Alienware M17x

Alienware's new version of the M17x makes some welcome design tweaks and offers the best laptop gaming hardware you can get. Just be warned: it ain't cheap.


8.3
CNET Rating
9.5
User Rating


With a brand-new look, and some of the highest-end tech available in a laptop, we're semi-surprised that Alienware has kept the M17x name for its newest 17-inch laptop (even if it loses the X-Files-esque "Area 51" moniker). While the system starts at a reasonable AU$3999, you'll need to configure something closer to our AU$7667 review unit to really get the benefit of Alienware's years of experience making high-end gaming PCs.

Design

We appreciate the evolved design of the new M17x, which does away with some of the dorm-like qualities of past Alienware systems, making for a (slightly) more sophisticated-looking package. The brand's iconic glowing alien head design has been de-emphasised, and the matte black finish and automotive-inspired front-end grille and edge-to-edge glass on the display marks real progress. The anodised aluminium case feels heavy and substantial — but also means you won't be taking it on too many trips outside the house (unless you like lugging around almost 7kg of computer equipment).

Alienware's Fusion FX lighting and settings control system returns — even more over-the-top than ever. You can now set the colour for the backlit keyboard in four separate zones, meaning you can create a rainbow-like design across the keys. The same software package also provides a fairly comprehensive power control suite, which offers more detailed options than the basic Windows Vista power settings, as well as security controls, including facial recognition log-in software.

The previous version's flush touch pad — previously demarcated only by a backlit outline — has been improved, with a very subtle texture, so your finger can more easily tell when it's actually on the touch pad (even if most gamers will plug in an external mouse).

The keyboard has a more traditional tapered key design, rather than the wider, flat keys many laptop makers are partial to these days. Alienware explains that for its core gamer audience, the traditional keys provide more space between the individual letters, which is better for first-person shooters, which make heavy use of the WASD keys. There's also a strip of touch-sensitive controls above the keyboard (also with an adjustable backlit colour), but their response was a little slow for us, and there was a confusing lack of on-screen confirmation for some of the commands.

Features

The 17.1-inch widescreen LCD display offers a 1920x1200 native resolution, which is what we'd expect from a high-end 17-inch laptop (less expensive desktop replacements can have 1440x900, or 1680x1050 displays). The screen looks crisp and bright, and the edge-to-edge glass overlay adds a seamless feel, but it is subject to glare from light sources. We also wouldn't mind seeing Alienware embrace the trend toward 16:9 displays.

With an Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9300, dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M GPUs, 8GB DDR3-1333 RAM and dual 500GB hard drives, this is about as powerful as laptops get without resorting to stuffing actual desktop parts in a chassis. We often point to less expensive gaming laptops, such as the Asus W90 as offering a better bang for your buck, but if you want the very best, and are willing to pay for it, dropping several Gs on the new Alienware M17x will make you the coolest nerd on your block.

No shortage of ports and connection here, including a mini-FireWire port and three separate video output options, including DisplayPort. Multiple audio-outs mean you can easily hook up a set of big PC speakers, which is a plus for high-intensity gaming.

While our review unit was configured with nearly every high-end option available and cost almost AU$8000, the M17x actually starts at a much more reasonable AU$3999. The specs for that system are somewhat less impressive, with a 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600, a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M GPU, 4GB of 1066MHz RAM, a 640GB 7200rpm hard drive and a DVD burner.

The real star here is the SLI configuration of Nvidia's GeForce GTX280M. With two of these powerful GPUs working together, we got 168 frames per second at 1920x1200 in Unreal Tournament 3, making this our gaming laptop performance leader by a wide margin. Anecdotally, we fired up F.E.A.R. 2 at 1900x1200 and set most of the graphics options to medium or high for a smooth, impressive experience. Of course, with very few high-profile PC games currently in development, there may not be that many titles that deserve this kind of high-end treatment (one exception may be Bioware's Dragon Age: Origins, one of the few buzz-worthy upcoming games that's being developed for the PC and ported to consoles, rather than the other way around).

