The launch of any new mobile processor line almost always precedes retail availability, but with Ivy Bridge mobile just previewed last week, we’re already seeing various companies ship updated laptop and notebook configurations. The biggest vendor to announce shipping IVB laptops/notebooks is Dell, in this case under their Alienware brand. All three currently shipping Alienware laptops are now shipping with mobile Ivy Bridge (along with some continued support for Sandy Bridge), and the GPU configurations are also being updated across the lineup. Here’s the full rundown of the CPUs, GPUs, and other configuration options supported on the Alienware notebooks:

Alienware M14x R2 Configuration Options
Processors Intel Core i5-2450M (2x2.5-3.1GHz, 3MB L3, 32nm, 35W)
Intel Core i7-3610QM (4x2.3-3.3GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Intel Core i7-3720QM (4x2.6-3.6GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Intel Core i7-3820QM (4x2.7-3.7GHz, 8MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 6/8/12/16GB DDR3-1600 (two SO-DIMMs)
Graphics Intel HD 3000 (12EUs) for Sandy Bridge
Intel HD 4000 (16 EUs) for Ivy Bridge

NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 1GB/2GB 128-bit GDDR5 Optimus
(384 CUDA cores, 735/4000MHz  GPU/RAM clocks)
Display 14" 16:9 768p (1366x768)
14" 16:9 900p (1600x900)
Hard Drive(s) 500-750GB 7200RPM HDD
512GB SSD (2.5” only)
256-512GB RAID 0/1 SSD (2.5” + mSATA)
Optical Drive Slot-load DVDRW
Slot-load Blu-ray Combo Drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n WiFi (Intel 2230 or 6250)
Bluetooth 4.0
WiMax (Intel 6250 only)
WiDi 2.0 Ready
Audio 2.1 Klipsch Speakers + Subwoofer
2x Audio Out + Microphone jacks
Capable of 7.1 digital output (HDMI/SPDIF)
Battery 8-cell 63Wh
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Dimensions 13.27" x 10.16" x 1.49" (WxDxH)
(337mm x 258mm x 37.8mm)
Weight Starting at 6.45 lbs (2.92kg)
Additional 2x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0 + PowerShare Technology
1x Mini-DisplayPort
1x HDMI 1.4
1x VGA
1.3MP HD Webcam
82-Key keyboard with AlienFX 4-Zone Backlighting
Flash reader (9-in-1 MMC/SD/MS)
150W Power Adapter
Laser-engraved Nameplate

The smallest of the bunch is the Alienware M14x, and along with Ivy Bridge the GPU option gets upgraded from GT 555M to the new Kepler-based GT 650M. We’ve pulled the specs for the GT 650M from NVIDIA’s site, and it’s possible that Alienware will use slightly different clocks, but it should still be a sizeable upgrade to the previous M14x model that used a GT 555M with DDR3 memory. Memory bandwidth goes up nearly 50%, and compute performance likewise gets a healthy shot in the arm: the 384 CUDA cores in the GT 650M should provide 66% more compute and texturing potential. Given the maximum 1600x900 resolution, the combination of GPU and CPU should be sufficient to handle most games at high detail settings—4xAA might need to be disabled on some titles, however.

Perhaps the more important change for the M14x will be the power draw of the new CPUs and GPUs. While there was plenty that we liked with the previous M14x configuration, there was one problem: the quad-core Sandy Bridge processors combined with GT 555M made for a rather noisy laptop under load. Both Ivy Bridge and Kepler have shown so far that they require less power to hit similar performance levels as Sandy Bridge and Fermi, so hopefully the revised M14x will be less of an ear-sore. PCI Express 3.0 is also present thanks to the CPU and GPU upgrades (at least with Ivy Bridge CPUs), but it’s unlikely the additional PCIe bandwidth will make a difference for a mobile GPU like the GT 650M. The GT 650M is also Optimus enabled, so battery life should remain around the 5-6 hours for light usage cases that we measured on the previous model.

