In recent years, Rock has established itself as one of the UK's best manufacturers of gaming laptops. Marking one of its most powerful and affordable gaming systems, the Rock Xtreme CTX Pro (£1599 inc. VAT) also makes for an effective mobile media centre.

Although not the world's largest laptop, it's definitely a desktop replacement. Slanting forwards to a depth of 21mm, the chassis places the keyboard at a natural and comfortable typing angle. A full number-pad accompanies the keyboard, for gaming and data input.

As with many such laptops, mobility is secondary, with the chassis weighing 4.4kg. Under test conditions, we saw a battery life of 100 minutes, so you can use the Rock on short journeys if necessary.

The 17-inch screen displays at a high-resolution of 1680 x 1050 pixels. Images are sharp and the glossy Super-TFT panel is bright. Colour and contrast are impressive.

A hybrid digital/analogue TV tuner is included. You can record your favourite programs to the large 100GB hard drive, and the included remote control lets you watch in comfort. For using surround sound, digital audio output lets you connect to external amplifiers.

While equipped for multimedia use, the Rock's strength is its gaming ability. Its nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX graphics card is a market-leading solution, and the Rock provides outstanding 3D performance, ideal for complex 3D multimedia creation as much as gaming.

Strong performance

Ably specified, the Rock delivers strong if not outstanding performance. WIth an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, at its heart, there's enough power here for any office or entertainment tasks. However, we saw some minor system lag when multi-tasking.

High-definition playback is not offered; instead, the Rock stays with the tried-and-tested DVD compatibility. All consumer DVD movie releases can be watched, and you can record data to DVD /-RW and CD-RW discs.

If you use instant messaging and internet telephony applications, the built-in 1.3-megapixel camera helps you see friends and family via video conferencing. A built-in 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi card also lets you wirelessly connect to other computers in your home.

Although the Rock lacks compatibility for the latest high-definition entertainment formats, it still presents an excellent entry-level media centre. With an aggressive price point and some of the best gaming ability around, the Rock Xtreme CTX Pro comes highly recommended.