The keyboard is often a weak point with a notebook, and anyone who has had the misfortune of having to use a poor notebook keyboard will never want to suffer the experience again. Thankfully, the keyboard on this Rock is a pretty good example and I found it easy to type on for extended periods. It’s not on par with the keyboards you’re likely to find on an IBM ThinkPad, but there is a decent amount of travel in the keys and the break is firm. The Return and Backspace keys are both large making it easy to hit them while typing fast, and the cursor keys are in the correct configuration and are offset from the main keyboard. The only complaint is that there is a degree of flex in the keyboard as a whole, which is a little annoying when typing at speed.
For pointer manipulation Rock has gone for a touchpad. I personally prefer TrackPoints to touchpads, but as far as touchpads go this is a good one. Pointer movement is smooth and accurate when using the touchpad and the two selector buttons have a solid click to them but they’re not too stiff. There’s also a central rocker button for scrolling through pages.
Rock has done its best to make the notebook chassis look as stylish as possible, although it’s not an easy task with something this size. The casing is finished in a shiny lacquered blue and matt silver. The overall effect is OK, but not as good as the Voodoo Envy M:855. Strangely, Rock has mounted the badge on the lid facing the user, this means that when the lid is open the Rock logo is upside down.
On the right of the case you’ll find a Sony four-speed DVD writer that supports both DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW media. Next to the optical drive is one of the last examples of a dying breed – a floppy drive, while above the DVD writer is an IrDA port. The left is pretty sparse, sporting only a Type II PC Card slot and the power socket.
At the rear you’ll find a plethora of connections that would put some desktop machines to shame. So, starting at one end and moving across you have a PS/2 port, a parallel port, a D-SUB port, an S-Video connection, four USB 2.0 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, a modem socket, a four-pin FireWire port, a line-out/optical output, a headphone socket and finally a microphone socket.
On the front of the case is a set of audio controls so you can play CDs without having to boot into Windows. As well as the controls there’s an LCD display to show the track number. This worked very well although I found it rather odd that you have to push the switch towards the off position to turn the CD player on.
As well as all the connection options around the chassis, the Xtreme also has integrated 802.11g WiFi and Bluetooth. So Rock has got just about every conceivable connection option covered.
One thing conspicuous by it’s absence is a card reader, although Rock can supply a 6-in-1 card reader that slots into the floppy bay at a cost of £45.82 inc VAT.
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