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

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PC Plus Magazine (January 03)

If you need a notebook with good all-round specifications plus the option of wireless networking, Rock’s new Xeno-m could be just the ticket.

Rock manages to consistently produce portable computers with a strong range of features at competitive prices. This is in evidence yet again with the release of the Xeno-m, which displays a good mix of top quality components and neat design, combines in a notebook highly suited to mobile working.

Outwardly the machine is very funky. It’s blue/grey lid and silver base give it a certain mechanoid stylishness that helps it stand out from the melee of notebooks that consistently seem to offer either silver or black finishes. The impressive appearance might just be enough to ensure you pick up the Xeno-m for a second look - though of course it doesn’t even tickle the machines performance.

That little matter is taken care of by the Mobile Pentium 4 processor, which rates as one of the star attractions of the Xeno-m. It runs at 2.0Ghz, and managed to push out MobileMark benchmark to a performance rating of 111 - a strong showing indeed.

Usability matters
But all the power and looks in the world don’t get you very far without a strong supporting cast. Fortunately in this case the supporting players are very capable. The hard drive for example, is 40Gb in size, and so should cope with a large library of software. The combination DVD/CD-RW drive has not been around as a feature of notebooks for long, but has already become pretty mush a standard. And its presence here is welcome, but no real surprise. The graphics card from Sis helped push our 3D Mark benchmark to 1,043, not exactly blisteringly fast, but certainly respectable. There is no floppy drive, but Rock sells a USB variety for just £49 (ex. VAT).

The screen at 14.1-inches, is clear and crisp and the keyboard is responsive, if a little light to the touch. The touchpad has the usual left and right buttons and between them a pair of scroll buttons, which are rather fiddle to use effectively and are the only real let down as far as usability is concerned.

The outside world

These days few notebook computers function as standalone devices in their own little vacuum. Too help you communicate on the move Rock has provided a generally strong suite of connectivity options. There is only a single PC Card slot, where many notebooks still carry two. This will be an issue is you use your notebook for work purposes and require double height cards, but in most cases should not present problems. If you need to connect to a network there is built-in Ethernet and, as an optional extra that was included in our review model, you can choose to have Wi-Fi capability included. We were up and running on our own 802.11 network within a couple of seconds thanks to Windows XP Professional’s ability to automatically detect an existing network AND CONFIGURE ITSELF TO JOIN IN. If you don’t want or need Wi-Fi, then leave it out of the Xeno-m configuration and save yourself £69 (ex VAT).

A key usability feature for any notebook is its battery life. We managed to squeeze two hours and 37 minutes from the Xeno-m, which isn’t bad at all. Wee ran the test with power management features disabled, so you should get more with the Pentium 4-M SpeedStep and Deep Sleep functions enabled.

There are a total of three USB ports - two on the front of the right side, with a PS/2 connector between them and one on the opposite side, where you will also find a Firewire connector, the Ethernet Jack and S-Video port. The back of the case only offers the phone jack. This configuration may please or irritate, depending on how you like to use your peripherals and how you feel about cables. There is no parallel port.

Good Buy

You might not want to carry this machine too far, as it weighs in at a reasonably heft 2.4Kg, but Rock throws in a bag into the bargain to help you out. The company’s three year collect and return warranty arrangements are among the best you will find. These two features help top off what we think is a very utilitarian portable computer, which, while not the cheapest on the market, offers a good balance of price and functionality.

MODEL Rock Xeno-m
PRO'S Strong all-round specifications.Optional 802.11 networking
CON'S Scroll bar on touchpad too small.Only one PCMCIA card slot
PROCESSOR Intel Pentium 4 2Ghz
OTHER Internal 56k modem
OTHER Internal 10/100mbps LAN
OTHER Firewire
WARRANTY 3 Year Collect and Return
PRICE £1368 (Ex. VAT)

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All Xeno reviews

Xeno-m - Computer Shopper (August '03)
Xeno-SP - PC Plus Magazine (July '03)
Xeno-m - Computer Shopper (July '03)
Xeno-m - Computer Shopper (June '03)
Xeno-m - Computer Shopper (April '03)
Xeno-m - PC Home Magazine (April '03)
Xeno-m - PC Plus Magazine (April '03)
Xeno-m - Computer Shopper (March '03)
Xeno-m - What Laptop Magazine (March '03)
Xeno-m - PCW Magazine (March '03)
Xeno-m - PC Pro Magazine (March '03)
Xeno-m - Computer Buyer Magazine (February '03)
Xeno-m - What Laptop (February '03)
Xeno-m - TES (January 03)
Xeno-m - PC Plus Magazine (January 03)
Xeno-m - PC Pro Magazine (December '02)
Xeno-m - What Laptop (November '02)
Xeno - PC Advisor (June '02)

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