Alienware M17X review
Alienware is back with a bang, with a threefold attack on the PC gaming arena. Along with the M14x and the M18x, the M17x (£1,749 inc. VAT) has had a third-generation Intel flavoured refresh for 2012.
Looks-wise, the Alienware M17x isn’t any different to the model that wowed us last year. It’s a colossal 17.3-inch machine, complete with garish lights and a neo-industrial design. The exciting new additions are all buried deep within the M17x’s brutish chassis.
The most notable of these additions is the inclusion of a third-generation Intel Core CPU. The model we reviewed packed an i7-3610QM processor, a four-core monster clocked at a nominal 2.3GHz, which can be pumped full of Intel Turbo Boost steroids to achieve a top-speed of 3.3GHz.
Combine this with a seriously powerful GPU punch courtesy of the latest Nvidia or AMD graphics technology (ours was an AMD Radeon HD 7970M configuration) and you’re looking at a top-end gaming machine more than worthy of its price tag. There’s also Intel HD 4000 graphics, meaning DirectX 11 support.
The impressive spec sheet doesn’t end there, however. You can select up to 32GB of RAM (though our review sample smashed everything we threw at it just fi ne with 8GB installed), the 17.3-inch display is of the Full HD 1080p variety, there’s a 2.1-megapixel webcam, and it has a slot loading optical drive on the side. The review model had a DVD combo drive; you can opt for a Blu-ray reader if you wish.
You might think that all of this rugged power may result in an explosion of noise, fan activity and a heat-overload but, as with previous Alienware notebooks, that’s not the case. This is thanks to its large heatsinks and dual rear exhausts, which provide dedicated cooling for all threads and cores of both the CPU and GPU.
If you’ve not laid eyes on one of Alienware’s gaming rigs before, prepare your peepers for an assault of colour and glare. The M17x doesn’t shy away from extravagance with its unique sci-fi-esque casing and its (in)famous AlienFX lighting system which allows you set the backlight colours for the keys, speaker grills, buttons, ports and logos. If you want a nice, calming, cool blue effect then you can have that. Equally, if you want your M17x flashing bright red neon lights at you continuously, like a panicking air traffic control warning system, then that’s an option too. With 512 trillion distinct lighting combinations, we’ll stop with the specific examples now.
The keyboard keys, whatever colour you choose to have emitting from them, are soft to the touch with a comforting rubber-like bounce which makes them not only great for gaming but also for more day-to-day tasks such as browsing the web, tapping out an email or knocking up a quick spreadsheet. The trackpad, which is offset to the left of centre, also has a rubberised finish and you’ll hear not a peep from either of its buttons, such is the soft travel that is provided.
A heavy load
Travel-friendly the M17x is not, however, despite the improved battery life of 133 minutes under stress. You’ll not only need a big bag to slide the M17x into as it measures a chunky-to-say-the-least 410 x 304 x 44.5mm, you’ll also need a strong back to handle its 4.4kg weight load.
Back to the plus points though and, as you’d expect with the hardcore engine room, the Alienware M17x had little trouble dealing with any task that we threw its way. High-definition video was handled with a buttery smoothness, recent game titles caused it no signs of despair, and high-resolution photo editing was done with hardly any fuss. Boot times are also quick thanks to the dual SSD and HDD setup.
The machine we tested had a 64GB mSATA SSD to take care of Windows 7 booting, as well as a 500GB HDD for storing your digital life. You can configure the hard drive setup on your own Alienware model pretty much any
way that you choose.
The audio quality of the M17x is fantastic, thanks to the Creative Sound Blaster THX 7.1 setup and the stereo speakers designed by audio specialist Klipsch. And you’ll not be left wanting when it comes to connectivity and port-based fun. As well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, you’ve also got access to four USB 3.0 ports, a HDMI 1.4 port, a mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet action, an SD card reader, a VGA socket, optical digital output, separate headphone and microphone jacks, and a dedicated headset output. It leaves no boxes un-ticked.
If you’ve been waiting (and saving up considerably) for a next generation Intel Core gaming machine to land then there’s really no need to hang around any longer. The Alienware M17x is a significant improvement to what was already a brilliant machine. The Ivy Bridge CPU boosts performance to almost unseen-before benchmark scores, and the latest Nvidia and AMD graphics tech packed in means that you’ll have absolutely no hassle when it comes to playing the latest must-have games.
Its bulky frame and ostentatious exterior may make the M17x a specialist laptop but, within the 17-inch gaming notebook market, when it comes to the functions that it specialises in there are few, if any, rivals that come close.
on Thursday, July 12th, 2012 at 10:22 am under Laptops.
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Tags: Alienware, AMD, Gaming, Hot, Ivy Bridge, Laptops