Roundups of any sort are always tricky. Matching apples to apples is rarely possible, and the brand loyalists are always quick to defend their build of choice. So we made this roundup easy. We reached out to some of the most prolific names in gaming notebooks and asked them to send us their best and brightest example of a gaming machine. Price be damned, we wanted to see some stunning performance numbers.
Four vendors—Alienware, ASUS, Eurocom, and Killer Notebooks—responded to our call. The other big names you might expect to see in a cage match like this all came up with reasons to pass. Dell preferred to have Alienware represent its best efforts (R.I.P. XPS?). VoodooPC’s Envy is armed with Intel’s GMA X3100 integrated graphics core and is not suitable for gaming in any capacity. Falcon Northwest wanted to wait for new graphics adapters, and though they became available toward the tail end of our testing, the show had to go on. And OCZ’s Hypersonic brand didn’t have anything available at retail. Nevertheless, we still managed to round up a motley crew of performance-oriented systems at a number of different price points.
The first, Alienware’s m17x, got out of the gate before anyone else with Nvidia’s new GeForce 9800M GT graphics adapters—in SLI, thanks to a bridge chip mated to Intel’s PM965 chipset. It also boasts 1 TB of storage, a Core 2 Extreme CPU, and perhaps the classiest chassis design we’ve ever seen. Last month we took a look at Alienware’s smaller m15x. While that notebook was a solid piece of kit, the Area-51 m17x is decidedly more tenacious in its approach to mobile performance.
Next up, ASUS’ G71 represents the first Centrino 2 laptop design to land in our labs. Its hardware manifesto is significantly more mainstream than the configuration that Alienware sent in. However, there’s something to be said for a fully modern notebook with the latest power-saving technology. We expect the G71 to serve up a better balance between price, performance, and battery life.
Eurocom’s exotically-named Montebello is the third offering in our line of potent portables. Smaller than the other three contenders with a 15.4” LCD, it effectively hides Intel’s fastest dual-core mobile processor, the latest Centrino 2 platform, and an Nvidia GeForce 9800M GT graphics card inside a fairly pedestrian shell. This one’s probably the biggest surprise in the bunch.
Finally, Killer Notebooks submitted its own weapon of mass destruction, the Odachi. Laden with a 3 GHz desktop processor, two of the fastest mobile GeForces in SLI, three 7,200 RPM hard drives striped together, and 4 GB of DDR2 memory, it’s the gun in this knife fight. But you do give up some aesthetic appeal in favor of all that muscle.
Read on as we introduce the hardware in each notebook, get hands-on with look and feel, and benchmark each machine in our standard suite of tests.