The laptop ships with a top of the line Nvidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX graphics card, which is quicker than the Go 7800 GTX or ATI mobility Radeon X1800 XT used in the standard Xtreme CTX. This uses 512MB of dedicated RAM to help it cope with the most visually demanding titles on the market. One gripe -- the graphics card's cooling fans make a huge racket when running 3D applications, so you may want to use some noise-cancelling headphones when gaming.
Its accompanying 17-inch display, like most these days, uses a glossy screen coating designed to help improve contrast and colour, but it's far from ideal for image editing, as the colours presented on screen aren't always a true representation of what they are in real life. The display runs at a native resolution of 1,680x1,050 pixels, a 16:10 widescreen ratio that's great for watching movies on, but less so for games that run in a 4:3 aspect ratio.
rockdirect has done a great job selecting high-performance parts for the Xtreme CTX T7400, but it's played it safe where the hard disk drive is concerned. The laptop's Hitachi DeskStar HTS721010G9SA00 100GB drive offers plenty of storage, and has a fast spin speed of 7,200rpm, but incorporating a second hard drive in a speed-enhancing RAID 0 array would have been the icing on the performance cake.
The laptop has a number of options for communicating with the outside world. You get an integrated 802.11a,b,g Wi-Fi adaptor for jumping online at your local coffee shop, and Bluetooth for synchronising mobile phone data. Unfortunately, the laptop has no PC Card slot. There's an ExpressCard slot, but there are relatively few devices that use this interface so upgrade potential is limited in this respect.
The Xtreme CTX T7400 comes with Windows XP Home Edition, Roxio Creator 7 for disc burning and media creation, plus a one-month subscription to the Napster music download service. rockdirect also throws in a month of free Wi-Fi access at 7,000 The Cloud hotspots and a reassuring three-year collect and return guarantee.
The Intel T7400 processor at the heart of the Xtreme CTX has its work cut out for it. The standard Core Duo processor is one of the best CPUs of modern times so improving on it isn't an enviable feat. Despite this apparent difficulty, Intel seems to have succeeded.
The Xtreme CTX notched up a PCMark 2005 score of 5,826 -- the highest we've seen for any laptop. It's just over 30 per cent faster than the Dell XPS M2010 laptop, which achieved a score of 4,122 using an Intel T2600 Core Duo processor running at a similar 2.13GHz.
Gaming performance was also excellent. The GeForce Go 7900 GTX helped it rack up a 3DMark 2006 score of 2,244 and ran F.E.A.R. at the default settings (1,024x768 pixels) at an average of 114 frames per second (fps). The frame rate fell to 71fps when running at maximum detail settings and at 1,400x1,050 pixels. This is a sterling result, and although it's nowhere near as good for gaming as the Alienware Aurora mALX, it certainly isn't shy of pushing a few polygons -- and it's about £600 cheaper than the Alienware.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide