Connectivity on this Rock is excellent. Along the left you’ll find DVI and HDMI video outputs (a VGA adapter is also included), two USBs, a Gigabit Ethernet jackport, memory card reader, 54mm ExpressCard slot, mini FireWire port and Blu-ray drive. It’s worth noting that this is one of the few options where you can actually save money on the Xtreme 840SLI-X9100, as downgrading to an ordinary DVD-Rewriter will take £110 off the price.
Along the laptop’s right are a further two USB ports, one of which doubles as an eSATA connection, and an aerial port for the optional digital TV Tuner that will set you back an extra £42 if you choose to include it. Finally we have four 3.5mm audio jacks allowing either digital or analogue 7.1 surround sound, which will be a welcome touch for some.
Unfortunately, the Xtreme 840’s speakers really aren’t up to much – despite the fact that there are four of them. While tThe extra two speakers do add a bit of depth (once you activate them, that is – by default the Realtek HD audio driver is set to stereo, a bit of an oversight on Rock’s part), but their volume level is pitiful and bass is accordingly tinny. If you’re not picky they’ll just about suffice for a light film or casual game, but as usual you’re far better off using a good pair of headphones or external speakers.
On the other hand, the borderless 18.4in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) screen is worthy of high praise indeed. For those who are not technically oriented, it’s good – for the rest of you, let’s examine why. The transparent layer does add distracting reflections, but if you can get past these it definitely adds a sense of depth and verve to colours without making them look oversaturated. There’s also little sign of most of the traditional TN weaknesses. Horizontal viewing angles, for example, are distinctly above average, and there’s almost no banding or backlight bleed present.
However, the real highlight concerns this display’s black levels, always very important for games and films. Again considering it’s a standard CCFL-backlit displayTNmodel rather than a fancy RGB-backlit affair as found on Dell’s Studio XPS 16, the amount of dark detailing the Rock’s screen lets you see is excellent – certainly a step above that found on most gaming laptops we’ve had through the office and ideal for gloomy titles like Gears of War.