For those of you with good memories, you might remember we covered the launch of the updated design of the Alienware M17x gaming laptop back in the summer of last year, at the time it was well received as being a real step up from the previous model and it certainly stood out from its rivals based on how it looked and its specifications.
Now the Alienware M17x gaming laptop has been given another update, this time however the great existing aesthetics have been kept while the internals have been given an upgrade to bring it into line with the latest in Intel i5 / i7 processors, ATI CrossfireX graphics cards and SSD storage. Find out what we thought to it in this Alienware M17x review.
Design & Features
Before we move any further, I should probably go over my first impressions of this “mighty gaming laptop beast” — I use that phrase because, this outstandingly designed Alienware gaming laptop, isn’t so much a laptop, but a desktop replacement and as such it’s big! Obviously, it’s got a 17” screen which dictates some of the size, but since this is a high performance machine, the rest of the chassis is quite bulky, plus of course this means that it’s quite heavy too — you’ll get a good workout lifting this beast of laptop around!
Having said that, if you’re in the market for this kind of machine, the issues of size and weight go with the territory, but the main thing in addition to that is its very good build quality, so it doesn’t feel fragile in the slightest, quite important as you’ll probably be taking to taking various places, perhaps LAN gaming events and such.
Everything about your initial experience of this machine gives you the impression of quality, whether from the sturdy, well designed box it comes in, the accessories contained within the box such as a leather-bound manual (yes you read that correctly), a complementary mouse mat and even an Alienware baseball cap!
Anyway, moving on to actually powering up this beast…
Once you power up the Alienware M17x gaming laptop and by that I mean, there’s a prompt that reminds you to plug in the power adapter if you haven’t already in a “this beast needs lots of power” kind of way, you immediately see some of the more stylish additions to the general design of the M17x chassis, namely the lighting that is a prominent part of the look of the laptop.
This Alienware beast lights up all over, including an illuminated ‘Alienware Head’ logo on the back of the screen, (to go one better than your Apple MacBook Pro owning friends?) but most noticeable of all is the backlit keyboard which means you’ll always be able to see what you’re typing no matter how dark an environment you’re in. All of these lighting features are also customisable to various different colour combinations once you’re in Windows using the Alienware software.
When booting up for the first time, you’re presented with the usual Windows user account setup screen on your first boot into Windows 7, but with a difference, other than the very stylish custom Alienware themed Windows 7 boot screens is the AlienSense software.
AlienSense comes pre-installed on the M17x, which is basically some facial recognition software which you can set up so that it uses the built-in webcam positioned just above the top of the screen and it will ‘learn’ what you look like and basically log you into Windows when it sees that you’re at the computer.
This is definitely a step up from having enter passwords to secure your Windows login and while the system takes a little while to learn what you look like in various light conditions, once it does do that, it’s pretty good at letting you into Windows and keeping other people out. There’s even options to lock the Windows screen when you move away from the camera, thereby providing quite a good security solution if you need it. Other than that, it’s just very cool to sit in front of a computer and have it identify you, save you a job of typing a password and load your personal Windows account, especially useful if more than one person will have a Windows profile on the machine!
Once I’d finished being impressed by the novelty of AlienSense, I then thought it was time to test out the Alienware M17x main purpose, that of gaming! First of all I installed and ran some FutureMark benchmarking software and saw that the numbers that it churned out were not far off that of the desktop Intel i7 computer that I built just a few months previously, that was quite interesting, but I ultimately got quite bored looking at those numbers and realised why I don’t normally bother with benchmarking numbers.
A much better test was to install some actual games that I was familiar with playing on my desktop gaming machine; I tried out Call of Duty: World at War and Modern Warfare and they ran great at the native screen resolution of 1920×1200, the video options were pretty much maxed out and yet the performance was spot on. Equally, I also installed World of Warcraft to test its graphics as I also have plenty of experience playing with all the video settings maxed out on my desktop PC, again the M17x didn’t disappoint with it similarly running with just about all the graphics options turned on.
I’ve never been that interested by Crysis, so I couldn’t test out that kind of reference benchmark of a game, but I was certainly impressed by the gaming power that this Alienware had to offer in other games.
Outside of gaming, general Windows 7 use was obviously very good and the whole operating system ran really smoothly on such a well spec’ed machine, however I did have one minor issue — due to the fact that the 17” screen was running such a high native resolution, it did mean default Windows usage was a little small on-screen, I’d probably have to enlarge various display options if I was going to use it over any real length of time.
Given that the Alienware M17x is a mobile gaming computer, no doubt many people will not just be playing games on the 17” screen, but also hooking it up to a larger separate monitor or even a HDTV to play games on the big screen in the living room, this is made very easy with the inclusion of not only the DVI port, but it also comes with a HDMI connection.
Overall, the Alienware M17x is a great gaming laptop, it’s stylish, well built and performs very well for the purpose it’s designed for, as I’ve said previously, if you’re in the market for mobile desktop replacement computer like this for your gaming needs, then you’ll no doubt forgive its size and weight as that just won’t be an issue for you.
Obviously all of this high performance, portable pc gaming comes at a price and well it’s not cheap even if you go for the entry level specification (you’ll be looking at around £1500 upwards), you’re paying a premium for this kind of machine, but equally you’re getting a quality product for your money that gives you plenty of gaming options as to how you can use it. I give the Alienware M17x gaming laptop an impressive 4.5 out of 5!