Alienware has long been one of my favourite computer and laptop makers. It's purchase by Dell didn't change that.
The computer maker's latest line of gaming laptops promise to deliver on-the-go gaming in a slick looking new laptop. But can the Area-51 m15x deliver the goods at an affordable price and in a package you'd want to take with you?
Blistering speed: There's no arguing that the m15x is a laptop built from the ground up for gaming. My loaner shipped with an Intel Core i7 920XM processor that delivered 3.2GHz in Turbo Mode and came with an 8MB cache. That's enough power to get pretty close to topping out the official Windows Experience Index for gaming and certainly enough muscle power to run anything on the market today.
High Def Screen: The m15x comes with an astounding 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M GPU delivering 1920x1080 (1080p) resolution on its 15.6-inch screen.
Winning Aesthetic Design: True to its core, the Alienware laptop is a flashy bit of kit with back-lit speakers, a glossy Alien head with glowing eyes set in the centre of the laptop's lid and a pleasantly tactile surface beneath the keyboard. The curved and vented shape of the front edge of the laptop and lid give the computer a delightfully unique look.
Backlit Keyboard: The m15X, like the XPS laptop line, has a backlit keyboard that can be personalised with the Alienware Command centre. Controls let you light up the keyboard with any colour you want. The keyboard is actually broken down into four sections, so you can choose colours for each section and they don't need to match.
Light Show: The keyboard isn't the only thing you can light up and control. The Command centre also gives you control over the colour of the speakers, that fancy lid Alien head, the power button, the touchpad, the above-keyboard media strip and even the company's logo. The centre lets you set up different colours depending on whether your running the laptop on battery or a power cord and even light up to show different events, like when new emails arrive. You also have access to an impressive selection of colour swapping options that will strobe, morph and cycle through colours on any part of your laptop
The Power Cord: The XPS laptop's power brick was so big it initially struck me as a gag. The m15x isn't quite that bad, not quite. It's still about 20 percent larger than a DSi, which strikes me as too big to power something meant to be portable.
Laptop? Not If You Want To Walk Again: This is one of my biggest complaints about the m15x laptop. It's not a laptop, not really. It's nearly 15-inches wide, 12 inches deep and almost 2 inches thick. It also weighs nearly 10 pounds. Most importantly, though, is that the laptop's visually pleasing design, makes it incredibly unwieldy to rest on your lap. The laptop's battery in particular, which juts out by about half an inch for use as a stand, makes lap use of this laptop unlikely.
Pricey: All of those bells and whistles, the high-def GPU, blazing fast CPU, 4GB of dual channel DDR3 memory, a 500GB SATA II hard drive, the brand and the design, it all comes with a pretty hefty price tag. While you can land an entry level m15x laptop for $US1,200, this bad boy will set you back nearly $US3,000.
While Alienware's m15x is a much lighter, sleeker gaming laptop than was parent company Dell's XPS M1730, it's still a heavy, awkward beast. I get that packing all of that processing muscle power and a sizeable screen into a laptop is tricky, that it means an inevitably large and heavy form factor. But I wouldn't be willing, at $US3,000, to put up with that.
I spent a month or so carting this laptop around the world. I took it with me to Australia, flying both locally and internationally, to see just how portable this portable was. It's not very. But once landed, it did a great job of performing as my desktop abroad.
If you're looking for a laptop that you plan to use for gaming at a desk, not on a lap, than the m15x could be a good choice. Me? I'm more interested in the m11x sub-12-inch, sub $US1000 gaming laptop.
The Area-51 m15x is developed and sold by Alienware. Retail starts at $US1,200 USD. The review laptop rang in at about $US3,000. A loaner m15x was sent to Kotaku for reviewing purposes and then returned. Used the laptop for more than a month, including travelling with it Australia.
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