Introduction and Design
Can This Hulking Powerhouse Justify its Price?
In the realm of hulking, powerful gaming laptops, Alienware remains king by popular vote. Whatever you think of their laptops (as always, popularity attracts criticism) there is no denying that the Alienware name stands for something among gamers. And to most, they’re a dream machine, the laptop equivilent of a Ferrari 458 Italia.
The purpose of a review, of course, is to move past reputation and judge the true capabilities of a product. And in the case of the Alienware M17x, there’s a lot to judge. We’ll talk about its bulk later, but I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that this laptop has big bones as well as serious hardware.
One paper, the stars seem to align. But this market remains competitive, thanks to not only to boutique outfits like Origin and Maingear but also to ASUS, which is still on its gaming laptop war-path, producing affordable rigs that can be had for surprisingly little dough. With competition on all sides, can the Alienware justify its $2500 price of entry? Let’s find out.
Like most large laptops, the Alienware M17x is more than a little boxy. Indeed, the rear and sides are entirely flat structures, set at a 90 degree angle to the rest of the frame. Only the front is slightly contoured to form the Alienware brand face of two LED-lit “vents” at the front of the PC. Like the hood scoops on most muscle cars, they’re non-functional, but they do look cool.
Because of the bold styling, this laptop makes a strong first impression. Having spent some time with it, however, I think that ASUS has gained the upper hand in design. The difference is not in the material or build quality, as both the G74 we tested several months ago and this M17x are superb in those respects. The G74 feels more fully styled, however, while this laptop puts everything up front – literally. Along the back and the sides there is little detail to enjoy – just flat expanses of matte or glossy black plastic.
This laptop includes the AlienFX lighting system, which lets the user custom system’s LED lighting. In smaller laptops from the company, this feature is only so-so, as there’s not many individual LED elements to custom. This massive laptop, however, offers nine different customizable lighting zones, including four for the keyboard. While this feature offers little functional benefit, it’s a blast to play with. It’s a small but important touch that helps justify the price of entry.
Connectivity is also impressive. Along the right side you’ll find four audio jacks including S/P DIF, VGA, HDMI-out and DisplayPort, as well as two USB 3.0 ports. On the right side you’ll find HDMI-in, an eSATA/USB combo port, and two additional USB 2.0 ports. As if all this wasn’t good enough, Alienware has done the right thing and placed the power connection at the rear of the laptop, putting it out of the way of any peripherals you might want to connect.