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The (Not So) New Champion!

Alienware's M17x: Mobility Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire Is A Go
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It might have taken us a few weeks to find a notebook worthy of comparing to Alienware’s highest-model M17x, but we think it was worth the wait. This $3900 model outperformed its $4100 competitor in a wide range of applications, and that sets us up for a revealing bang-for-the-buck comparison.

Using the cheapest system in today’s comparison as a reference point (100% value), the M17x beats the X8100 by around 10% in performance-per-dollar. Things get far closer when we compare only game benchmarks, but Alienware faithful will look forward to even bigger gains when its parent company Dell finally releases a graphics driver that’s at least as new as its competitor’s (Ed.: there actually is a newer driver available to M17x owners, as of the end of last month). Alternatively, you can give AMD's Catalyst 10.8 package a shot. The one specific game benchmark that pointed out Alienware’s older validated driver was still completely playable at full resolution and details though.

And this is the point where people must begin arguing about features. The X8100 comes with an enormous 18.4” display, but a 16:9 widescreen ratio means it has little if any more surface area than the M17x’s 16:10 ratio 17” version. And while Eurocom buyers can still brag that their wider screens make small text easier to read, Alienware owners can counter that the extra 230,400 pixels enabled by the machine’s 1920x1200 display make it easier to edit photos.

Perhaps the most powerful argument in favor of the X8100 is its inclusion of USB 3.0. Those ports are so common on high-end laptops that the lack of such an important feature moving forward could be considered a mark against Alienware, overall. Yet, an even stronger argument can be made against the X8100’s lack of any ExpressCard slot. Alienware M17x owners could use theirs to add a USB 3.0 controller of course, but an even more significant “killer app” is the possible addition of a 3G ExpressCard modem. After all, who would want to leave a USB modem sticking out of a notebook as large and heavy as either of these?

And so Alienware at least matches its closest rival from the hardware perspective, while providing better overall performance, efficiency, and value. Our only regret is that we weren’t able to find a competing model for today’s review while this M17x unit still had its factory-fresh smell.

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