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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  • scook9 - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Also, when are you all getting an M18x to review so we can finally knock that ugly x7200 off the top of your charts? ;) Reply
  • Bolas - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    I'm currently in the market for a high end gaming laptop, so this review was very helpful to me.

    I've ruled out Clevo x7200 due to the high noise levels that would annoy my wife too much.

    That leaves Asus G74SX-3DE, Clevo P170HM, and Alienware (m17x or m18x).

    Asus doesn't really have a good way to upgrade the cpu or gpu, just the base model. Clevo has a lot of good features, but the keyboard is pretty crappy and this may be a deal breaker for me. Alienware has rumors of poor customer service, and this is a concern.

    I was glad to read your review of the m17x to find that it is actually a good machine. That was helpful to me.
    Reply
  • scook9 - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Customer service is actually great, all of the Alienware machines have Next Business Day on-site repair and it is not an exaggeration. It is a shame that warranty does not get mentioned in reviews as this alone sets the Alienwares above the clevos with depot only service.

    Alienware/Dell customer service just takes patience when dealing with the idiots on the phone, if you can take it though, you will be well taken care of.

    Go to forums.notebookreview.com if you want a huge wealth of good information on the Alienwares or Clevos or Asus
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    I've got a P170HM and its fantastic. I put a 2920XM, a GTX 485 and an Intel 510 SSD but the machine is now my main computer and there's no going back.

    I've got an ultraportable for mobile though, you don't really wanna carry a beast like this (or the Alienware...the brick is bigger than my ultraportable lol)
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    At least you could do the logical thing: pick a 750GB HDD, then when it arrives, buy a nice SSD for the other bay.

    You're right though, the options are bizarre. RAID 0 in a laptop?
    Reply
  • hammer256 - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Yeah, Dell seems to like raid 0 in their large notebooks, even the Precision mobile workstations. Bizarre indeed... Reply
  • Topweasel - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Well not so much Raid O, but specifically Raid. To support Mirroring (more important) might as well support Raid 0 as well. Reply
  • stancilmor - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Very simple concept: Locate the GPU, the Processor, and the memory behind the LCD and use an aluminum cover as part of the heat sink. I'm fairly certain a fan will still be required, so if thickness allows place the fan in lid too and vent out the top. If thickness doesn't allow, then some sort duct will be required to get the air from the base up to the lid.

    And all that extra space in the base can now be used for a larger battery that doesn't stick out.

    The hot components are up and away from your lap.
    The heat is vented up and away.
    A larger battery in the base helps balance the weight shift and provides longer run times.

    Only concern, will all that heat wreck the display (color shift, early death, etc)?

    I think we can stand the extra thickness, because it's a real pain having some kind of thick lap insulator, so the laptop doesn't burn your legs.

    I'm in the market for a good gaming laptop, but one just doesn't seem to exist. Either they are too hot, have a bad screen, a bad keyboard, too heavy, or too expensive. I can see spending extra to get everything right, but when the prices are above $2000 and there are still compromises...what gives.
    Reply
  • scook9 - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Pretty much just described an AIO with a battery base lol.......it would be WAY to top heavy if they did that by the way and user serviceable parts like hard disk and ram are no longer an option....

    In general....this would be a TERRIBLE design for a laptop
    Reply
  • stancilmor - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    Not quite an All-in-One; harddrive, all the I/O and even the memory could be in the base. I just wasn't sure the memory could be located that far away for signal integrity reasons.

    As for user upgradability, I agree this would give up CPU and GPU upgrades. I think RAM could still be user upgradable.
    Reply

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