We did an initial field test with Rock’s new Xtreme X840SLI-X9100 desktop replacement laptop, using an 18 year-old female online gamer and a 30 year-old male Xbox 360 addict. We opened the lid, turned on the power and within seconds got the identical awed response that went something along the lines of, “Whoa, that is soooo cool!”
There’s no way you would ever mistake this monster for one of those fluffy netbooks you casually toss into your backpack on the way to college. For a start it weighs a back-breaking 5.9kg and measures a whopping 439 x 299 x 44mm. We’ll come to what’s under the hood in a minute but you’d expect a gaming computer to look sensational and be bristling with features, and in that area Rock’s new baby doesn’t disappoint.
The exterior is all in gloss black (i.e. plenty of room for lovely fingerprints), as is the thin bezel around the impressive 18.4-inch Full HD screen and the whole of the keyboard area, including the touch-pad.
Where the oohs and aahs come from is the lighting arrangement. Once switched on from an admittedly stylish silver power button on the right hinge, the Rock symbol starts glowing neon blue on the cover and, above the keyboard, assignable icons for Webcam, Bluetooth, WiFi, sound, etc., appear pink, blue or white. The volume control looks like a semi-circular speedo from a race car and if you want to be really flashy, you can even arrange for the Rock symbol to cycle through various shades.
The only indication of the boundaries of the touch-pad is a matching blue rectangle and, while all this razzmatazz is boy toy heaven, unfortunately the touch response for all these controls is poor. The keyboard, on the other hand, is well spaced, easy to operate and has the huge added advantage for a gaming machine of a set of programmable macro keys to the left of the main keys. Desktop PCs have had separate games keyboards with such handy presets for quite a while, so this is a welcome redressing of the imbalance.
OK, so what is it that merits the king-size price tag of three grand? Well, essentially it’s due to the emphasis on both CPU and graphics firepower. Most gamers know it’s the graphics card that ultimately decides how exciting your gameplay is going to be, so Rock has installed two top-of-the-range Nvidia 280M GTX 1GB SLi graphics cards supported by two Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 2.53GHz CPUs (which could be boosted to Quad) with a maximum 4GB of DDR3, 1066MHz RAM.
Storage is not a problem either, as you have a further choice of up to 750GB SSD RAID drives or 1.5 Terabyte, 7,200rpm RAID hard drives.
Peripherals include four USB 2.0 ports (one of which is a shared E-SATA), an Express Card slot, 7-in-1 card reader, HDMI, DVI, TV Tuner port, fingerprint reader and Blu-Ray (or conventional DVD player if you want to save a few pounds). 7.1 surround sound is also available and might be worth investigating, as the built-in four-speaker set-up is not going to impress any hardcore Call of Duty aficionado.
Visually and in terms of frame rates, this has to be the kick-ass gaming laptop of the moment, but in terms of value for money, there’s just not quite enough outside the graphics cards and sheer show-off features to convince us the price is right.
Contact: 0845 688 0501