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Recommended Award
Computer Buyer (February 03)

It may not be the most powerful notebook around, but it’s easily portable and offers all the features most people need. With its stylish good looks, the Xeno-m is an attractive proposition.

On the face of it, you might wonder why anyone would choose the 1.8GHz Rock Xeno-m over Pico’s 2.4GHz Alpha Pro. The Pico is over 28 per cent faster in our 2D benchmarks, and returned a score of 4,131
in 3DMark2001 compared to 1,300 from the Xeno. No contest, surely?

The two notebooks even share the same basic specification — 30GB hard disk, 256MB of DDR memory and a DVDCD-R/W combo drive — the only obvious difference is between the SiS650 graphics in the Xeno, and the Pico’s superior GeForce4 420 graphics.

Then again, Intel didn’t pump millions of dollars into developing its mobile processors for nothing. These chips promise many advantages over their desktop counterparts, as used in the Pico. These include a smaller package, in order to produce smaller notebooks. Now the Xeno-m is no Kylie — it weighs 2.85kg with the battery in place, and measures 305mm in width. But that’s still better than the Pico, with vital stats of 3.5kg and 335mm.

Another supposed benefit of mobile processors is extended battery life. Not just because they’re more efficient, but also due to more advanced power management. For instance, the Xeno will drop down to 1.2GHz on battery power (although this can be over-ridden by choosing ‘Always On’ in the Power Options, found in the Control Panel), while the Pico chugs away at 2.4GHz no matter what.

The difference was obvious in practice, too. In the unlikely event that you use the Rock at full pelt all the time, you can still expect two hours of life, compared to around an hour from the Alpha Pro. If this sort of battery life isn’t enough, you can even buy a second battery for £99 and fit it in place of the DVD-CD-R/W drive.

Intel also talks darkly about desktop chips overheating and throttling back, with raised eyebrows cast in the
direction of reduced longevity. However, there’s been little sign of this since manufacturers started using desktop Pentium 4s in notebooks over a year ago — and with Dell, Toshiba and IBM all using desktop chips in some of their cheaper notebooks, even the big boys don’t seem too concerned.

Rock doesn’t rely on the mobile chip alone to sell this notebook, though. One of the best things about the Xeno is its three-year, collect-and return warranty — and because you’re always dealing directly with Rock, it should be a simple matter to arrange collection.

For an extra £69, Rockwill fit a ‘WiFi’ wireless network card to the Xeno (the requisite aerial is built into the chassis). But we shouldn’t ignore the standard features of the notebook, even if they’re shared by the Pico. We appreciate the Xeno’s 30GB hard disk— although larger would have been nice — while the fast DVD-CD-R/W combo drive is a great boon.

There’s also a fair number of ports scattered around the Xeno’s sides, including three for USB, the network and modem connections, and a useful four-pin FireWire port. Our only mild complaint is that the VGA out is on the side rather than the back, making it slightly more awkward to hook up a monitor or projector.

The screen on the Xeno itself is something of a mixed blessing. Yes, it’s large and bright, but some uneven backlighting prevents us from giving it our full recommendation. The keyboard also has a budget look to it, but when you come to type your dissertation, 10,000-word report or novel, you should be more than

Unfortunately, that ‘budget look’ extends to the majority of the chassis — the attempt to look like brushed aluminium simply looks like brushed metallic plastic. At least the blue lid adds a touch of class, and even though this isn’t an alloy (so doesn’t offer quite as much protection to the screen as we’d like), the Xeno feels rugged enough to endure life on the road.

Despite these criticisms, the Xeno-m adds up to one of the best packages we’ve seen from a British notebook supplier. If you’re a so-called ‘road warrior’ and want a sophisticated notebook backed
by a three-year, collect-and return warranty, the Xeno is a solid choice.

MODEL Rock Xeno-m
RATING Recommended Award
PRO'S A light and slim laptop with performance to spare
VERDICT With its stylish good looks, the Xeno-m is an attractive proposition
PROCESSOR Intel Mobile Pentium 4 1.8Ghz
OTHER Internal 56k modem
OTHER Internal 10/100mbps LAN
OTHER Firewire
WARRANTY 3 Year Collect and Return
PRICE £1291 (Inc. 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)

Return to reviews index >>