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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  • NotebookGamer - Monday, October 20, 2008 - link

    I've been wanting to see a gaming laptops showdown between the Clevo matched up against the m1730.

    I got my NP9262 from Factor Gaming.

    Reply
  • cg0def - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    Say it ain so! I still remember when Alienware laptops used to look good. What happened guys? Oh, nm dell bough them ... well tough luck ... Reply
  • jfdmit - Saturday, September 13, 2008 - link

    I exchanged my crashing 7811 for another one today, and so far it's working perfectly. No lockups, no webcam crashes, just speed and stability. I can finally see the real potential of this great gaming machine. It really does seem to be luck of draw whether you get a good one or a dud. Reply
  • jfdmit - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    As I noted in the comment I added to your first review of this machine, I've had a pretty bad time with stability. It doesn't matter whether I use the stock 176, or the patched 177.92 or 177.98 drivers, my 7811 is still totally unstable when playing games that even moderately tax the graphics subsystem. Spore locks the machine hard after an hour. Crysis gets about 30 minutes. Thereafter, the locks happen more and more frequently, interspersed with occasional BSODs.

    I suspect the problem is heat. The increasing frequency of the lockups when gaming, coupled with the fact that the machine works fine for non-gaming tasks, makes me think that the machine's cooling system just can't handle the load. I've ensured that there is plenty of room underneath the machine and even set it on a laptop cooling pad, but none of this has made any difference.

    Unfortunately, as it stands, I cannot recomment the 7811 as a gaming PC.
    Reply
  • Ben - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the article, but I expected more than 3 laptops when I read the title, "roundup". Reply
  • Ben - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    OK, you have 3 models listed on the index, you say 4 in the test setup, and then there's 5 benchmarks.

    I guess 5 is enough for a "roundup" though. :)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    Four "new" models, and one returning model. This was originally going to be a seven laptop roundup, but the text was already too long. The next three are midrange options. Reply
  • ikjadoon - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    What gives? Overdrive PC overclocks their laptops and Velocity Micro has some fine systems, too..

    Great review, however. :)
    Reply
  • rvikul - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    I went to BestBuy today to take a look at the Gateway model. thought i'd add a few observations.

    I was surprised by how large the laptop was. The optical drive kept popping out and would not close properly, but that could be due to customer abuse on the display model.

    I am not too thrilled about the form factor - it looks kinda ugly but thats subjective. Ethernet port is on the side which is weird since i would like it hidden behind the laptop. For a gaming laptop I dont see the need for a full keyboard. The arrow keys are really cramped together.

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

    I actually purchased the P7811fx from BB this weekend. For those interested it is $200 off (at least in my area) and you get a free PC game up to $50 value.

    It does have a large form factor, in fact it wont fit most 17' carrying cases. Sitting on my lap, it feels like a table because it is so large. I don't mind though, I wanted the 17 in screen as well as a full keyboard. Many people want a keypad for uses in things like MMOs, that is a big selling point for me.

    As for the optical drive... it opens easily. Mine will stay closed unless I push on the button (which as indicated in this roundup, is very easy to do just picking it up).

    From what I have read, the lockups on these machines are only affecting some laptops. Many people have exchanged in the 14 day window to get one and their problems have been fixed.

    Oh, the wireless button feels kinda cheap... I will have to see how long it lasts. I look forward to being able to upgrade it in the future (hopefully) and keep this laptop for a long time. Its a good machine, the colors aren't fabulous, but they don't really bother me. Its a great time to get one if you are looking at it since it is discounted right now.

    Reply

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