Alienware M15x - Features and Specifications

Alienware m15x Configuration Options
Processor Core 2 Duo T8100
Core 2 Duo T8300
Core 2 Duo T9300
Core 2 Duo T9500
Core 2 Extreme X9000
Chipset Intel GM965 + ICH8-M
Memory 2x512MB DDR2-667
2x1024MB DDR2-667
2x2048MB DDR2-667
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT
GeForce 8700M GT
8800M GTX
Quadro FX 3600M
GMA X3100 BinaryGFX IGP
Display 15.4" WXGA+ (1440x900)
15.4" WUXGA (1920x1200)
Hard Drive 5400RPM: 160GB, 400GB, 500GB
7200RPM: 120GB, 160GB, 250GB, 320GB
Solid State: 128GB
Hard Drive (Smart Bay) 5400RPM: 400GB, 500GB
7200RPM: 120GB, 250GB, 320GB
Optical Drive 8x DVDRW (Optional LightScribe)
Blu-ray Reader/DVDRW
2x Blu-ray Recorder/DVDRW
Battery 9-Cell 56WHr
6-Cell 41WHr (Optional Smart Bay)
Networking Integrated Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 4965AGN WiFi
Bluetooth v2.0
Audio 2-Channel HD Audio (2.0 Speakers)
Front Side I/R Receiver
Left Side Power Connector
Gigabit Ethernet
2 x USB 2.0
Headphone and Microphone
Smart Bay (Optical Drive)
Right Side HDMI
1 x USB 2.0
FireWire 1394B
ExpressCard/54
Flash Reader (MS/Pro, MMC, SD)
Kensington Lock
Back Side CPU Cooling Exhaust
GPU Cooling Exhaust
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
Windows XP Professional 32-bit
Dimensions 14.55" x 10.73" x 1.3"-1.70" (WxDxH)
Weight 7 lbs (single HDD)
Extras Fingerprint scanner
2.0MP webcam
AlienFX Illuminated Keyboard
Ripley or Skullcap top panel
BinaryGFX (Switch between discrete and IGP)
1GB Turbo Memory (Optional)
Warranty 1-year standard
$200 2-year
$300 3-year
Price Starts at $1499 for 1GB RAM, 8600M, and T8100
Maximum price exceeds $5500, not counting peripherals and software

In terms of features, the m15x comes loaded with a lot of interesting options. There's all the standard stuff that you would expect to find in any current notebook: wireless networking, a webcam, and all the various components. Several options set the Alienware m15x apart from other offerings. Some of these are nice if not revolutionary, like the option to have a Blu-ray drive installed or Firewire 1394B. (Ed: Yes, that's right: you can hardly find it on a desktop motherboard, but Alienware put it in their laptop. Kudos!) Somewhat more interesting is that users can choose between four different discrete GPUs: 8600M GT, 8700M GT, 8800M GTX, or Quadro FX 3600M - the latter being the professional version of 8800M GTX. If you want a gaming notebook, you will definitely want the 8800M GTX, as the 8600M/8700M are significantly less powerful.

To go along with your graphics choice, Alienware offers two different LCD options. The less expensive is a 1440x900 WXGA+ LCD, but if you like high resolutions and a small pixel pitch you should spend money for the 1920x1200 WUXGA display. We asked Alienware to send us the higher resolution display, so that's what we'll be testing. You can also choose between five different Penryn Core 2 Duo processors (T8100 through X9000), eight different hard drives (120 GB through 500 GB, along with a 128 GB SSD), four different optical drives (DVDR, Blu-ray reader plus DVDR, or Blu-ray recorder), amount of memory (1 GB, 2 GB, or 4 GB), and operating system (Vista Home Premium, Vista Ultimate, or you can even choose to stick with Windows XP).

Those are the more typical features and upgrade options; so what sets this laptop apart from other competitors? For one, the expansion bay for the optical drive is a "Smart Bay" that can also accept a second hard drive or an additional battery. We used to see this sort of thing on a lot of laptops, but for whatever reason most modern laptops don't offer this flexibility. Having a second "internal" hard drive can be nice, though we certainly wouldn't deem it a critical feature. The ability to add a second battery, however, is something that can be extremely useful. Sure, putting the battery in place of the Blu-ray drive means that you can't watch DVDs/BRDs while you're on the road, but if you happen to have any x264 content for example or if you just want to do normal business work, ~50% more battery life is definitely useful.

The other major innovation that the m15x supports goes right along with the option to extend battery life by adding a second battery. We've talked about it in the past, and there are other companies working on similar solutions, but this is the first laptop we've tested that includes the option to shut off the discrete graphics and use integrated graphics. The m15x includes both an Intel GMA X3100 along with a discrete NVIDIA graphics card - in our case the 8800M GTX. Considering how much power the 8800M GTX can use, if you don't plan to play games when you're using the battery, the option to shut off the discrete graphics is awesome. What's not quite so awesome is that you still need to reboot the computer, but until we see some of the new G45 notebooks with NVIDIA discrete graphics (which are supposed to allow users to switch between GPUs was only a five second delay), this is about as good as it gets.

Alienware m15x – Overview Alienware m15x – Thoughts and Summary
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  • Th3G4mbl3r - Saturday, August 30, 2008 - link

    can you also laptop from killernotebook.com into the review as well? they are similar to the sager systems in the sense that they are also custom built based on ODM chassis by Mark from killernotebook. I am keen on looking at some head on comparisons for those with the rest of the field. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    It's difficult to properly evaluate service and support, but since all three companies offer the same Clevo D901C notebook seen in this review, consider this configuration:

    1920x1200
    Q9550
    2x9800M GT
    2x2GB RAM
    3x320GB HDD in RAID 5
    Blu-ray Recorder
    3-year Warranty

    Sager NP9262: $4538.00
    AVADirect D901C: $4659
    Killer Notebooks Odachi: $5174

    There's no ability to select a warranty at KillerNotebooks.com (it's 1-year according to the "About Us" page), and the site layout does not instill confidence. The support section doesn't even list 8800M or 9800M drivers for the Odachi (apparently misspelled "Odach" in various locations). I'm definitely not going to recommend spending $500 or $600 more to get the same notebook with a lesser warranty.
    Reply
  • SpacePope - Saturday, August 30, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the review, this is a good start. I've been researching gaming laptops myself lately because I plan on buying one soon. From what I've seen so far, the Asus G50V-A2 seems to have the most bang for the buck. Can you add this laptop to the review?

    Core 2 Duo T9400 2.53Ghz
    15.4" WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050)
    4GB DDR2
    2 x 7200rpm 200GB HD in raid
    Blu-ray drive
    NVIDIA GeForce 9700M GT (512MB VRAM DDR3)

    All for only $1899 on newegg (and I'm sure you can find it on sale somewhere).

    Personally, I think alienware is VERY over priced and a horrible value. They even use slower 667Mhz ram and last generation video cards. I've never heard anything good about their customer service. You can easily spend $1000 more on the alienware and get a worse laptop than the Asus. The gateway's are a good deal (and tempting) but I want a 15.4" screen, not 17". Finally, I don't know or trust Sager yet.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, August 30, 2008 - link

    I've requested a couple ASUS laptops, so we'll see. Outside of the 15.4" part, I'd rate the Gateway higher in every area. However, form factor is a pretty major consideration. I expect the 9700M GT will be around 65-75% of the performance of the P-7811, so with a lower maximum resolution it should run pretty well.

    As for Sager, they have been selling laptops (with a moderate focus on enthusiast models) for over 20 years - since 1985. I would have no problem recommending them as a company. As such, the NP2096 is one option (15.4" 1680x1050, 9600M GT, P9500 CPU, 4GB RAM, and 320GB HDD for ~$1550). For more gaming performance, check out the NP8660. It's more expensive than the ASUS, the the 9800M GT is about twice as fast as the 9700M GT I'd guess. It actually looks quite similar to the m15x in terms of specs, for a lot less money. $2300 for a nearly top-end config. Too bad there's no Smart Bay battery, and I don't know if you can disable the discrete GPU.
    Reply
  • Voldenuit - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    " this is the first laptop we've tested that includes the option to shut off the discrete graphics and use integrated graphics."

