Alienware M17x R4 review
If there’s one thing absent from the Alienware M17x R4, it’s any real sign of Ivy Bridge’s improved efficiency. The CPU certainly runs cool – we never saw the core temperatures exceed 83 degrees, even after running at 100% load for several hours – but the huge 17.3in display and high-performance components take their toll on battery life.
The M17x R4’s 90Wh battery ran dry after only 3hrs 2mins in our light-use test, and taxing the CPU flat-out with our looping Cinebench test saw the Alienware expire after only 1hr 10mins. We’ll have to wait for an Ivy Bridge Ultrabook, or a more down-to-earth laptop to see if Intel’s new chip can really deliver on the battery life front.
Sensible isn’t a word that features in Alienware’s vocabulary, though. Every ounce of the M17x R4 is being geared towards high-end gaming performance, and it hard isn’t to warm to such an extrovert character. Fire up one of the latest titles, such as Diablo 3, and the Alienware delivers a full-bodied, luscious experience.
Our model came with the Full HD 17.3in panel option, and while colours are a little cold, the 621:1 contrast ratio and 298cd/m[sup]2[/sup] maximum brightness are plenty enough to make games really pop off the screen.
Audio, meanwhile, is hugely refined by laptop standards. With Klipsch speakers firing out of the glowing front grilles, audio is crisp, detailed and underpinned by only enough bass to make us hesitate before reaching for the headphones.
In the core areas, the M17x R4 also has it nailed. The backlit keyboard has a delightful soft-touch feel under the finger, and the keys have plenty of travel and a cushioned break at the end of the stroke – it’s a pleasure to type on. In addition, while few gamers will ever need to use the touchpad, it’s equally good. The discrete buttons are a welcome sight, and the wide touch area provides lag-free cursor control and responsive two-fingered pinching and scrolling.
Look around the M17x R4’s huge chassis, and you’ll see acres of space for connectivity. With four USB 3 ports, HDMI 1.4, mini-DisplayPort, D-SUB, Gigabit Ethernet, an SD card reader, an optical digital output, separate headphone and microphone jacks, and a dedicated headset output, there’s absolutely nothing lacking.
If there’s one minor quibble, it’s with the wireless – the single-band 802.11n Centrino chipset seems a little out of place on such a high-end laptop. We’d recommend shelling out the extra £15 for the killer Wireless-N upgrade with its triple stream and dual-band support.
Indeed, the sheer level of customisation on offer is astonishing. The base model starts at a reasonable sounding £1,300 inc VAT, and it’s easy to send the price soaring over the £2,000 mark by adding faster CPUs, dual hard drive setups, RAID arrays, SSD boot drives, swapping the AMD or Nvidia graphics, or upgrading to a 120Hz 3D-capable, Full HD display. As gaming laptops go, the Alienware M17x R4 is a pretty flexible beast.
Alienware’s M17x R4 is a heavyweight in every sense of the word. The Ivy Bridge processor delivers outstanding performance, the AMD Radeon HD 7970M is more than a match for the latest games and the gargantuan chassis just oozes quality from every port.
It isn’t cheap, but spend some time juidiciously sifting through the myriad customisation options and it’s possible to drop the price closer to the £1,500 mark. If you’re looking for a multimedia powerhouse to take the place of a bulky desktop PC, this Alienware machine is simply out of this world.
|Dimensions||304 x 45 x Unknownmm (WDH)|
|Travelling weight with extended battery||410.0kg|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3610QM|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel HM77|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,920|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,080|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics 4000, AMD Radeon HD 7970M|
|Graphics card RAM||2.00GB|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||60GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA/600|
|Hard disk||Samsung PM830 mSATA|
|Optical disc technology||Blu-ray reader|
|Optical drive||HL-DT-ST CA30N|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||yes|
|Wireless key-combination switch||no|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||1|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||1|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||4|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||yes|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||yes|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Audio chipset||SoundBlaster Recon3Di|
|Hardware volume control?||yes|
|Camera megapixel rating||2.1mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||3hr 2min|
|Battery life, heavy use||1hr 10min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||93fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.94|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 7|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition|