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Xtreme - What Laptop (Sep '04)

In brief: An attractive laptop that pushes the envelope for gaming to the next level.

The rockdirect Xtreme (£2348 inc. VAT) clearly states its claim a s a gaming laptop. Available in a high-polish finish, either in red, back or blue, the chassis is flamboyant but stylish in a boys’ toys way. The case is well built and will stand up to the punishment of being carried to LAN parties and for similar gaming use.

What gives rockdirect Xtreme its exclusive badge is the use of the 3.4GHz Intel Pentium 4 Extreme processor, which is the fastest chip in this system as sported so far. Supported by 1024MB DDR SDRAM and a 60GB hard drive, it certainly has enough power to cope with the latest games as well as other multimedia tasks.

We use MobileMark 2002 to benchmark laptops. However, for a score to be registered, the system must run on battery power for a minimum of 90 minutes, we were unable to benchmark the rockdirect Xtreme. In day-to-day use we were satisfied with how well it handled tasks and was more than comparable to the Dell Inspiron 9100, with which it shares a similar processor and equal amount of memory.

Glass Screen:

This is the first laptop rockdirect has made available that takes advantage of the IPS screen technology. In many ways it is similar to the panels from Sony which are referred to as X-black screens. Such a display is made up of a three layer technology as opposed to the four layers used in standard TFT panels. This allows for a sharper control of light, making for enhanced contrast. In order to do this, the screen is backlit from two sou5rces, whi9ch can have an impact on battery life.

The Xtreme weighs 4.2kg, so will spend most of its life on a desktop rather than on the move. Even so, we found that the build quality was high, with additional backing behind the screen. The body design is strong enough to survive a typical drop or crush. The keyboard is a little cramped, but the keys have a comfortable action and a reasonable amount of travel.

The three-spindle design means that a floppy disk drive is fitted alongside an optical drive - in this instance a Sony DVD rewriter. Intervideo WinCinema and ability Office supplied, as well as antivirus software in the form of Panda Titanium Edition are supplied as standard and with a three year warranty thrown into the mix, the extras with the Xtreme are comprehensive and usable.

We found that the fan on the laptop run constantly, even when sitting idle with one document widow open. The result of which is was a high buiold up in noise, but particularly in heat, as the left-hand side of the machine grew warm with a gteat deal of heat being extracted by the fan.

When it came to the graphic sub-system of the Xtreme, rockdirect has opted for the Ati Mobility Radeon 9700 with 128MB of its own memory. While this isn’t as powerful as the 9800 found in the Dell Inspiron, we were still more than impressed with by the 3Dmark score of 14054, which is the highest rating this adapter has scored under test in WL. Such a result is largely due to the use of the 800MHz front side bus on the system as well as the addition of the latest drivers.

The rockdirect Xtreme is an attractive and powerful laptop that gamers will find handy for LAN parties. While we were impressed by its 3D performance and satisfied by its components and feature set, we were disappointed by the build up of the heat that spoilt an otherwise commendable machine.

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