Nvidia's GeForce GPUs also include the company's CUDA technology, which lets the GPUs provide extra processing power to certain non-gaming tasks, such as video rendering. Keep in mind that you'll have to use CUDA-compatible software, such as CyberLink PowerDirector 7.

Performance

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Alienware M17x
514
Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725
640
MSI GT725-212US
649
Asus W90VP-X1
663

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Alienware M17x
113
Asus W90VP-X1
116
Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725
129
MSI GT725-212US
156

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus W90VP-X1
134
Alienware M17x
156
MSI GT725-212US
171
Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725
172

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1280x800, 0xAA, 0xAF
1440x900, 4xAA, 8xAF
1920x1200, 4xAA, 8xAF
Alienware M17x
201.4
200.1
168
MSI GT725-212US @ 1400x1050 / @ 1280x768
159.2
103.4
81.1
Asus W90VP-X1 @ 1400x1050 / @ 1280x768
143.3
129.6
119.4
Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725
N/A
100.8
116.5

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
MSI GT725-212US
121
Asus W90VP-X1
78
Alienware M17x
75
Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725
71


The Alienware M17x ran for one hour and 15 minutes on our video playback battery drain test — not that we expected much more from a huge desktop replacement. It's also one of the most power-hungry laptops we've tested, so be sure to turn it off or put it to sleep when not in use.

System configurations:

Alienware M17x
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9300; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 2x 512MB SLI Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M; 2x 500GB Seagate 7200rpm

Asus W90VP-X1
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600; 6GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Dual ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4870 X2; 320GB Seagate 7200rpm

MSI GT725-212US
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM 1066MHz; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4850; 320GB Western Digital 7200rpm

Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 667MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTX; HDD #1: 64GB Toshiba SSD/HDD #2: 320GB Hitachi 7200rpm

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Post comment as
LokiS Facebook
10
Rating
 

"Alienware brand is excellent, will also buy a tower once I recover my bank account"

LokiS posted a review   

The Good:Sexy design, Fast optimized performance, Colourful and customizable

The Bad:Heavy and expensive

I received my Alienware M17x R4 a few weeks ago, its performance is fantastic, if you are going to buy one, be sure to upgrade to the 32GB of RAM its well worth it, it's a beautiful laptop...I also got nVidia 3D glasses and software with it and I have been playing Skyrim, Need for Speed and some Strategy games all with full graphics not one of them ever slowed down...not even for a second even in 3D

Also the colour schemes are fully customizable for the keypad and number pad, the alienware logo, the Alien bar, the power button, speakers and the mouse touchpad....The exterior is made of some sort of rubber like material so your bracelets dont scratch it....Its very heavy, I think it weighs about 6 kg's, it does tend to get hot and its prone to greasy fingertips....

The 17 inch screen is a godsend considering I am studying a diploma in video game design so its also an important work tool for me...You really are paying for quality and the name (of course)

If you cant afford the hefty pricetag, be sure to check out the Origin gaming laptops and desktops, the're not as good, but they'll play your games.... 10/10 for me...I have had no problems, but if I do...I will re comment!!!!

 

DavidM posted a comment   

The Good:unnano

The Bad:unnano

@ hrc1079

How on gods green earth do you have that many problems? Thats a joke. How on earth are we meant to believe most of that? You must use & abuse your stuff like absolute crazy. WOW.

NickT1 Facebook
9
Rating
 

NickT1 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Great Looks - Highly Customizable - Runs smoothly - Good FPS in games.

The Bad:A bit heavy - Quite Expensive

A lot of people reviewing are saying that the Alienware laptop is very expensive. That is true, but the default options are very good as they are. Also, the people say that the laptop needs to be repaired quite often. I think this is not true. If you need to get it repaired that often; you are either mistreating it, or you are not capable enough to use such a high quality laptop.

eycel
10
Rating
 

eycel posted a review   

The Good:best peace of machinery on the planet

The Bad:not a damn'd thing

theres so much new hardware thats available in the new m17x systems, not only can u get ssd now in raid, you can get blue ray burner, and on top of that you can get an extream intel proc. These things are rock solid, as i have owned one for 5 years now, area 51m 776.

 

Cathey posted a comment   

The Good:nothing is good about alienware

The Bad:they avoid your calls & won't help

People ... do not buy from Alienware. This was the worst thing we ever did. We bought one 18 months ago. My son was so excited, he saved up the money himself for this computer. However, it had to be returned twice for repairs. On the 2nd time they did something wrong with the motherboard and and it still didn't work, so we sent it back to them a THIRD time. After that repair, when they shipped it back to us via Fedex, the computer was LOST by Fedex! Fedex admitted their error and told me to have Alienware generate the claim with them. Alienware somehow thought I was pulling a scam on them and treated me like a thief! They have avoided my calls for 3 months -- all this time our computer has been missing. Finally, someone, 4 months later began to work with me only because I threatened to hire a lawyer. Lo and behold, now they are replacing our laptop but it's not as good as the one that was lost -- they say that it's the same or better, but it's not. Even the case isn't as cool as the original case was. Plus, they won't give us a warranty on the replacement product. Alienware's customer service is horrible and I will never buy from them again. Who cares if it's a cool computer? If they treat customers like they stole a computer, even though Fedex was admitting freely that they truly lost the computer, well, that's a horrible company if you ask me. Don't buy from them. I even told the guy at Miami headquarters that I was going to be a vocal customer if they didn't satisfy us, and he didn't care. So I'm blogging everywhere I can ...... Beware, from Houston Texas

 

Cathey posted a comment   

The Good:this is to the guy Tom on 7/29/09

The Bad:read this, Tom!

Tom, don't buy one. Please don't buy from Alienware. You will regret it. Read these reviews that everyone is writing and read the one I posted a few minutes ago.

 

Tyronne Lee posted a comment   

The Good:Great looking

The Bad:over priced outdated system

As always they sell over priced outdated old parts. They claimed that their system is the most powerful. Lies Lies Lies.

Smoothcreations.com sold one like this 6 months ago.

I too got ripped off by Alienware Australia they forced me to also pay extra money on delivery which i believed was supposed to be included in the purchase price.

The chinese people from Alienware Australia are to be avoided at all costs. They lie and rip you off.

They also sold me crossfire dual ATI 4870x2 coupled with nvidia 790i motherboard which I didn't know does not support ATI crossfire.

Man did i get ripped off badly.

 

April Swift posted a comment   

The Good:Sexy Looking

The Bad:Bad Price + Always Nasty Poor Customer Service

I bought a few Alienware mainly because i am a brand name sucker. But i just ordered mine from Dell to by pass the nasty Australia Alienware.

They lie a lot and always ready to rip you off as in my case they made me pay extra $350 if i want mine or else they wont send it.

They also sold me Dual ati 4870x2 with nvidia mother board which doesnt support crossfire.

All in all i got ripped off badly by Alienware Australia.

 

unknown rider posted a comment   

The Good:cosmetically sexy

The Bad:cost per performance

how does alienware stay competitive in this economic climate with this kind of pricing? Sure its nice looking and ok gear inside, but when you can build a more powerful version for less by sourcing the parts and building yourself why would you purchase from them.

Falcon
9
Rating
 

Falcon posted a review   

The Good:SLI, Aluminium Case, Stealth mode on battery power for extended running time

The Bad:Glare from screen

The $4k Australian base unit comes with SLI 260MGT not a single as per the review.
For the price it is the best value high end gaming laptop on the market.
Awesome preformance, great battery life, solid construction.
Yes it's heavy but for a reason with everything packed in and the aluminium chassis.
I'm loving it.


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User Reviews / Comments  Alienware M17x

  • LokiS

    LokiS

    Rating10

    "I received my Alienware M17x R4 a few weeks ago, its performance is fantastic, if you are going to buy one, be sure to upgrade to the 32GB of RAM its well worth it, it's a beautiful laptop...I also..."

  • DavidM

    DavidM

    "@ hrc1079

    How on gods green earth do you have that many problems? Thats a joke. How on earth are we meant to believe most of that? You must use & abuse your stuff like absolute crazy..."

  • NickT1

    NickT1

    Rating9

    "A lot of people reviewing are saying that the Alienware laptop is very expensive. That is true, but the default options are very good as they are. Also, the people say that the laptop needs to be r..."

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