Ultrabooks may be stealing the laptop limelight thanks to their superslinky looks and extravagant battery life claims, but if it's raw gaming power you're after they're rubbish. Take a look instead to Rock's latest Xtreme, which serves up fantastic framerates with little sophistication but a very interesting price. It's the laptop equivalent of the 1970s muscle car, and it even has a suitably retro look to go with it.
Rock Xtreme 685 – design
The hard, angular body of the Xtreme 685 is soft to the touch thanks to a rubberised finish, just like a gaming laptop from Alienware or ASUS. It lacks much refinement beyond that, though, and tops the scales at over 3kg. It does feel solid, mind, and the keyboard has more travel than most chiclet designs, an advantage for gamers.
Rock Xtreme 685 – screen quality
We've yet to see an Ultrabook whose screen lives up to the promise of its wafer thin design. Conversely, what the X685 lacks in looks it makes up for with a beautifully sharp and well-lit panel. The 1920x1080 resolution is plenty for its 15inch diagonal, and it makes game worlds look as colourful and detailed as they should.
Rock Xtreme 685 – gaming ability
The screen is good, but gaming performance is excellent. The Radeon HD6990 graphics are the best currently available, and almost twice as fast as the GeForce GTX560M chip common in laptops costing £300-£400 more, such as the ASUS G53. To say its faster than most desktops is an understatement, and the dual link DVI out port means you can hook it up to a 30inch external monitor if you want big screen games too.
As good as it is, though, it's well worth spending extra to upgrade to a true quad core processor.
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Rock Xtreme 685 – battery life
Somewhere, inside the inelegant chassis of the Rock Xtreme 685, there's a second generation Core i5 processor made by Intel. Which in turn means that there's a low power graphics processor which could be used for extending the battery life. Unfortunately, it's not enabled on this model, which means you're stuck with the gaming videocard on all the time – and as a result you'll be lucky to get a couple of hours of even light usage out of it.
Rock Xtreme 685 – audio
The Xtreme 685 comes with THX Prostudio software for beefing up songs and movie soundtracks, and a built-in subwoofer underneath too. The speakers aren't up to much, though, and you'll want headphones for gaming. If you plan on using the built in Blu-ray drive, though, there is an optical audio port for hooking up a home theatre decoder.
Rock Xtreme 685 – verdict
Its big weight and low battery life limit the Xtreme 685, and if you're after a general purpose laptop you can get better built models for much less. What you won't find, however, is a better specced games machine for a similar price. Thanks to an excellent screen, great processor and exceptionally powerful graphics, it may not be pretty, but it's got a mean punch.
Rock Xtreme 685
Under the ugly duckling exterior there's a beautifully specced games machine waiting to get out