Overview and Introduction
The Rock Pegasus 665-T72 is one of a new line of configurable notebooks from English notebook computer company, Rock (www.rockdirect.co.uk). The notebooks are a revised version of the Pegasus 660, with the new Intel Core 2 Duo processors in place of the previous generation Core Duo. All models feature a variant of the new, highly anticipated, dual core offering.
Rock Pegasus 665-T72 (view large image)
The specs for the notebook reviewed are as follows: (the other available options are in italics)
- Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 (2GHz), T5600 (1.83GHz), T7400 (2.16GHz), T7600 (2.33GHz)
- 2Gb 667MHz DDR2 RAM (2x 1Gb), 1Gb (2x 512Mb or 1x 1Gb) 667MHz DDR2 RAM
- 100Gb (7200RPM) SATA HDD, 80Gb (5400RPM), 120Gb (5400RPM), 160Gb (5400RPM)
- 15.4? WSXGA+ (1680×1050) Matte Finish, 15.4? WXGA (1280×800) Glossy Finish
- Windows XP Home,Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Media Centre Edition
- Bluetooth 2.0 USB Module, DVB USB Television tuner or no USB dongles
- Standard black lid,Special edition Cannonball 8000 Porsche lid
- Pakuma Choroka K2 laptop bag, Pakuma Akara K1, K2, K3, Choroka K1 or free standard bag.
- 30 Day zero dead pixel guarantee, Free Pixel check
The following are standard across the Pegasus 665 range and are therefore also on the review machine:
- nVidia Geforce Go 7600 (256Mb) dedicated GPU
- 8x Dual Layer (+/-) DVD Writer
- Fanless running switch
- Integrated wireless 802.11a/b/g
- S Video and DVI
- 1x 4 pin mini Firewire (IEEE 1394)
- 3x USB 2.0
- 4 in 1 card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MSpro)
- Express Card slot (34/54)
- RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000Mbps) and RJ11 modem
- Mic in and S/PDIF out (headphone out)
- 6 cell battery (9 cell battery available for ?£116)
- Free Standard Nylon laptop bag
- 3 year insurance-backed collect and return warranty (Parts and Labour)
Total Price: ?£1255.00 (Includes 3% student discount)
The notebook falls in between the ?thin and light? and ?desktop replacement? categories as shown by the size and weight below. However, when taking its high-end specification into account, the size and bulk of the machine are very reasonable. It is also quite slim compared to many similar notebooks.
- Dimensions: 360(W) x 269(D) x 37(H) mm
- Weight: 3.1 Kg
Reasons for Buying
My main reason for buying a notebook was for university as I will be starting a 5 year course at the end of the month. Currently my only computer is a 4 year old HP, Celeron based desktop. Apart from being far too big and heavy to take to university, it was also showing its age and becoming quite frustrating to work with on a daily basis. The university I will be going to also have wireless internet networks on campus and in the halls of residence so a wireless enabled notebook was the ideal solution.
The next step was to consider the specification I would need. I was originally hoping to be taking a gap year so I was going to wait until after the launch of Windows Vista and the next revision to the Centrino platform (both scheduled for early 2007). After becoming increasingly frustrated at all of the security flaws in XP I thought Vista was a must and after hearing the new Centrino platform would feature better wireless, NAND flash technology, an 800MHz front side bus and dramatically better integrated graphics I thought it was wise to wait. However, my university place was moved to this year so I had to act now.
I?m not much of a gamer, but I do like to play the odd game of Half Life 2, Far Cry and Football Manager. I wanted a dedicated graphics card for this reason, but also to allow me to run Vista aero in the future. My course is 5 years and I?ll possibly have a couple of foundation years after that so I needed something that would be powerful enough to keep going for as long as possible. I know 5 years is an eternity in the computer market, but I thought I?d try my best to future proof. This would mean 64 bit and dual core are a must, especially due to my multi-tasking nature. Finally due to the nature of my course, I?m going to be very busy, so a good quality, well built, reliable machine was a must. Therefore it had to be backed by a good warranty and come with good customer support and service. I decided the maximum screen size should be 15.4? for portability reasons.
How and Where was it Purchased
I had narrowed down my choices to the very well spec?d Acer 8204WLMI, Apple Macbook Pro, Dell XPS M1210, Dell Latitude 620, Sony Vaio FE and SZ, Alienware Area 51 M5550, Asus A8 series and obviously the Rock Pegasus 665.
