Alienware’s m17x: Look and Feel
Of the four notebooks included in our roundup, Alienware’s Area-51 m17x is the most professionally put together. It’s all-black design and lighted Skullcap lid offer just a taste of how far gaming notebooks have come.
On the outside, the chassis’ lines are smooth. The ventilation screens in the front and back look similar to what you might find on the grill of a supercharged R-series Jag, be it the XK, XJ, or S-Type. Available bays sit flush with the notebook’s body, and each externally-accessible port lines up precisely, also flush to the chassis.
The 17” screen does not latch to the body when it’s closed, but there’s enough resistance upon opening the screen that you won’t have to worry about the body accidentally falling open as you carry the m17x around.
Once open, the Area-51 is turned on in much the same way as a PS3—with barely-there pressure on the power button, in this case an alien head. Though we despise touch pads, the m17x’s is at least well-integrated, laying flush with the keyboard palm rests. The full-sized keyboard is also welcome. And while the numeric keypad off to the side helps demonstrate just how much room there is on a 17” chassis, you’ll still find common functions like Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End sharing keys, unlike most desktop keyboards.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Alienware’s experience—if you want to call it that—is its AlienFX system lighting, which comes standard on the m17x. When you fire up the Command Center software and enter the AlienFX lighting controller’s setup, a graphical representation of the notebook lets you pick and choose colors for a number of different lit zones. What results is completely customizable lighting that goes beyond a conventional single-color scheme, and if you want something like this, Alienware is your only choice. The closest competitor is ASUS, which lets you control a handful of LED effects but doesn’t yet offer customizable colors.
Weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 pounds, the Area-51 m17x is no lightweight. However, everything about the machine is classy despite its gaming heritage. Solid construction is conveyed by parts that fit very well together. And everything—even down to the quality of the notebook’s onboard speakers—is clearly intended for a premium audience. Early on in the game, Alienware’s m17x is the notebook to beat.