When it comes to hardware, the PC gaming community likes to get equipped with the fastest and highest spec of everything. Which could explain the new penchant for quad-core laptops. If four cores are good enough for a desktop, then why not a gaming notebook computer like the Rock Xtreme 780?
The answer is that until recently there were no quad-core processors that ran anywhere near cool enough for a portable. But now, Intel has a range of 45nm-process quad-core chips that some consider just cool enough for mobile use.
Rock's Xtreme 780 take an Intel Q9000 CPU, clocked at 2.0GHz, which employs a 1066MHz frontside bus and takes fast DDR3 RAM - in this case 2GB of DDR3 memory. While that's not the most generous helping of RAM, the graphics card - with which a gaming machine earns its credentials - is a nVidia 9800M GTS with 512MB of DDR3 RAM. Storage is catered for by a fast 7200rpm 250GB hard disk.
As you might expect of a 17in-screen gaming machine, the Rock Xtreme 780 is no lightweight ultraportable. In fact at 3.8kg - well over 8lb - you won't want to be carrying it too far, especially with its huge power adapter that adds almost 1kg to the load. But when you do, Rock has thoughtfully provided a black nylon carry case in the box.
The Rock Xtreme 780's build quality is utilitarian, with little in the way of gamer go-faster stripes.
From the outside of the Rock Xtreme 780, we're presented with a brushed aluminium lid cover embossed with the company logo. Inside is a sober satin black plastic top, with unconvincing faux carbon-fibre trim around the keyboard.
The only concession to gaming bling is the large silver X that's etched upon the Rock Xtreme 780's trackpad.
Our usual benchmark test of WorldBench 6 gave a rather humble result of 86 points, only a few points above what we'd expect of a dual-core 2GHz CPU. While it could be argued that the multiple cores of the Rock Xtreme 780's CPU can handle multi-threaded apps better, the fact is that most programs outside of high-end video animaton and effects cannot take advantage of this hardware's capabilities.
Graphics tests fared a little better, with the Rock Xtreme 780 pulling off 30fps in the Maximum quality FEAR test. We moved on to Crysis, where it scored 100fps in the ‘low' test of 1024x78, Low quality; and at native resolution of 1920x1080 Medium quality, scored 31fps.
Battery life from the modest 4400mAh battery pack was, as you may expect, pitiful. In our MobileMark 2007 productivity test, which barely stresses the graphics card, we measured less than one and a half hours (86 mins) of untethered life. Expect less if you should start playing a game on the Rock Xtreme 780.
While the Rock Xtreme 780 is a solid enough laptop – perhaps too solid for most backs – there’s not a great deal to get excited about in its performance. But while the quad-core processor does little for gaming, the 9800M card does help the Rock Xtreme to present quite playable framerates on even challenging titles such as Crysis.