Rockdirect Xtreme XT 3.2 review

£1349
Price when reviewed

In issue 126, we reviewed Rockdirect’s Xtreme Ti, a 17in widescreen juggernaut with performance good enough to embarrass many desktop machines. With a 3.6GHz Pentium 4, a 256MB ATi X800 graphics card and 120GB of storage, it also requires a serious financial commitment.

Rockdirect Xtreme XT 3.2 review

Rockdirect has now released a smaller, cheaper version called the Xtreme XT. The concept is basically the same: throw a collection of high-performance components into a laptop case for powerhouse mobility. But where the 17in Xtreme Ti was an uncompromising desktop replacement that could break your arm on a trip across town, Rockdirect hopes the 15.4in Xtreme XT will blend better mobility and battery life with a more attractive price.

On the portability front, it hasn’t really worked. Sure, it’s lighter than the 5.7kg Ti, but it’s arguable whether 4.7kg is much better for a journey. If you’re going to carry that sort of weight around, you might as well enjoy the Ti’s 17in X-Glass TFT panel. And it’s the same story with battery life. The XT adds just five minutes to an intense workload (one hour, five minutes) and 18 minutes to light use (one hour, 27 minutes), so mobility hasn’t improved markedly. But price is certainly a differentiator, and by opting for the 3.2GHz Xtreme XT you’ll save £429.

Inside our Xtreme XT, there was a desktop 3.2GHz Pentium 4 540, which returned an overall score of 1.55, a fair way below the 1.84 achieved by the Xtreme Ti’s 3.6GHz chip. It’s not only the processor at play here. The XT has a generous 1GB of RAM, but it’s DDR 400MHz compared to DDR2 533MHz in the Ti. Also note that the desktop processor pumps out a lot of heat when it’s working hard, and in this smaller case that means more noise. The fans aren’t particularly loud, but the buzzy, whining tone annoys, along with noticeable vibration.

The PCI Express 256MB ATi Mobility Radeon X800 is the same as that used by the Ti, and it has little trouble tackling current games. Running at 1,280 x 1,024 resolution, with 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering, Half-Life 2 returned 42fps and Doom 3 on High Quality returned 32fps. These are all playable figures, but these settings are clearly a strain on the XT; the Xtreme Ti managed higher frame rates at higher resolutions.

The TFT’s resolution is a massive 1,680 x 1,050 pixels, crammed into a 15.4in widescreen format, and that creates pin-sharp text and pictures. If it seems too cramped for easy viewing, the font size or dpi can always be bumped up in Display Properties. We’ve no complaints about the TFT, but the same can’t be said for the surrounding lid. The hinge mechanism catches when you use it, and the creaks can be felt through the lid as it’s moved. The bezel’s floppy plastic trim along the bottom also gapes open rather than sitting flush against the screen.

Both this and the Ti’s chassis are from Clevo, but there’s a gulf of quality between the two. Where the Ti felt bulletproof, the XT feels comparatively flimsy: one of the fan grilles underneath made contact with its fan with only modest pressure. The keyboard is usable but below par. In general, boards have improved steadily over the past couple of years, progressing from rather bouncy construction to tight and firm, but this one takes a step back to the old ways. It’s still usable, but a little frustrating. Even more frustrating are the touchpad and mouse buttons. For the sake of design, Clevo decided to use a circular shape, which leaves the buttons awkwardly small. We also found that our hands clicked the audio control keys accidentally.

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