The launch of Core 2 Duo ruled out most of these as only Dell, Rock and Alienware had these processors in time (September). The rest also had high prices, poor availability or poor warrantees. The Alienware was ruled out first due to its very high price (when including a 3 year warrantee) and bright, garish looks. As I would be using this notebook out and about, in London, I didn?t want something that drew too much attention. The Dell Latitude D620 was very nice, well built and also quite compact at 14.1?. However the Quadro graphics set up and high price with the warrantee ruled it out (annoyingly, it dropped in price a week later!). Finally I was left with the Rock and Dell XPS M1210. The Dell had a very high price, but was much more portable, had many good reviews and came with that comfort associated from buying from a well known brand. My only doubts about it were its apparently ?mushy? keyboard, doubts about the small screen/keyboard size, reflective screen and the ?dell hell? stories. I decided to go to the Rock showroom in Warwick (a few miles from where I live) and try out a Pegasus 665. I was very impressed and once I got home and configured it online, I found it would be about ?£400 cheaper than an equally spec?d Dell XPS M1210. The Rock would also have a none reflective, higher resolution screen, quicker RAM and a quicker hard drive. This, and the fact you can?t try a dell before you by, made my mind up.
I went down to the Rock showroom a few days later and ordered it there in person. I also bought a Pakuma Choroka K2 Bag and got my 3% student discount. You can order online or by phone if you want to; both being very easy trouble free processes from what I hear. They accept just about every credit and debit card. You can also pay by cheque or bank transfer.
For ?£1255.00 I feel I got a very good deal. Their prices are fixed so I doubt you could haggle, although my student discount was nice, albeit very a small discount. For the price though I got one of the best quality notebook bags around (lifetime warranty), the latest processor, loads of RAM, the quickest hard drive available and a very good graphics card. All of which is backed up by a brilliant 3 year warranty. I was very pleased.
I ordered on 9th September and the notebook was ready on 19th for collection or delivery. I decided to save myself ?£20 and opted to collect it the following day. You?re kept updated by emails telling you when the notebook is ready for dispatch. You also receive various invoices as PDF?s. I thought 10 days was a very short wait considering that the system is custom configured and features a Core 2 Duo processor which was launched barely a week or two before my order. You also get a final invoice/despatch notice when you receive the notebook.
Many companies get criticised by the poor quality of their packaging, most noticeably Sony. Rock are the complete opposite and if you care about the environment, you?ll be annoyed about how much excess packaging there is to dispose of. I care about my notebook so I welcome as much packaging as possible to protect it.
Firstly you get one very large brown box, big enough to fit a desktop computer, let alone a laptop. Inside of this are two Rock labelled white boxes, one says ?Accessories? and the other says ?High Performance Notebook?. In the former is a smaller box with your various leads and adapters and any USB modules you ordered as well as a windows disc and a drivers disc. You?ll also find a bag in there depending on which you order.
The big brown box with two smaller white ones inside
The other box also has another smaller box inside. This is then filled with good quality sponge/foam sheets which sandwich the notebook. The notebook comes with a screen protector and a sheet of plastic to cover the lid. The boxes have small gaps between them so they get smaller like china dolls. This design is good as the gaps will absorb any dents or knocks.
The smaller white box which contained the notebook, found inside the box labelled ?High performance notebook?
Build and Design
Lid Closed (view large image)
The notebook is made almost completely of reinforced black plastic, not blue like some photos suggest. Overall it?s a very tasteful and tidy design with everything fitting together nicely. I would neither say it is particularly beautiful (like some Apple, Sony and Asus notebooks) or remotely bad to look at. The tidy fit and finish and black plastic is well suited to my subtle tastes. All the ports seem to be lined up correctly and nothing rattles or wobbles. There are a few flexible areas, most noticeably below the optical drive and the lid, but neither is too worrying. The black plastic has a matte finish, except for the lid, which has a ?premium piano black finish?, which basically means it?s slightly metallic, but still fairly matte.
The overall build quality is quite good. The only real flaw being a degree of flex in the screen when you try to twist it with your hands. However, applying pressure on it from the back of the lid results in little rippling so the screen seems to be reasonably well protected. The hinges seem very strong and make the lid quite stiff to open, although not annoyingly so. I like the stiffness of the hinges, it makes the notebook feel tougher and inevitably over time they?ll become softer anyway. Suffice to say, there is no wobble from the hinges.
