Getting onto the 17in 1,920 x 1,200 screen, things remain a mixed bag. There is one immediately obvious concern: when viewing dark shades or a black screen from any angle even the slightest bit left of centre, a white-grey mist-like discolouration occurs, covering the left half of the screen to an extent dependant on that angle. This is probably a defect specific to our sample though, so hopefully you shouldn’t have the same problem.
Other than this, if you can see past the reflections in the high-gloss screen, it performs moderately. Even aside from the ‘mist’ issue, viewing angles are more restricted than most, with conspicuous contrast and colour shift. There is also some minimal backlight bleed along the screen’s bottom edge, but it’s nothing you would notice too much while gaming or watching a film. Packing a more-than Full HD resolution into such a small area means everything is pin-sharp and after dimming the brightness a bit colours are realistic, rather than oversaturated, with minimal banding evident.
Of course, this being a Rock, you get a lot of power under the hood. In our sample, things are headed by one of the fastest ‘standard’ Core 2 Duo mobile chips, a T9600 with 6MB cache running at 2.80GHz, though this option has since become unavailable — see addendum at the end of the review. This was backed by a full 4GB of DDR3 RAM, though the configuration Rock sent us had a 32-bit version of Windows Vista Premium installed meaning the system could only effectively use 3GBs. A 64-bit upgrade is available for only £10 extra, though.
There is also a 320GB hard drive spinning at a speedy 7,200rpm to keep game loading times to a minimum. Most importantly for gamers is the video card, as once you have 4GB of RAM, even a slower processor combined with a good graphics card will usually still let you play the latest games with eye-candy turned up, whereas the inverse is not true.
In this case you get a very capable card indeed in the guise of an nVidia GeForce 9800M GTS with 512MB of DDR3. While this card is nowhere near as powerful as its desktop numerical counterpart, as far as portable computing goes it hits the sweet spot between performance and price, for while the 9800M GTX performs better and comes with double the memory, it also adds a not inconsiderable £275 to the Rock Xtreme 780’s already hefty base price.
And the GTS is certainly no slouch, giving a playable 28 frames per second (FPS) average in Call of Duty 4 at 1,920 x 1,200 with details maxed out. As usual Crysis in DX10 is a bit tougher and is unplayable at the screen’s native resolution unless reverting to Medium Detail. But, thanks to the panel’s decent upscaling, I found the ideal setting was 1,280 x 800 at High Detail, which gave an eminently playable 38.4FPS average.