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Computer Buyer (July '04)

The Rock Extreme is a great laptop for gaming enthusiasts. For everyone else, it’s just too expensive and rather heavy.

Until recently, you’d have been lucky to find a notebook that had enough power to play any modern game. Fast-paced 3D action games, with their flashy visual effects, were out of the question. All of that has changed: the Rock Extreme packs the kind of punch only the beefiest of desktop PC’s can compete with.

The Xtreme is a machine for gamers who don’t have the space to set up a desktop system. It is emphatically not, however, a system for gamers on the move. It weighs 4.09kg - more, by the time you’ve taken into account a sturdy bag and a power supply. That’s heavy enough to make you think you’re carrying an actual Rock. Battery life is also pretty poor, with the Rock lasting just 49 minutes in our intensive battery test. We’d normally say you could expect longer than this in life, because in normal usage there are periods during which a laptop isn’t doing much. 3D games, though, will thrash the hell out of your system - so you-re unlikely to see any increase. This isn’t a problem, as long as you consider this system is a space-saving substitute for a desktop PC, and not a portable.

The Xtreme’s 3.4GHz Pentium 4 processor, Mobile Radeon 9600 Pro graphics and 512MB of 400MHz DDR RAM are the kind of parts you’d expect to see in a good desktop gaming PC. They’re far more powerful than you would usually get in a laptop. A quick glance at the Rock’s benchmark scores confirms just how powerful it is. The 2D benchmark score isn’t just respectable. It’s excellent. You’ll have no problem performing even demanding 2D tasks such as photo or even video editing. And with a 3Dmark 2001 score of 10,318, it’s also the fastest laptop we’ve seen.

Crucially for gamers, the Rock’s 9600 pro graphics support DirectX 9, the latest version of Microsoft’s games graphics instructions. To see how it fared with a game that required DirectX 9 effects perfectly rendered. Water shimmered and light refracted off metal services with eye-popping realism. We were impressed. For a notebook this is cracking good going.

We also like the Rock’s built-in speakers. Notebook speakers are never as good as their free-standing cousins, sounding a bit tinny by comparison. The Rock produced a clear, crisp sound. Bass, if not resonant, was at least not embarrassingly puny. The screen is a luxurious 15 inches across its diagonal - again, top-notch for a laptop. It native resolution is 1400x1050, the perfect resolution for this size of screen, giving you lots of space on your Windows desktop without making the icons so small you end up squinting. The keyboard has almost a standard desktop layout, so you won’t end up hitting the wrong keys by accident. The keys have a commendably comfortable action, striking home with a distinct clicking sensation. The trackpad is sensitive enough, moving the cursor in the right direction at the right speed, without being too sensitive. You’d still be advised to get yourself a decent mouse, though, if your serious about gaming. Even the best trackpad won’t let you react quickly enough.

All of the things for which you’d want a laptop this powerful - games, music or video editing for instance - require bags of storage space. Fortunately, the Xtreme comes with a whopping 80GB hard disk. That’s enough to install loads of games and still have bags of room left for your MP3 collection. There’s also a healthy 512MB of RAM. This is important, because demanding software such as games needs lots of memory so that it can load all the routines and sub-programs it needs. Without it, your games would run like a jerky slide show.

As if all this weren’t enough reason to hug this beautiful beast to your chest and swear never to be parted, the Rock also contains a multi-format DVD writer, a fast 802.11g wireless network adapter, and both USB2 and Firewire connectors for plugging in external devices such as printers, scanners and digital cameras. If you feel like hooking the Xtreme up to one of your mates’ PCs for some multiplayer gaming, there’s a fast Ethernet connection for you to use. Even the most demanding network games won’t be able to choke up a 1000Mbit/s connection.

So, if it’s so great, why hasn’t it scored more than five out of six? In short, it’s the price. If you’re a gamer with a couple of grand to spare, but no desk space, you’ll love this PC. If you need a system you can take out and about with you, you’ll be cursing it within a week. And if you’re not obsessed with games, this is hell of a lot of money to pay for a Laptop.

2D Speed rating: 1340
3Dmark 2001: 10318

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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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