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*rockdirect are the UK's No1 Award Winning specialist Notebook manufacturer.

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Computer Active (April '04)

Power and style are beautifully married in this desktop replacement

There are many reasons why you might be persuaded to go for a notebook PC rather than a desktop version. We normally associate notebooks with business types who need a machine that they can use at the office, at home and on the move. However, notebooks are equally useful for those who don’t have a lot of space or don’t want a hulking great desktop PC cluttering up their homes.

As long as you pop it in a drawer when you’ve finished with it, you might be less concerned with your notebook’s portability and more interested in its speed and performance. Weight and size aren’t much of an issue when it comes to playing games, watching DVD’s and doing everything else that’s demanded of a family computer.

If that sounds like you, then you should consider Rock’s Xtreme alongside better-known notebook manufacturers, such as Sony and Dell. It’s not cheap, with a price tag just over the £1,500 mark, but it compares pretty favourably when put alongside similarly specified portables from competing brands.

The Xtreme is a shining example of what is commonly referred to as a ‘desktop replacement’ PC. That’s to say you’ll find much of the same sort of power under the hood that you’d get in a modern desktop PC, except in a (just about) portable form. A 3GHz Pentium 4 processor and 512Mb of memory are the Xtreme’s main vital statistics. But there are many other high-flying specifications, notably a large 60Gbb gard disk and a Sony multi-format DVD/CD writer.

The 15in TFT screen is easy to work with, too - even at the relatively high native resolution of 1400 x 1050 pixels. Graphics used to be the Achilles heel for most portable PCs, but the 128Mb ATI Radeon Mobility 9600 Pro inside the Rock Xtreme is no wimp. Inn order to highlight this point, Rock has released a limited edition of the Xtreme to tie in, somewhat incongruously, with the new Bad Boys II game. Having such powerful graphics means the Xtreme will easily cope with the latest 3D games at respectable resolutions.

The Xtreme proved itself well in our performance tests but it certainly pushes the notion of portability to its limits. If you’re intending to go globetrotting with it then consider hiring a caddy to lug it around for you as it weighs in at 4kg (including the battery).

You probably won’t ever want to wander too far from a power point, either. Because it’s built around a standard Pentium 4 processor (rather than one of Intel’s specifically portable variations), it isn’t particularly economical with its energy consumption and needs plenty of juice to keep running. It is, however, possible to buy a second battery pack (at added cost) and store it in the slot normally occupied by the floppy disk drive to keep on trucking just that little bit longer.

Overall, the Rock Xtreme is a pretty impressive brute - as is evidenced by its design as well as its performance. The sleek, black-gloss finish and curved edges make it look a little smaller than it really is.

If you want a notebook PC that you can slip in your briefcase and take everywhere with you, this isn’t it. As a foldaway replacement for your space-hogging desktop machine, however, the Xtreme has the muscle and the features as well as the looks.

GOOD POINTS: Fast and powerful
Loads of in/output sockets
Comes with Ability Office and anti-virus pre-installed
BAD POINTS: Heavy for a notebook
BUILD QUALITY: 4/5 - Smart looking but heavy
PERFORMANCE: 4/5 - Very fast and powerful
FEATURES: 4/5 - Pleanty to play with
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5 - Expensive but competitive in notebook terms
OVERALL: 4/5 - A beefy notebook that'll give most desktops a run for their money

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All Xtreme reviews

Xtreme - Stuff Magazine (Sept '04)
Xtreme - What Laptop (Sept '04)
Xtreme - Computer Shopper (Sept '04)
Xtreme - Computer Buyer (July '04)
Xtreme - PC Home (May '04)
Xtreme - Personal Computer World (Jun '04)
Xtreme - Computer Active (Apr '04)
Xtreme - Computer Shopper (Apr '04)
Xtreme - PC Pro (Jan '04)
Xtreme - What Laptop (Dec '03)

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