There's something eerily familiar about this rockdirect laptop. The Xtreme Ti resembles the Alienware Area 51m 7700 in a number of ways: there's the similar chassis, the identical screen and the more or less identical components.
While some may be put off by the Xtreme Ti's overwhelming weight, bulky laptops like this are still the only option if you absolutely must have cutting-edge gaming performance in a luggable device. The Ti's remarkable similarity to the Area 51m reveals its viability for game enthusiasts. The differences between the two machines are largely aesthetic: we prefer the style and build quality that the Alienware's superior chassis offers, but the rockdirect is much less conspicuous. In some work environments this may be an advantage -- you don't want to look like you're about to fire up a game of Grand Theft Auto in the middle of negotiating your client's release from Belmarsh.
Our £2,230 Xtreme Ti is the highest-specced model rockdirect offers. The lowest available offers a 3GHz processor and a less powerful graphics card. It comes in at £1,410, and there are two incrementally more powerful and expensive models in between.
The Xtreme Ti avoids the Alienware Area 51m's bio-mechanical look, opting instead for a more businesslike appearance. The chassis style definitely isn't as extreme as Alienware's. Despite the almost identical form, the rockdirect lacks the Area 51m's rubber grips. As with the Area 51m, the Xtreme Ti goes into sleep mode when you close the lid, but, unlike the Area 51m, there are no alien eyes to pulse threateningly, just a silver rockdirect logo.
The Xtreme Ti has more peripheral options than Dr Octopus. It's got four USB ports, two FireWire, every card slot you've ever dreamed of and a DVI out for digital video. There's also S-video and composite out.
Because the 17-inch screen on the Xtreme Ti is so gargantuan, there are two catches to keep it shut. As with the Area 51m, there's an LED display underneath the keyboard which lets you operate the CD drive as a stand-alone player even when the computer itself is switched off.
The large chassis on the Xtreme Ti means the keyboard doesn't feel cramped. The numeric keypad to the right of the main spread is a rare find on laptops -- gamers will love the extra control this gives them during fierce shootouts. The Ti is, however, let down by its unwieldy scale -- at over 5kg without the charger, it's no pocket calculator.
The base of the Xtreme Ti resembles a hovercraft -- four fans keep this beast from burning up when you're blasting away at enemy troops. We're surprised it doesn't take off, because there's a panoply of fast components to be cooled down. The XtremeTi's 3.8GHz Pentium 4 570 processor runs hot. Intel doesn't have a reputation for the coolest chips on the market and this 570 cranks out dry heat like an Arizona summer. All this generated heat needs to be dissipated by the fans, which are noisy but appear effective.
The Xtreme Ti runs Windows XP Home and is ready for games to be installed right out of the box. There's none of the desktop customisation we've come to expect from Alienware, but you can always apply your own Windows skins if you want to make your desktop look distinctive.
There's plenty of storage room, a 100GB Ultra DMA hard drive and the 8x Dual Layer DVD± writer will cater for most demands, while integrated Wi-Fi and Ethernet give you the additional option of backing up files via a network. For peripheral junkies, the Xtreme Ti supports Bluetooth and includes a 7-in-1 card reader and optional TV tuner. There's also a built-in 300,000-pixel video camera for video conferencing.
The 17-inch WSXGA+ X-Glass TFT Screen (1,680x1,050 pixels) on this laptop suffers from the same excessive reflectivity problems we've seen with many other laptops this year. However, like the Alienware, the Xtreme Ti has sufficient gaming credentials to demand that users simply don't use the laptop in a brightly lit room. For day-to-day office tasks, you'll find the LCD distracting because so much of your surroundings are reflected back at you. For gamers in a dark environment -- and we mean nearly pitch black -- this won't pose a problem.
The Xtreme Ti's four speakers do an extremely convincing impression of surround sound and will easily fill a small room. Serious gamers will want to supplement this by attaching the laptop to a home entertainment system.
Battlefield 2 installed without any complications and we were soon strafing Chinese troops with hollow-point armour-piercing bullets. When those babies hit your body they explode into four parts, splitting your back open like a ripe grapefruit. The Xtreme Ti's resolution and texture levels made even this horrific act of barbarism look seductive.
The Xtreme Ti's PCI Express 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X800XT Platinum Edition graphics card is enough to reduce the most hardened pacifist to a rabid warmonger. Wrenching all of Battlefield 2's graphics preferences up to the top of their notches had no perceptible effect on frame rates -- everything looked slick, even when multiple vehicles entered the vicinity to dispose of our wretched corpse.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide