Alienware M17x – The fastest alien amongst laptops.

alienwareI was invited to the preview of Alienware M17x unveiled by Dell to cater to the high end, hard-core gaming enthusiast. It was my first experience with the Alienware brand, though I have often read about other high performance laptops from them. Dell is marketing the M17x product as “The most powerful gaming laptop machine in the universe”. Well, that is probably correct, at least for now the machine is more than capable of pushing anything out there within it’s resolution limits. Alienware is known for it’s high end machines and this avatar in the Alienware series is no different in keeping with the brand image.

The M17x packs some heavy duty, top of the line stuff in it’s guts, probably far more than what is required for a gaming notebook. Ergonomically the M17x is designed to please the hard-core gamer, and also to make a style statement. Complete with flashing lights, multi-colored keyboard and scintillating sound, every effort has been made to attract yours and everybody else’s attention. The whole laptop is designed to look different and will stand out from anything else in the room. If you want to show off your “new gaming laptop” then the M17x is probably what you should be looking at.

No high end gaming rig can be complete without a heavy duty GPU, or should I say GPUs (plural), 2 in fact. The M17x features either with Dual SLI Nvidia GTX 260M or the Nvidia GTX 280M GPUs. I would suggest the 280M. (Well, if you are going for a high end gaming system, you might as well get a top line GPU.) The 280M is, as of today, the highest performing GPU for notebooks. The laptop comes fitted with the  Intel Core 2 Extreme mobile processor and you seem to have an option of choosing Dual or Quad core CPU. The choice of the CPU will depend on the type of games that are played. Games like Oblivion and Fallout 3 are more CPU intensive since a lot of data is streamed in real-time, but in any case I don’t think there should be too many problems even with a Dual core CPU since most games wont go CPU bound with a powerful GPU setup and fast 1333 MHZ GDDR3 RAM. Again, if you are the one to play at exceptionally high frame-rates and can’t tolerate even the slightest glitch, then by all means the Quad core option is also provided for the M17x.

While M17x looks like a laptop, it’s actually is a mobile desktop. Weighing in at more than 5 Kgs, it isn’t something you can lug around to every place you go. The weight of the laptop must be due to the 2 GPUs, heat dissipation devices and the large battery that will be needed for such a huge performance monster. The M17x is without a doubt a high performance gaming rig. I personally tried pushing Crysis at 1440×900 at full AA and AF and there were no visible hiccups or slowdowns and the gameplay was flawless. I bet it will be able to push every game out there without a sweat. Too bad it only has a 17″ screen. For this kind of performance the 17″ screen looks a tad bit small. I would have loved to see a larger and a higher resolution monitor but I guess the compulsions of space and laptop dimensions made 17″ the largest choice.

The only real nag that I found were the lights. At a first glance you may (or may not) like the flashing lights and the multi colored keyboard, but once you start using the machine, the lights are nothing more than a distraction, especially in fast paced game. Well, you have an option to turn them off, so I guess that’s not too much of a bother. Also the only real advantage of a Dual GPU setup is for systems that have enormous resolutions (2560×1600) or for multi monitor systems. SLI combos are excellent when rendering with very heavy fillrates and even at it’s highest resolution the 17″ monitor isn’t quite in the league for Dual SLI, considering that it already has the 280/260M. Having 2 GPUs instead of one also means the machine will generate quite a lot of heat, guzzle battery power and will weigh substantially more than it would have with a single GPU. However the choice seems to have been made to please the hardest of the hardcore gamer out there. The M17x makes absolutely no compromises on performance, anywhere.

Well, there isn’t too much further to say regarding the machine. My experience with the rig was limited, but it is interesting that Dell launched the Alienware brand in India. India is not known for it’s hardcore gaming enthusiasts and you wont find too many laptops specifically for “the gamer”, at least nothing in the league of the M17x. Kudos to Dell for that.