Once Again, the LCD Fails

Finally, we have the LCD quality results. As mentioned in the introduction, the large bezel makes us think Alienware should have stuck a 13.3" 16:10 display into the chassis. The M11x may have an 11.6" LCD, but the chassis is about the same size as a 13" laptop. Also, we're not fans of glossy LCDs—I have mirrors in my bathroom if I want to check my hair! Considering the price premium on the M11x (the model we tested will sell for around $1200), there's really no excuse for a sub-par LCD… and sub-par it is.

Laptop LCD Quality - Contrast

Laptop LCD Quality - White

Laptop LCD Quality - Black

Laptop LCD Quality - Color Accuracy

Laptop LCD Quality - Color Gamut



We really think the minimum contrast ratio any modern laptop should deliver is 500:1, and the M11x achieves about half of that. The color accuracy is average at best (though we have yet to find a standout laptop LCD in terms of color accuracy), and the color gamut is a disappointing 44% of Adobe RGB. ASUS put a great LCD in their Eee PC 1001p, and they did the same for the G73J (review forthcoming). If you're making a budget laptop and you want to cut corners on LCD quality, we understand that, but there's no way you can bill the M11x as a budget offering. The keyboard, chassis, GPU, and overall design are all clearly the result of some good engineering and component choices. Why does the LCD always get the short shrift!? Since this is a TN panel, viewing angles are similarly disappointing, particularly the vertical viewing where a slight shift of your head or the screen results in a dramatic color shift.

Still Great Battery Life Alienware M11x: (Mostly) Good Things in a Small Package
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  • bobjones32 - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - link

    Thanks so much for your comprehensive review, Jared. I've read a bunch of reviews for the m11x, but they're always mixing up overclocking, non-overclocking, GPU enabled, GPU disabled, and a bunch of other factors that make it extremely difficult to discern how the thing actually performs.

    Your review, on the other hand, covers all the bases thoroughly, and answers every single question I have!


    Well, one question left - I wonder when the 335M will be made available in other laptops? I'm interested to see what ASUS and other manufacturers could do with it....
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    I'm guessing it's just a question of laptop manufacturers asking for chips from NVIDIA. There are lots of options so they can take their pick. For example, a great alternative that's not from NVIDIA would be the Radeon Mobility HD 5670... we'll show you why soon enough. :-) Reply
  • aguilpa1 - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the review and only confirms my initial thoughts that this tiny notebook is hardly qualified to be a gaming computer. I knew it was all marketing hype. I don't enjoy gaming in low res, thank you. Reply
  • PrincePickle - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - link

    As an M11x owner your review pretty much sums up the M11x pretty well. Once I got my Alienware unpacked and setup I immediately started loading some games onto it and was pleasantly surprised. I've only played Wolfenstein and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but they look good and are definitely playable with no problems. Will it play Crisis as well as my desktop? No way, but I don't expect it to either.

    I found the keyboard tight, but I got used to it quickly. I don't really care about the lack gigabit ethernet or optimus, however I do find the screen kind of glossy. Glossy screens are a problem with every other laptop manufacture on the planet, so I don't blame Alienware directly.

    One thing that really surprised me when I opened up the packaging was an actual Windows 7 install disk was included. The system manual was actually useful as in it gave graphical pictures on how to replace the hard drive, memory and battery. Granted I don't buy that many laptops but I haven't seen either these things included with a computer since 2002.

    There's a laptop for everybody and this one will suit some and not others. The angular looks and the system lighting are the greatest thing since sliced bread IMHO, but I'm sure others will disagree. I'm in the military and deploy fairly regularly so small form factor and power are crucial when your trying to squeeze hundreds of pounds of stuff into small bags. This computer is almost perfect for a deploying gamer and I'm sure I'll be testing that out soon enough. Anyway, good review even if I thought you were being just a little bit picky.
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    The lack of Optimus is more a driver concern than anything. The old push-button switchable graphics probably won't get more than token driver support from nvidia, while they're pushing Optimus very hard--Optimus drivers will soon be included in the Verde package.

    Personally even if I had Optimus, I'd tell it to change GPU switching to manual since there's a lot of weirdness with some apps when you let it try to decide on its own.
    Reply
  • RamIt - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - link

    Such a huge mistake to not include report post in the new web setup :( Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    Working on it, and will be hopefully filtering out spam automatically in the near future. Reply
  • Fastidious - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - link

    As an M11x owner I thought I'd just comment/question on a few things:

    1. I know there are two different LCD panels(one a bit brighter, one a bit better contrast) used and both pretty much suck ratings wise, yet I find mine looking more than good enough for me. My 24" LCD for my desktop is rated much better all around(double M11x quality or more) but I honestly can't tell much of a difference between it and the M11x screen. So while I do understand better is better, I see why the LCD is the corner that is cut most often in a notebook.

    2. My fan never turns on unless I am using the 335M. Once I use the 335M it kicks in instantly and can get loud if you don't have sound(games, music, etc) going.

    3. How well does GPU assisted video editing work? I know you said fast but does it make up for the weaker CPU? I am planning to use it on vacation most likely once I get around to buying a camcorder.

    Overall I think the M11x is sorta for people who want something as small as possible that can game well and have big battery life in standard tasks like browsing. I got it for traveling/mobility myself, I liked the better performance in bigger notebooks but I knew I their size or extra weight would defeat the purpose. I almost never use the 335M for gaming unless I am going to be sitting plugged in for a while so it works perfect for me.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    As far as the fan, either my unit is flaky or your unit is better than most. Fan noise levels top out at 36 dB, which is certainly lower than a lot of laptops, but it kicks on ALL the time for me.

    Video editing is generally far more CPU bound than video encoding, and here the CULV processor will be a definite bottleneck (at least AFAIK... maybe someone can recommend a good video editing package where the GPU will make a difference). Since you asked about video, though, I did a quick check of Badaboom with the GT335M.

    The result (using the same test as here: http://www.anandtech.com/show/2878/9) is an encoding speed of 53.1 FPS on the GT335M. With the CPU using TMPGEnc, we got a result of just 22FPS. A faster CPU can surpass the GT335M, but we're looking at quad-core Kentsfield before we get to the crossover point.

    Finally, in regards to being picky, I admit to being a bit occupied with my wife and pending birth. LOL. But I tried to make it clear where the flaws are and where the M11x excels. If your primary criteria is getting a smaller laptop with good battery life that can still play games, it's awesome. If you're concerned about drivers, I'm not convinced. The LCD is also a weak spot, but it's no worse than 98% of laptop LCDs, so that's almost a wash. Optimus and an i7 ULV processor would have been a silver award for sure.
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - link

    When I first heard about the M11x, I was really pretty shocked Dell didn't use the Arrandale ULV processors. A Core i5-520UM or i7-620UM would have been perfect in this (along with Optimus), but it appears the problem was that Intel did not have the ULV chipset with support for discrete graphics available at the time the M11x was ramping up. It wasn't until later that I saw Arrandale ULVs with a discrete graphic option... and right now, only one of the MSI X-Slim is the only one I can think of. Reply

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