• Excellent gaming performance
• AlienFX LED lighting system
• Strong 3D Graphics thanks to the Dual Graphics Cards
• Solid build quality
• Fantastic screen
• Good keyboard & touchpad
• Good selection of ports and connectivity
• Hot swappable SmartBay Modular bay
• Sky rocketing price
• Large and Heavy
• Loud fans
• Dismal battery life
• Just one year warranty
The gaming machines of Alienware have graced the pages of most PC Gaming magazines for more than a decade. These machines just tempt the gamers with its tantalizing technical specifications, since fiction aesthetic and promise of jaw dropping ultimate gaming experience. When the gaming stakes are high, you need a laptop with components that can deliver a high level performance. The Alienware Area-51 M17x is one of those laptops, but you will have to empty your mattress your life savings in order to buy it. The M17x is Alienware’s highest end gaming notebook and the notable features of this all black monster includes an Intel Core 2 Extreme processor, dual Nvidia GeForce 9800M-GT graphics cards, and a 500GB RAID 0 array. It is one of the most powerful laptops we have ever tested, read on and find it yourself.
The Alienware Area-51 M17x is one of the largest laptops that we have tested. It is about 2.1 inches thick and tips the scales at 11 pounds. The physical design of the m17x is quite traditional as there are no fancy curves or any other notable design elements for that matter. The Area 51 M17x has a box like design with rounded edges and the rubberised matte black finish of the laptop provides it the high end look and feel. The only gloss that could be found on the m17x is on the borders of its LCD screen.
Alienware M17x is not only one of the largest laptops around; it is also one of the most solidly built ones around. The complete base of the laptop is inflexible; the palm rests do not bulge under pressure, and neither do the other surfaces surrounding the keyboard. The lid resists twisting much better than majority of 17” laptops as it is thicker than most. One of the common action that we can see in almost all laptops is the ripples formed by pushing in on the back of the lid, well, that does not happen with the Area 51 M17x unless extreme pressure is used. The display is held well in its place by the hinge. Though there is some wobble in the display, it does so only on some serious effort to induce like shaking the table where the laptop sits. Given the dimensions and weight of the device, we think the wobble has been reasonably kept under control. The display does not have any latches and instead, it is held closed by a pair of small magnets.
The lighting system, called AlienFX, is the feature that makes the M17x stand out from the crowd. There are five areas of notebook that feature LED backlighting and they include keyboard, Touchpad, Touch buttons, Alienware logo below display and Alien head power button and also the emblem on back of the display. The exciting part here is that, you will be able to change each zone independently to one of 12 colours. In addition to this, it is extremely easy to completely disable the AlienFX backlighting feature by pressing [Fn] + [F11]. These features may sound like short-lived novelties, but the gamers will disagree. The backlit keyboard, in particular, makes all the difference when gaming in a dim coffee shop or a dark office after hours.
The customising features are not limited to aesthetics, either. The AlienFusion power controls let you create custom energy profiles or choose one of the three basics: balanced, high performance, or power saver.
As you might be aware by now, the Alienware M17x comes standard with only one display option available, which is a 17 inch glossy widescreen with WUXGA resolution of 1920 x 2000 pixels. The pictures on this display are nothing less than stunning; their colours are vibrant with high brightness level. The screen is ideal for the purpose of gaming, high definition video and general usage. Its crisp contrast makes text reading easy and the viewing angles are simply excellent from top and on the sides; however, like a typical LCD screen, the picture darkens when viewed from below. The backlighting is generally even, with just a hint from the bottom of the screen. Our verdict is, the M17x’s display is one of the best in the market.
The M17x has a full sized keyboard with a separate number pad. The keys feature durable rubberized finish; they possess a soft feel and the key presses are well cushioned. Key travel is normal and the keys are quiet which is mainly because of the fact they are rubber like. Unfortunately, the keyboard suffers from flex that is noticeable even under some average typing pressure; pressing one key affects all of the surrounding keys. Strangely, the number pad does not suffer from any flex. We liked the feel of the keyboard and just wished it has lesser flex.
The expansive touchpad of M17x is flush with the palm rest. The touchpad too has the same matte rubberised finish like the rest of the laptop. It is easy to track it with moist or dry fingers. Since the buttons of the touchpad are made out of one piece of plastic, the clicks are almost inaudible.
Overall, the Alienware Area-51 M17x 17″ gaming laptop is traditional and yet extremely attractive. The machine has a quality finish and feel and it is solid and well made. You either love it or you hate it: the appearance of the Area-51 m17x has hordes of fans and haters, but does make a strong statement.
