The Alienware M17X is a gaming notebook that is big on all fronts.
By CHONG JINN XIUNG
Earlier this year we reviewed Dell's Alienware M11X, the company's first gaming netbook that boasted good performance for a computer of its size.
Clearing some space off our desk, we now take a look at the M11X's larger cousin, the Alienware M17X which has recently been upgraded with higher specs to better run today's latest games.
Alienware's flagship M17X is a mammoth notebook that sports a large glossy 17in screen.
It still has the same dark aggressive design that Alienware notebooks are known for and has a solid aluminium chassis. It certainly cuts an imposing figure with hard edge lines and glowing "exhaust" grills in front.
With its hulking size, the M17X easily dwarfs nearly all other notebooks on the market. The notebook is so big and heavy that just lifting all 5kg of it out of the box is a massive effort.
Even the included power brick is hefty in comparison with other notebook chargers.
The M17X for all intents and purpose is a desktop replacement for the home as its bulky size and weight makes it ill-suited for long distance travel.
Hunk of metal
The M17X's massive 17in screen offers a native 1,920 x 1,200 resolution that provides lots of room to work with and is great for playing games and watching movies.
Interestingly, the screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio display compared to most notebooks which offer a 16:9 ratio. It does show more pixels on screen as it shows off more vertical space.
The large keyboard is equally as impressive and it has a dedicated numberpad which is perfect for users who need to crunch a lot of numbers.
As always, the Alienware keyboard is fully backlit with customisable lighting underneath. It works in conjunction with the Alienware Fusion FX system which allows you to set the colour lighting beneath the keyboard and other parts of the notebook.
On the whole, the keyboard feels comfortable to type on, making it a joy to use if you do a lot of typing.
The touchpad feels small but it works fine for basic navigation and web browsing.
There are no additional function buttons on the M17X - instead you have lit "keys" above the keyboard that let you control the volume and media playback.
While it looks cool, they just aren't practical. I found it a terrible nuisance as it wasn't that responsive whenever I want to adjust the sound volume.
The notebook comes well equipped to handle modern games and nearly anything you can throw at it. Hardly surprising as it packs a powerful Intel Core i7 Q720 (1.6GHz) processor, 6GB of RAM, a ATI RAdeon HD 5870 GPU and 1TB of hard disk space.
The M17X certainly does justice to the title of being one of the most powerful gaming notebooks in the market. Fans of real-time strategy games will be pleased to know that Starcraft 2 runs smoothly on the M17X.
We ran it on the highest "Ultra" settings and the game looked terrific though it got a bit choppy when the action got heated.
When we turned the settings down a little to "High," the game ran smoothly without any performance issues.
For something faster paced we went with an old favourite, Far Cry 2. The first-person shooter ran very well with the settings turned up to the max.
For an open world game, it ran smoothly and the machine hardly let up even when the action got frantic, averaging at around 24 frames per second.
Mafia 2 was another great looking game that played well on the M17X. Driving through game's open world with cars and people roving around didn't prove to be a problem for the M17X.
Not just games
Of course it's not all about games - the M17X is also a mighty fine notebook for catching up on HD movies. The M17X easily handles HD movies (720p and above) with no problems at all and keeps a constant frame rate at all times.
We were also impressed with how clear and crisp the M17X's built-in speakers sounded off the bat. The speakers worked so well when we played movies and games that we could make do with it even without an external set.
The notebook runs relatively cool albeit rather noisily as the fans on the bottom spin furiously to keep the temperature down when it's in use.
In terms of battery performance however, the M17X falls disappointingly short.
It is a very power hungry machine that doesn't last more than two hours at the very most with constant web browsing and music playback.
Under heavy usage conditions, the gaming notebook could hardly hold out for more than an hour and a half.
We played a brief 20 minute game of Starcraft 2 and watched a 40-minute TV show and the notebook was already in need of a recharge before the episode could finish.
Based on this, the M17X certainly doesn't perform well when you're mobile. Suffice to say, you should keep this monster plugged in at all times.
On the whole, the M17X is a great notebook to have if you want something that's purely built for entertainment - whether it's for watching movies or games.
It is a pretty beefy machine with the muscles to handle the latest games and it has great sounding speakers to boot. Its powerful processor also allows it to multitask very well and run apps such as Photoshop with aplomb too.
However, on the downside, it is very bulky making it more of a desktop replacement than a portable gaming notebook.
Also, its poor battery performance makes it ill-suited for using the machine on the go.
The M17X is also a very expensive notebook, with prices starting from RM7,599 for the basic model.
But if you are prepared to pay the price, you'll get one of the most powerful notebooks in the market.
Pros: Great performance for games; good set of built-in speakers; menacing design.
Cons: Bulky and heavy; poor battery performance; expensive.
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7 Q720 (1.6GHz)
MEMORY: 6GB DDR3 RAM
DISPLAY: 17in WUXGA (1,920 x 1,200-pixels)
GRAPHICS: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 (1GB)
CONNECTIVITY: WiFi 802.11a/g, 10/100 Ethernet port, Bluetooth 2.1
OPTICAL DRIVE: Slot-loading dual-layer DVD burner
PORTS/SLOTS: 4 USB 2.0 ports, 1 eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, 8-in-1 media card reader, display port (HDMI, VGA), headphone/microphone combo jack
BATTERY: 9-cell lithium-ion
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 7 Home Premium
OTHER FEATURES: Alien Fx illuminated keyboard, internal high-definition 5.1 surround sound audio
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 40.6 x 32.1 x 5.4cm
PRICE: From RM7,599 onwards
Review courtesy of Dell Malaysia, 1-800-88-0301