Gaming Performance

Before we even get to the results, I'll tell you right now...most of these are going to feel fairly academic. They do even to me. Gaming on a GPU in the class of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580M or AMD Radeon HD 6970M/6990M honestly makes my desktop and its GeForce GTX 580 feel at least a little overkill. You really are dealing with desktop-level gaming performance at this point, and our results with the M18x will attest to that. With a 1080p maximum resolution (unless you use external displays), we can't strain the GPUs enough to really make them sweat.

You can see our "high" present isn't a big deal for even a single NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580M, oftentimes allowing higher performance than the AMD Radeon HD 6970M even while stepping up the resolution one notch. There are also a few games where we start to hit CPU limits (e.g. DiRT 2 and StarCraft II), though for the most part there's still a separation between the 900p and 1080p SLI results. Not bad at all. Now let's make the SLI work for its supper.

At our "ultra" preset it's really going to depend on the games you play. For games like Metro 2033 or STALKER, the extra GPU means the difference between a smooth gaming experience and a stuttering slideshow. Other games however already have largely enough power on tap, and the GTX 580M for the most part surpasses a Radeon HD 6970M that was still perfectly fine. Meanwhile, CrossFired 6970Ms and SLI'ed GTX 580Ms trade blows at the top of the charts and Left 4 Dead 2 and DiRT 2 seem to be largely CPU limited on the slower i7s.

Application and Futuremark Performance Heat, Noise, and Battery Life
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  • rsandoz - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    What about the case?

    I believe the m17xr3 is plastic.

    The m18x has an aluminum case. I actually own this with 6790 CF. This one was of the deciding factors as I have own the m17xr1 and m17xr2. When I saw the r3 had a plastic case much like my m11xr1 with cracking hinge problem, I decided against it. Didn't want to talke a change on cracking hinges again. Probably not the case, but an aluminum case feels much more solid.
    Reply
  • rsandoz - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    <<Wish I could edit posts. Spell corrected.>>

    What about the case?

    I believe the m17xr3 is plastic.

    The m18x has an aluminum case. I actually own one with 6790 CF. This one was of the deciding factors as I have owned the m17xr1 and m17xr2. When I saw the r3 had a plastic case much like my m11xr1 with cracking hinge problem, I decided against it. Didn't want to take a chance on cracking hinges again. Probably not the case, but an aluminum case feels much more solid.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    The M18x's case only has an aluminum plate on the lid and aluminum trim, at least as far as I can tell. I honestly didn't find the build quality to be radically different enough from the M17x R3 to merit mentioning. Reply
  • rsandoz - Tuesday, October 04, 2011 - link

    My main cause for concern was the "after 6 or so months factor". Does the m17xr3 have a cracking hinge issue after 6 months. I had an m11xr1 and after 8 months the hinges cracked internally. Felt like the ultimate hooptie laptop. Plus the plastic case has more scratches on it than my m17xr2. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    Seeing how this is pretty much a desktop in most terms, I would like to know what kind of PSU is shipped with the unit. Also, could you provide power consumption while gaming/stressing the system with the different setups? I'd be interested in the difference between the nVidia and AMD GPUs used here. :-)
    Otherwise, a good review and a monster of a laptop. Nothing for me though.
    Reply
  • Ushio01 - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    Buy the Core i7-2860QM instead it has same base clock with higher turbo boost and a 10W lower TDP for $500 less. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    That doesn't make a review "meaningless". The TDP is simply maximum power; in most loads you won't hit that level. As for saving $500, sure, go for it, but remember you'd also give up overclocking of the CPU. If you're already willing to spend around $3500 for this sort of notebook, what's another $500 to boost CPU speeds from 2.5GHz base and 3.6GHz max to 3.5GHz base and 4.2GHz max. With GTX 580M SLI, you'll probably actually realize a performance improvement from the CPU overclock in games. Reply
  • Ushio01 - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    Sorry I never meant the review was worthless in itself just the out of date CPU. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    Understood, but I'm pointing out that the overclockable CPU might be worth the upgrade price, at least if you're willing to spend this much in the first place (I'm not). The i7-2860QM has the same base clock, but unfortunately the laptop Alienware sent is using the earlier i7-2920XM instead of the newer i7-2960XM. Either way, the XM model CPUs will get you unlocked multipliers and the ~$500 28x0QM chips won't. Reply
  • aznofazns - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure you'd run into any significant CPU bottlenecks with a stock i7-2860M, though.

    The argument that the $3500 already spent justifies the additional $500 for the unlocked multiplier doesn't really make sense. The $3500 is a sunk cost. It's already gone and shouldn't affect the decision to spend more on the CPU.

    The real question is... what is the marginal benefit of the 2920XM over the 2860M? Would you really be seeing significantly higher framerates? I'd say probably not. The dual GTX580M's in SLI would still be the bottleneck for gaming at 1080p, unless I'm mistaken.
    Reply

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