Conclusion: More Notebook than You Need?

For end users who want a powerful gaming notebook, or heck, a powerful notebook in general, my go-to has been the Alienware M17x R3 since I reviewed it (provided they have the budget for it). Now that I've had a chance to sit down and review the M18x, my go-to is...still the M17x R3. The M18x is faster, yes, but with the added performance come some additional compromises.

In and of itself, the M18x is another feather in Alienware's cap. The screen quality is good, the overall design feels sturdy and attractive (although I think I'd pass on the red finish and stick with the black), I still love that stupid glowing keyboard, and the performance is there (and how!). There's plenty of connectivity, upgrade options, and so on. There's nothing inherently wrong with the M18x. Except that it's freaking huge.

Where the M17x R3 feels like a fairly balanced mobile workstation and gaming system, heavy but not insanely heavy to the point where you just don't want to cart it around anywhere, the M18x is beastly. I review the lion's share of desktops here (read: desktops that don't have big glowing apples on them) and with many builds I often feel like they're excessive. They're past the point of diminishing returns, where you just don't get performance and efficiency commensurate with their size/noise/cost/power consumption. That's how I feel about the M18x. If the M17x R3 is a sound investment for someone who wants a good, stylish mobile gaming system with the performance they require, the M18x feels like an offering for the more-money-than-sense crowd.

We're at a point now where top-end mobile GPUs really are good enough, particularly when no one is doing higher than 1080p displays. NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 580M is incrementally faster than the GTX 485M, but it runs roughshod on AMD's still-capable Radeon HD 6970M, and with the M17x R3 Alienware adds Optimus support as an enticing bonus. Adding a second 580M just doesn't seem to be worth the headache often associated with multi-GPU configurations, much less the expense. If you're only going to go with one GPU, there's absolutely no reason not to just get the smaller and more affordable M17x R3. Alienware offers four GPU configurations for the M18x, three multi-GPU rigs and a single GeForce GTX 560M, which really should tell you all you need to know.

If you want as much power as you can conceivably cram into a notebook, I can certainly recommend the M18x over any competition from Clevo or really any other notebook. You want power? You got it. But if you want a more balanced design, I'd strongly encourage you to stick with the M17x R3.

Of course, we're only halfway done with the M18x. Check back soon when we'll have the second half, focusing on the AMD Radeon HD 6990M in both single and CrossFire configurations to see how it performs on its own as well as how it stacks up against the competition. The 580Ms in SLI aren't just going to have to be faster than the 6990Ms in CrossFire, they're going to have to be $700 faster. Stay tuned.

Update: Alienware's muxed graphics solution still uses the drivers from NVIDIA's Verde program, so updating drivers is a non-issue. However, the end conclusion remains the same: the M18x still feels like too much, while the M17x R3 is probably going to be the gaming notebook of choice for the overwhelming majority of users.

Continuing the Case for 1080p
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  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 3, 2011 - link

    There's a reason Crysis 2 didn't make our list of games to benchmark, and it won't be on the updated list at the end of the year either. Reply
  • yelped - Monday, October 3, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the quick and honest reply. Reply
  • Filiprino - Monday, October 3, 2011 - link

    Truth be told, apart from brick walls and some other things, I had a hard time finding big differences between DX11 and DX9 versions, but my GTX460 took the hit. Reply
  • NikolaPublicola - Monday, October 3, 2011 - link

    Seriously Sli on a mobile platform is not viable, I feel sorry for people spending this much money, and despite having solid FPS getting a jerky gaming experience.

    Anand can you please add Micro stutter benchmarks.

    Even a desktop card such as a 6990, struggles with enough memory bandwidth top avoid micro-stutter, I therefore can't see how a mobile solution could be anything but worse, of course I could be wrong which is why I would really like to see a benchmark analysis.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - link

    Micro-stutter is next to impossible to actually benchmark; the entire industry struggles with it at pretty much every level. Reply
  • Evil_Sheep - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - link

    The reviewer talks about the M18x like there is such a thing as too much power. Well nobody lusts after a 1000hp V12 Ferrari because they actually need to get 0-60 in 3.2s. Practicality and sensibility are thrown out the window in the market's stratosphere: that is, frankly, the main draw. Reply
  • slacr - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - link

    The first page mentioned it would rival many a desktop, yet the closest thing to a desktop found in the benchmarks is the desktop CPU in the Clevo. How does it stack up to an i7-2600k with say a 6950 or 560Ti? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - link

    You'll have to compile the scores yourself if you want to see a chart, but we use the same benchmarks for desktops as on laptops (only at 1080p standardized). Here's the latest system review, with some very high-end systems, but there are also some lower spec GPU configs:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4864/3

    It generally places just below the SLI GTX 470 setup Dustin tested, and slightly lower than the SLI GTX 560 Ti config as well. A few games score lower than expected, but the M18x is faster than most single GPU desktops -- at least until you add the GTX 580.
    Reply
  • Bolas - Thursday, October 6, 2011 - link

    When can we see the continuation of this article, part 2?

    I would love to read about the Radeon 6990m Crossfire performance.
    Reply
  • Blibbax - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    A lot of people are talking about CPU and GPU overclocking as one of the benefits of this laptop. Is the power supply and cooling system up to the challenge? Reply

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