Gaming laptops have an intimidating rep as monstrous machines that weigh a ton and cost as much as a Death Star. So let's get a couple things out of the way, up front: The Alienware Area 51 m15x stomped all over our WorldBench 6 benchmark, earning the highest laptop performance score to date (97) and running effortlessly through our current graphics tests. It should come as little surprise, then, that with such great power comes an even greater price tag - even the base configuration of the Alienware Area 51 m15x starts at £979 inc VAT and delivery.

As a high-performance portable, the Alienware Area 51 m15x packs the costliest gear. Inside, Intel's 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo or 2.8GHz Core 2 Extreme runs the show, 2GB up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM makes sure everything operates smoothly, and the 200GB hard disk (as well as a 320GB removable drive) offers room to grow.

However, the nVidia 8800M GTX GPU humming under the Alienware Area 51 m15x's hood is what ensures that you'll enjoy decent frame rates at the machine's native 1920 by 1200 resolution. Scoring well on our benchmark is great, of course, but the real challenge for a gaming laptop is to see how it handles new, demanding games that tax even high-end desktop PCs.

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Running our gauntlet of tests at 1920 by 1200, the Alienware Area 51 m15x generated 46 frames per second (fps) in World in Conflict and 26 fps in Crysis.

Dropping down to 1024x768-pixel resolution, the machine fared better, producing 41 and 63 fps for World in Conflict and Crysis, respectively.

Somewhere between those sets of numbers lies the real-world truth: although the Area 51 m15x runs as well as a midrange gaming desktop does, don't expect to attain the notebook's native resolution with everything. Even so, you can try to tweak its performance to eke out every last bit of oomph, using the built-in Fusion power-optimising utility; the handy drop-down menus and sliders help you reach peak performance.

NEXT PAGE: size matters, the keyboard and our expert verdict > >

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