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Reviews / Xtreme CTX Pro - PC Pro
» PC Pro Recommended and A List Award


rock Xtreme CTX pro

A superb showcase for Intel’s new Core 2 Duo CPU for notebooks,
with the blistering speed in every task

A performance notebook, the rock delivers for both work and play

Intel’s launch of the Core 2 Duo for notebooks may not have made the front page of the broadsheets on 28 August, but make no mistake: it’s a big landmark for mobile processors. As we reported in our technology preview last month, clockspeed for clockspeed the Core 2 Duo is about 25% faster than the Core Duo. And the Core Duo was already a damn fast chip.

Just consider the Xtreme CTX T2700 (see issue 144, p48). Powered by the Core Duo T2700, this scored 1.07 in our benchmarks –to put this score into perspective, that’s 7% faster than our reference PC containing a 3.2Ghz Pentium D processor. Yet by replacing the 2.33Ghz Core Duo T2700 with a 2.33Ghz Core 2 Duo T7600, rockdirect has increased the speed 1.33.

Both machines use the same 1Gb RAM and 100Gb 7200rpm hard disk, so the 24% overall performance boost is entirely down to the Core 2 Duo. Clearly, as clockspeeds remain identical, the architectural efficiencies of Core 2 Duo ensure a massive speed boost.

Gaming performance is also significantly better, with both our tests racing through our custom timedemos. Expect scores of about 50fps in both our graphically demanding test games, up from the 40fps average we saw from the previous Xtreme CTX. Again, this boost is entirely due to the new CPU, as both systems use 512Mb NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GTX. Even at the native resolution of 1680 x 1050 and using the 512Mb textures, Call of Duty 2 ran at an average speed of about 50 fps.

Both out intensive and light-use tests returned near-identical scores to the Core Duo Xtreme CTX. However, that still means battery life isn’t great. You’ll have to be conservative with the tasks you run and dim the screen to get anything like two hours’ constant use from each full battery.

Part of the problem is the lack of control over screen brightness. There isn’t much difference between full and minimum brightness, and the minimum is on the dull side for a power notebook. This aside, the screen is technically sound. We saw no colour problems in DisplayMate (www.displaymate.com), which is impressive on a standalone desktop screen, let alone on a notebook display. Although we saw some evidence of motion lag in a technical test, it was unnoticeable when watching DVD’s and gaming. The lacklustre backlight means pure white looks a touch grey but the glossy coating compensates to give images some vibrancy. But, as ever, you’ll struggle to see anything in brightly lit environments with the reflective glare.

There’s nothing else to moan about, though. The keys feel firm under the finger, with just enough travel and resistance to let you know you’ve pressed or missed one. Layout is good and keys are of a decent size, including a double-height Enter key, despite the extra line of keys to the right. We also had no complaints with the trackpad or mouse buttons – the first being quite responsive, the latter being neither too stiff nor too loose.

The many ports and slots are well arranged around the sides of the hefty 4.3Kg chasis. The left-hand side has the DVD-RW drive all to itself to avoid tangled wires, while the right is packed with easily accessible expansion options: there are two of the four USB 2 ports, plus mini-FireWire and the slots for SD/MMC/Memory Stick media cards and PC Cards. At the rear, you’ll find the other two USB 2 ports, plus the audio line outs, a serial and LAN port, and the DVI and S-Video outputs. The power also connects at the rear.

rockdirect has a good history of producing performance notebooks, and that reputation certainly hasn’t been harmed by this latest CTX; there’s more processing power on offer than in most desktop systems, with stellar gaming performance to match. At only £100 more than the previous CTX –for the 24% application speed boost and 25% gaming performance boost –it easily succeeds its predecessor to the A-List power notebook slot. Especially as it comes with the rockdirect’s excellent insurance-backed, three-year collect-and-return warranty.

Clive Webster

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© rockdirect 2010 | Descriptions and prices subject to change without notice. | | |
rock, A Division of Stone Computers Ltd, Granite One Hundred, Acton Gate, Stafford, Staffordshire, ST18 9AA