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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  • Brad4 - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    In the above message I intended to complain about 16x9 screen resolutions. Unfortunately, if someone wants a really nice laptop with a 16x10 resolution, the macbook pro is the only option. I will probably purchase the 17" mbp and install win7. Reply
  • Uritziel - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    So for that 1080 -> 1200 small jump into the less common format, you're willing to live with the greatly reduced GPU and halved RAM, while paying separately for the Win 7 license? Those extra pixels must mean a lot to you. Too bad they'll drag the 6750M down even further... Reply
  • Brad4 - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    That is correct. Unfortunately, it is the only option I'm left with. Reply
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    Me too. It's not just a change of 1200 pixels - its a general reduction of the entire screen size. it feels like I'm looking through a slit with a 16x9 laptop. I'm not sure I want a MBP, but there's not too many other options out there now.
    I run a lot of VMs, and really need the vertical space.
    Reply
  • cjl - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Why not just get a nice external monitor for use most of the time? That gives you even more space and resolution (potentially) than the MBP, while retaining the performance advantage of the Alienware. Reply
  • Uritziel - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    I just figured, as a DTR, you could live w/ the 16:9 for the built-in monitor and just get a nice, external, 16:10, giant, productivity monitor. But, if that's not an option for your use case, I guess you're kinda stuck :\ Reply
  • Spazweasel - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    People who attach their self-worth and identity to what hardware they buy have no worth or importance of their own. Without the object of their hatred or the brand they've decided to ride the coattails of, they dry up and blow away.

    It's just hardware, dumbasses. The logo on it has no virtue or evil, no matter what that logo is. If it's evil you want, how about Dell's deliberate campaign of lies to cover up the extreme failure rate of their Optimus computers? Where's the outrage over that? Oh yeah, this isn't about truth. It's about shoring up a shattered self-esteem which actually deserves to be shattered. Haters gonna hate, and that's what makes them inferior.

    Impotence + income jealousy + never having done anything to be proud of = logo hater.
    Reply
  • k1ckass - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    I think you mean Optiplex, Optimus is an Nvidia technology... Reply
  • RoninX - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    I'm always impressed by the thoroughness of the Anandtech reviews compared to those of other popular tech blogs, and the M17x looks very nice to me (though I'd probably go with a smaller screen).

    One thing I would like to see in reviews of gaming/high-end laptops is an estimate of battery life while gaming. I know a lot of people use these as desktop replacements, but I already have a high-end gaming rig for home (i7-2600k + GTX570 + SSDs, etc.). However, I do a lot of traveling for business, and the only reason I would buy a gaming laptop is for playing games while waiting for flights (on battery) as well as at the hotel (on AC). This can turn "OMG, not another delay!" to "Oh well, back to gaming."

    I recently purchased a Sandy Bridge Dell XPS 15 L502x, so I'm not in the market right now, but I like to keep up with what's coming down the pike. While some people would say that it's impossible to play high-end games for any significant time on battery power, that's not true. I get around 90 minutes of gaming on my XPS 15, and I carry a spare battery, so that gives me up to 3 hours, which is usually enough to deal with layovers as well as airport delays.

    So, even though battery gaming time may be limited on any high-end laptop, the difference between, say, 90 minutes (one spare battery), 60 minutes (two spare batteries), and 30 minutes (five (!) spare batteries) can be significant. I would find this information very useful, and I'm guessing that others would as well.

    Thanks...
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - link

    Your request isn't unreasonable and I know Jarred's dabbled in pulling those kinds of numbers. The problem I've seen is that sometimes notebooks running on the battery, regardless of whatever the power setting is, don't perform quite as fast as they would if they were plugged into the wall. So you wind up having to add a second metric: you're testing gaming running time on the battery, and you're testing performance on the battery.

    Honestly I think anyone wanting to game while on battery power would be best served just buying a Llano-based notebook. Is it going to be as fast as a Sandy Bridge-based one? No, but it's going to last a heck of a lot longer. Jarred ran the Llano test unit through a loop of 3DMark06 to see how long it would run gaming, and he got nearly three hours of running time.
    Reply

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