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Xtreme - Computer Shopper (Apr '04)

RATING 5/5 - BEST BUY AWARD

RockDirect’s new Xtreme series of notebooks is designed with gamers in mind. The notebooks come in three different colours: bright Racing Red, Team Green Metallic and Piercing Blue Metallic. Each one is hand-painted with automotive paint and the result is a wonderfully smooth, shiny finish and a vibrant colour.

An awesome 3.2GHz Pentium 4 hyperthreading processor heads the line-up of components in the top-of-the-range XTR 3.2 mode. It has 512MB of PC3200 DDR RAM, which is a reasonable amount but only half of what’s included in the Alienware. This won’t have a huge impact on performance in today’s software, but will become more of an issue as applications and games become more demanding. An extra 512MB of RAM is available for £118. Unfortunately the massive 80Gb HDD is only a 4200rpm model, which takes the edge off the machine’s performance.

The screen is smaller than Alienware’s with a 15” image and a native resolution of 1,400x1,050 pixels. It has one significant advantage over the Area-51m, though: it has a DVD writer, which makes it a more versatile machine. Rock’s three-year warranty will protect your investment.

The XTR3.2 is well equipped for connectivity with a PC Card slot, four USB2 ports, Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth and built in 802.11g WiFi. At 4.17kg it’s a heavy beast, and its speedy desktop processor means this notebook gets rather hot.

The Rock’s performance is out of this world. It scores a brilliant 289 points in SYSmark 2002, which is only four points behind the Alienware, despite the Rock’s slightly lower specifications.

The real deal-clincher is how the Rock copes with gaming - after all, the Xtreme is supposed to be a gaming notebook. It scored 10,580 points in 3Dmark2001 SE, which is 500 points higher than the previous champion, the Oscar plus from Pico, and a clear 1,200 points ahead of the Area-51m. The 3Dmark03 results are just as decisive, with the Rock scoring 2,978 - 15 per cent better than the Area-51m. In our quake III demo the Rock scored 205.6fps while the Area-51m managed only 182.9fps.

Since the core configuration of the two notebooks is so similar, for the cheaper notebook to emerge as the clear winner is a big surprise. A little investigation into the deeper workings of both machines reveals that the only significant difference is that Alienware’s graphics memory bus clock speed is slower than the Rock’s - which is probably attributable to the different motherboards - and this might explain the differences in graphics performance.

The Rock Xtreme is a neat and tidy, compact and well-designed notebook, and at this price it is without a doubt one of the best machines you can buy. A larger screen would be advantageous, as would a faster hard disk, but apart from those minor niggles, Rock’s Xtreme XTR-3.2 is, for us, the best gaming notebook available at present.

  OVERALL: 5/5

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More Xtreme Reviews:
What Laptop (Jan '05)
 
Stuff Magazine (Sep '04)
 
What Laptop (Sep '04)
 
Computer Shopper (Sep '04)
 
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Computer Buyer (Jul '04)
 
PCW Magazine (Jun '04)
 
PC Home (May '04)
 
Computer Active (Apr '04)
 
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PC Pro (Jan '04)
 
What Laptop (Dec '03)
 
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