Making the Case for Bling

Despite every fiber of my being arguing to the contrary, I was unfortunately wholly won over by Alienware's aesthetic with the M17x R3. It's the age old conflict...you don't want something gaudy, but then you realize you can change the keyboard's backlighting to a wide variety of pretty colors. And dude...it even glows out of the vents. And the alien head on the lid, it glows! And you can configure the colors for all of these, choosing from pretty much the entire rainbow! Soon you feel like a gibbering moron and begin to question your own taste.

But there's something to the design of the M17x R3. First off, the entire unit is basically one color, a dark, gunmetal gray (though you can order yours in "nebula red.") The overwhelming majority of the surfaces of the M17x R3 are an incredibly comfortable rubberized plastic surface, with glossy plastic used sparingly and fairly intelligently deployed. The lid has soft contours, a choice that extends to every surface of the notebook.

When you flip it open, you'll see the first instance of gloss, but it isn't too alarming. The screen is a glossy panel, and rather than have a bezel there's simply a single glossy surface from edge to edge. It all winds up being fairly reflective which is no doubt going to disturb at least a few of you, but on a system targeted at gamers (read: consumers with disposable income) it's understandable. The only other glossy surfaces are around the speaker grilles in the front of the notebook, but these are unlikely to see any finger traffic and the mild accent is appropriate.

Honestly, it's when you get to the keyboard, media buttons, and touchpad that you really see Alienware blow Clevo out of the water. The keyboard on the M17x R3 is a very smart design, making effective use of the 17.3" form factor's ample real estate. It isn't cramped and the 10-key is appropriately standardized, and the whole thing is backlit (once again, you can choose the color of backlighting.) The keys also share the comfortable rubberized surface texture of the rest of the notebook. My only complaint here is that there's a little bit of flex under the keyboard that seems to correspond with the three different backlighting zones.

The touchpad is just as pleasant to use. Surface friction is just right, and the mouse buttons offer the appropriate amount of tactile feedback without being audible.

Ultimately the M17x R3 seems a little glitzy or gaudy at first, but actually using it and getting a feel for it pays dividends. There was some clear thought put into the user experience; configurable backlighting may seem silly, but it's one more way for the end user to personalize the notebook for him or herself. Given the overall solid build quality, powerful components, and comfortable keyboard, it's just one more thing that improves the experience...no corners were cut.

Introducing the Alienware M17x R3 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    That MBP has the same CPU and a GPU that is only a little bit slower. These aren't massive differences in performance here, but one has a much better keyboard, multitouch trackpad, real battery life, slimmer/lighter chassis, 16:10 display, etc etc.

    Bashing Alienware is like shooting fish in a barrel anyway. Lenovos are also great, if you're dead set against a Mac then at least give a reasonable alternative.
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    I take back what I said re: GPU performance, I got one of the numbers mixed up when checking on other sites. The Macbook Pro is surprisingly good for a gaming laptop, its great for Starcraft 2, Team Fortress 2, LoL, etc etc, but the Alienware can legitimately be a full desktop replacement if one was so inclined based on these numbers: http://www.notebookcheck.net/AMD-Radeon-HD-6970M.4...

    Its still not going to make me sell my SLI desktop PC, but its nice that the option is out there. :)
    Reply
  • Shinya - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Protip: intelligent computer users dont care about battery life on a GAMING/HIGH PERFORMANCE laptop. We all know these are supposed to be plugged in. These tend to be desktop replacements/lan machines.

    "Paying this kind of money and getting a bouncy keyboard should be illegal!"
    so should spending the same amount of money on a apple computer and getting dated hardware, crap cooling, and a fraction of software availability. All while labeling yourself an in insecure macf** in the process.

    Go back to Engadget you'll fit right in with the rest of your kind. Your Lord n Savior (Jobs) will be waiting for you.
    Reply
  • ganjha - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Don't poke the trolls. If you ignore them long enough they'll go somewhere else... Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    "intelligent computer users don't care about battery life on a GAMING/HIGH PERFORMANCE laptop"

    What total BS. Only an idiot wouldn't care about battery life on a laptop. If you have to plug it in, then it's not a desktop replacement, its a small form factor desktop with average performance and a $2500.00 price tag. Oh yeah - I forgot butt ugly.

