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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  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 01, 2008 - link

    We reviewed that http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=324...">six months ago. Dell hasn't updated it to support the 9800M (yet?), but otherwise it would be very comparable in performance to the Sager unit. The Sager is still a bit faster because of the desktop CPU, and it consumes a bit more power and is a bit heavier. The Dell is also more expensive because of the cost of mobile CPUs, so if you want i.e. an X9000, it's over 3X the cost of an E9500. Since both weigh a lot and cost a lot, you might as well get the fractionally larger Sager/Clevo. Reply
  • cheetah2k - Monday, September 01, 2008 - link

    I understand you reviewed the 1730 6+months ago (and I bought one based on that review with the extreme CPU and SLi 8800GTX's) however some of us would like to see how it still stacks up to the competition, and being a "round-up" and all, I think it makes sense to include it, even if its just for old time sake.

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 02, 2008 - link

    I did mention the laptop, and there are a few games where we tested on both laptops. However, we don't generally get to hang onto $5000 laptops for a long time, so I can't just go back and retest the M1730. In terms of performance, the Sager is going to be slightly faster on the CPU, but overall gaming performance is a tie. If I were to pick between the two now, I would probably go with the Sager for the high-end, because price is a bit cheaper for the same level of performance. Plus you can run quad-core if you want (though that's not really useful for games). I'd be much more likely to go with the Gateway units for the price, but obviously the Dell and Sager are over twice as fast in most games. Reply
  • SniperWulf - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    While I agree with you on the astetics of the P series, its price/performance ratio and upgradability are unmatched at the moment. A few months back, I picked up a 6860FX and have been nothing but pleased with it. I've replaced the CPU with a used X7800 ES, and swapped the hard drives for 2x Hitachi 200GBs in a Raid 0 array.

    I didn't do it all at the same time of course, but thats the beauty of it. Whenever you need a lil bit more horsepower, all you have to do is just shop around for parts
    Reply
  • steveyballme - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I like the Leveno stuff!


    http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com">http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com
    Reply
  • Kardax - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I took a chance and got a P-7811 a couple weeks ago. Its stability has been rock-solid, even after hours of intense load.

    My only complaint would be that the keyboard has a Bluetooth enable/disable option, but there's apparently no Bluetooth hardware inside...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Hi guys,

    I'm *sure* there are typos in the article (or errors in speech recognition). I've spent most of the past two days trying to finish all the writing and graphs, so go easy on me while I get some sleep. In the meantime, if you want to point out errors, reply to this post and we'll (eventually) correct them. Hopefully, none of the issues "ruin" the article for you or make it "unreadable". ;-)

    Good night,
    Jarred Walton
    Senior Editor
    Reply

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