Xtreme - What Laptop (Jan '05)
The rockdirect Xtreme (£2349 inc. VAT) clearly states its claim as a gaming laptop. available in a high-polish finish, either in red, black or blue, the chassis flamboyant but stylish in a boys’ toys way. It is well built and will stand up to the punishment of being carried to LAN parties and for similar gaming use.
The use of the Intel 3.4GHz Pentium 4 processor, which comes with Hyper-Threading as an integrated part of the chip, may not be the fastest chip available - Intel has just released a 3.8GHz part in this format - but is the fastest this chassis will support. Even so, we found that there was a great deal of heat build-up from the system, with the fan needing to be in constant use to keep the innards cool. While the main chassis is kept quite cool, there is a great deal of warm air expelled out of the left-hand side of the machine.
The main processor is supported by 1024MB DDR SDRAM, which is more than sufficient to run all applications with ease. The 80GB hard drive runs at the now familiar 5400rpm, which is an improvement over older mobile drives but lags behind the latest desktop components. When it came to testing the Xtreme, we discovered that with such a specification this system was unable to benchmark. We use MobileMark 2002 to test laptops and in order for a score to be registered, the system must run on battery power for a minimum of 90 minutes. With an average battery life of a mere 45 minutes from the Xtreme, we were unable to gather sufficient benchmarks. In day-to-day use we found that it was quick and responsive, with files saving to disk effortlessly.
BACK IN BLACK
With the Xtreme, rockdirect debuts its X-Glass technology - its answer to Sony’s X-black screen for improved screen quality and contrast ratio. This allows for improved screen quality and contrast ratio. This allows for a sharper control of light, making for enhanced contrast.
The screen is supported by the ATi Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics adapter, which may no longer be the fastest adapter on the market but is readily available, unlike the mobility Radeon 9800 and nVidia’s GeForce Go 6800, which both out-perform the 9700 but have, at the time of writing, limited supplies available.
Under test, this adapter scored a 3DMark 2001 of 13584, which is more than adequate for running the latest games. As this adapter will readily support DirectX 9.0 extensions, we chose to also benchmark this system using 3Dmark 2003 - with a result of 3795.
The Xtreme weighs 4.3kg, 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 and body design that would 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 are supplied, as well as antivirus in the form of Panda Titanium Edition as standard, and with a three-year warranty thrown into the mix, the extras with the Xtreme are comprehensive and usable.
The rockdirect Xtreme is an attractive and powerful laptop. It offers everything that the current gamer would want from a mobile gaming machine, the quality screen and 3D performance are its main features and while newer adapters are still thin on the ground, the Xtreme will serve you well. That said, within a couple of months this configuration may well begin to look dated.