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Xtreme - Computer Shopper (Apr '04)


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)
Trusted reviews (Jun '04)
Computer Buyer (Jul '04)
PCW Magazine (Jun '04)
PC Home (May '04)
Computer Active (Apr '04)
• Computer Shopper (Apr '04)
PC Pro (Jan '04)
What Laptop (Dec '03)
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