Given the high build quality of the M11x I was expecting to also be blown away by the laptop’s user interface. One touch of this laptop’s keyboard, however, will quickly banish any hope that this function might follow form. The keyboard is large and provides a reasonable amount of room for even folks with large hands (such as myself). The surface of the keyboard, however, lacks a useful texture. The keys are almost perfectly flat, making it hard to feel you way around the keyboard. Alienware also seems to have made the keys slightly too narrow, particularly in the case of the arrow keys, which have been squeezed into the bottom right hand corner. The function keys are too small in both width and height, so don’t bet on being able to easily use them as extra keys in games like World of Warcraft.
The problems with the keyboard don’t end with the keys themselves. I also noticed that the keyboard allowed some flex, particularly in the upper right hand corner and around the WASD keys. Worse, the keyboard on my review unit wasn’t perfectly flat. It bowed upwards slightly on the right hand side, a problem that didn’t affect functionality but seems out-of-place on a $1300 laptop that is otherwise built like a tank.
The trackpad is better, at least at first glance. It has the same rock-solid feel as the rest of the laptop’s palmrest and it is nicely textured, which ensures that you’ll know the instant your finger slips. The buttons are well executed, as well – they’re large, offer significant travel, and feel tough enough to stand up to the frantic clicking many gamers will subject them to.
Unfortunately, both the keyboard and the trackpad are marred by the significant girth of the M11x. A thickness of 1.3 inches doesn’t sound like much, but the devil is in the details. Most laptops are thinner at the front and thicker at the back, which means that they palmrest has a slight downwards slant and is closer to whatever surface you’re typing on. The M11x is 1.3 inches thick throughout the entire chassis. This means that your wrists are placed at a very uncomfortable angle whenever you’re typing or using the trackpad. The problem isn’t as noticeable when gaming, but it becomes noticeable whenever you try to use the M11x with more productive applications.