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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  • 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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