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Quaddra DTS

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 at once.

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 Bluetooth.

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.

MODEL Rock Quaddra DTS
VERDICT In spite of some rough edges and a hefty weight, this is a powerful and capable machine at a reasonable price.

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All Quaddra DTS reviews

Quaddra DTS - What Laptop (Dec '04)
Quaddra DTS - Computer Arts (Dec '03)
Quaddra DTS - PC Home (Nov '03)
Quaddra DTS - What Laptop (Sep '03)
Quaddra DTS - PC Pro Magazine (Aug '03)

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