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The rest of the specification is rather good. For storage, you get a capacious 40GB hard drive and as mentioned earlier a webcam occupying a hole only one centimetre across is ingeniously integrated into the top part of the bezel that surrounds the bright and sharp 14.1in TFT screen. This worked rather well with smooth motion and enough definition to distinguish the whiskers in my beard. The picture was on the dark side, but for a cam with dimensions as small as this you cannot expect much better. This CTS model also comes with a Sony DVD/CD-RW combo drive housed along the right side of the chassis, next to the microphone, headphone and audio out (SPDIF) jacks. Interestingly the rest of the ports can all be found on the left side, as none exist around the back. While this does place them all within easy reach, I would personally prefer to see the D-SUB refitted to the back so that a chunky D-SUB signal cable doesn’t stick out from the side when I want to use an external monitor for a dual display setup. The remaining connections include two USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire port, and an S-video connector. One RJ45 socket for a 10/100Mbps LAN, plus an RJ11 for the Internal 56K internal modem top off the rest of the connectors.
In terms of usability, the keyboard does feature a normally shaped Return key, but it and the Backspace key are a little too narrow for my liking. There is a slight hint of keyboard bounce, but all the keys are responsive and have enough travel to make typing a positive process.
The touchpad operated very smoothly although I found the space between it and the space bar too small. In fact, it was very easy to accidentally touch the pad while typing, in effect triggering a double click, or inadvertently selecting text, and/or moving the cursor. The two shiny black buttons below the pad behave the same way as left and right mouse buttons, and are intersected by a scroll key.
The three chrome coloured buttons mounted on the front are used as shortcut keys to activate the wireless antenna, for launching your Internet browser and Email program. To be frank, I don’t think they are well placed as I managed to accidentally trigger all three functions at one stage or another during testing. Speakers are typically tinny too but that’s pretty much the norm these days.
The CTS measures 312 x 273 x 27mm (WxHxD), and tips the scales at 2.5Kg. It’s reasonably sturdy, but the styling is a bit bland. However, carrying it around is not an arduous task and Rock gets you started by providing you with a case.
The CTS is available in a number of configurations, but this version will set you back £1,197.33 and that includes £20 for carriage too. MS Windows XP Home Edition is preinstalled, and it is another £58.75 to go Pro.
Considering the specification and the price it’s impossible not to compare the Rock to the Acer TravelMate 661LMi. The Acer may have a slower processor but it performs better and also sports superior build quality and features a DVD writer and Windows XP Professional. In Rock’s favour is a three year collect and return warranty which will give some potential buyers piece of mind.
The Rock CTS does what it says on the tin, although the tin in this case is a little bland. The most notable feature is the integrated webcam, and for a notebook built on Centrino technology, I expected more battery life. The CTS isn’t a bad notebook, but you can get a better machine elsewhere for the same price.