Ports and Connectivity:
Coming to the ports and connectivity, let us see them one by one. On the left side of the laptop, there is the power jack, optical audio, S-video, HD TV tuner, headphones, microphone, audio out, 3 X USB and SmartBay modular bay. In the right side, there is the seven in one media card reader, ExpressCard/54 slot, USB, HDMI, FireWire B, FireWire A, Gigabit Ethernet and security lock slot. There is not much happening in the front, except the IR receiver. The M17x has perhaps the most expansive range of ports that we have seen on a notebook, including a rare 6-pin FireWire port. The SmartBay especially deserves some additional attention. It is basically a modular bay that can take a hard drive in place of the optical drive. The SmartBay is hot-swappable, meaning the system does not have to be powered off to switch devices. It also features a SATA connection, ensuring the hard drive has an ultra-fast connection. This is a kind of feature we would like to see on more laptops as it adds both convenience and functionality.
You will also find a 2-megapixel camera and two microphones for videoconferencing. With the option to equip a dual layer Blu-ray Disc Burner and a TV tuner, you can do more than challenge your friends to a late night fragfest with the Area-51 m17x. Add a terabyte hard drive, record your favorite TV shows, and the Area-51 m17x will serve beautifully as a home media center.
On the wireless account, Alienware has included the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN wireless card supporting 802.11a, g, and draft-n connections as standard along with internal Bluetooth. The range that we were able to obtain with the wireless Intel Card, which was quite good as we were able to pickup networks and connect at the fringe of their transmitting range without any issues. The Bluetooth also works as expected with the included Bluetooth ExpressCard media remote.
Under the hood, the Alienware M17x Gaming Notebook has components that are similar to those in the m15x, and that includes the 2.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X9000 processor and 4GB of RAM. Instead of an Nvidia GeForce 8800M GTX discrete graphics card, though, the m17x has the latest-generation 9800M GT series cards in SLI (Scalable Link Interface), which lets a laptop use two discrete graphics cards together to double the graphics performance. At the moment, the m17x is available with a pair of GeForce 8800M GTX cards in SLI, which should result in performance comparable to the m15x. The system also has an HDTV tuner for watching broadcast HD television, but you will have to supply your own antenna.
Vista Home Premium and Ultimate 32 bit are the two operating system options available. The OSs were just fine and all of the supplied software including the Alienware Command Center worked without issues.
Orion messenger bag:
You also get to opt for an Alienware’s new Orion messenger bag with the M17x Laptop. Given the above average size and weight of the device, having a bag that fits it well and is comfortable to use is important. The Orion has a main and a secondary inside compartment, and five external pouches. This bag is a great companion for the M17x and, the padding on the shoulder strap, as well as on the bag itself is welcome while carrying 15 pounds worth of equipment. The nylon material is thick, durable, and well-made, and the notebook compartment is well cushioned. The zippers are of good quality. We highly recommend opting for this bag to those of you purchasing the m17x.
The m17x Gaming Laptop from Alienware took a poky 1 minute and 23 seconds to boot. We attribute that sluggishness to the 5,400-rpm hard drive; it was able to copy 4.97GB worth of files in 2 minutes and 34 seconds (a rate of 33 MBps), which is quite good, but a 7,200-rpm drive would have provided quicker speeds. When it comes to gaming, you can expect upwards of 150 frames per second on Call of Duty 4 at a 1024 x 768 resolution. If you are still chipping away at that level 70 character on World of Warcraft, frame rates of over 200 fps are standard on the Area-51 m17x. The notorious resource hog, Crysis, is even playable at above 30fps on high graphics settings. Gaming performance of this magnitude is almost overkill. The Area-51 m17x easily outperforms the cheaper Gateway P-173XL FX and Asus G50V A1.
The Alienware M17x has two stereo speakers and two inch sub woofer. The audio quality is slightly above average for a laptop and they get reasonably loud. The most wanted low end is added by the sub-woofer. The acoustics on the whole is not the best around, but is not disappointing too.
Heat and Noise are two very important issues that are most often neglected. The cooling system is important for any gadget, but on a laptop packed with high powered components like the m17x, it is mission critical. And fortunately, the m17x’s system has taken care of the job. The device has several rather fans that draws air in from numerous perforations on the bottom with two additional air intakes under the palmrests. The entire back of the laptop has been lined with exhaust vents that throw out extraordinary amounts of hot air. Overall, the cooling system of Alienware Area-51does a remarkable job in keeping the two video cards, a high powered processor and two hard drives under control. When the M17x runs under continuous full load in excess of five hours, it experiences no issues. The top of the laptop does not get warm and the rear of it where the vents are, got a bit toasty because of all the hot air that is running above it. The cooling system of m17x is well designed and each video card has a dedicated heat sink and fan.
However, the downside to the Alienware Area-51 M17x’s effective cooling system is the noise that it creates. Even when the laptop is at idle state, the fans run fast and produce a distinct whine. And unsaid, under full load, the noise increases as more air moves out of the back, however, the good news is that, the whine does not intensify. So, this is not the kind of laptop you would want to be using where silence is important. So, the cooling system of the device just boils down to necessity or niceness. It is essential that a high tech gaming laptop like the m17x has an effective cooling system; hence, quietness takes the second place when it comes to functionality.
