With the Alienware M17, Dell's Alienware, best-known for expensive, high-performance PCs, delivers a good gaming laptop at a reasonable price.
When we think of Alienware PCs, two words come to mind - and 'cheap' usually isn't one of them. This boutique game machine maker creates premium packages with premium prices. For an Alienware laptop, the Alienware M17 is priced within a reasonable ballpark, even while packing 1GB of ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3870 X2 graphics processing power on board. As a result, this monstrous desktop replacement runs modern games at a respectable clip.
Question is: does the Alienware M17 deliver the goods? Yes. We've roamed Fallout 3's post-apocalyptic wastelands at the Alienware M17's 1920-by-1200-pixel native resolution. It's completely playable, and we didn't run into any game-killing snags.
What caught us off-guard is that the didn't exactly blow the doors off PC WorldBench 6, scoring only an 84 in our real-world speed benchmark.
Frankly, between the GPU, the 4GB of RAM, and the 160GB hard disk drive (spinning at 7200rpm, no less), we were expecting a little better from the Alienware M17.
We suppose the Alienware M17's 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU shoulders some of the blame, but the good news is that this won't affect your gaming experience in the slightest. Both Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Unreal Tournament III, running at 1680 by 1050 pixels and high settings hum along at 44 and 51 frames per second, respectively.
Plenty of desktop replacement laptops - such as the HP HDX18 - have beefier speed benchmarks but squeak along in modern games. The Alienware M17 inverts this trend.
The Alienware M17 has a big 17in screen. Although not as eye-blastingly bright as some laptop displays we've seen, it's certainly sharp enough for watching Blu-ray movies (though our unit came with a DVD-RW drive), and it handled some of the murkier corners of the Left 4 Dead zombiethon game.
Even so, the Alienware M17's screen doesn't get the picture quite right at the default settings. Some colours get a little muted and warmer colours get cool. Also, the screen is glossy. That means colours look good when viewing the LCD indoors, but viewing anywhere near daylight will bring a little glare.
It also goes without saying that desktop-replacement notebook batteries don't last long. In the case of the Alienware M17, you get just under 2 hours on a charge.
That's really not surprising given the Alienware M17's big, gawky, heavy design: it weighs a full 5kg and measures 45x397x299mm. Even compared with Alienware's Alienware Area 51 m15x, which we reviewed a number of months ago, the m17 is a half-step backwards to old-school boxy notebooks.
NEXT PAGE: The Alienware M17's build quality and quirks in use