Reviews / Xtreme CTX Pro - Custom PC-
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The best combination of mobility and gaming performance
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Xtreme CTX PRO but, since our last encounter (see issue 38), this 17in gaming laptop has undergone a series of significant upgrades.
The upgrades that will be of most interest to gamers are the GPU and screen. The former has been upgraded from a GeForce Go 7900 GTX to a GeForce Go 7950 GTX. While both GPUs have exactly the same architecture, the 7950 GTX is clocked significantly higher (575MHz compared to 500MHz), so it can process more pixels per second than its predecessor. The GPU is accompanied by a generous 512MB of RAM running at 700MHz (1,400MHz effective), double that of the DirectX 10-capable, GeForce 8600GT – equipped Asus and Sony laptops.
The screen has also been given a facelift, and now has a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200. Thanks to the high resolution and glossy finish, movies and applications look great. While the image quality isn’t as good as that of the screen fitted to the Sony laptop, it’s streets ahead of the other laptops in Lab test, putting the far more expensive Alienware and Toshiba laptops to shame. The good quality speakers built into the edge of the keyboard also help to draw you into movies and games, and the Xtreme CTX Pro was one of the few laptops that were able to make the MGM lion sound as if it was roaring, rather than mewing.
The keyboard is a joy to use, managing to strike a good balance between full-sized keys and a number pad. The trackpad is also easy to use, and benefits from two responsive chunky buttons that provide much more feedback than the shallow buttons fitted to most laptops. Along the front edge is a small LED screen that displays the time. There are some buttons for controlling media applications and two buttons to adjust the speaker volume.
The CPU is the 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo T7600, which is one of Intel’s fastest mobile CPU’s. As the Xtreme CTX Pro is now sold with Vista Home Premium instead of XP, the RAM has been doubled to 2GB; if you want to fit more memory, however, you’ll need to ditch the existing RAM, as there are no free SODIMM sockets. The hard disk has also been updated, with the original 100GB drive being replaced by a 7,200rpm 160GB drive. As the Xtreme CTX Pro is an uncompromising gaming laptop, it isn’t fitted with any frills, such as the Blu-ray and HD-DVD drives found in the Sony and Toshiba laptops, and it also lacks HDMI or component video outputs.
However, it has all the network interfaces you should ever need, from the ancient IR port and modem to the latest Bluetooth and wireless LAN controllers. There are also four USB 2 ports, a FireWire port and an ExpressCard slot.
Thanks to its fast CPU and hard disk, the Xtreme CTX Pro proved to be an agile performer, and ran rings around many of the other laptops in this Lab test in the new Media Benchmarks 2007. In games, the combination of high-end Core 2 Duo and GeForce Go 7950 GTX graphics meant that the Xtreme CTX Pro was able to play Company of Heroes smoothly at 1,024 x 768, and could just about manage Oblivion at the same resolution. However, like all the laptops in this test, the Xtreme CTX Pro struggled to render a smooth frame rate in DiRT, while none of the games was playable at the screen’s native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200. However, while the GeForce Go 7950 GTX GPU doesn’t support DirectX 10, none of the GeForce 8600M GT-powered laptops could play Company of Heros smoothly in DirectX 10 mode anyway, so a laptop with a high-end DirectX 9 GPU is clearly the best option at the moment.
Like most of the laptops in this Labs test, the Xtreme CTX Pro tips the scales at just under 4kg, so it’s light enough to carry around for short periods without giving you a hernia. Apart from Dell, none of the laptops has a particularly long battery life; the Rock managed to play Oblivion for 52 minutes before needing to be charged. The Xtreme CTX Pro has an additional advantage, though, as it’s protected three-year pan-European warranty, which means that Rock will arrange for a courier to collect your laptop should it fail, even if you’re on holiday in the south of France or up a mountain in the Pyrenees.
Although, the Xtreme CTX Pro isn’t as sleek as the Sony, it’s more attractive than the Asus or cheap-looking MSI. The combination of the silver chassis, charcoal-coloured keyboard and gloss-black screen works well. In short, the Xtreme CTX Pro wouldn’t look amiss in any situation, whether your’e a hardcore gamer or business executive.
While most of the laptops in this Labs test struggle to play our test games smoothly at 1,024 x 768 thanks to their poor choice of GeForce 8600M GT GPU, the Xtreme CTX Pro succeeds as a gaming laptop, since it uses the tried and trusted GeForce Go 7950 GTX. On paper, this GPU appears less advanced than the GeForce 8600M GT, as it doesn’t support Direct X10 but, in reality, the GeForce Go 7950 GTX is a much better choice for current games.
As such, the only really serious competitors to the Xtreme CTX Pro are the Alienware and Dell, both of which use the GeForce Go 7950 GTX. The Dell is a good laptop, but offers nothing extra and is £260 more expensive. The Alienware poses more of a challenge, as it has two GeForce Go 7950 GTX GPUs running in SLI.
However, it’s nearly £450 more expensive than the Rock, a hefty price to pay for a second graphics card that will only provide a benefit in a limited number of games.
The combination of super-fast mobile graphics, lustrous screen, great-quality speakers and good ergonomics means that that the Xtreme CTX Pro is the deserving winner of this Labs test.