The remaining specs are basically a rehash of what we’ve previously seen, with the only noteworthy update being the switch from Intel’s HM67 chipset to the HM77 chipset. Alienware already had a USB 3.0 controller with the HM67 version, but presumably HM77 allows them to ditch the extra controller chip and utilized Intel’s native USB 3.0 support. The third USB port is still limited to 2.0 speeds, but it does support charging of devices (e.g. iPods, Smartphones, etc.) while the laptop is powered off. Pricing of the updated M14x starts at $1099 with 6GB RAM, 500GB HDD, and a dual-core Sandy Bridge i5-2450M processor; the move to quad-core Ivy Bridge tacks on another $100, and we’d highly recommend upgrading to the 1600x900 display for $75 extra as well.

Alienware M17x R4 Configuration Options
Processors Intel Core i7-3610QM (4x2.3-3.3GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Intel Core i7-3720QM (4x2.6-3.6GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Intel Core i7-3820QM (4x2.7-3.7GHz, 8MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 6/8/12/16/24/32GB DDR3-1600 (four SO-DIMMs)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M 2GB 128-bit GDDR5
(384 CUDA cores, 835/4000MHz  GPU/RAM clocks)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M 2GB 256-bit GDDR5
(384 CUDA cores, 620/1240/3000MHz  GPU/Shader/RAM clocks)

AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB 256-bit GDDR5
(1280 cores, 850/4800MHz  GPU/RAM clocks)
Display 17.3" 16:9 900p (1600x900)
17.3" 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
17.3" 16:9 1080p 120Hz 3D Vision (1920x1080)
Hard Drive(s) 500-750GB 7200RPM HDD
Optional 32GB SSD caching available

500GB HDD + 64GB mSATA SSD Boot Drive

256-512GB SSD
512GB RAID 0 (SSD)
1TB RAID 0 (HDD or SSD)
Optical Drive Slot-load DVDRW
Slot-load Blu-ray Combo Drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n WiFi (Intel 2230 or 6250)
Bluetooth 4.0
WiMax (Intel 6250 only)
WiDi 2.0 Ready
Audio 2.0 Klipsch Speakers
3x Audio Out + Microphone jacks
Capable of 7.1 digital output (HDMI/SPDIF)
Battery 9-cell 90Wh
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Dimensions 16.14" x 11.97" x 1.75" (WxDxH)
(410mm x 304mm x 44.5mm)
Weight Starting at 9.39 lbs (4.26kg)
Additional 4x USB 3.0
1x eSATA/USB 2.0 combo + PowerShare Technology
1x Mini-DisplayPort
1x HDMI 1.4 Output
1x HDMI 1.3 Input
1x VGA
2.1MP FullHD Webcam
101-Key keyboard with AlienFX 4-Zone Backlighting
Flash reader (9-in-1 MMC/SD/MS)
240W Power Adapter
Laser-engraved Nameplate

The Alienware M17x takes the previous model and again makes a few minor upgrades, largely sticking with the design that earned the M17x R3 our Bronze Editors’ Choice award. Our main complaint was with the configuration options at the time of our review, and the updated version looks like it’s corrected many of those concerns.

For the CPU, only the best will do: the M17x is now all quad-core 45W Ivy Bridge—and no, we’re not particularly concerned with the missing i7-3920XM, as Intel’s Extreme Edition processors have generally been far too expensive for the minor performance improvements offered, especially on the mobile side of the fence where the fully unlocked multiplier isn’t as important.

For the GPU, Alienware now offers the GTX 660M (an 835MHz GK107), the GTX 675M (a rebadged GTX 580M), or AMD’s new tour de force, the HD 7970M. Interestingly, the HD 7970M is actually priced cheaper than the GTX 675M, which based on initial performance reports is bassackwards—not that we haven’t seen similar pricing oddities in the past, as NVIDIA’s top-tier GPUs almost always cost more than AMD’s. Something else that isn’t indicated on the press release is support for switchable graphics technologies; we inquired with Alienware and are waiting to hear back (on the M17x as well as the M18x).

Nearly everything else remains the same or similar to the M17x R3, but Dell’s website now includes several additional options for storage configurations, including HDDs with mSATA SSD caching (presumably via Intel’s Smart Response Technology), single SSDs, or HDD + SSD configurations. Pricing starts at $1499 for the base model with an i7-3610QM, GTX 660M, 6GB RAM, 500GB HDD, and 1600x900 LCD. The 1080p LCD upgrade is somewhat steep at $150, but we’d still recommend paying for it, and if you’re mostly interested in gaming performance the HD 7970M looks to be the fastest current mobile GPU available for $200 extra. That puts the total at $1850 for a potent gaming notebook, though if you want to add an SSD or more RAM you can easily spend more.

