PCPro Magazine (August '03)
Apple’s latest and greatest innovations invariably
set the clatter of bandwagons rolling in the PC camp,
and its triumphant new 17inch G4 PowerBook is no exception.
The good news is that Rock’s Quaddra DTS offers
the widescreen revolution for nearly a thousand pounds
less than its fruity cousin. At this price, it’s
not just die-hard media professionals who will be able
to justify all the screen real estate. In fact, with
a feature list like this, the Quaddra looks to be all
things to all people - all 4.3kg of it.
A part of the reason is the Pentium 4 desktop processor
- hardly the most elegant mobile solution when
compared with the Pentium-M, but it does the job. And,
at 3.06GHz, it’s no shy, retiring type either
- it chomped its way to 1.53 in our benchmarks.
It may be hot and power hungry, but the payoff is Hyper-Threading
technology. Okay, so Hyper-Threading may not have set
the world on fire in the way Intel has hoped, but it’s
certainly a boon when working with several programs
This is just as well, as the 17in, WXGA (1,440x900)
screen is ripe for multi-application work - spreadsheets,
web design, video or audio applications all benefit
tremendously. And it’s a good screen too. The
backlighting is on the dim side, but the contrast and
clarity are respectable. You’ll have no problems
unless you’re in a particularly bright environment.
Then, when you’ve finished working, the inclusion
of an Ati Radeon Mobility 9000 chip means gaming is
on the menu too. Notching up a respectable 7,175 in
3Dmark 2001 SE (32-bit, XGA), the Rock will be fine
for most current titles, although there’s no support
for DirectX 9.
What’s more, DVD movies will positively revel
in the widescreen aspect, with a significantly bigger
picture than comparable 15in screens. Good viewing angles
mean you won’t need to be sat directly in front
to see, and there’s very little dragging too.
It doesn’t sound to bad either, with four tweeters
and a subwoofer giving some reasonable volume. The latter
can also be replaced by a TV tuner card, for which a
remote-control infrared port sits on the front panel.
The Quaddra holds its corner ergonomically too. Mobile
users who miss numeric keypads will be delighted to
see one included, although the close proximity can cause
a little typing confusion. But the layout is otherwise
very reasonable, with full-sized Shift keys and separated-out
cursors, although there are no separate Home/End functions.
In use, the keyboard is reasonably comfortable, if a
little on the rigid side. The touchpad was also slightly
unresponsive, but the enormous (and very solid) palmrest
makes a perfect impromptu mouse mat, if needs be.
It does get uncomfortably hot, though, and that’s
despite the noisy whir of the cooling fan kicking in
sporadically. The inlet vents also sit underneath the
machine, meaning that any obstructions (such as having
the machine on your lap) cause it to heat up rapidly.
Thankfully, the port layout is more sensible. The front
panel sports infrared(just where you need it for a mobile
phone), as well as four-pin Firewire, audio connections
(including S/PDIF out) and a switch for the integrated
Meanwhile, the back crams in integrated 10/100 Ethernet,
a V.90 modem, VGA and S-Video out ports, plus two USB
2 ports. There’s also a PS/2 port, although you
can’t help feeling that this would be better replaced
by another USB 2 port in this modern age. Ageing scanners
and printers will also find a friend in the parallel
and serial ports, while a further USB 2 port, Type ll
PC Card slot and even an integrated floppy drive can
be found on the side.
The side also houses the 8x DVD-ROM and 24x/10x/24x
CD-RW TEAC combo drive, which handles archival duties
with reasonable speed, although with the huge 80GB Hitachi
hard disk you’re unlikely to need it in a hurry.
The specifications all add up to an ideal desktop replacement,
and it’s at the desk that this machine is in its
element. Our light-use test sucked the battery dry after
just 109 minutes, with intensive use barely making an
hour. Changing the battery during a meeting or on a
train is hardly an attractive option either. After undoing
four tiny screws and fiddling around with a wired connector,
the plastic wrapped cells can be prised out. It’s
a strangely primitive approach, which merely exacerbrates
the portability problem.
But your options are currently limited if you’re
after a widescreen 17in notebook and, in spite of some
rough edges, this is still a capable and well built
machine. It doesn’t have anywhere near the design
kudos of the Apple PowerBook, but, for the raw hardware
you’re getting at £1,399 it’s still
a good deal. Add in the three-year, collect-and-return
warranty and sheer flexibility and you’ve got
an intriguing all-in-one package.
||Rock Quaddra DTS
|| In spite of some rough edges and a hefty weight,
this is a powerful and capable machine at a reasonable
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