded a little aggressively, making the contact surface seem small. It may not bother you, but I spend all day at various keyboards and the Armadillo’s isn’t my favourite.
Intel HD Graphics 4400
Eurocom laptops are usually considered to be gaming laptops. So how does that requirement jive with the use of an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU instead of a standalone video card?
The good news is you can still play many PC games with satisfying performance at Full HD resolution and with graphics settings at high. The bad news is more demanding games will push the integrated graphics to their max and you’re going to have to reduce the resolution and turn down the graphics effects if you want to play.
I checked user forums for player feedback on the Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU and the consensus is that Civilization 5, for example, can be played at High setting at Full HD using this card, while Bioshock Infinite is best played at low settings and 1280 x 720 resolution.
If you’re a fan of specific video games, you might want to check the recommended minimum graphics cards requirements before making any decisions.
Outside of the hardcore gaming, the Armadillo has absolutely no problems handling other tasks like playing high definition video.
Choosing to go with an integrated graphics chip in the Armadillo was a trade-off that cost some “oomph” in the graphics department, but there were substantial gains as result. There’s the size (or lack thereof), but there’s also battery life.
The Intel HD Graphics 4400 helps to save power and that means better battery life than in many portable gaming rigs. While you might be lucky to get three or four hours of battery life from a high-powered gaming laptop, I set the Armadillo up and let it stream HD movies for anywhere from seven to eight hours at a time. That should be enough to get you through a typical work day or an extended gaming session.
Wrap-up: Let’s Just Call the Armadillo a Gamer-Friendly, Business Casual Ultra Portable
You’ll notice the frequent use of terms like “work day” and “business-like” during the course of this review. That’s because more so than any other Eurocom notebook I’ve reviewed to date, the Armadillo seems to effectively straddle the gaming and general purpose market.
The computer is more effective than most Ultrabooks when it comes to mobile gaming and if you start to take advantage of the optional upgrade potential —maxing the RAM and sticking a big SSD in the free drive bay slot— it can get even better.
At the same time, the Armadillo has everything most people would need for casual computing use or in an office setting. It has more than enough power to handle tasks like video streaming and number crunching, good battery life, a touchscreen display, a svelte premium look and it’s thin and light enough to tuck under an arm.
The only thing I would change is the keyboard. I’d love to see back-lighting and maybe make the chiclet keys slightly larger and/or less rounded. Given that’s the worst I have to complain about, I think a lot of people would be pretty happy with this laptop. It should be considered not just by mobile gamers but also anyone in the market for an Ultrabook or small notebook.