Rock Sigma Si

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  • Editors' rating
    7.0 Very good

Pros

  • Good connectivity
  • reasonable performance
  • DVD/CD-RW combo drive.

Cons

  • Noisy fan
  • relatively heavy
  • poor battery life.

This notebook is the top of Rock's Sigma Si range, and attempts to provide everything you might need from a notebook at the reasonable price of £1,199 (ex. VAT). There are some drawbacks such as weight, noise and battery life; but if value for money is one of your primary considerations, take a look at this notebook.

The Sigma Si is a fairly well kitted-out system, with plenty of connectivity and media features. This 1GHz Pentium III model - the Socket 370 desktop chip rather than the more common Mobile model -- comes with 256MB of PC133 SDRAM fitted, memory being expandable to a maximum of 512MB. The display is a 14.1in. colour TFT with a native resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels, driven by the graphics module in the integrated SiS 630S chipset. Up to 64MB of system memory can be used for graphics, although obviously this reduces the amount of RAM available for applications -- our review system used 16MB for graphics.

A sticker on the notebook proudly proclaims its Fujitsu 'Silent HDD', and the 20GB MHN2200AT model used is indeed a low-noise unit. It's disappointing, therefore, to see the drive fitted with a rather noisy fan, which completely defeats the object of the exercise.

Optical storage is taken care of by a Toshiba DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive, and there's also a standard 1.44MB floppy drive. Both the drives are fixed units, so there's no opportunity for expansion or weight saving. However, with the combo drive you're unlikely to require anything else.

A single Type II PC Card slot is provided, which may prevent you using some larger PC Card hard drives, for example, with this notebook. You get Ethernet and modem built in, so you're not going to need the PC Card slot for connectivity. The modem and Ethernet share a single RJ-45 socket at the rear of the notebook. There's no indication in the notebook's documentation as to whether there's any electrical protection in this combined socket, but we presume there must be.

Other connectivity options are pretty good. You get a full-size IEEE 1394 port, two USB ports, composite video out, VGA, PS/2, parallel and infrared ports. There's no standard serial port, so you'll need a USB serial adapter if you want to use serial peripherals.

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The case measures 30.8 by 25.4 by 3.75cm, and features sculpted edges on both the covert and the keyboard. This is in contrast to many recent notebooks which have a 'flat slab' appearance. The Sigma Si isn't a particularly light unit, weighing 3.25kg, and having a travel weight of 3.78kg. However, it's not going to kill you to carry it either, and you can't have everything.

The Sigma Si delivers a reasonable level of performance for the price, achieving a respectable Business Winstone 2001 score of 30.8. However, its 3D WinMark score of 12.2 means that games are pretty much out of the question. Battery life isn't impressive either, with a BatteryMark 4.01 score of only 1 hour 37 minutes. This poor battery performance is at least partly down to the Sigma Si's use of a desktop CPU rather than a SpeedStep-equipped Mobile Pentium III processor.

Our review model came with Windows ME installed. Bundled software includes Adaptec Easy CD Creator and Intervideo WinDVD for use with the combo drive.

This notebook doesn't excel in any one area, but offers a reasonable balance of performance and features for a reasonable price. If value is what you're after, and carrying a little extra weight doesn't bother you, Rock's Sigma Si may well suit you.

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