Alienware M18x R2 Configuration Options
Processors Intel Core i7-3610QM (4x2.3-3.3GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Intel Core i7-3720QM (4x2.6-3.6GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Intel Core i7-3820QM (4x2.7-3.7GHz, 8MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Intel Core i7-3920XM (4x2.9-3.8GHz, 8MB L3, 22nm, 55W)
Intel Core i7-3920XM (4x2.9-4.1GHz OC, 8MB L3, 22nm, 55W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 6/8/12/16/24/32GB DDR3-1600 (four SO-DIMMs)
8GB XMP DDR3-1866 (four SO-DIMMs)
Graphics Single NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M 2GB 128-bit GDDR5
(384 CUDA cores, 835/4000MHz  GPU/RAM clocks)

Single or Dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M 2GB 256-bit GDDR5
(384 CUDA cores, 620/1240/3000MHz  GPU/Shader/RAM clocks)

Dual AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 (Coming soon)
(1280 cores, 850/4800MHz  GPU/RAM clocks)
Display 18.4" 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
Hard Drive(s) 500-750GB 7200RPM HDD
Optional 32GB SSD caching available 2x500GB RAID 0 (HDD)

500GB HDD + 64GB mSATA SSD Boot Drive

256-512GB SSD
2x256GB RAID 0 (SSD)
3x256GB or 3x512GB RAID 0 (SSD)
Optical Drive Slot-load DVDRW
Slot-load Blu-ray Combo Drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n WiFi (Intel 2230 or 6250)
Bluetooth 4.0
WiMax (Intel 6250 only)
WiDi 2.0 Ready
Audio 2.1 Klipsch Speakers + Subwoofer
3x Audio Out + Microphone jacks
Capable of 7.1 digital output (HDMI/SPDIF)
Battery 12-cell 97Wh
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Dimensions 17.17" x 12.70" x 2.09-2.15" (WxDxH)
(436mm x 322.5mm x 53-54.7mm)
Weight Starting at 11.93 lbs (5.41kg)
Additional 4x USB 3.0
1x eSATA/USB 2.0 combo + PowerShare Technology
1x Mini-DisplayPort
1x HDMI 1.4 Output
1x HDMI 1.3 Input
1x VGA
2.1MP FullHD Webcam
107-Key keyboard with AlienFX 4-Zone Backlighting
Flash reader (9-in-1 MMC/SD/MS)
240W or 330W Power Adapter
Laser-engraved Nameplate

Rounding out their Ivy Bridge lineup, we have the Big Kahuna of gaming notebooks, Alienware’s M18x. This is one of the largest notebooks around, and it’s also one of the few places you can get dual-GPU configurations for maximum gaming performance. Right now, the M18x R2 configuration pages only list NVIDIA GPUs, but the Radeon HD 7970M should be available sometime in the coming weeks. The only other notebook we know of that supports dual HD 7970 or GTX 675M GPUs is the Clevo P270WM, which is an update to the X7200 chassis that swaps out socket LGA1366 support for LGA2011 and up to hex-core Sandy Bridge-E CPUs. These are true desktop replacements, with a starting weight of nearly 12 pounds for the single-GPU, single-HDD model. (They’re also a great way to give your mobile geek some strength training!)

On the CPU side, the options are all once again quad-core Ivy Bridge, but Alienware now adds the “missing” i7-2920XM Extreme CPU. There’s also a $250 upgrade that will raise the maximum Turbo Boost clocks of the i7-2920XM from 3.8GHz to 4.1GHz, though the required setting for the overclock should be in the BIOS even if you don’t pay extra. Storage options are also similar to the M17x R4, except that there’s now support for a third HDD/SSD, and Alienware offers three-way RAID 0 configurations with 256GB or 512GB SSDs.