The Alienware Area-51 M17x comes with a 12 cell, 6600mAh battery pack. Having the screen dimmed down in power-save mode and wireless set off, the laptop provides just more than an hour of battery life. The power draw of this system is immense, and needless to say, this is not the laptop for you if you value battery time.
Warranty and Service:
Alienware offers its Area-51 M17x Laptop one year warranty for parts and labour. You can also get two or even three years extended warranty for some extra cost. It is disappointing to see Alienware only offering a one-year warranty as standard equipment on the m17x; for a machine that is so costly, we think a three-year warranty should be standard at the very least. The company also offers 24/7 technical support and on-site service.
The Alienware Area-51 M17x is certainly a remarkable gaming notebook and is certainly a clear step forward for the company in terms of design and performance. It is overloaded with top shelf equipment, especially the pair of Nvidia 9800M-GT video cards. It has the typical downsides associated with a portable desktop like loud cooling system, dismal battery life, and less warranty, but it does everything else well. It has a very steep starting price, and hence, is out of reach for most even though the baseline configuration has the components that make the system worth buying. For those who do have the kind cash for a system like this, you are getting an awesome machine that will get envious looks anywhere you go, but be prepared to sign a mortgage for it.
If the price of the Area-51 m17x intimidates you, take a look at the reasonably priced Gateway P-173X FX series or the Toshiba Qosmio X305 gaming laptop. They are both pretty powerful machines that retail for half the price of the m17x. You will not get the celebrated performance of Alienware, but you just might sleep a bit easier.
Alienware Area-51 M17x Laptop – Technical Specifications
|Model Name||Alienware Area-51 M17x Gaming Laptop|
|PC type||Gaming Laptop|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||16.1″ x 11.5″ x 2.1″|
|Available colours||Red, Black and Silver|
|PROCESSOR, MEMORY, STORAGE|
|Processor type||Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Duo Extreme|
|Clock speed||2.1 GHz|
|Data Bus Speed||800.0 MHz|
|Cache||3.0 MB, L2 cache|
|RAM installed||Up to 8 GB|
|RAM type||DDR2 @ 667MHz|
|Hard drive capacity||200 GB – 320 GB (5400 – 7200 rpm ), 128 GB SSD Serial ATA,
Up to 640 GB (5400 rpm), Up to 400 GB (7200 rpm), Up to 256 GB SSD
|Graphics, Display and Sound|
|Graphics Processor||GF 9800M GT, Quadro FX 3600M|
|Video chipset||GeForce 8600M GT 256MB, GeForce 8700M GT 512MB,
GeForce 8800M GTX 512MB SLI
|Display||WUXGA with Clearview Technology|
|Display resolution||1920 x 1200|
|System Lighting||Alienware® AlienFX® System Lighting|
|Audio Processing||External Creative X-Fi Xtreme Audio Card|
|Audio output type||Sound card|
|Mouse||Gaming Mouse – Razer Lachesis™ Mouse|
|Notebook Tuners and Remotes||Internal Digital/Analog (ATSC) MiniCard TV Tuner
with Express Card Media Center Remote Control
|Optical Drive||DVD DL SuperMulti, BD-ROM, BD-R|
|Data Link Protocol||Ethernet , Gigabit Ethernet , Fast Ethernet|
|Video Connections||1.0 x IEEE 1394 (FireWire) – RJ-45 , 1.0 x TOSlink optical audio – VGA ,
1.0 x USB 2.0 – USB 2.0 , 4.0 x Headphones , 1.0 x HDMI ,
1.0 x S-Video , 1.0 x CIR , 1.0 x Microphone ,
1.0 x Ethernet , 1.0 x Line-out , 1.0 x Display / video
|Data ports||2x FireWire 400, 3x USB 2.0 ports, 1x (Gigabit) LAN, ExpressCard/54|
|Audio Ports||Integrated Audio and Creative X-Fi Option|
|Integrated A/V Devices||Speakers, Mic, Line-Out, 2MP Webcam|
|Expansion Slots Total (Free)||7-in-1 Media Reader|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium (32- and 64-bit),
Windows Vista Ultimate (32- and 64-bit)
|Highlight features||Custom illuminated keyboard and lighting,
3nd HHD Option in MediaBay, TV-Tuner Option
|Battery technology||12 cell lithium ion|
|Estimated battery life (mfr)||66 minutes|
|Power||Vehicle AC Adapter – Belkin® AC Anywhere 300W
Vehicle Outlet Adapter
|Accessories||Alienware® Mesh Cap
Owner Identification Card
m17x Protective Cloth Sleeve
Area-51® m17x Keyboard Diagram Overlay
Area-51® m17x Smooth Mylar Touchpad
|WARRANTY AND SERVICE||One year and can be upgraded to three at an extra cost
AlienCare Toll-Free 24/7 Phone Support w/ Onsite Service