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

Test Settings

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 Graphics2 x AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5870 1 GB, CrossFire 700 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
GeForce Mobile GraphicsNvidia 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
  • Hmmm. Overpriced.
    Reply
  • wintermint
    wasabiman123I smell a comeback hehe
    Fixed... wtf is wrong with you..
    Reply
  • unclewebb
    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.
    Reply
  • gorillateets
    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.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    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...
    Reply
  • duk3
    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?
    Reply
  • braneman
    I like my m11x (i7 r2) sturdy plays most games except for the absolute bleeding edge of cpu throttled applications.
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    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.
    Reply
  • TheStealthyOne
    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.)
    Reply
  • cinergy
    GTX 480M looks like a big whimper compared to those Radeon dualies.
    Reply