Battery Life, Portability, Software and Other Features
The Core i7 isn’t a processor that is typically associated with long battery life, but the Alienware M11x is one of the few laptops available with a Core i7 CULV processor. This means that the processor has a base clock speed of 1.2 GHz but has a maximum Turbo Boost speed of 2.26 GHz. The M11x also comes equipped with Nvidia Optimus, which turns off the GT 335M mobile GPU during normal operation.
These features pay off. The M11x scores very poorly in the Battery Eater standard test, but performs very well in the Battery Eater Reader’s Test. The wide gap between the battery life results in these tests is due to the nature of the tests themselves, as the standard Battery Eater test fully engages the graphics solution while the reader’s test does not, allowing the M11x to simply use the Intel IGP. The M11x is still not a system that you can use to game for more than two hours away from a power socket, but it is a system you can use on a cross-country flight if you limit yourself to web browsing, word processing and other lighter tasks.
Weight, on the other hand, is a bit of an issue. As mentioned earlier, the Alienware M11x is close to five pounds. It isn’t as small as you’d expect for a laptop with an 11.6” display, and the included power adapter (which is unusually thin and wide) is much larger than what you’ll find included with a more traditional ultraportable. The M11x isn’t a laptop that you can just throw into a tiny bag and run out to a LAN party with. You’ll need a bag designed for a 13 inch laptop to comfortably fit it.
Of course, it’s important to remember that the M11x is a gaming laptop, and relative to such laptops the M11x is a runway model. The next most portable pure gaming laptop is probably the ASUS G51, a system with a 15.6” display that is about 1.5 inches thick and weighs over seven pounds. Such a laptop is fine for going to LAN parties, but it is otherwise best confined to a desk. The M11x, however, will have no trouble traveling with you on a daily basis.
Other Features and Software
Booting the M11x for the first time is a pleasant experience. Yes, Alienware did feel the need to throw in a lame webcam-based facial recognition program that doesn’t work properly in most situations, but this is the only software issue that will be thrown into your face. Bloatware is minimal and the desktop is clean.
One important piece of included software is Alienware’s AlienFX editor. This software is responsible for controlling the LED lights that decorate the laptop’s exterior. Colors are selected from a color wheel and different patterns of light can be chosen (including a seizure-inducing strobe effect). While the software is easy to use when it comes to selecting a color, most of the other options are accessed through inconvenient and confusing menus. It would be nice if Alienware could create a more user-friendly interface for this feature.
The review unit didn’t come with Bluetooth, and according to the Alienware online configurator this option is not standard but instead a $20 upgrade. That seems like a strange oversight on a laptop priced over $1300, although it could be argued that gamers wouldn’t want to use a wireless mouse anyway. The included 1.3 megapixel webcam is par for the course. It provides reasonable video quality in bright lighting, but is unable to deal with sudden movements.