Fujitsu’s new 17.3-inch mobile workstation offers incredible power for demanding VR and viz workflows but the CPU cooling fan can be a little over eager at times writes Greg Corke

For some years now, Fujitsu has been relatively inactive on the mobile workstation front. Most OEMs offer three or four different models (HP actually has six), but until recently, the German-based manufacturer only had a single mobile workstation – a 15-inch machine.

15-inch mobile workstations are fine for 3D CAD, but they can only support a mid-range GPU, so often fall short in more challenging 3D workflows. Historically, demand has come from users of traditional design viz applications like 3ds Max or Maya (and perhaps a little cheeky gaming after hours). However, more recently, the need for a more powerful GPU has come from additional areas including game engine visualisation, GPU rendering andVirtual Reality (VR).

In order to support these new design-focused, GPU-hungry workflows, Fujitsu has added a 17-inch mobile workstation to its portfolio — the Fujitsu Celsius H970. The larger chassis provides the thermal headroom needed for a significantly more powerful GPU, as well as accommodating a bigger display.

The Celsius H970 comes with a choice of three pro-grade GPUs. The Quadro P4000 (8GB) and P5000 (16GB) are both powerful, VR Ready and virtually identical to their desktop counterparts. Alternatively, for those who want the benefits of a larger screen but don’t necessarily need buckets of GPU power, there’s the Nvidia Quadro P3000 (6GB). To put all of this into perspective, most 15-inch mobile workstations are limited to the 3D CAD-centric Nvidia Quadro M2200 (4GB), which is a whole GPU class below.

To show off its peak capabilities, our test machine came with the top-end Quadro P5000. This 100W GPU is partnered with a more mainstream CPU – the Quad Core, Intel Core i7 7820HQ (2.9GHz - 3.9GHz Turbo), common in both 15-inch and 17-inch mobile workstations. For those that need a bit more oomph, the H970 can also accommodate the Intel Xeon E3-1535M v6 (3.1GHz – 4.2GHz Turbo).

Memory is maxed out at 64GB of 2,133 MHz DDR4, distributed over four 16GB SO DIMMs, which is plenty for most design workflows. For storage, there’s a solitary 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD – the popular Samsung SM961, also available in 256GB or 1TB models. Those who want more capacity (or a lower cost per GB) can add one or two 2.5-inch SATA Hard Disk Drives (HDDs), but it seems these are best specified at time of purchase as our test machine did not come with any mounting brackets or cables – just the space within the chassis.

Elsewhere, the Celsius H970 does well on serviceability. Memory can be accessed easily, simply by taking out one screw and lifting up a service panel.

The 96Whr Li-ion battery can also be easily removed by sliding a clip. At a time when many other OEMs are moving towards fully integrated batteries, it’s nice to be able to carry a spare in the bag for long journeys. In saying that, battery life is good for a machine of this size, lasting 108 mins in the CPU and GPU intensive PCMark benchmark — and much longer in more balanced workflows. Access to the drives and fans (if needed for cleaning) is more involved, but it only takes a matter of minutes to remove the main maintenance panel, which is secured with a few screws.

The chassis is solid, a combination of metal and plastic, and features a full-size keyboard with numeric keypad. It is somewhat let down by the keyboard frame, which flexes a lot in the middle, making it feel spongy when typing. However, Fujitsu says that this was only an issue with early units (like ours) and has now been fixed.

For security, there’s a standard fingerprint scanner and not the palm vein technology championed by the 15.6-inch Fujitsu Celsius H770.

At 418 (w) x 288 (d) x 30mm (h), the machine is comparative in size with others in its class.

1 CPU cooling fan 2 GPU cooling fan 3 M.2 NVMe SSD 4 Memory (4 x SO DIMMs) 5 Location of removable battery 6 Location of 2.5-inch HDDs

Performance is very impressive, with the Celsius H970 excelling in our GPU intensive benchmarks. We found it to be a worthy partner for real-time design viz in Autodesk VRED Professional, game engine visualisation with Autodesk Revit Live or GPU rendering with V-Ray, going toe to toe with Quadro P5000-based desktop machines. However, under more CPU limited applications like PTC Creo and SolidWorks, the graphics performance dropped because of the lower GHz CPU.

All of our tests were done at FHD, which is the maximum resolution of the integrated 17.3-inch anti-glare IPS display, which is crisp and of good quality, if not outstanding. Other OEMs offer optional 4K displays, which is important for some design viz users, although you can expect frame rates to drop at higher resolutions, especially in GPU-hungry applications.

We also tested the Celsius H970 with some professional VR applications, using an Oculus Rift headset. In Autodesk Revit Live, we had a comfortable experience navigating our test buildings and we’d expect the same of other game engine VR applications. In Autodesk VRED Professional, our automotive model appeared fine at lower quality settings, but frame rates fell to uncomfortable levels as soon as anti-aliasing was enabled.

At this juncture, it is worth mentioning the ports on the Celsius H970, as there are some differences to other machines in its class.

First, there are only three USB 3.1 Gen1 (Type-A) ports (other manufacturers offer four) so you can quickly run out when using VR. The Oculus Rift, for example, needs four (for headset, tracker, touch and Xbox wireless controller), and that’s before you start adding other devices like a smartphone or a 3D SpaceMouse.

However, the H970 also has two USB 3.1 Gen2 (Type-C)/Thunderbolt 3 ports, so Type A adapters or hubs can get round this potential issue.

Second, there is no HDMi (only DisplayPort and VGA) port, which is the primary display interface for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Neither of these quirks are deal-breakers, as long as you have the appropriate adapters to hand.

Like most mobile workstations, the H970 features two fans for cooling – one for the GPU and one for the CPU. When hammering the GPU with a GPU renderer or with a VR application, we found fan noise to be significant but not that loud. However, with all four CPU cores working flat out on a KeyShot render, noise became much more noticeable. The CPU fan even started whirring under more moderate loads, which some will find annoying.

Overall, the Fujitsu Celsius H970 is a hugely powerful mobile workstation, capable of making light work of demanding viz or VR workflows. Battery life is good and the ability to swap out for a spare is a big plus for those who spend time away from their desk. However, the machine is let down a bit by a CPU cooling system that is over-eager at times.

Specifications

■ Intel Core i7-7820HQ (2.9GHz - 3.9GHz Turbo) (4 Cores) CPU

■ 64GB (4 x 16GB) 2,133 MHz DDR4 memory

■ 1 x 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD

■ Nvidia Quadro P5000 GPU (16GB)

■ 17.3” anti-glare IPS FHD display (1,920 x 1,080)

■ 418 x 288 x 30mm (w) x (d) x (h)

■ 3 Year Collect & Return Service

■ £4,500 + VAT

fujitsu.com

Greg Corke

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