PC Pro (December '02)
At last, a power notebook that’s small and light
enough to be carried. Despite its size, the Xeno-m delivers
plenty of power and reasonable battery life, although
you have to pay extra for a floppy drive and a parallel
Despite Intel’s attempts to make mobile processors
less hungry and fiercely hot, there’s still some
way to go. Many powerful notebooks based on the fastest
Pentium 4-M CPUs still tend to run hot and suck batteries
dry at a disappointing rate, so I was curious to see
how the Rock Xeno-m measured up under scrutiny. According
to Rock, this is the slimmest portable available using
the 2.2GHz Pentium 4-M. This is fighting talk, since
many Pentium 4 notebooks suffer from obesity.
By contrast, the Xeno-m weighs just 2.8kg, fits into
a modest enough 305 x 270mm (W x D) footprint, and measures
only 31mm thick with the lid shut. If the design is
good enough to allow for efficient, unobtrusive cooling,
and the batteries hold out, the Xeno-m could be just
what the travelling power user is looking for.
The first thing to look at closely is build quality.
The chassis was reasonably sound, although not quite
up to the hardback solidity of the very best portables.
The screen lid stood up to moderate pressure well and
is certainly enough to protect the screen adequately.
The screen itself is also of good quality and combines
a bright, vibrant image with a reasonably wide viewing
angle. The 14.1in diagonal is a necessary consequence
of the Zeno-m’s modest footprint, but it works
well with the panel’s native 1,024 x 768 resolution,
and the display is consistently readable.
When I first heard about the Xeno-m, I wondered if
anything had gone by the board to keep the size and
weight down. The answer was yes, and the unlucky component
was, as is often the case, the floppy drive. Rock has
taken to the increasingly common tactic of offering
external USB floppy drive as an extra, for which it
charges £49, rather than as part of the package.
Another disappearance came to light when I tallied
the ports. Things started off well with a generous allocation
of three USB ports and even a PS/2 connector, so you
can easily add a new mouse and keyboard if you’re
buying the Xeno-m as a main system.
You also get a VGA output for an external monitor,
high-speed connectivity for DV camcorders via a FireWire
port, and an S-Video output. You don’t get a parallel
or a serial port, so you’ll be obliged to buy
an optional port replicator for an extra £69 if
you want them.
The review machine also came with a mini-PCI 802.11b
Wireless LAN card under a panel base, but this turned
out to be an option that, again, would add £69
to the price. So the basic £1,499 goes up to £1,686
if you want a floppy drive, a full set of ports and
I don’t want to sound too critical though, because
the Xeno-m has plenty to offer in other departments.
The basic specification is properly elevated to match
the top-end processor and includes 512MB of PC2100 DDR
SDRAM and 40GB UltraATA/100 Hitachi hard disk, which
spins at 5,400pm rather than the slower, notebook-standard
The icing on the cake is a DVD/CD-RW combo drive offering
a 24x CD-ROM and everything else at 8x, which sits in
a multipurpose bay. CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives, or a
second battery pack. However, the single battery should
be enough. Despite the high-velocity processor, the
Xeno is capable of running on battery power for 102
minutes in intensive use, and up to 166 minutes under
lighter use. And, although the base heats up, it doesn’t
turn into a hotplate. I expected cooling fan noise to
be an issue too, but it was actually quite subdued.
I was less impressed with the choice of graphics chipset,
though, which turned out to be integral to the SiS650
chipset and borrows memory from the main system. Admittedly,
with 512MB on offer, the 32MB allocated to graphics
won’t be noticed, but this is clearly an area
where the designers have saved money. It’s hard
not to feel that a dedicated graphics chip would have
better served a machine like this.
Predictably enough, the shared-memory SiS graphics
were the weak spot as far as performance was concerned,
but while the 0.98 2D graphics benchmark is lower than
the other results it’s still above average for
a notebook. You won’t really notice any other
problems unless you want to run 3D games. In business
applications, the Xeno is a fast and capable machine,
especially for a slimline notebook, and its overall
score of 1.06 backs this up.
Rock introduced a three-year, collect-and-return warranty
earlier this year, so the Xeno-m comes with worthwhile
peace of mind. Even with the options included, the price
still remains acceptable, and with truly portable performance
notebooks so scarce the Xeno-m is ideal for the travelling
|VALUE FOR MONEY
||Intel Pentium 4 2.2Ghz
||512Mb DDR RAM
||14.1 XGA TFT
||Internal 56k modem
||Internal 10/100mbps LAN
||3 Year Collect and Return
||£1499. (Ex. VAT)
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