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Alienware's M17x: Mobility Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire Is A Go
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The M17x was originally scheduled to go up against AVADirect’s Core i7-820XM notebook, but arrived with a faster Core i7-920XM processor. In order to make this a fair comparison, we held onto the system until Eurocom’s i7-940XM units arrived. Today, we get to see how well Alienware’s $3900 configuration fits between $3100 AVADirect and $4100 Eurocom competition.

Test System Configuration
Alienware M17x CPUIntel Core i7-920XM PGA988, 2.00-3.20 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
AVADirect W880CU CPUIntel Core i7-820QM PGA998, 1.73-3.06 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
Eurocom X8100 CPUIntel Core i7-940XM PGA988, 2.13-3.33 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
Alienware RAM2 x Samsung M471B5673FH0-CH9 (2 x 2 GB)
DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24, 4 GB Total
AVADirect RAM2 x Kingston KVR1333D3S9/2G (2 x 2 GB)
DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24. 4 GB Total
Eurocom RAM2 x Kingston KHX1333C7S3K2/4G (2 x 2 GB)
DDR3-1333 CAS 7-7-7-20 4 GB Total
Mobility Radeon
Graphics
2 x AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5870 1 GB, CrossFire
700 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
GeForce Mobile
Graphics
Nvidia GeForce GTX 480M 2 GB
425 MHz GPU Core, GDDR5-2400
Alienware Hard Drive2 x Seagate ST9500420AS, RAID 0
500 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
AVADirect Hard DriveCorsair CSSD-V128GB2-BRKT, 128 GB MLC, SATA 3Gb/s SSD
Eurocom Hard DriveCrucial RealSSD C300, 256 GB MLC, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerFSP 19 V 11.57 A (220 W) Power Block
14.8 V 4650 mAh (68.82 Wh) Battery
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 64-bit
GraphicsAlienware Version 8.692.2-100203a1-095371C-Dell
Eurocom Version 8.75-100527a-100755E-Clevo
AVADirect Version 257.07
Desktop Version 10.3
ChipsetIntel INF 9.1.1.1020


Each notebook manufacturer customizes its graphics drivers to fit the unique designs of its graphics modules. Though Alienware’s driver appears older than Eurocom’s, it was still the released version available at the time of our September tests. Its parent company Dell therefore takes the credit for any effect the lower-numbered driver has on gaming performance.

Bear in mind that AMD now offers universal drivers for its mobile products, following Nvidia's example. These aren't always guaranteed to work, though. On two different occasions, we've been unable to install the GeForce drives on Clevo-based notebook models. Most recently, this was the case with the GeForce GTX 480M tested here. You're of course welcome to try these universal packages when they work, but to keep our comparison even, we used the latest driver from each system vendor at the time of writing. Note that Alienware released a newer driver after testing on its unit was completed. With that said, you'll notice that Alienware already dominates the benchmarks, so performance can only get better from here.

We also retained the desktop performance data from our first Mobility Radeon 5870 review to see if high-end gaming notebooks can reach the performance expectations of mainstream gamers. This is no trivial feat, since notebook components must be designed to generate minimum heat. The desktop platform is based on a Core i7-920 CPU, Radeon HD 5850, and 6 GB of DDR3-1333 CAS 7.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2Campaign, Act III, Second Sun (45 sec. FRAPS)
Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 4x AA
DiRT 2Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 4x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of PripyatCall Of Pripyat Benchmark version
Test Set 1: High Preset, DX11 EFDL, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, 4x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion:9.0.2.25 x64
Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min
Default format AAC
HandBrake 0.9.4Version 0.9.4, convert first .vob file from The Last Samurai (1 GB) to .mp4, High Profile
TMPGEnc 4.0 XPressVersion: 4.7.3.292
Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX Codec 6.9.1Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4
Quarter-pixel search
Xvid 1.2.2Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS4Version: 11.0 x64, Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image
Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 9.0Version: 9.0.663, Virus base: 270.14.1/2407, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
7-ZipVersion 4.65: Format=Zip, Compression=Ultra, Method=Deflate, Dictionary Size=32 KB, Word Size=128, Threads=8
Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1.0 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2010Version 2010.1.16.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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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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