Rock Xtreme CT-2.13 review

£1299
Price when reviewed

You could easily be forgiven for mistaking the Rock Xtreme CT for the Evesham C720. In spite of their different specifications, both systems use identical chassis. There isn’t a gulf between them, though, as the core specifications – the RAM and CPU – are the same. A 2.13GHz Pentium M matched with a gigabyte of RAM led to a perfectly respectable application benchmark score of 0.94, just shy of the Evesham’s 0.95.

Like Evesham’s C720, the Rock is one of the newer breed of notebooks aimed not only at traditional notebook applications but gaming too. The graphics card in the Xtreme is ATi’s current top-of-the-range mobile chip, the X800 XT Platinum Edition. In spite of losing its flagship status to the nVidia Go 7800 GTX (as found in the Evesham), it’s still a capable card that will happily handle current games. In Far Cry at 1,280 x 1,024, it achieved a frame rate of 65fps and, at the panel’s native resolution of 1,680 x 1,050, it reached 62fps.

In spite of these high scores, there’s no doubt that the Evesham is a step or two quicker than the Rock. In Far Cry, the C720 scored 85fps to the Xtreme’s 65fps. This doesn’t make the Rock a bad choice for today’s games, but it does mean that while the Evesham will still be going strong in 18 months the Rock may be struggling. This is also due to the X800’s lack of support for Shader Model 3 features.

The high-speed processor and GPU are complemented by an array of high-end components that will be perfect for power users. The 60GB hard disk spins at 7,200rpm, making it ideal for intensive use, while the optical drive is a dual-layer DVD rewriter. A potential plus for both the Evesham and Rock is their upgradability – the graphics cards can theoretically be replaced relatively easily, but don’t base a buying decision on this as we haven’t seen any upgrade options yet.

Another highlight is the side-mounted memory card reader – SD, xD and Memory Stick compatibility will be good for most, although, as with the Evesham, it would have been nice to see a CompactFlash reader too. There’s compliance with Intel’s Centrino specification, and the 802.11a/b/g wireless adaptor will cater for enterprise wireless networks as well as more standard home and office environments.

Our chief complaint about the Xtreme’s ergonomics is noise. Like the Evesham, the fan becomes exceptionally loud when the system is working hard and internal temperatures begin to rise. The speed of the fan is variable too, which although designed to reduce noise when possible can be even more distracting when it’s constantly changing speed. The weight is a serious drawback too – 4.3kg is too heavy to carry for a long time. Battery life just reinforces this lack of portability – an hour and 15 minutes under light use isn’t going to be too useful, while an intensive use time of just 35 minutes means the battery is little more than an uninterruptible power supply.

Other than this, the Rock gave us few causes for complaint. It’s solidly built and the keyboard is comfortable. At the bottom, you’ll find a CD control panel, which is positioned to be accessible when the lid of the laptop is closed. It’s a useful added feature, but given the middling speakers, which are loud but lack clarity, we can’t see the Xtreme doing much work as a stereo.

The screen fits the Rock’s purpose as a gaming laptop. Its glossy finish will be a reflective nightmare if you intend to use the Xtreme in a bright office, but for home use it makes films and photos look vibrant as well as giving the machine a sleek, shiny finish. In technical terms, contrast at both ends wasn’t perfect, but it’s still a decent panel for viewing images; the only drawback is that you may lose some shadow detail.

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