Alienware M17x (R3) Gaming Notebook Review: It Glows!
User Interface, Display and Audio Quality
As mentioned, the keyboard on this laptop is backlit. There is a keyboard function button that turns the lighting system off, but all other functions are controlled by the AlienFX software. The backlighting is even, not overly bright, and the large keys don’t allow much light to leak out from beneath them.
The keyboard itself is mediocre. There’s a fair amount of space available because of the laptop’s size, but the layout isn’t outstanding in any way, and key feel is rubbery. Giving the gaming intent of this laptop, that may be somewhat preferable, as little pressure is required to activate keys - but it doesn’t feel great when typing an email or a forum post about how much you pwn.
Nothing better can be said about the touchpad. It’s fairly large, but doesn’t take full advantage of the space available. There’s no texture to it and the individual buttons, though the provide plenty of travel and are large, feels a bit cheap. Multi-touch gestures are supported and work well, but turned off by default, most likely because they could negatively impact gaming if accidentally triggered.
Display and Audio Quality
The quality of a display can have as much of an impact on a game’s graphics as the video card inside, and Alienware seems to have built the M17x with this in mind. Big and bright, the glossy 1080p display panel provides games and movies with real punch. In fact, while playing Battlefield 3 on the system, I actually became a bit jealous. At similar detail settings, the game unquestionably looked better on the M17x’s display than on my own desktop monitor.
Test images backed up these subjective impressions. Both contrast and gradient images were smooth as butter, with good definition even at the most extreme ends of the image. Black level testing was better than average, as well. However, it should be noted that some dithering was apparent, which gave the darkest test images a spotted appearance. In games and movies, this won’t be noticeable because the on-screen image is frequently moving or changing. Those looking to edit or view high-resolution images, however, may be annoyed.
Audio quality is as good as you’ll find in any laptop. Volume is high when turned to maximum, and some bass is available. Turning the system up to max can cause some distortion in bass-heavy music, however. Games sound much better, as heavy bass from explosions and gunfire usually doesn’t go alongside equally loud music or dialogue.