    The MacBook Pro uses the same Sandy Bridge processors found on the Alienware systems.

    Yes, people complain about the heat while gaming on the MacBook Pro, but the Alienware in this review got same complaint. Obviously Dell doesn't have a magic solution for the heat either.

    The MacBook Pro can run Mac OS X *and* Windows 7 - therefore could run a much larger suite of applications than any PC ever could.

    Yes the Alienware has a couple better features, like the faster GPU option. But given all the pluses and minuses, I'd take the MacBook Pro every time. It simply is a better value for my $2500.00.

    If I'm a troll for thinking that, well at least I'm a troll that can back up my rant with facts. And not insane musings from insecure winf***s.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    So now you're thinking because Apple uses Sandy that the performance is the same? Or did I misread that. What do you mean by that statement so we're all clear. Let us all forget about the surrounding designs around the processor for argument sake.

    There is hot and there is hot hot. Not like your Sandy bridge comment.

    I can run Mac OS, why do you think I can't? And are we referring to raw install, emulated or VM? You do realize the difficulty in using a Mac OS on a non-Mac PC is right? Go have a chat with the VMWare dev team. Currently I have Windows 7, Redhat, Fedora, Unbuntu and XP SP3 available for my business use. I have absolutely no use of Mac OS for work or play. Absolutely zero of my business associates here or in China (contract manufacturing) has a Mac. So while I can use it, I have 0 need to use it. And if you have to ask why all the flavors of Linux then I'll just have to slap you silly.

    So for a high end laptop, in which most users pay to be able to play games much better, having a better GPU option is not such a big concern to you. Ok. Fine, that's fair. It's also fair that with all the +/- the user gets to choose the laptop of their liking. Cool. Value sure has its niches.

    I don't mind you choosing a MBP but please at least try to be reasonable and have some common sense in your comments. Just looks so redneck and childish...see, kinda like what I just said!
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    This is a gaming laptop not a general purpose system, and the MBP gets stomped in any relevant comparison. The 6750m it offers is less than half as fast as the alienware's 6970 (half the cores and slower clocks), the 6490 that's the baseline option is about 4.5x slower. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Actually, the 6870M is about twice as fast as the 6750M, and thus the 6970M is more like three times as fast as the 6750M. If you want a comparison, on the High quality gaming charts the 6750M would be around 5-15% faster than the GT 540M. (That's the line second from the bottom in most of the games... and that's not even running at 1080p, where the limited memory bandwidth on the GT 540M and 6750M becomes even more of a handicap.) Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    I would really like to see some gaming benchmarks from the 15" MBP under Windows, because a 3x increase in performance with the 6970m seems quite massive. I've tried Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Starcraft 2, and Bad Company 2 on a 2011 MBP. Not the most straining games by any means, but they were all very smooth from what I saw.

    Unfortunately notebookcheck.com is the only place I found stats on the 6750m, and their testing methodology isn't the best since they just aggregate random data from different hardware and displays that aren't necessarily the same: http://www.notebookcheck.net/AMD-Radeon-HD-6750M.4...

    Based on those benchmarks the difference seems to be under double, with the 6750m yielding about 40fps in Bad Company 2 with high settings while the 6970m gives about 65fps based on the results in this review.

    Again, the 6750m numbers can only be taken as ballpark since the rest of the machine specs are unknown. Again, too bad there aren't many 2011 MBP reviews out there with gaming benchmarks, it'd be interesting to see how well the medium end AMD GPUs stack up to the monster in the Alienware machine.
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    Well well well: http://www.notebookcheck.net/AMD-Radeon-HD-6970M.4...

    Such impressive numbers there. You're compromising size and battery life, but man that thing screams, truly a desktop replacement.
    Reply

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