Pricing for the M18x R2 starts at $1999, but that’s a little deceiving as the base model only includes a single GTX 660M GPU. If you’re buying a huge notebook like this, you’re almost certainly after maximum graphics performance—otherwise why bother? The upgrade to dual GTX 675M costs $600, so the current minimum cost for an SLI-equipped M18x R2 is $2599—for the same price you can get the mid-tier model that also bumps the RAM to 8GB and doubles your storage space with a second 500GB HDD in RAID 0. If on the other hand you want to max out all the components, the top-end M18x upgraded to an overclocked i7-3920XM, 32GB DDR3-1600, 3x512GB SSDs, Windows 7 Ultimate, and a 4-year warranty and you can push the price over $7250. Yowza! Not that we’d recommend doing so unless you have a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket.

AlienFX Updates

Besides all of the other updates, Alienware has also released a new update to their AlienFX software in their ongoing collaboration with Electronic Arts. The zoned lighting can now tie in to your onscreen action and adjust colors accordingly, providing a “more personal experience”. The PR blast also mentions player health lighting effects, suggesting you’ll be able to tell just by looking at your keyboard how close you are to dying. Fun, right? As far as we can tell, the AlienFX update should be available for other Alienware laptops and desktops that feature the zoned lighting technology.

Source: Alienware/Dell PR

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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 - link

    It means you're running in Intel's "Flex Memory" mode, where on 6GB the first 4GB is full dual-channel performance and the last 2GB is not, or with 12GB the first 8GB gives you dual-channel performance and the last 4GB does not. Intel's Flex Memory Technology has been around since at least 2004 I believe. Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 - link

    Why go a bit overboard with the ports? The M14x and it's bigger variants has VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort via their own physical ports which seems redundant when they could use the space for other ports and use only Displayport to get everything by that, just ship adapters and you should be fine. It works in the corporate/enterprise market at least. Plus at Apple for that matter. Consumers should really get stuff like WiFi Display / WiFi Direct, Intel WiDi, DLNA DMR and so on. Plus getting a mini-Displayport to HDMI-cable aren't exactly more difficult then getting and bringing your HDMI cable. Would love to actually see Thunderbolt now, also wouldn't be that bad with a eSATA or even Firewire port instead of three video-ports. Odd to raid mSATA plus 2.5" SSDs, I think they should have spent some more time on other aspects of it maybe. Screen is important, lights and useless functions aren't. One mSATA is fast enough as far as anyone is concerned an extra 2.5" should be used for space. Maybe get a MVA-screen in there would be a good trade off. AUO should be pretty happy to make them.There is always wideviewing angle TN or IPS too.

    I guess the GT 650M Nvidia graphics is a pretty good fit for a 1600x900 laptop though. For those looking for a mid-range gaming machine it should deliver. But don't mention the 18 inch version to me I don't get it and I'd rather not see the 17-inch gaming laptops regardless if it's Dell or Clevo/Sager chassis. You can clearly get workstation performance in 15-inch beating entry level to mid stationary workstations. Gaming performance is no problem either as long as you accept some lower settings and there is no need for the most ridiculous machines ever that simply won't be portable. I'm sure you could design something smarter for those wanting a 6 kg gaming machine.
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    Glad the article explicitly mentions you're waiting to hear back on that.

    I sure hope neither the Nvidia nor AMD options use switchable graphics. If they don't, I'll probably be buying an M17x-R4 next!

    (Although that new Samsung notebook looks like a good deal, also assuming it doesn't use switchable graphics and there are spare PSUs available from Samsung...)
    Reply
  • seapeople - Sunday, May 06, 2012 - link

    Ok, the obligatory "Why don't you like switchable graphics?" question. Reply
  • high_rez - Friday, May 11, 2012 - link

    Do u know if i have alienware with HM67 can I put Ivy bridge in it? Reply
  • aravenwood - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Dustin - do you plan on reviewing the new Alienware Ivy Bridge line in detail? Particularly the new M17x w/Ivy Bridge? I bought the M17xR3 you gave such good reviews to and it's the best laptop, and pretty near the best PC I've ever had. (i would have paid the premium just for the quality keyboard and rubberized finish. I'm not as young as I used to be and a good keyboard makes a world of difference to me) My brother bought the M14 and he's isn't as happy, and is thinking about upgrading to the M17x, but isn't sure whether it's worth the money to get the new M17x or try to find a used Sandy Bridge M17x and save the premium. Or even if there is a better machine than that now available. Thx. Reply

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