There comes a point where one can't really call a laptop a laptop. This is probably it. The Rock Xtreme SLI has a 19" screen, two graphics cards and enough weight to be eligible for entry into Celebrity Fit Club. This is one massive laptop, and it delivers some massive performance too.
NVIDIA's SLI has been a sound commercial success for the graphics firm, with plenty of enthusiasts buying into the dual-graphics ecosystem, even if not buying two graphics cards straight off the bat. The promise of über-high-res gaming with insane detail has proved to be a pretty good selling message. The GeForce 7-series was designed very much with mobile in mind, which is why we saw the 7800 Go come out so soon after the launch of the desktop part.
Well, today, NVIDIA is showing off its collaboration with its system builder partners, who have put this top-end SLI performance in a notebook system. As we intimated above: this is not a laptop. You cannot use this on a train, or a plane, or on your lap. This system requires a desk: in essence, it is a portable desktop. But, it's a portable desktop with a heck of a lot of power. We're here today to find out just how well the system measures up to 'proper' desktop SLI.
The system is massive. We'll show you some scale over the next couple of pages, but you can see that the 19" widescreen runs a resolution of 1680x1050 (with the option of a 1920x1200 screen if you want it). The screen is held in place with a couple of latches, and there's the option to hook up to an external monitor over DVI, along with the usual complement of ports.
It's certainly got a 'unique' look to it that is down to the cooling needed for the SLI chips. We heard on the grapevine that the only reason there's a 19" screen on this thing is because the chassis needs to be so huge so as to accomodate the SLI cooling solution.
What changes would we make to this system? First off, without pre-empting our benchmarks, you will want to uprate the screen. GeForce Go 7800 GTX is well capable of handling 1680x1050 resolution on its own, so adding in another card just to run at that resolution isn't a fantastic use of resources. The other thing that we'd upgrade is the amount of system memory. As we proved a few weeks ago, 2GB of system memory provides a better gaming experience than 1GB and we were a little surprised to find that there wasn't 2GB in a system like this. Of course, 1GB laptop modules are prety damned expensive.
For the time being, all notebooks utilising SLI will be based on a mobile version of nForce4 SLI, meaning that you're currently limited to AMD's processor lineup. This release also signals NVIDIA's entry into the mobile chipset market with nForce4 SLI and nForce Go 430 - an integrated platform similar to the desktop version.
We're not sure what configurations Rock is going to offer specifically, but we were a little disappointed to find out that there's not going to be a configuration based around an Intel Core Duo chip. NVIDIA says that they're currently only going to cater for notebooks using AMD processors, but seeing as they currently make Intel chipsets, and the Core Duo chip is undoubtedly the best mobile chip out there, we're miffed not to see a notebook using it.