Alienware M11x R2: A Legend Rebornby Jarred Walton on July 9, 2010 4:05 AM EST
Gaming Comparison at Recommended Settings
Our goal here was to find a balance of image quality and performance for each title. In general, we turned up the details until the M11x could no longer break 30FPS, using the predefined quality settings in each game. You saw the results of this investigation on the previous page, so now let's compare the new and old M11x at reasonable detail settings. Rather than a chart we've decided to stick with a table format for this section, showing the percent improvement of the M11x R2 over the original in the various titles (or the drop in performance in a few titles).
|M11x R1 vs. R2 Gaming|
|Game Title||M11x R1||M11x R2||Percentage|
|Batman: Arkham Asylum (Very High)||59||63||107%|
|Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Medium)||21.6||31.6||146%|
|Crysis: Warhead (Mainstream)||31.9||32.5||102%|
|DiRT 2 (Medium)||31.2||34.8||112%|
|Empire: Total War (High)||34.5||32.4||94%|
|Far Cry 2 (High DX10)||29.4||30||102%|
|Left 4 Dead 2 (Very High)||44.2||43.2||98%|
|Mass Effect 2 (Max)||39.9||37.2||93%|
|STALKER: Call of Pripyat (Med. + Full Dyn.)||57.3||57.5||100%|
If the differences on the previous page were underwhelming, things are if anything worse at these "reasonable" settings. Only Bad Company 2 shows a noticeable increase, and again this is very likely as much to do with drivers as with the CPU upgrade. DiRT 2 shows a borderline noticeable improvement of 12%, and everything else is under 10% and not likely to be noticed without running benchmarks. If you were hoping the upgraded CPU would be a boon, clearly that is not the case—at least not in games. We'll see where the i7-640UM really helps once we get to the application benchmarks
Also, we should make note that the original M11x results are using the overclock to a 166MHz FSB (1.60GHz CPU), which definitely helps it keep up. The M11x R2 also features overclocking, and we'll look at that in a moment, but Intel's Turbo Boost actually tends to do a better job of maximizing performance in most cases. Ultimately, then, the M11x R2 isn't much better as a gaming platform if we look at just the raw numbers.
We do need to make note of the advantage of Optimus again, however, as it provides a couple benefits. Automatic switching between the IGP and dGPU is nice, and being able to switch without blocking because of running applications is good as well. However, the real benefit to Optimus is that NVIDIA is committed to providing driver updates through their Verde driver program. Alienware did provide at least one driver update from the original 189 series driver to a 197 series driver, but NVIDIA has moved to a 256 series driver. While the changes to date generally don't affect the M11x, at some point we will have new games that need a new driver to run properly. Will Alienware still be providing driver support for the M11x R1? We can't say, but if you have an Optimus system it won't matter as you can get the regular driver updates from NVIDIA. In that sense, the M11x R2 is definitely a win for gaming, even if it's not substantially faster.