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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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Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    scook9 , September 28, 2010 2:31 PM
    One huge facet of this laptop that was completely not mentioned is the RGBLED screen. Outside of the IPS DreamColor screens offered by HP in their Elitebooks this is easily THE SINGLE BEST SCREEN on a laptop (pretty much, ever). Screen quality should always be included in reviews because the screen is what you look at the whole time regardless of other hardware.

    unclewebbWhen you review a product like this, why not go over to the Notebook Review forums and ask the experts there about the M17x R2? The Core i7 Extreme mobile processors are absolute beasts when they have been unlocked and fully overclocked. The turbo throttling that is common to the Core i7 mobile CPUs when loaded can easily be corrected by raising the turbo TDP/TDC values for a simple yet significant increase in performance. Do your readers a favor and show everyone what the M17x is really capable of. With the help of a program called ThrottleStop, you can completely transform the performance of these CPUs.

    I tried to tell you in the forums, people here are not rational about notebooks like we are lol. I could show them that I bench my M17x at 4 GHz on a quad core and they would still be unimpressed and tell me I am stupid because it is huge and has no battery life and I wasted all my money

    hotsacomanHmmm. Overpriced.

    Compared to what? The Clevo was more.

    TheStealthyOneAlienware? No thanks.Although you definitely are paying a superflous price premium, you're at least getting power (the same can't be said for MACs.)

    How superfluous was it? This entire laptop uses less power than a Desktop 5870 (by itself, not counting screen, motherboard, drives, ram, cpu, etc). Don't expect it to cost the same. Do I even need to mention the portability?

    americanherosandwichOutdated within a year.

    And what desktop is not? That statement means nothing in the computer world and you should know that.

    Shame this will get thumbed down so no one will see it :( 
  • 10 Hide
    wintermint , September 28, 2010 4:26 AM
    wasabiman123I smell a comeback hehe


    Fixed... wtf is wrong with you..
Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2010 4:12 AM
    Hmmm. Overpriced.
  • 10 Hide
    wintermint , September 28, 2010 4:26 AM
    wasabiman123I smell a comeback hehe


    Fixed... wtf is wrong with you..
  • 3 Hide
    unclewebb , September 28, 2010 4:40 AM
    When you review a product like this, why not go over to the Notebook Review forums and ask the experts there about the M17x R2? The Core i7 Extreme mobile processors are absolute beasts when they have been unlocked and fully overclocked. The turbo throttling that is common to the Core i7 mobile CPUs when loaded can easily be corrected by raising the turbo TDP/TDC values for a simple yet significant increase in performance. Do your readers a favor and show everyone what the M17x is really capable of. With the help of a program called ThrottleStop, you can completely transform the performance of these CPUs.
  • 8 Hide
    gorillateets , September 28, 2010 4:49 AM
    It'd be nice if Tom's would review some of the more midrange gaming laptops from around $750-$1000. I got a great deal on an Asus G60 with respectable specs and can run any modern game at decent settings. Who here can really throw down that much cash on a laptop? Either way, nice review.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , September 28, 2010 4:53 AM
    gorillateetsIt'd be nice if Tom's would review some of the more midrange gaming laptops from around $750-$1000. I got a great deal on an Asus G60 with respectable specs and can run any modern game at decent settings. Who here can really throw down that much cash on a laptop? Either way, nice review.

    It's a tough problem because I wouldn't game on a weak GPU. Since I can't afford any notebook over $2000, I wouldn't game on a notebook. Since I wouldn't game on a notebook, I went in the opposite direction with a notebook that has integrated graphics and around eight hours of battery life. Of course, I also have desktops...
  • -3 Hide
    duk3 , September 28, 2010 5:07 AM
    Bang for buck at $4000? Not so much.
    The problem with big heavy expensive laptops is that a desktop does everything they do and better at a third of the price.
    How much are you really going to be taking a $4000 laptop out of your house?
  • 2 Hide
    braneman , September 28, 2010 5:25 AM
    I like my m11x (i7 r2) sturdy plays most games except for the absolute bleeding edge of cpu throttled applications.
  • 8 Hide
    tacoslave , September 28, 2010 5:36 AM

    build kickass desktop for 3k and spend 1 k on this http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834152207

    and laugh at people who bought this.
  • 2 Hide
    TheStealthyOne , September 28, 2010 5:39 AM
    Alienware? No thanks.

    Although you definitely are paying a superflous price premium, you're at least getting power (the same can't be said for MACs.)
  • 7 Hide
    cinergy , September 28, 2010 6:19 AM
    GTX 480M looks like a big whimper compared to those Radeon dualies.
  • 6 Hide
    rohitbaran , September 28, 2010 6:19 AM
    TheStealthyOneAlienware? No thanks.Although you definitely are paying a superflous price premium, you're at least getting power (the same can't be said for MACs.)

    What do you want to say? Your second statement is way out of context of the first!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2010 6:37 AM
    Never but it i have the m17x r2 and dell has replaced the motherboard and both the video cards and thats only in the first one i had, they gave me a new laptop and it had the same xfire flicking problem even after the vbios update and newer drivers disable vsync and anyone that has played games on it will find out even if you don't notices it at first it will give you a headache i have tested world of war craft hawx css tf2 the only way to fix it is to disable xfire great job dell lost my business.
  • 0 Hide
    americanherosandwich , September 28, 2010 6:58 AM
    Outdated within a year.
  • -3 Hide
    Luscious , September 28, 2010 7:20 AM
    "...more significant “killer app” is the possible addition of a 3G ExpressCard modem."

    Dude, are you still living in 2008??? Somebody throw a MiFi at this guy's head!
  • 3 Hide
    pinkfloydminnesota , September 28, 2010 9:58 AM
    the 1500$ asus with one 5870 still works for me
  • 9 Hide
    madass , September 28, 2010 11:46 AM
    rohitbaranWhat do you want to say? Your second statement is way out of context of the first!


    The average $3K mac has the features of a $1.5K notebook.
  • 0 Hide
    amstech , September 28, 2010 12:35 PM
    A 5870M is equal to a 5770.
    So, this unit is about equal to a 5870, or around there.
  • 1 Hide
    Maziar , September 28, 2010 12:37 PM
    Great review
    Waiting for Clevo X7200 review with 2 GTX 480Ms(compared to 2 5870s)
  • 2 Hide
    mchuf , September 28, 2010 2:10 PM
    CrashmanIt's a tough problem because I wouldn't game on a weak GPU. Since I can't afford any notebook over $2000, I wouldn't game on a notebook. Since I wouldn't game on a notebook, I went in the opposite direction with a notebook that has integrated graphics and around eight hours of battery life. Of course, I also have desktops...


    I too have the Asus G60 (the Best Buy model). And it comes with an i5, and a NVidia GTX360M. Not that shabby and I've been able to play Just Cause 2 and Metro 2033 just fine on (not too) reduced settings in DX10. I can play plenty of newer games at max settings. It's not a beast like the Alienware, but it works fine for gaming on the road. The M17X is basically a desktop replacement (that you can take from room to room). And I would rather have a desktop instead of a laptop in that price range.
  • 0 Hide
    theblade , September 28, 2010 2:23 PM
    CrashmanIt's a tough problem because I wouldn't game on a weak GPU. Since I can't afford any notebook over $2000, I wouldn't game on a notebook. Since I wouldn't game on a notebook, I went in the opposite direction with a notebook that has integrated graphics and around eight hours of battery life. Of course, I also have desktops...


    It would be quite proper to get to that conclusion in a review of a couple midrange gaming laptops from around $750-$1000 with all the benchmarks and charts to back it up, so that it get´s clarified, you're probably right but that's what a hardware review and tech news site is for.
    It would be nice to see some numbers that will help us see just how much of a limitation would that weak GPU impose.
    Great article by the way. Keep up the good work!

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