This new laptop from Rock is extraordinarily good value for money. Called the TextBook, it's aimed at the education folk who appreciate the fabulous convenience of having all their work to hand. Its 10Gb of hard disk space will most likely store all your software, emails and digital oeuvres to date. That's just a first hint of an intelligently specified machine - Rock's Textbook not only comes ready to connect to a phone socket, but also to a network socket. The first gives Internet access through a modem, the second gives whatever your network can offer - be that printers or juicy things like email, admin or teaching packages.
The screen is one of the brighter kinds and can sit proud beside most that you'll find. It's a 12in model making the machine's length a touch shorter than an A4 sheet - remember smaller tends to mean handy. What's convenient are its CD drive and floppy - some machines have these dangling on a wire or carried in the bag - but here they're built-in. For any other extras, you will find the usual USB, PC card and monitor sockets. If you really want to surf the Net through a WAP phone, you can use its infra-red beamer to do so.
Performance is up to par and with a decent 128Mb of memory the Rock Textbook can run big machine software, like Adobe Photoshop. Curiously, you can increase the graphicsmemory up to 32 Mb to suit specialist software - games and the like.
Weighing a very acceptable 3kg, it still feels as solid as you'll need.
The keyboard is just as secure, and the screen hinge is firm with very little twist. Much else is down to taste - styled in a metallic pale blue, its unique appearance separates it from black boxes everywhere.
Those who know what they want can buy in extras at sane prices. For example, word processing software tends to be cheaper bundled with a PC, and it's worth trying to stretch to the processor that's the next one up. And because this starts from a good baseline, you can leave add-ons like extra memory, hard disk and a DVD drive for the future. Some will want to future proof it with a DVD drive, though two years on, I've yet to find this useful. More practically, a small external mouse and an extra power supply to leave at work are two ideas to play with. But even unadorned, here is a very functional machine at a far from extravagant price.
ONLINE STAR RATING
Suitability for purpose: *****
Ease of use: *****
Value for money *****
Rock 'TextBook' - laptop PCPrice: pound;849 excluding VAT.
Available exclusively from www.rockdirect.com
Tel: 0870 444 0050Fax: 0870 990 9091
Rock Group plc, Northfield Road, Warwickshire CV47 0FG