I think the notebook has the same chassis as the Alienware Area 51 M5550 as the port layout, hinges, underside and keyboard are all identical. They both seem to use the same internal components as well. The only noticeable difference is a different lid design, touchpad design and colour scheme on the Alienware machine. I?m not a big fan of bright paint jobs or flashy lids so I personally think the Rock looks far better. Especially if you don?t want every thief around you directing their attention towards your expensive bit of kit. It?s also nice to know that you have the same chassis as something which is more expensive and considered ?premium?. You can have a bright Cannonball 8000 Porsche lid if you like, although it wasn?t available when I ordered mine, I wouldn?t have had it anyway.
It is fairly weighty at 3.1Kg (6.8lbs), but I?d happily have it on my lap and if you have a decent bag, it won?t be too difficult to carry around. I always suggest backpack type bags for heavy notebooks as they spread the weight across both shoulders and evenly distribute weight across your back. I have a messenger-style bag which goes over the single shoulder. Even with a couple of folders in there as well, I don?t find it too heavy for walking about with, however, I wouldn?t want to carry it for more than an hour or two at a time.
3D Mark 05 on a 15.4? WSXGA+ (1680×1050) with a non-glossy finish
The notebook can be configured to have one of two screen options. The standard option is a 15.4? WXGA (1280×800) X-Glass screen which has one of the fashionable glossy coatings. It does look very good and the colour reproduction, brightness and viewing angles are superb. I would say its one of the best I?ve seen and would definitely recommend it for media use like watching DVD?s. However, I find all of these glossy screens, not just Rock?s, get difficult to use under bright lighting like at university. I also find the resolution of 1280×800 is a bit low for a 15.4? screen. Many think its fine and anything higher means everything gets a little bit too small for comfortable use. I used to think this, but once I tried a higher resolution and gave myself a chance to get used to it, I couldn?t imagine how I used to get by without it. The extra screen real estate is brilliant, especially in office documents and spreadsheets where you can see pages side-by-side and more columns and rows. I have a huge music collection and it means I can see more folders and songs at once. Also, Windows Vista is supposed to be able to scale everything so that all the text and icons are still big and clear, even at high resolutions. If you work with large photos you may prefer a high resolution as well as you?ll be able to see more of the image at any one time.
DVD?s play back very smoothly and benefit from the widescreen aspect ratio
The 15.4? WSXGA+ (1680×1050) with a non-glossy finish costs an extra ?£57 which is very reasonable for approximately 70% more pixels and subsequently a lot more screen space. The brightness is still very good and I have never wanted anymore brightness, even though I have two more notches to go until I?m at full brightness. The colour reproduction is true and clear, although missing the ?wow? vibrancy of the X-Glass unit. The backlighting is very even with a very small amount of light leakage at the very bottom of the panel. You won?t notice it during normal use, only on a black background if you really look for it. The horizontal viewing angles are brilliant; you can move from extreme left to extreme right and still get a perfect picture. This is perfect when there may be many people crowded around trying to look at the screen. The vertical viewing angles are not so good. Move above the screen and it appears brighter and washed out, while moving below has the opposite effect, where brightness decreases. I cant imagine a situation where vertical viewing angles would be that important though.
I?d recommend it for anyone looking to do a lot of image work as the neutral colour reproduction and high resolution are perfect. The only real flaw with the screen that I can find is that the very bottom right corner (where the clock is in windows) is a bit dull. It doesn?t really affect performance though as its confined to the clock and it?s hardly noticeable, unless you actually look for it.
The screens come with a ?pixel check? where they check to see if all the pixels are functioning. For an extra ?£29 you can get a 30 day zero dead pixel guarantee which basically means if any pixel sticks or dies in the first 30 days after delivery you can have the panel replaced free of charge. It?s not a bad price to pay for such a guarantee as it?s quite common for pixels to stop functioning correctly. Most other manufacturers won?t do anything about stuck/dead pixels unless you have 5 or more faulty pixels. Rock?s standard warranty covers this, but with the additional guarantee, they?ll replace the panel even if one single pixel isn?t functioning. Thankfully, mine is still in perfect working order.
There are two small speakers, to the top left and top right of the keyboard. Typically for a notebook, the sound quality is pretty awful, tinny, and without bass, crispness or warmth. They can get fairly loud though and are more than suitable for simple business applications and presentations. They are backed by a good Reatltek HD audio set up so a decent pair of headphones or external speakers will provide you with top quality sound. I use a pair of Sony headphones or Creative external speakers and find the audio quality to be as good as my ?£300 stereo.
There is a hardware dial for volume which is good as it will function in any application unlike the function key set up which some notebooks rely on. There is also some Realtek software which is quite good for tweaking equaliser settings and the like.
