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Xtreme Ti - GigaHz (Issue 6)

Sharing the design of both Hybridgear's EVO X and the Sager NP9860 notebook, the Rock Direct Xtreme Ti casts a dominating shadow over the portable market as the world's fastest notebook, not least because of its substantial size.

This thing is big - big and heavy. Although it's sold as a notebook be under no illusions you won't see business types hastily bustling from meeting to meeting with one of these under their arm, not unless they're closely related to Geoff Capes. Which is a good thing anyway as Xtreme Ti is meant for better things than a life of PowerPoint presentations, this desktop replacement is built for gaming. Specified with ATI's powerful Mobility Radeon X800 and a 3.6GHz Intel processor, this is a hell of a lot of machine for mobile gaming.

One of the more striking aspects of this mammoth notebook is its massive 17-inch TFT, the brilliant display is in fact fractionally wider than the current crop of wide screen televisions employing a 16:10 ratio. With a native resolution of 1,650 x 1,050 the additional desktop real estate makes operating Windows XP Home edition feel surprisingly spacious but the biggest difference from conventional screens comes from Rock's implementation of X-Glass technology. The X-Glass coated 17-inch display produces exceptional rich colours without washing out the darker elements of the image, making ideal for watching DVDs.Closer examination of the displays edges showed no signs of light leakage, which is often found on brighter panels. This increased contrast isn't entirely without its drawbacks however as the X-Glass coating makes the screen highly reflective and more difficult to use when the subject is dark and there's powerful ambient lighting. The sound system accompanying the excellent display is suitably substantial with five integrated speakers that deliver crisp clear sound with good mid-range and treble, however despite the presence of a built in subwoofer disappointingly thin bass. Activating the SRS WOW software goes someway to fill out the sound but it's still far from a pair of good headphones. Based on the Azalia High Definition Audio processor the Xtreme Ti's sound system can output excellent 7.1 sound via the SPDIF connection or alternatively create a sound field that closely mimics the effect of these additional channels through just two.
Taking a brief tour round this Goliath's case the left-hand side of the Xtreme Ti notebook has the full range of connectivity you would expect for a desktop, line in, SPDIF out, headphone and microphone socket, although it's worth noting Rock's desktop replacement actually incorporates a microphone into its design. The in-built microphone forms part of the system's provision for video conferencing, with a pinhole-style web cam on the top bezel of the display completing the package. Using a USB 2.0 connection the Bisoncam captures at 640 x 480 and the 300k sensor copes admirably with even low levels of light. Moving further round, the notebook comes with an impressive range of connectivity including both wired and wireless networking capabilities. Those looking to hook up a physical connection will appreciate the notebook's Gigabit LAN. Wireless links have been well catered for too with dual functionality covering both 802.11b an G protocols. Both parallel and serial legacy connectors it unlikely they'll be required. A bluetooth radio connection is provided too if you do find a need for it. Ultimately, this is more suited as a desktop replacement rather than as a conventional portable notebook, underlined by the short battery life away from the mains. On the front leading edge of the notebook are eight sleek silver buttons promising to allow you to navigate your music collection suspend the PC or adjust the volume, in fact rather than offer this functionality these buttons are used exclusively for controlling CD or MP3 playback when the notebook is powered down. Between the two banks of controls the dual-purpose screen operates as either a simple but attractive clock or control screen for CD or MP3 playback. When the Xtreme Ti is operating normally, these controls prove frustratingly dead.

The build quality of the system is very high with the large display hinge well dampened, high grade plastics used throughout and strong but near silent fans employed to cool the notebook. There are two caveats to the otherwise great design, first the house brick sized power supply unit, which might as well be a ball and chain for the effect it has on the system's portability, and second the cheap and nasty rubber stopper used to protect the memory card slots. This afterthought isn't attached to the system what so ever and continually leaves you hunting about to find it.

While the debate over benefits of RAID 0 still rumbles on, Rock breaks new ground squeezing RAID functionally into the Xtreme Ti. Based on two 60GB 7200 drives, the notebook can be configured to offer either RAID 0 of the protection of RAID 1. Obviously, with two drives in the system along with the already hit graphics card there's a lot of heat being generated, and after an hour of gaming you become acutely aware of the heat pumped out from just under the 7-in-1 memory card reader. Leaving your hands on the wrist-rest the heat is never uncomfortable, and the quirky layout of the keyboard does a good job of distracting and attention away from the warmth.

Benchmarks aside the Xtreme Ti proves more than capable of powering all of the current generation of games with some in reserve for higher quality settings. The unusual native screen resolution means when only conventional gaming resolutions are available you either stretch the image to fit the screen or scoffer black borders. Overlooking the change to images ratio the Xtreme Ti does an excellent job of interpolating the image.

Providing all the horsepower you need for 3D gaming, the Ti has taken on Alienware's 7700 and has not been left wanting. The flexible Mobility Radeon X800 encourages a range of multimedia uses and support for multiple displays, making this machine as adaptable as it is powerful. An extremely impressive high-end notebook from Rock that deservedly wins our five star award.


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More Xtreme Ti Reviews:
Hexus.net (Aug '05)
• GigaHz (Issue 6)
PC Gamer (Jun '05)
Boys Toys (Jun '05)
PC Pro (Apr '05)
What Laptop (Mar '05)
Trusted Reviews (Feb '05)
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