Review Box

Monday, January 17, 2011

Alienware m15x


Say hello to the new Area-51 m15x from Alienware. Tagged for mixing their legendary performance with impressive mobility, it is a 15.4 gaming laptop that when configured properly can knock close to $5,000. When we first got wind of this machine, we were worried that Dell's conservative take to design would dilute the futuristic flash and style that Alienware has been known to supply. In true LaptopLogic form read on to find out if looks and performance match our intuition


Silver and only silver, thats the fist thing youll notice with the m15x. The case wasn't something that impressed us much and given Alienware's reputation for edgy design (almost Giger-esque), we found the silver lid with obligatory blue-eyed alien head to be, well...boring. Having reviewed Alienware machines in the past, we were always fond of their blue exterior option. This new lid is a silver panel, with a seam starting from the bottom to two-thirds up the lid, where it's broken by the ambiguous alien head. Granted, the texture and quality of the material used was spot on babys behind smooth, but also too plain for what were used to.

One notable negative to the build-quality of the m15x was the creaks and groans. Let's just say James Bond wouldn't use this laptop if he was hiding in the rafters. Just moving the lid, even before the lids angle is adjusted, emits a creaky staircase noise (think 40s horror flick sound). What makes the matter worse, is it doesn't make much difference where you grip the lid. However, we have a theory behind the creakswe're attributing this to the LED lighting built into the rim of the lid. Being somewhat boring on the exterior, Alienware opted to deliver an attractive blue border to their monitor, although the extra parts means more chances for frictionand more friction means more noise.

The 86-key keyboard has a pleasant blue LED area of light that surrounds each key and features excellent feel while keeping perfect key travel and ample space for large hands. However, flex was an issue (although isolated). We noticed a fair amount of keyboard flex, but only to the dead center of the keyboard, which only significantly affected half-dozen keys or so.


The display was astounding with a native resolution at 1920x1200, and being a 15.4" WUXGA display was plenty enough pixels per inch. Although we did notice the monitor seemed to produce a softer image than most displays at this resolution. However, this may be a better thing because it made it easier to stare at the screen for longer periods of time.

Size & Weight
The whole kit will take up approximately 14.55" x 10.73, and weighs in at around seven pounds. Compare this to the HP Pavilion DV6700t series, which is slightly smaller (14.05" x 10.12") and weighs around 6.12 pounds.

The weight, however, can differ slightly depending on what drive you're placing in the Smart Bay. Youre choices can range from a 2x Blu-ray Disc Burner, secondary 300 GB hard drive, or an extra Li-Ion battery. One thing we definitely like about the m15x is that all 3 of these devices are hot-swappable and can be completely changed in around 10 seconds or so.


Alienware did an excellent job supplying connections for the m15x. It carries the latest internal Intel a/b/g/n wireless card, which is something we feel is a requirement given the machines price.

The left side supplies the power jack, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, connections for both headphones and microphone, and the hot swappable Smart bay.

The right side provides Firewire B, USB, and HDMI, as well as an ExpressCard and 7-in-1 media card reader.

The front houses a single IR port no more, no lessok, more drab silver color but thats just our disappointment talking a little more.

Heat, Noise, Upgrading
Even though this machine screams at the performance and price tag level, we're glad to note that while the fan noise of the m15x is audible, it doesnt scream at you (thankfully). The heat generated by the laptop is only uncomfortable under the area to the right of the palmrest. It does get warm after hours of use, although it's within expected limits, especially with a 8800m GTX and Core2Extreme CPU under there.

Alienware gives you plenty of manufacturer options for upgrading the m15x, and luckily your base Alienware can be configured for quite less than ours. So you do have a few options - our unit came maxed out with 4 GB of DDR2 RAM running at 667 MHz, and that's the most you can get out of both Dual-Channel slots.

Features, Performance and Conclusion

The glorious gloat power this machine carries is the huff and puff power behind the monitor which is an awesome NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTX video card carrying a generous 512 MB of discrete memory. Yes, this card has mega-performance, and yes, it does have the ability to really suck your battery dry like a cold lemonade on a hot summer day. However, Alienware thought of this and included a feature called BinaryGFX which can enable video to run off of integrated memory only really saving you some battery time on those long business journeys. Enabling this feature however, requires a system restart, but the benefits are definitely worth it.

Another option you can opt for is a Media Center remote control, allows you to watch Blu-ray movies or connect an HDTV tuner and control via the IR port in the front.

The AlienFX technology (available through the Command Center) allows you to change the color of the lid border, keyboard, touchpad border, and all associated lights depending on what program you're running. Not in the mood for alien blue? Ready to heat up the night and kick it to red light district? Lucky you, you can with this feature, and this may make it easier to find your m15x in dark rooms. We give it a nod for interesting technology, although we'd trade it in a heartbeat for a weight reduction and better component fit.

Other neat extras include alien writing on the bottom of the laptop, complete with an aluminum nameplate with the name of the purchaser. This would be an excellent idea to establish ownershipnow if only the nameplate wasn't affixed by four easy-to-remove screws wed be sold like true stockholders.

Stealth power management is a feature that may encourage you to purchase the system even if the price tag and drab silver didnt. The m15x running at normal sucks 70 watts of power which is a lot of power for a notebook. But, with just a click of a mouse button, you enable Stealth and use BinaryGFX to move to integrated graphics, thus cutting that power usage to a mere 30 watts. Stealth also throttles the 2.8 GHz Core2Xtreme back a bit, and in return you get a much improved lifespan.

Webcam and Mic Array

Hooray for something better than a 1.3mp LCD webcam. The webcam on the m15x is a 2.0 MegaPixel webcam mounted above the LCD, and even though the overall image quality was good, it lacked the ability to manually reposition itself, a feature that much lower end / cheaper laptops include. For many this isn't a significant deterrent, but it's worth mentioning and Ive always hurrahed to see a step up from the ubiquitous 1.3 MP webcam technology to the clearer 2.0 MP. How often you use these things, is up to you however.


Since this is the first laptop to actually RUN 3dMark Vantage, we have no comparison for it we'll just give you the P number and let you decide from there.

Following just shy of our M70sa we just reviewed, although, that is a 17" model and carried 1GB of Video Ram. Interesting to note however that this carries the "extreme" processor and highly famed "8800m" should have probably gotten a better score.

Ok, it has spanked just about everything we have reviewed as of late, good job Alienware!


There's plenty of love for this version of Alienware, its size factor and perfect blend of power and mobility will appeal to many. Pairing the lightning-fast Core2Duo Xtreme processor with a speedy 512 MB 8800m GTX video card and 4 GB of RAM - it makes for a very quick, very satisfying laptop experience, which is often reserved for larger notebooks, or even mid-range desktops.

However, the base point starts at $1,799, and like Mt Everest can climb to unreachable heights for many consumers, nearing our model price at $4,808.00. Granted our m15x came with all the extras, like a seconday hard drive, Blu-ray disc burner, and an extra battery. We love the addition of an HDMI port, and we think its a great idea to connect your laptop to your home theater, an option that's a little tougher to find in the competition, and were guessing you have plenty of fun toys to connect that HDMI port if you can buy this laptop. Simply stated, If you're in the market for a high-class gaming laptop, have the money to spend, and love the new Alienware design, this is an excellent purchase.


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