I'll admit we're getting a pretty solid workout with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M. There are reasons, though. First, the 780M's performance has been very inconsistent since it launched. While some notebooks just needed driver updates (like the Alienware 18), most needed a BIOS update and driver update after the fact. And there's no getting around the fact that the 780M seems to be just plain underperforming. Is part of that due to Haswell? Certainly; for gamers, Haswell as an upgrade over Ivy Bridge is disappointing to say the least. But I suspect there's BIOS and/or driver tweaking still yet to be done to bring the 780M in line with where it really ought to be.

The other reason is that AMD just plain didn't show up to this party. There's a Radeon HD 8970M on the market, but AMD's Enduro is still a bit of a mess, and the 8970M itself is just a rebrand of the 7970M, a chip which already has a hard time competing with the 680M. If I were a betting man I'd expect actual competition to the 780M to materialize sometime in October or November. Hopefully the 780M's issues will have been completely ironed out by then.

Of course, with all that said, the 780M still works pretty well, and NVIDIA's SLI technology is incredibly sound and sturdy. The Alienware 18 boasts dedicated cooling for each GPU and the CPU, and the Intel Core i7-4900MQ should give the two 780Ms plenty of breathing room.

PCMark 7 (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark 11

The Futuremarks are as kind to the Alienware 18 as they ought to be. What I want to point out is the PCMark 7 score. The MSI GT70 Dragon we tested is using three SSDs in RAID 0 while the Alienware 18 has to "make do" with a single 512GB (though you can certainly put multiple SSDs into it and stripe them), yet their PCMark 7 scores (a benchmark notoriously SSD friendly) are almost identical. While modern SSDs are hitting bandwidth limitations on SATA, I feel like you'd be hard pressed to really notice a difference with higher throughput in any practical applications.

Cinebench R11.5 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark

x264 HD 5.x

x264 HD 5.x

I'd be interested in figuring out why Haswell is underperforming in the Alienware notebooks, though. In our synthetics, the Alienware 17 and now the 18 just aren't stacking up where they ought to be, especially our x264 testing. Performance isn't alarmingly poor, but they're definitely having trouble keeping up with Clevo's Haswell implementations.

In and Around the Alienware 18 Gaming Performance
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  • stacey94 - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    pounds* Whoops Reply
  • SniperWulf - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    Maybe so, maybe not. I frequent the gym enough for it to not be an issue. I've carried military equipment that was much heavier further distances that I'll ever carry this thing. Reply
  • SniperWulf - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    Oh, and the machine itself doesn't weigh 12 lbs. Maybe my bag with all my crap it it does. Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    @blanarahul

    I bought the M18x R2.

    Specs: CPU i7 3920XM, which I've had up to 4.7GHz, but typically run @ 4.4 or 4.5GHz for everyday use. Dual 240GB SSDs in RAID0, dual 7970Ms, 16GB 1866MHz (clocked at CAS9), and 1TB for storage.

    With all graphical settings maxed-out, I hit the 200fps limit in Black Ops 2, frequently.

    Ignoring than the initial AMD drivers we had, and the glossy non-IPS display I have, I'm absolutely loving it. Looks wonderful on the big screen.

    As mentioned, the customer service is w o n d e r f u l, and most importantly for me - worldwide. As a frequent traveler, I cannot have a desktop, and this fits my needs wonderfully.

    Nice talking point in the office with new clients too.

    I will definitely upgrade to the newest M18(2, whatever) when Broadwell is released - Just so long as the IPS panel is still available.

    And that is voting with your feet.
    Reply
  • punko - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    Bought one in February. I need a portable workstation, not an ultrabook. If you want something to sit cooly on your lap while you flip through facebook at an airport lounge, this isn't it. If you want to have something with serious chops, then this works. Myself, I find the screen a tad lacking in quality in comparison to my other 18", ASUS W90 VP , but performance is top drawer. Reply
  • Mondozai - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Comparing it to a mini-ATX kind of misses the point. Good luck taking a big desktop monitor with you in a handbag. It is for people who move around a lot and game on the go. Judged as that it is a great piece of hardware but most people would never buy it (including me) but that is beacause we do not have those needs. Comparing it to a mini-ATX does make me suspicious of your judgement, though. It is not a desktop PC, so why do you fail that test of common sense? Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    The mITX comparison is aimed at lan party gamers. A monitor and an mITX system can easily be carried in two trips; and if that's all you need your portable gaming for a few extra minutes walking for a thousand dollars savings. Unless your portability needs include being able to fly with it, or to troll coffee shop workers a tiny desktop is able to match most of the usecases for something like this. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Um...did you read the final paragraph? All we're saying is that if you just want a really fast and somewhat portable PC, there are alternatives to a maxed out SLI notebook that cost a lot less. "You lose a healthy amount of portability, but we're talking about thousands of dollars, too." A review done in a vacuum (i.e. not looking at other potential alternatives) is missing the point of a review, and so we include some desktop performance figures and mention the pricing of desktops so that readers who may not be as versed in the hardware scene at least get an idea of where performance stands. Reply
  • tim851 - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    I'm with you, Jarred. Desktop numbers need to be in the benchmark IF ONLY to give one a reference point. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    Agreed. I'd like to see a desktop equivalent performance card in more mainstream gaming laptop reviews too. I could dig through bench or multiple articles to figure out what the closest desktop equivalent to a single 770M is; but being able to put it in context easily would be nice. Reply

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