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The Rock in a hard case

Desmond De Araujo sees if the Rock Hardbook is as tough as it claims to be - but resists the temptation to drop it.

It's a tough life for school equipment, so education is always on the lookout for robust technology. The Rock Hardbook is an interesting prospect for areas that need a solid machine, and a smart choice for those who work on the move or outdoors. The wording on the box was clear: "Drop resistant, shock resistant and spill proof." Reluctant to incur the wrath of Online's editor I took at face value claims that the Hardbook will survive a drop from about three feet. The "shock resistant" claim refers to the now commonplace anti-shock technology it has.

The model tested was powerful enough to cope with most applications. Included was an Intel Pentium M 1.7GHz processor, 480Mb memory, and a more than adequate 60Gb hard drive. An efficient dual-layer DVDRW drive was also included.

The Hardbook's screen is a decent 15.1-inch SXGA+ LCD panel - a nice bright screen, easy-to-view even from wide angles, useful if the Hardbook is shared by students. An Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 provides great visual detail and 3D performance - a separate graphics card would have bumped up the laptop's price - no compromise on performance but a smart compromise on cost.

Audio capabilities are average. The integrated sound card gives decent enough sound through built-in stereo speakers although at times they sound a little tinny. There's a convenient audio dial that allows you to adjust volume directly.

Most of the other essentials are also included: Ethernet port with built-in 56k modem and Intel Pro wifi (with convenient light to indicate on or off); connectivity consists of three USBs, FireWire, S-video for connecting to TVs or video devices, a com port, a VGA port (external video display) and a PC memory card slot.

Considering all that's packed in and the durability, the weight of 2.5kg is what you'd expect.

With a full set of software supplied (see panel, right), the Rock Hardbook, weight excepted, is ideal for the traveller and mobile worker. In schools, it could help extend ICT into areas where toughness is more prevalent than tender loving care.

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