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Laptops Reviews
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Alienware M17 review

From £1,198 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Alienware

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

With the Alienware M17, Dell's Alienware, best-known for expensive, high-performance PCs, delivers a good gaming laptop at a reasonable price.

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.

See our Laptop Advisor website for expert reviews of today’s best laptops, plus read our essential advice to make sure you choose the right specs

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

Alienware M17 Expert Verdict »

Intel Core 2 Duo Extreme Processors (6MB Cache, 1066MHz FSB)/Intel Core 2 Duo Quad and Extreme Processors (12MB Cache, 1066MHz FSB), Intel PM45 + ICH9M-E Chipset
Up to 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1066MHz, 2 dedicated SO-DIMM slots for Dual Channel DDR3 Memory
Windows Vista Ultimate/Home Premium
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3870 CrossFireX Enabled
Integrated HD TV (ATSC) Tuner (Coaxial), HDMI 1.3b Connector, VGA
up to 500GB
8x Dual Layer Burner (DVD±RW, CD-RW) (Blu-ray optional)
802.11a/b/g/Draft-N, Bluetooth 2.1
Integrated Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45
2.1 speaker set
HD audio via digital out
mic/headphone socket
3x USB
7-in-1 card reader
17in widescreen
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

That gripe aside, those who want to get their game on will get a good deal out of the Alienware m17 - especially considering the price. As a gaming machine, the Alienware M17 delivers speed where it counts, but it lags a little in more conventional office-application tests.

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