Rock Xtreme 64 review
Last month, we hailed the arrival of Intel’s Core processors as a change of the guard: at last, people could take advantage of dual-core CPUs in lightweight, highly portable chassis. But lest we all get carried away with our enthusiasm for Core, we bring you a counter-argument in the form of AMD’s top-end desktop processors. But these machines aren’t exactly thin and light.
On this page and opposite, we present three notebooks using the same Clevo D900K chassis, which offers the size and space required to cool the blisteringly fast components contained within. And at 5.8kg, they’re definitely meant to sit on a desk.
While Evesham has opted for the enthusiast’s FX-60, the two almost identical offerings from Rockdirect and SavRow are based around the current fastest X2 – the Athlon 64 X2 4800+. Clocking in at 2.4GHz, its two cores are faster than those of the quickest Core Duo, so despite the inferior power efficiency and greater heat emission it’s an appealing option in the world of desktop replacements.
But does the performance boost justify the extra bulk and noise the processor inevitably brings? Well, both of these notebooks are very speedy. The Rock Xtreme 64 soared through our benchmarks with a score of 1.14, followed by the SavRow Katana K-X9 with an almost identical score of 1.13 despite its 2GB of RAM. This is a little misleading, because only our strenuous multitasking test forced substantial use of the extra gigabyte – once Vista arrives, systems with 2GB will begin to show their true worth.
So fast, so good, but whether it’s fast enough is up for debate. With last month’s Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi managing a then-groundbreaking 1.11, we aren’t seeing a huge performance difference between AMD and Intel’s dual-core processors when placed within notebooks. Although only sporting a 15.4in screen, the Acer was nearly 3kg lighter, emphasising the reduced cooling requirements of the Core Duo.
But these two giants make up for it in other ways, with the chassis having space for pretty much every connector imaginable. For video, there are DVI-I and S-Video ports, and the lid comes fitted with a 1.3-megapixel camera as standard. There are four USB 2 and two mini-FireWire ports, plus parallel, serial and PS/2, and there are slots for PC Card and most media card types. Finally, Bluetooth, infrared and 802.11g wireless take care of all communication needs.
The chassis itself is solid and sturdy. The lid gives ample protection to the 17in TFT and the keyboard is well laid out, although some may find the high wrist position uncomfortable after prolonged use. Four speakers and a subwoofer are fitted, which makes the slightly muffled bass and low maximum volume disappointing.
So far, it’s sounding like we have a pair of laptop twins, but the £300 discrepancy between the two isn’t just Rockdirect’s competitive pricing: there are significant differences that will sway you one way or the other.
The Rock Xtreme 64 is the cheaper of the two, and it’s partly to do with the choice of graphics. Fitted with a 256MB nVidia GeForce Go 6800 Ultra, it can’t quite handle the latest games at high resolutions, but it managed our standard tests reasonably well. Frame rates of 29fps and 33fps in Far Cry and Half-Life 2 respectively demonstrate its ability at 1,280 x 1,024, although you’ll need to reduce the AA and AF settings for really smooth performance.
The lower price hasn’t stopped Rockdirect fitting an extra 100GB hard disk, doubling the disk space of its rival. But the SavRow Katana K-X9 compensates with the extra 1GB of memory as well as a DVD writer that supports DVD-RAM. Which of these you consider more important may be more of an influence than your choice of graphics card, as Rock will upgrade to a GeForce Go 7800 GTX for just £50 more.