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True hardcore gaming notebooks are the play things of the elite. We’ve seen this in recent months with machines like the Voodoo Envy M:860 and current speed king the Rock Xtreme! XTR-3.4EE. These are big, burlesque units which easily smash the £2,000 bracket and keep on going. But things are about to change because the D500E from AJP stands toe to toe with these heavyweights while slicing nearly a grand off their price tags.
Now take a good look at the XTR-3.4EE and then take a good look at the AJP D500E. Notice any differences? Externally there are none – that is because they both use exactly the same chassis. This is a very good thing because from the moment we start talking “value” it is understandable to look for shortcuts. Consequently, we can close one door immediately: the AJP has no issues of build quality compared with its main rival since it literally shares the same skin.
Although the chassis is the same as the one used by Rock, the screen is very different. Rock used a 1,400 x 1,050 panel with an X-Glass coating, giving it a very bright and vibrant image that was ideal for games. Unfortunately the AJP doesn’t use the same coating and the image is definitely less imposing than the one seen on the Rock. However, AJP has put a higher resolution panel in, meaning that the D500E has a native resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, giving you an impressive amount of desktop real estate for a 15in screen.
Internally, however, things are a little different. Driving the D500E is a P4 3.4GHz chip, not an Extreme Edition like the one found in the XTR-3.4EE, though it does pretty much match the M:860 and has with a full megabyte of Level 2 cache. It also comes with 512MB RAM as opposed to the 1GB that ships with each of its rivals and the capacious 80GB hard drive spins at 4,200rpm instead of 7,200rpm. Other than that the specifications between all three are fairly similar which is no mean feat considering the gaping monetary chasm between the D500E and the other two. You get the same high end ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics chipset with 128MB of RAM, a Sony DW-U54A DVD rewriter – the exact same model used in the XTR-3.4EE - and the identical audio set up with integrated subwoofer.
In fact, given that the D500E is built using the same shell as the XTR-3.4EE you get all the same extensive connectivity options: Type II PC Card slot, IrDA port, PS/2, parallel and serial ports, D-SUB, S-Video, four USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, modem, line out/optical output, headphone socket and microphone. You also get the same legacy floppy disk drive but this can similarly be swapped for optional extras such as a second battery, 6-in-1 card reader, DVD/CD-RW drive or removable second hard drive, and at this price you can afford to upgrade. If you have a wireless network in your home or office, you’ll also be able connect to it via the integrated 802.11g WiFi adapter.
Naturally, you get the same solidly constructed, user friendly keyboard as that on the XTR-3.4EE as well, which benefits from the same practical layout, matching audio controls and LCD display at the front of the case so you can play CDs without needing to boot into Windows. Ultimately, the more I look at the AJP, the more I think this is the sale of the century.