Processor and Performance
The Core 2 Duo T7200 processor which is fitted to this machine represents the best compromise between performance and price. The quicker processors are a lot more expensive, while the slower one is not a huge amount cheaper. The T7200 also features the exact same architecture as the models above it, but with a slightly slower clock speed, whereas the model below it features a slower clock speed and half of the L2 cache (2Mb instead of 4Mb). Both cache and clock speed are important, so it seems worth paying an extra ?£40-?£50 for an increase in both (if you configure everything else the same) by going for a T7200 instead of a T5600. It does not seem worth an extra ?£100 to upgrade to a T7400 for just a 0.16GHz clock speed increase, which will be barely noticeable. However, if your happy with the smallest and slowest hard drive, the 80Gb 5400RPM drive, then go for the slower processor (T5600) as it will work out ?£150 cheaper and everything else will be the same (Graphics, Optical drive etc…).
The graphics card is an nVidia Geforce Go 7600, which again is probably the best compromise between performance and price. It also represents a very good compromise regarding heat production and power usage, as more powerful GPU?s use up far more power, shortening battery life, and produce a lot of heat which requires a larger heavy chassis and a large noisy fan. The card features 256 Mb of dedicated VRAM, so there is no stealing of RAM from the system; a process nVidia call ?TurboCache?. It features 8 pixel pipelines; double that of the card below it, the 7400 and it features quicker clock speeds. As a solid shader model 3 dedicated part with 256Mb of RAM, a 128bit bus, 8 pipelines and a 450/500MHz (1GHz DDR effective) clock it is classed somewhere between mainstream and high performance.
It has recently started to be replaced by the 7700 which is largely the same but benefits from 12 pipelines and tends to come with more RAM. It also benefits from a smaller manufacture process so it should be significantly better. If games are the most important thing to you in a notebook, but you don?t want a bigger chassis, then you may want to wait to get the 7700 or the ATI equivalent, the X1600. The difference between the X1600 and the 7600 fitted to this machine is quite small, especially if your games run of the Doom 3 engine. The 7600, however uses up less power and produces less heat so I?d happily say I?d wouldn?t want to upgrade to anything higher.
The notebook will play all modern games easily, but will struggle to play the very latest games at the very highest quality and effects settings at the native resolution of 1680×1050. If you go for the lower resolution screen you shouldn?t have any problems. If you turn down the resolution though, probably 1280×800 or maybe 800×600 at the very worst, you?ll be able to run the very highest settings just fine.
The RAM can be configured in various ways. You can have 1Gb in the form of two 512Mb sticks or a single 1Gb stick. The former makes upgrading easier as there is a free slot available. I went for 2Gb as it will be useful to run the more demanding Windows Vista in the future, it also seemed fairly reasonable at ?£146 since buying two 1Gb sticks myself would have cost more. The RAM is at full FSB speed, 667MHz, and in the configuration with two 1Gb sticks where there are two identical sticks in each slot, you?ll benefit from a dual channel set up, where the RAM can be read and written to simultaneously. The performance increase through dual channel is quite small, but nice to have nonetheless.
The hard disc drive is typically the slowest component in a modern performance computer. The memory built into the processor (cache) and the RAM are accessed much quicker than the data on the hard drive. Therefore I think its well worth getting the highest performance hard drive you can afford. I went for the 100Gb 7200RPM drive as it was a no cost alternative to the standard 120Gb 5400RPM drive. If you go for the slowest processor, the T5600, you?ll have to pay ?£105 for this hard drive, hence it makes choosing a higher performance processor more desirable. The trade-off for a quicker drive is loosing 20Gb of storage space. As 100Gb is more than enough for me, especially as I have a 250Gb external hard drive as well I didn?t mind this. It?s also worth noting that the memory density of a drive (how much storage space is on each platter) also affects performance, i.e. the higher the density the better.
Overall the performance is very strong; this is by far the quickest computer I have ever used. It boots windows, with all my applications ready for use within a minute. The processor cores never max out at 100% unless I?m running benchmarking software which is designed to push to the limits to create the score. It?s snappy and fast in windows, no matter how many applications you have running at one time. It carries out more demanding tasks with ease and I?ve yet to really find any limits on its performance, which bodes well for the future. It never needs to go to the page file, and has around 1.5 Gb of RAM free most of the time. Occasionally it takes a couple seconds to start Firefox for the first time, but after that it never falters. The benchmark section will show its performance more clearly.