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Xtreme - PC Pro (Jan '04)

Verdict: Truly brimming with features and as fast as you like, but the price is a letdown.

Office space is always a contentious issue - there’s never enough for all your clutter and your PC is the main culprit for taking up too much desk room. One possible solution is a desktop replacement that includes the 2D and graphics power of a desktop PC as well as a large screen, but in a format that can be tucked away when not in use.

The Xtreme is an archetypal desktop replacement, as at nearly 4kg you wouldn’t want to carry it any further than a meeting room. This blue behemoth proudly boasts a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 desktop chip, running on a Springdale chipset, which uses an 800MHz FSB (front side bus). As AMD’s Athlon 64 Mobile processor won’t be available for at least a month or two, this is currently the fastest chip you can squeeze into a notebook chassis. The Xtreme also comes with an 80GB hard disk, which is massive by notebook standards, and again wouldn’t be a stingy offering in a desktop PC proper.

Not surprisingly, performance in our benchmarks is high, if not quite level with how the chip would run in an actual desktop. At 1.41, though, it’s a bit of a letdown, as that’s what the Athlon XP 2500+ Mobile managed to achieve in Multivision’s Solus 2010 (see issue 106, p62). Still, it’s capable of handling any applications you care to throw at it and more.

Performance is equally as impressive in the 3D arena and, thanks in part to the 3.2GHz Pentium 4c, it produced the fastest graphics score we’ve seen in a notebook. Using ATi’s ultra-fast Radeon Mobility 9600 chip with 128Mb DDR memory, the Xtreme flew threw our graphics test, achieving 10,172 at XGA with 32-bit colour depth. This barely falls behind the average desktop score, making the Rock ideal for a gamer on the move.

However, none of this matters if you don’t have a good screen for it to shine through. Fortunately the 15in TFT has a maximum resolution of 1,400 x 1,050, which is excellent. We weren’t too impressed with the clarity of the image, though. It appeared fuzzy all round; even the icons on the Desktop were a little hazy. Text was perfectly legible, though, and watching a DVD was a smooth enough experience. The horizontal viewing angle was reasonable too, although the vertical could have been better.

The Xtreme’s chassis isn’t particularly good looking; it’s shiny blue plastic would have seemed out of place in the 1980’s let alone now. But it’s not all about looks - the case is crammed with most of the ports you could think of, although we were surprised by the lack of card reader slots for SD and Compact Flash. A floppy drive sits next to the CD writer combo drive. The fact that it’s not a DVD writer is disappointing especially given the high asking price. There are also 56k Modem and 10/100 Ethernet ports, a built in 802.11g card and a Bluetooth module, along with four USB ports, mini-FireWire, a D-SUB connection to output to an external monitor, parallel (though no serial) and finally PS/2.

The front of the case houses playback controls for the CD drive, and the Xtreme’s optical drive can be used without booting up the PC as a whole. The keyboard is large and the keys are well laid out too. The touchpad is responsive, as are it’s accompanying two buttons. However, we’d have liked a trackpoint tucked away in the keypad to cater for those who prefer it.

Audio is pretty well catered for, as Rock has fitted a DTS-compatible 5.1 channel digital out, as well as four small stereo speakers and even a subwoofer. It’s a surprise, though, that Rock has used a subwoofer in a device that will never tough the ground; the overall result has a bit more depth to the sound than most notebook speaker sets, but it still doesn’t measure up to a set of separate speakers.

A 3.2GHz processor requires a lot of power to keep running, so we weren’t expecting a long battery life. We were proved right, as the Xtreme lasted just 43 minutes in our intensive test. This essentially means you can carry it to a different room for a short meeting, no more. The light-use test again showed it’s shortcomings, as it only kept going for 73 minutes. However, the Xtreme’s excellent heat dissipation means you could sit with it on your lap all day without a problem; that’s as long as you can handle it’s hefty mass.

All in all, the Xtreme is massive, very fast - especially for 3D graphics - and packed with features. However, without a DVD writer we can’t recommend it at this price. If you need fast gaming on the move and are prepared to pay for it, though, the Xtreme could be ideal. If not, try Toshiba’s P10 (see issue 110, p65), which features a large screen, good 2D performance and a far superior battery Life.

  PERFORMANCE: 6/6
  FEATURES AND DESIGN: 4/6
  VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/6
  OVERALL: 4/6

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