    Cough. A bit behind the times on laptops, are we? Several Asus and Sony models have featured this already, going back as far as 2 years ago.

    The Montevina refresh to the thinkpad T series (T400, T500) allow you to switch between integrated and discrete (Radeon 36xx) graphics on-the-fly in Vista. Now we're talkin'!
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    "first laptop we've tested" says it all. I know perfectly well that others have done it, and I mention (repeatedly) that the Centrino 2 offerings are supposed to improve that functionality. Now I just need to get the appropriate companies to send laptops for review, which is always the difficult part. Still, the feature is far more useful IMO when you're using it with high-end GPUs. Switching between 8400M and IGP isn't as critical as switching between 8800M/9800M and IGP. Reply
  • Jumpman23 - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Another great "budget" gaming laptop would be the Asus G50V. The specs show the price to performance ratio is very good and comes equipped with 9700M GT. I would love to see a review on it. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I would like to mention that the Sager seems to use close to what A 'medium power' Desktop would use for power consumption(minus the monitor). That is *if* these figures you're showing are accurate compared to my readings (or vice versa).

    Let me define a 'medium power' desktop system:

    ABIT IP35-E
    Intel E6550 @ 2.8Ghz
    2x2GB A-DATA 1.8v DDR2-800
    eVGA 9600GT 512MB
    1x DVD/CD burner(Liteon if applicable)
    4x HDDs (all Seagate if applicable)
    Antec Earthwatts 500

    Again, to be fair, what I measured was just the hardware in the case, so there are no LCD/CRT monitor figures counted in. At idle the above system uses 124-125W. while web surfing and doing other non intensive tasks the system above uses 128W-135W. With a full load on the CPU using orthos for an hour with 2 threads running(100% CPU load), this system uses 171-174W. In World of conflict, using the in game benchmark with everything maxed(no AA or AF) this machine has peaked up to 215W. Running the same benchmark with the game output limited to 30FPS uses only 195W peak, but mostly between 185-190W.

    World in conflict I have noticed so far can use by far the most power while gaming. Games such as Hellgate: London, and FEAR use around 180-195W(everything maxed).

    As a kind of interesting side comparison I checked the older card I used before the 9600 GT (eVGA 7600 GT KO edition) peak idle was 106w, while peak gaming was 168W. Much lower than I had anticipated. Granted the 9600GT is also lower in power usage than I had originally thought based on reviews, and about twice as fast as the 7600 GT in most games.

    Now I am very interested in how much power the new Intel mini ITX board, with x4500HD graphics and a reasonably powered desktop CPU would use. You hearing me Jarred? Derrick ? Anand ?! Would be nice if you guys could find out for all of us ; ) Something tells me that it'll only be marginally lower in power consumption though . . .
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Monitor I use is a 19" widescreen LCD. Native resolution of 1440x900, so that is the resolution I tend to play games in. All of my figures are based on a 1440x900 resolution(for what it is worth). Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I think Gary will have an X4500 article up next week. Don't quote me on that, as I know Gary and Anand have run into quite a few issues with the G45 testing, but it's not for lack of trying.

    As for power requirements, I figure the LCD is using between 10W and 20W of power, and while it might be using as much power as your midrange desktop, it also happens to be faster. You'd need 9600 GT SLI at the very least (~equal performance), or 8800 GT SLI (faster performance).

    The other item that we don't know is power supply/power brick efficiency. If they're both 80% efficient, that's one thing, but if the laptop is 70% efficient and your desktop is 80% efficient, that could account for another 20W or so. Anyway, since this *is* a desktop replacement, it's not too surprising that the power requirements extend into desktop territory.
    Reply

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