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Alienware M17x (R3) Gaming Notebook Review: It Glows!

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Alienware

Performance and Conclusion

Performance

The specifications of this Alienware M17x make it clear that it means business. The Core i7 quad-core, clocked at 2.2 GHz, it teamed up with the Radeon HD 6990M graphics solution - the fastest GPU that AMD makes for laptops. Ryan has already compared it to the Nvidia GTX 580M, which is also available as an optional upgrade for this laptop, and found that the 6990M offered roughly equivalent performance at a much lower price.

Oh, and just to be clear - though the Radeon 6990 graphics card is a dual-GPU part, the Radeon 6990M is not. 

To find out how this impressively equipped laptop stands up to the competition, it must be compared to other recently tested laptops. Although we’ve reviewed the MSI GT680R and Maingear eX-L 15, both had last-generation graphics components and have since been updated with newer graphics. This will have a signficant impact on the test results of the M17x, so I don't think it is fair to use them as points of comparison.

As such, the ASUS G74 will provide be representing the gaming laptop competition in this review. For additional perspective we’ll also look at the ASUS N55, a multimedia system with a mid-range discrete graphics solution, and the Dell Inspiron 14z, a budget system with Intel HD 3000 graphics. 

Here are the specifications of each system.

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Let’s jump right in to SiSoft Sandra, which will tell us about the peak performance of the processor in each system.

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No surprises here. The Core i7 quad-core is a common part that we’ve tseted many times, and the results from the M17x are right in line with what we’ve come to expect. Which is to say, it’s fast. The only way to buy a faster mobile processor is to buy a Core i7 with a higher clock speed.

Now let’s head in to our general testing benchmarks, which will provide a better all-around idea of the laptop’s performance. 

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Look at that PCMark 7 score! This is only the second system we’ve tested to manage a score of over 3000, the previous being the Maingear eX-L 15. This score is significantly better than the ASUS G74, and also trounces every other system used for comparison. 

The Peacekeeper and 7-Zip scores, on the other hand, are more mundane - but still very good. As you can see, the lack of effective multi-threading in the Peacekeeper benchmark holds the quad-cores down, and as a result they score only slightly higher than the much less expensive, dual-core Dell Inspiron 14z. 

Now, let’s get to the real meat of the review - gaming benchmarks. It’s time for the Radeon HD 6990M to strut its stuff. Please note that we’re relying on 1080p results here, and as such the Inspiron 14z is excluded - not that you’re missing much, as its Intel IGP is obviously no match for the discrete solutions found in the other systems. 

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I'm going to drop the Inspiron 14z from the rest of the gaming benchmark graphs, as it performs far worse than any other laptop used for comparison and will skew the apperance of the results.

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Ouch! As you can see, the Alienware M17x manages to easily defeat the ASUS G74 across the board. Though I still am a big fan of that system, its reliance on GTX 560M graphics makes it unable to compete with high-end graphics like the HD 6990M. Gamers who are not on a budget benefit greatly from making the jump to a more expensive, but better equipped, system.

In addition to our standard benchmarks, let's have a look at how this laptop handles Battlefield 3, the new gold standard in PC graphics. We'll be using this game for benchmarking in the future, but since the other laptops in this comparison were tested before the game's release, they are not included in the results.

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If you’d like to know about how this system performed in Battlefield 3, check out our BF3 laptop performance review. Because the game just came out, we do not have benchmark data from other systems that can be used for comparison.

Now it’s time to wrap things up with our boot and resume benchmarks.

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Boot times for the M17x are reasonably good, just barely besting out the N55. Resume time, however, was longer than any of the other laptops, despite gobs of RAM. In my opinion, this is because of an unusually long boot sequence that requires at gobbles at least 10 seconds prior to the Windows loading screen.

Conclusion

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The Alienware M17x R3 starts at $1499. For that, you receive a robust selection of hardware including an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM and a Radeon HD 6870M GPU. 

It’s no longer possible to equip a system exactly like our review unit, but only because the base processor in the laptop appears to have been upgraded from a Intel Core i7-2630QM (with a base clock of 2 GHz) to a Intel Core i7-2670QM (with a base clock of 2.2 GHz). All other components are available, and total up to $2599.

If you ditch the RAID hard drive configuration and reduce the RAM from 16GB to 8GB (two options that don’t contribute much to gaming), you’re back down to $2149, which is surprisingly reasonable. The ASUS G74 is much less expensive, but it isn’t offered with hardware that can match the M17x in performance. To gain some context for that, I visited the websites of Maingear and Origin. A similarly equipped Maingear eX-L 17 is about $2400, while the Origin EON 17-S comes to about $2100. 

The M17x offers excellent performance in an attractive chassis, and the flair provided by the customizable LED lighting is just icing on the cake. The only real flaw is the touchpad - but I’ve yet to come across a large gaming laptop that gets the touchpad right. If you have the itch for high-performance gaming laptop, the M17x R3 can help you scratch it. 

And even if you’re looking for a more affordable option, don’t discount the base model. At $1499 it’s in the same ballpark as the ASUS G74, and while I’d personally buy the ASUS, those who prefer Alienware’s design will not be going wrong by picking it instead.

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November 15, 2011 | 11:44 AM - Posted by Cristian Kleuser (not verified)

Great review Ryan. Just a personal opinion on taking pictures of glossy screens with lots of background reflex. Get a good circular polarizing for your camera. You'll break lots of background reflex and mirroring with that. ;) - cheers

November 15, 2011 | 05:28 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Thanks Christian, I will look into that. I'm not much of a photographer and sometimes I don't know where to start with issues like that.

November 15, 2011 | 11:59 AM - Posted by Chaitanya Shukla (not verified)

I agree with Christian, please get a good Circular polariser so that you can cut off unwanted reflections. Also the 1080p panel on the new M17X is very good.

November 16, 2011 | 05:28 AM - Posted by HW (not verified)

I think it's good that reflections show up in the screen in the photos. That way people won't be surprised to find that they purchased a mirror. :P

January 22, 2012 | 10:15 PM - Posted by kohanson (not verified)

Actually, I feel that you should not use any polariser so that we can know how reflective and glossy the screen is. In this way, we can decide if we would want to purchase the alienware m17x with such a reflective screen.

March 1, 2012 | 05:42 PM - Posted by Aelethir (not verified)

I realize I'm a little late to the party, but I'd like to say that the screen protector they offer works very well to eliminate reflection. It is a bit pricey, especially the one that allows 3D viewing, but I always invest in a SP anyway.

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