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Alienware's M17x: Mobility Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire Is A Go

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
2 x AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5870 1 GB, CrossFire
700 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
GeForce Mobile
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
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

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: 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:
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)
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: 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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