Alienware m15x - Overview

We'll start with the Alienware m15x, which is certainly the most unique laptop we're looking at today. Alienware is one of the heavy hitters among the boutique computer vendors, and as a wholly owned subsidiary of Dell to have more resources than many of their competitors. In the past, some of Alienware's laptops were simply ODM designs with a customized shell on top. To the best of our knowledge, the m15x is a unique design that's only available from Alienware.

Alienware computers - both laptops and desktops - have always tended to look at users either love or hate. The m15x has tone things down a bit, and that users are able to choose between one of two chassis designs. Besides the usual "Skullcap" design, which we've seen on most of their laptops (including the m7950), Alienware now offers a "Ripley" design. Both options use a shiny silver plastic that likes to collect fingerprints (although they're not as visible as they would be on a shiny black exterior), but the Ripley design doesn't have the extra ridges and tends to be a bit more understated in appearance.

We're not quite sure how understated a glowing alien face can be, not to mention the lighting highlights around the borders of the case and on the keyboard, but there you have it. The m15x has six different zones for the AlienFX lighting: the alien head and power button (with two different states depending on whether you're plugged in or using battery), the light pipe around the border of the LCD, the Alienware logo at the bottom of the LCD, the quick touch controls, the touchpad, and the keyboard - note that the keyboard lighting is an optional upgrade. You can set each of these areas independently to one of 12 colors (counting white and black/off as colors). It's kind of gimmicky, but not all gimmicks are bad - certainly my teenage nephew was duly impressed by the lighting.

In the above gallery, you can see pictures of the m15x laptop on our operating table being dissected. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it can be extremely frustrating trying to determine what screw you might have missed. Even worse are the laptops that have plastic clips that hold the case together, which frequently break no matter how careful you are when you take things apart.

In the case of the Alienware m15x, getting at all of the important internal components is extremely simple - one large cover provides access to everything from the memory slots and hard drive to the CPU and GPU. While this might make doing things like swapping hard drives or replacing/upgrading memory a bit more tedious than if they had separate compartments, the easy access to the CPU and GPU is definitely appreciated. Now all we need is the ability to upgrade MXM modules, which is unfortunately not something offered or supported just yet.

While getting at the major components was easy, after an hour of trying to remove the keyboard and look at some of the other parts without success, we decided to call it quits before we broke something. Besides, how often is it that you need to replace your motherboard or keyboard on a laptop?

Index Alienware M15x – Features and Specifications
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  • yyrkoon - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Yeah, I would not expect my desktop to beat the laptop performance wise(in games), but with what I have for resolution/monitor wise it does perfectly fine for me.

    It is just that lately, since we are going 100% green energy(solar/wind), or as close to 100% as possible, I have been on this power consumption 'kick'. I would hope that the Intel motherboard with the desktop G45 chipset, and x4500HD would use half of what I am using power wise now with my current desktop, but I suspect that I would have to get the laptop based mini itx motherboard/CPU/memory for it to be truly where I would like to see things power wise. Even only 100W is roughly 8.33 amps off of the batteries on a 12v system : / Depending on how many batteries you have, that can be substantial.

    I do realize that gaming on the Intel mini ITX boards would take the back seat because of performance, but it would be a perfect machine for running almost everything except for games. That is, until Photoshop, Illustrator, etc start leveraging the GPU/parallel processing.
    Reply
  • Oarngemeat - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Good article - but the Alienware is not the first laptop with dual graphics cards like this. Maybe for a gaming laptop, but my Sony SZ is getting close to two years old and can do the same thing. Sounds like it even does things the same way, I have to reboot to switch graphics. I've seen it average at about 50% battery performance increase too. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    That's why I say the first laptop *we've* tested. Besides, a midrange (at best) GPU that can be disabled isn't quite as useful as a high-end GPU that can be switched on/off. Reply
  • denka - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I liked the article, but I've been looking on the Internet for a review that could tell me how good are ATI's 3650's, of which ASUS seemingly is a fan seeing how they have 5 models for sale on Newegg :)

    Still looking.
    Reply
  • denka - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Sorry, must have been a stupid question. Found my answers on www.notebookcheck.net Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I've asked AMD to get me a notebook with 3000 series graphics, but no one has been able to do so yet. Outside of the 3870, though, graphics performance will be relatively mediocre. I've got a few midrange notebooks with 9500M/8600M GPUs that I'm reviewing, and one with a Radeon 2600. Performance is around 1/3 of the 9800M GTS in gaming. Many games (GRID, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, etc.) need to run at 1280x800 and low to medium detail on such laptops before they can get solid frame rates. Reply
  • fabarati - Saturday, August 30, 2008 - link

    The performance of midrange laptop cards go: 9600m GT GDDR3> HD3650> 8600m GT GDDR3> 9600m GT=HD2600 GDDR3>8600m GT DDR2=9500m GS DDR2>HD2600 DDR2. Now there are a few more nVidia cards, just to muddle the waters more, but this should give rough performance estimates. 9500m GS is just a rebadged 8600m GT.

    On my HD2600 DDR2 I play Assassin's Creed with everything on max at 1280x800. On the other hand, my max is for some reason lvl 3 instead of 4. Solid framerates for one person is not the same as for someone else. Some can't stand below 40, som don't see the difference between 30 and 60. For me, over 25 is quite fluid. It helps that Ass Creed has motionblur. That smooths things up.

    Oh, And i've OC'd the Graphics memory a bit. That helps too.
    Reply
  • flahdgee - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I grabbed an Alienware laptop 3 or 4 years ago, and I expected to be able to game on it. I had the Geforce 6800 Ultra Go put in it and had overheating problems from the start. I had to send it into the company for repairs to the motherboard from various components burning up. Whether I got a defective component somewhere that was tearing it up, I don't know, but it has turned me completely off to laptops, gaming ones in particular.

    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I'd just be scared off of Alienware-which I am anyway...

    I'm shocked that even the build quality is garbage. I don't get the point of that 15x thing. Dell's 1730 is SOOOO much better built, and it's higher end, for basically the same price. Those Gateway models seem to be a lot better built too, for at least $1000 less (or worse...)
    Reply
  • cheetah2k - Monday, September 01, 2008 - link

    Anandtech, you call this a "gaming laptop round-up"??

    Wheres the almighty Dell 1730 with dual 8800GTX's in all its glory? The little girls to scared to come out to play??

    Who wants an Alienware, Gateway or Sagem-blahh??? Build quality and service is just shocking....

    Get a grip fellas

    Reply

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